7.2.7 Royal Residences

Perth and Kinross was regularly visited by Scotland’s medieval monarchs and their courts. Yet the region’s royal residences are imperfectly understood. Charter evidence provides some clues as to the movements of the court in the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. From the 1470s onwards the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland provide invaluable detail regarding the activities of the monarch and their household (Dickson et al 1877–1978). The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, which survive intermittently from the 14th century onwards, and unpublished household books, mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries, also hold considerable research potential (L Dean pers comm).

Written evidence suggests that from the 12th to the 14th centuries Scottish rulers stayed at numerous different sites in the area, while the 15th century saw a change in behaviour and a much greater focus on the burgh of Perth, to the exclusion of other places in the region. This reflects a wider retreat by the Stewart monarchs to a limited number of grand residences, largely located in the central belt. This was probably triggered by the growing size of the royal court and the increasing complexity of the kingdom’s bureaucracy.

Dates (and monarch)Places (with number of charters)
Before 1153Scone (13), Perth (5), Kinross (5), Clunie (1)
1153–1165 (Malcolm IV)Perth (13), Kinross (3), Forteviot (1)
1165–1214 (William I)Perth (46), Alyth (8), Clunie (5), Forteviot (1), Kinross (1), Longforgan (1), Scone (1)
1214–1249 (Alexander II)Scone (18), Clunie (8), Perth (8), Kinross (6), Kinclaven (3), Alyth (1), Kenmore (1), Kinfauns (1)
1249–1286 (Alexander III)Scone (24), Kinross (3), Perth (3), Coupar Angus (1), Dunkeld (1), Grandtully (1), Kinclaven (1)
1286–1292 (Guardians)Perth (2), Scone (1)
1292–1296 (John)None in Perth and Kinross
1308–1329 (Robert I)Scone (39), Perth (9), Scotlandwell (9), Kinross (5), Strathord (2), Alyth (1), Clunie (1), Coupar Angus (1), Dunkeld (1), Inchture (1), Leitfie (1), Strathardle (1)
1329–1371 (David II)Perth (108), Scone (53), Loch Leven Castle (1), Strathord (1)
1371–1390 (Robert II)Perth (109), Methven (39), Scone (39), Coupar Angus (4), Clunie (3), Dunkeld (2), Loch Freuchie (1), Logierait (1)
1390–1406 (Robert III)Perth (53), Scone (21), Cardney (1), Dunkeld (1), Logierait (1), Methven (1)
1406–1424 (Dukes of Albany as governors)Perth (75)
1424–1437 (James I personal rule)Perth (87)
1437–1460 (James II)Perth (107), Methven (10)
1460–1488 (James III)Perth (14)
1488–1513 (James IV)Perth (34), Glen Artney (1), Methven (1), Scone (1)
1513–1542 (James V)Perth (73), Grange (1), Scone (1)
Table 7.5. Locations in Perth and Kinross mentioned in place-dates of royal charters (McNeill and MacQueen 1996).

Perth and Scone are the sites in the region most frequently recorded in the place-dates of royal charters. In both locations the royal household seems to have usually stayed in accommodation associated with local religious houses, namely the Dominican friary at Perth (MPK3517) and the abbey at Scone (MPK3308). Most of the buildings associated with these institutions were probably demolished at the Reformation.

Oblique image of a large palace, with two tall turrets and red vines climbing up the building in the forefront. The picture is taken from behind some trees.
Scone Palace ©️ Herbert Frank (CC BY)

The Dominican friary at Perth has attracted considerable interest as the scene of James I’s murder in 1437. Yet despite extensive historical research, and some archaeological investigation, many questions remain about the nature of the royal accommodation at the friary (Oram 2021). Further understanding of the royal lodgings’ layout, construction date, duration of occupation and relationship with the wider religious buildings would be desirable.

Scone Abbey has also received a degree of study, not least because of its role as the intermittent inauguration place of Scottish kings from at least the 12th century until the 15th century (RCAHMS 1994, 124–7). Excavations over 2008–9 revealed much about the likely relationship between the ceremonial space at the Moothill (MPK5474) and the abbey buildings (O’Grady 2018; see also PKARF early medieval chapter). However, the location of the abbot’s house, which perhaps served as accommodation for the monarch, has not yet been established. It is possible that the former abbot’s house may lie under the 19th-century great house known as Scone Palace.

Other sites which regularly feature as place-dates in royal charters include Clunie and Kinross. Some notable early medieval royal centres such as Forteviot also occasionally appear as place-dates for 12th-century charters. The nature of the residences at many of these sites is unclear (see early medieval PKARF report). Some are later recorded as castles. Others have been described by modern scholars as ‘hunting lodges’. However, in reality much more research is needed to understand the significance of these sites.