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though King James VI. and one of his favourites, Law, Bishop of Orkney, seem to have been desirous of introducing the Scottish form of land rights into Orkney, a great - number of the proprietors continued to possess their heritages as udallers. The Earls of Orkney, Robert and Patrick Stewart, continued the same system of feudalizing the udal lands. This was carried to the greatest extent wy Alexander Douglas of Spynie, for the family of Morton, soon after the Restoration, in 1662, when they obtained a grant of the Earldom; and the Bishops who succeeded Law, down to the Revolution 1688, also exercised the powers vested in them, and feued lands within their own ecclesiastical estate. Although in this way a great part of the country was converted into feudal holdings, both in the Earldom and Bishopric, many proprietors never acknowledged any feudal superior, but held their estates by the simple tenure of udal possession, and sometimes transmitted them by subaltern deeds of transfer. Whether held in feu or udally, proprietors were all subject to certain duties, partly, at least, of Norwegian origin, such as the tribute or scat antiently payable to the Sovereign of that country, and land maills to the Earls. Besides these, the church had teinds drawn from the whole of these islands, and extensive landed property as the patrimony of the church. All the revenues of the province, consisting of scats, rents, and teinds, were contained in rentals of the Earldom and Bishopric respectively ; and when feus were granted, the Charters specified either a precise reddendo, ac
cording to the rentals, or referred generally thereto,-“ Payand always conforme to the Rentall.”
In this manner, the primary usages of Norway and the municipal Law of Scotland were combined in Orkney and Zetland, and produced a complexity and character of land rights quite peculiar to that district. As the udal tenurewas protected by Acts of Parliament*, it still continues to exist; and although many of the charters contain, as a feu duty, the special commodities payable by the rentals of old, yet, in a very great number of cases, there is no evidence of the quantum of feu duty, or scat duty, land mails and teind, except the rentals and the usage. The latter, indeed, has not always been so uniform or exact as to be conclusive evidence, and therefore the rentals of Orkney may be regarded as forming a most essential part of the titles of almost every estate in the district.
Various questions at law having been agitated for many years past at a great expence, and it having recently become necessary to ascertain with accuracy the condition of the old Bishopric estate, now, since the abolition of Episcopacy, vested in the Crown, it has appeared expedient to collect all the Orkney rentals which have been deemed of an authentie character. And as these were generally inaccessible both to the public officers, whose duties rendered a knowledge of the matter indispensible, ..I 1: 1: ,ii
Minutes of Parliament, 6th Dec. 1567. «Quhidder Orknay and Zetland salbe subiect to the commone Lawe of this realme, or gif thai sale bruike thair awne Lawis.-Findis thai aught to be subject to thair awne Lawis." -Acts, Vol. III. P. 41.1690, c. 32 ; 1698. c. 2.
and to a very numerous class of Crown vassals whose interests and comfort are involved, the following collection has been directed by a competent authority to be printed. In that order, however, no judgment on the rentals is implied : they are merely exhibited in a legible form, and secured from destruction or vitiation. They have been collected and transcribed by, or under the inspection of the Sheriff-substitute of Orkney; and the proof sheets have been collated by him with the old MSS. with a minuteness and care which it would be un necessary to mention, were it not to give some assurance that the most anxious attention to accuracy has been bestowed.
The first rental is one of the Earldom of Orkney, made up by Henry Lord Sinclair in the years 1497, 1503, and intervening years; it now relates to the Bishopric of Orkney, because it comprehends various lands and others which, at a subsequent period were, by excambion, transferred to the Bishop. This Lord Sinclair, whose grandfather had surrendered the Earldom of Orkney to the king of Scotland, obtained several successive leases of the Crown rights in that portion of the islands, the last of which was for 19 years from 1500. He was killed at Flodden in 1513. The copy which has been followed in this collection, and which is perhaps the only one now extant was discovered in May 1819, among a parcel of papers connected with the Bishoprick in the repositories of the city of Edinburgh, It bears reference to one still older, written on parchment; but that one, if in existence, has not yet been discovered. The rental now printed has in all probability remained in the charter-room of Edin. burgh since the year 1642; it has been procured from thence, and its identity established, by legal process; and it now forms part of the evidence in a cause depending before the Supreme Court. Any discussion of its authenticity here would therefore be unbecoming and premature. 1. The second rental is tituled “ Rentale Orchade, pro Rege et Episcopo 1595," frequently, but errone. ously called the rental 1600, or Bishop Law's rental. It has long been deposited in the General Register-House at Edinburgh ; and from markings by the clerk-register on the 12th November 1612, at the beginning and end of it, this rental appears to have been lodged in Exchequer, of that date, by Bishop Law, for what purpose it is impossible now to say, as there is nothing on the subject in the Exchequer record. This rental, too, is at present the subject of litigation in the Supreme Court, and its claims to authenticity remain to be determined. But it may be mentioned, that, although lodged in Exchequer by Bishop Law, it bears in græmio to have been framed ten years before Law was Bishop of Orkney, and to have received additions during the time that Patrick, Earl of Orkney, possessed both the Earldom and Bishopric. It is therefore a complete rental of the whole of Orkney in the year 1595, and for several years thereafter ; and it is of importance, because it exhibits the state of the whole district prior to the excambion which soon afterwards followed. and by which the Earldom furnished for establishing, in conjunction with the vassals titles, a clear and intelligible rental of the Bishopric, adapted to modern times: the rights of all parties can be adjusted without litigation or expence : various obstacles to improvement which have checked its progress in Orkney may easily be removed; and the basis be established of a more prosperous state of society, in a region which has hitherto enjoyed little of the beneficence of the British government, but has been depressed and impoverished for centuries past by a system of leasing the Crown-lands and revenues to middlemen of all descriptions. The mere publicity of the following documents it is thought will at once protect the rights of the Crown from encroachment, and its vassals and tenants from vexation.