Certificates, Diplomas, etc of Principal William Robertson (1721-1793)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

1. King's College and University, Aberdeen. Award of the degree of Doctor of Divinity to W.R. 3 July 1764. Signed by the following professors: John Chalmers, John Lumsden, John Gregory, Alexander Burnet, Thomas Gordon, Thomas Reid, John Leslie, George Gordon.

Vellum, approx. 60 cms x 68 cms, with small wax seal in metal box attached.

2. Edinburgh, Town Council. Commission of W.R. as Principal of the University of Edinburgh. 11 November 1762. Signed by George Drummond, John Carmichaell, John Walker, George Pitcarne, Patrick Lindesay, and John Brown.

Vellum, approx. 56 cms x 51 cms, with paper seal attached.

3. Royal appointment of W. R. as Historiographer in Scotland. 6 August 1763.

Vellum, approx. 62 cms x 34 cms, with badly broken wax seal (approx. 15 cms in diameter) attached in bag. Fragments of seal also in accompanying envelope.

4. University of Glasgow. Award of the degree of Doctor of Letters to W.R. 20 October 1758. Signed by Professors Leechman, Lindesay, Simson, Moor, Smith, Anderson, Buchanan, Clow, Hamilton, and Black.

Vellum, approx. 57 cms x 42 cms, with oval wax seal (cracked) in metal box attached. The metal box, with hinged lid, originally containing the certificate, is also preserved.

5. Admission of W.R. as Burgess and Guild Brother of Edinburgh. 11 February 1761. Signed by the Dean of Guild, George Lindsay.

Vellum, approx. 38 cms x 33 cms.

6. St Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Diploma of foreign membership awarded to W.R. by Princess Catharina Daschkow, Director, in the Name of Empress Catherine II. 30 January 1783. Signed by the princess and by Johannes Albertus Euler as Secretary.

Vellum, approx. 41 cms x 33 cms, with imperial wax seal in silver-gilt box with the crowned double headed eagle embossed on the cover. Seal attached by green, red and gold cords. Metal cylinder originally holding the document is also preserved.

7. Patent of arms to W.R. by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. 20 October 1783.

Vellum, approx. 32 cms x 30 cms, with small wax seal in metal box attached. Square metal box originally holding the document is also preserved.

8. Old Revolution Club. Diploma of membership to W.R. 17 May 1748. Signed by David Forbes as clerk.

Vellum, approx. 25 cms x 15 cms, with small wax seal in metal box attached.

9. William Robertson's spectacles.

Each lens 3.5 cms in diameter. Frame 12 cms wide. With old wrappings.

10. Old Revolution Club. Diploma of membership to "Mr William Robertson, Student of Law", that is Principal Robertson's son (1753-1835), who later became Lord Robertson. 15 November 1771. Signed by Martin Moubray as clerk.

Vellum, approx. 21 cms x 14 cms, with small wax seal in metal box attached.

11. Royal appointment of W.R. as a chaplain-in-ordinary in Scotland. 17 July 1761.

Vellum, approx. 37 cms x 24 cms, with wax seal, slightly damaged, in metal box attached.

12. Royal presentation of W.R. to the church and parish of Gladsmuir in the Presbytery of Haddington. 20 September 1743. Issued "At our Head Quarters at Speir".

Vellum, approx. 37 cms x 27 cms, with fragments of a wax seal in metal box attached.

13. Royal ward of annuity of £200 to W.R. 23 June 1781.

Vellum, folded, approx. 60 cms x 40 cms, with wax seal of George III in metal box attached.

14. St Andrews Town Council. Admission of W.R. to the freedom of the burgh. 28 September 1749.

Vellum, folded, approx. 28 cms x 17 cms, with papier-mache seal (8 cms in diameter) attached on tape.

Administrative / Biographical History

Principal of Edinburgh University and historian, Sir William Robertson, was born on 19 September 1721 at the manse in Borthwick, Midlothian, where his father was minister. He received his early education at the parish school in Borthwick and then at the Burgh School in Dalkeith. In the autumn of 1733, Robertson entered the University of Edinburgh studying Arts and Divinity. After completion of his studies and earning his license to preach, he became minister of Gladsmuir in East Lothian in 1743. With the approach to Edinburgh of the Jacobite army in 1745, Robertson left his manse to offer his services, with some others, to Sir John Cope against the Rebellion. However, Cope declined to admit them. In 1746, Robertson was elected as member to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This indicated steady advancement in his career. In 1753 he began work on a long writing project on the history of Scotland which culminated in his History of Scotland (1759). The work was a great success and shortly before its publication he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Edinburgh University. Shortly after publication of his work he was successively appointed Chaplain of Stirling Castle and Chaplain Royal in 1759, elected joint-minister of Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh in 1761, became Principal of the University in 1762, and in 1764 was appointed Historiographer Royal for Scotland. His next literary work was the History of Charles V (1769) which enhanced his reputation in Europe and earned him praise from Voltaire and the Empress Catherine of Russia. His last great work was the History of America (1777). His life was also filled by his work with the affairs of the General Assembly and with those of Edinburgh University. The initiative to rebuild the University - Old College - owed its origins to the influence of Robertson. He had launched a public appeal which won the support of successive Town Councils and Lords Provost, and he managed to secure the services of the architect Robert Adam. In 1791, Robertson's health began to decline and he died of jaundice on 11 June 1793

Conditions Governing Access

Contact the repository for details

Acquisition Information

Deposited in 1989 by Lt.-Commander David Robertson-Macdonald, April 1989 and made a gift in 1992.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist, H71; Another important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Related Material

The Index to Manuscripts shows at various shelfmarks letters of William Robertson to different individuals; and, accounts of his stipend at Gladsmuir.