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Lord High Constable of Scotland

Lord High Constable of Scotland

The following duties and privileges were attached to the office of Lord High Constable of Scotland:-

I. In early times he had precedence next to the Lord High Chancellor, and before all other officers. It appears that this precedence had been recognised and given to the Constable till the reign of James VI., when, in 1601, he appointed Sir George Home of Sprott Lord High Treasurer, and, in March, 1605 created him Earl of Dunbar, and then ordered that the Treasurer, in right of his office, should have precedence next to the Lord Chancellor.

II. In the royal army and expeditions the High Constable, in right of his office, was Lieutenant-General and supreme officer next to the King. He had command and direction of the army, and was sole judge in all military affairs, and in actions touching the captains, lieutenants and their officers and companies during their employment in the King’s service.

III. The Constable was supreme judge in all matters of riot, disorder, bloodshed, and murder, committed within a circuit of four miles of the King’s person, or of the Parliament and Council representing the Royal authority in His Majesty’s absence. The trial and punishment of persons committing such crimes and offences came properly within the jurisdiction of the courts of the Constable and his deputies; while the magistrates and other judges of the city or burgh within the limits of the circuit were obliged to rise and assist the constable and his officers in apprehending such offenders and criminals. The High Court of Constabulary continued to hold its sittings until the Union, and its functions were usually discharged by deputies. When Parliament was sitting, the court often had many cases.

IV. When Parliament was sitting the High Constable had the charge of guarding the King’s person. The keeping of the Parliament House was committed to him, and the keys of the House were delivered to him. He also had the chief command of the guards and men-at-arms attending upon the King’s person at such times. In time of Parliament the High Constable rode on the King’s right hand and carried a white baton in token of command, and accordingly sat apart from the rest of the nobility upon the King’s right hand, having the honours lying before him.

V. The High Constable presided at tournaments and passages-at-arms. On such occasions he had the privilege of right to apartments in the King’s palace. It appears also that he had a right to all the materials of which the fences or "barrars" were formed, within which the tourney was fought.

VI. In early times the High Constable and his deputies had a right to take custom, in name of fees, of all kinds of goods brought to the markets for sale, wherever the Parliament or the Session was sitting. But in 1456 an Act of Parliament was passed which ordered that this should in future be discharged.

It also appears that in some instances, there was a piece of land attached to the office of High Constable in the royal burghs, for a lodging to himself and his officers. In 1456 the Constable granted a lease of his land to Thomas Cuthbert, a burgess of Inverness, who says—"I by my letters oblige myself to an high and mighty lord, William, Earl of Erroll and High Constable of Scotland: That for his constable land given to me by charter in fee and heritage, I, my heirs and assignees, shall find yearly to the said Lord William and his heirs, a sufficient stable upon the said ground for the number of twelve horses during the time of their residence in the burgh of Inverness, together with six pennies Scots yearly, if it be asked by the said lord or his heirs.



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