Law and change: Scottish legal heroes
Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Law and change: Scottish legal heroes

1.1 The Regiam Majestatem

The Regiam Majestatem is an exceptional document worthy of an individual mention. It provides a unique record of the law in Scotland in medieval times. Although it is not clear either how or why this collection of laws was brought together into one document, it became an authoritative source of the law (with parliament ordering its publication in the early seventeenth century). Drawing on sources including native Scots law, canon and Roman law and a collection of early English laws it provides a rare example, and insight, into the nature and content of laws which had been written down (customary laws at the time were rarely written but relied on the spoken word and custom). It is also important as it provides a record from an era when many other important documentary records were destroyed during invasions by the English monarchs Edward I (1239–1307) and Edward III (1312–1377).

Whilst the accuracy of the laws and different editions have been questioned by legal researchers and scholars, the Regiam Majestatem had significant influence on the development of the Scottish legal system. Originally written by hand, the first royal licence for its printing was issued by James IV (1488–1513) in 1507. This helps illustrate the importance placed upon it. (The first Act of Parliament was printed in 1542). The development of the printing press made documents and information more readily and more cheaply available. This helped spread new ideas and information to a wider population.

Figure 2 Printed copy of the Regiam Majestatem Figure 3 Handwritten copy of the Regiam Majestatem

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371