Featured in the Scotsman's Scotland on Sunday article by Jeremy Watson "Reconstructing the throne of Robert the Bruce".
THIS will be a seat fit for a future King or Queen of Scotland. Craftsmen are reconstructing the Great Celtic throne of Robert the Bruce as part of the 700th-anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Bannockburn.
An image of the wooden throne which the Bruce is believed to have used during his 23-year reign as King of Scotland in the 14th century is depicted on his official cast metal seal, which he used to authenticate documents.
The Strathleven Artizans (corr) will now produce an interpretation of the throne based on the seal, which was struck after his victory in 1314. It shows King Robert on an elaborately-carved seat with armrests featuring the heads of four mythical beasts; facing north, south, east and west to protect their master from every direction.
An interpretation of the throne will be reconstructed based on studies of Bruce’s seal, which shows him sitting on a throne featuring clawed feet and the carved heads of four mythical beasts; facing north, south, east and west to protect their master from every direction.
The project will be undertaken by the Strathleven Artizans, a group which promotes the historical links between Robert the Bruce and the village of Renton in West Dunbartonshire, which was home to the King and his family from 1326-29.
The throne is due to be unveiled in time for the 707th anniversary of Bruce’s coronation, on 25 March and will be one of a number of projects to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014.
It will be constructed using timber from across Scotland. This will include pieces from Scone Palace, where Bruce was crowned, Turnberry, where he was born, and the battlefield at Bannockburn.
The throne will also feature wood from the Bruce Oak – one of the largest and oldest trees in Scotland until it fell, following a fire, in 2005 – which stood on the Strathleven estate, which was owned by Bruce around the time that the tree would have been a sapling.
The village of Teba in Spain has also sent ancient olive wood for the reconstruction from the location in which Bruce's embalmed heart was cast into a battle with Moorish troops in 1330 by crusader Sir James Douglas en route to the Holy Land. Douglas famously inspired his heavily-outnumbered men with the gesture, shouting that the Bruce would lead them into the fight as he had always done.
There will be also a nod towards the influence of one of the Bruce’s most influential contemporaries, William Wallace. The wooden support for the claw-footed throne is to be made from yew from Elderslie, believed to be the birthplace of the knight who was Scotland’s military leader during the 13th-century Wars of Independence.
A celebration of traditional Scottish craftsmanship, the Strathleven Artizans – who plan to use the throne as an educational tool in schools - hope that it will help to bring history to life. The project is a collaboration between the Strathleven Artizans and Historic Scotland, which will assist the group with the traditional craft skills elements of the project. On completion, the throne could be sited at Historic Scotland's new Bannockburn visitor centre or at either Stirling or Edinburgh castles. The project is estimated to be costing in excess of £10,000 and the Artizans are now looking for financial donors. Funding is still being sought to complete the project. If you would like to make a contribution to the Great Throne Project please use the Donate link below.
Duncan Thomson, Chairman of the Strathleven Artizans said: “Strathleven Artizans have worked since 2006 to promote Robert the Bruce, his family and the period in which he lived in our area. Robert the Bruce is one of Scotland’s best-known monarchs, and his story has captivated people for generations. The process of reconstructing his throne promises to help bring that story to life. The historical evidence we have to work with is limited, but we hope that the process of researching and building our interpretation of the throne will offer us some insight into the man himself. The finished product will be both a celebration of traditional skills and a tool for education."
Ted Cowan, emeritus professor of history at Glasgow University, said he applauded the Artizan's efforts to add to the legend of Robert the Bruce on the anniversary of the "greatest victory in Scottish history." "The idea of bringing together wood samples from different parts of the independence story is brilliant. This will be an imaginative, permanent 21st century celebration of Bruce and as such deserves to be supported.”
David Mitchell, Director of Conservation at Historic Scotland said: “I am pleased that Historic Scotland is able to assist the Strathleven Artizans with this interesting project, which will showcase the very best of traditional craft skills. Incorporating wood from sites across Scotland, and further afield, it is fitting that the throne will be unveiled in time for the anniversary of Bruce’s coronation. While minimal historical evidence makes creating a wholly authentic replica very difficult, the process of re-creating the throne and highlighting aspects of Bruce’s life are just as important in this case. It promises to be a talking point, which is a key objective of the project.”
One supporter is Lord Elgin, chief of the Bruce clan and patron of the Strathleven Artisans, who said the reconstruction of the Bruce’s throne was "a project dear to his heart." Lord Elgin said: "Undoubtedly the emphasis next year will focus on his record as a warrior. Yet his role as a statesman and lawgiver is equally important. A project to rebalance the perceived identity of King Robert by reconstructing his throne - arguably the most important missing artefact of his reign - is now very welcome. “From the evidence that I have seen, it appears that the throne which is represented on King Robert’s second Great Seal of 1316, struck in the aftermath of the Battle of Bannockburn, is modelled on the most fashionable French precepts, and yet retains symbolic elements of Celtic mythology. "Such an image could have been intended to represent the cultural values of the Kingdom of Scots.”
A big thank you must go to the craftsmen and craftswomen of the project:
Jim Jones – Throne Maker
Jo Walker – Architect (USA)
John Woodcock – Master Carver
Robert Pollock – Master Carver
Ruth Davies – Master Carver
Keith Gorman – Master Laser Carver
Donations to the Great Throne Project are gratefully accepted and will be rewarded with special certificate to commemorate the building of the Great Throne and your donation towards it, thank you.
Scottish Parliament Motion:
*S4M-08465 Stewart Maxwell: Congratulations to Strathleven Artizans on Reconstructing the Great Throne of Bruce — That the Parliament congratulates the Strathleven Artizans and Historic Scotland who are working on reconstructing the great throne of Robert the Bruce in time for the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn; understands that the Strathleven Artizans will produce an interpretation of the throne that is based on Bruce’s official seal, which was struck after his victory in 1314, and that it will feature wood from the Bruce Oak, which stood on the Strathleven Estate until 2005; believes that this is of both historic and educational value, and considers that the Strathleven Artizans have contributed greatly to the country’s understanding of the story of Robert the Bruce and his links to the Strathleven area.
Supported by: Joan McAlpine*, Bill Kidd*, Graeme Dey*, Rob Gibson*, Colin Keir*, Christina McKelvie*, Colin Beattie*, Jackie Baillie*, Nigel Don*, Kenneth Gibson*, Richard Lyle*, Chic Brodie*, Mike MacKenzie*, Kevin Stewart*, Sandra White*, Angus MacDonald*, Jamie Hepburn*