2011.03.06 Seal of Thor Longus

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2011.03.06 Seal of Thor Longus


Personal Seal Of Thor Longus[1], or Thor the Long: which can hardly be later than 1118, and may be as early as the end of the previous century. We are indebted to the truthful pencil of Mr. Blore for the drawing from which the wood-cut has been executed. Thor was, in all probability, an Anglo-Saxon. If not living at the Conquest, that event could not have preceded his birth more than a few years. The name Tor, no doubt the same, occurs in Domesday several times, as that of persons holding lands in different counties, especially in Yorkshire, before the Survey; and most likely in some cases they held them before the Conquest. And there are localities near the border that bear names of which the word forms part. No one of those persons has been identified with Thor Longus; yet it is not improbable that he was one of them: nor has any connection between him and any of those localities been discovered, though antiquaries on both sides of the Tweed have been inquisitive about him. Little indeed is known of him, but that little is well authenticated, since it has been furnished by himself in two of his charters, both of which were formerly in the archives of the Dean and Chapter of Durham; but one of them only now remains, and from the seal appended to it Mr. Bloro made his drawing.

We would remind our readers that on the death of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland[2], he was succeeded by Donald Bane, his brother, though he left at least three sons, namely, Edgar, Alexander, and David surviving him, and also two daughters; all by his wife, Margaret, grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside, King of England, and sister of Edgar Atheling. But in 1098 Edgar was, by means of an English force under Edgar Atheling, his uncle, established on the throne of his father; and in 1100 King Henry I. of England married his [Edgar's] sister Matilda. During Edgar's reign, and by his encouragement, many English passed over into Scotland and settled there.

Thor Longus is supposed to have been one of these; for we learn from his charters, that King Edgar gave him Ednaham (now Edenham, or Ednam on the Eden, near Kelso), which was then unoccupied (desertam); and with the assistance of the king, and his own means, such as cattle and the like (pecunia), he had settled there, and had built and endowed a church, that was dedicated to St. Cuthbert.[3] This church was the subject of the two charters: by the former he granted it to St. Cuthbert and his monks (at Coldingham, a cell of Durham), for the souls of King Edgar and his father and mother, and for the health of his (the king's) brothers and sisters, and for the redemption of his own brother Lefwin, and for the health of his own body and soul. Though we learn from this, that he had a brother named Lefwin, of him nothing more has been discovered. It appears that having made this grant, he was desirous of having it confirmed by the king's brother, David, who was then Earl of Huntingdon, and under whom, as his lord, we are led to think he held the land. For by the other charter, which is in the form of a letter to the Earl, and is, at the commencement, thus addressed to him,

" Domino suo karissimo David Comiti Thor omnimodo suus salutem," he proceeds to mention again the gift by King Edgar, and his settling at Edenham, and building and endowing a church, and also the grant of the church, which he explains to have been made for the souls of King Edgar, and the Earl's father and mother, and for the health of the Earl himself, and of King Alexander and Queen Matilda, and then he requests the Earl, as his dearest lord, to confirm the grant to St. Cuthbert and his monks for ever. This is the charter which, with its seal, still exists; copies of both will be found in Anderson's Diplomata Scotiae, pl. 66; Smith's Beda, Appendix, No. 20.; and Raine's N. Durham, Appendix 38. Earl David complied with the request, and confirmed the grant by a charter addressed to John, the Bishop (of Glasgow), which is also printed in Raine's N. Durham, Appendix 23.

From these two charters of Thor, seeing the difference in the language applied to the living and the dead, we learn that when the latter was made, Alexander was King of Scotland, and Queen Matilda was living: who was, no doubt, his sister, Matilda, Queen of Henry I. of England; for Alexander's Queen was not named Matilda. We thus ascertain that the charter, to which this seal is appended, was made between the accession of Alexander in 1107, and the death of Matilda in 1118; while the matrix of the seal may have been executed some few years earlier. The seal has been engraved by Anderson; but, beside that justice is hardly done to its archaic character, the Diplomata Scotiae is not found in many private libraries, and therefore we have thought a wood-cut of so remarkable an example, from Mr. Blore's excellent drawing of it, would not be unacceptable to our readers. It is a rare and choice specimen of its kind at that early period, being the personal seal of a subject, who does not appear to have been of baronial or official rank, but was probably an English settler of no higher condition than that of a vassal under a prince of the blood royal of Scotland; possessed of a subordinate manor or lordship on which he resided. The size, as well as the form of it, is shown in the cut. It represents Thor himself, we may assume, without armour of any sort, habited in a tunic and a mantle fastened on the right shoulder; he is seated, and holding a sword (apparently in its scabbard) in his right hand, and supporting it near the point with his left. The head is uncovered, and the hair long, and parted after the Anglo-Saxon fashion.

The singular legend, Thor Me Mittit Amico, would seem to import that the primary purpose of the seal was for letters, conformably with the usage of the Anglo Saxons, who rarely sealed their deeds. It will be observed, the seal is of the pointed oval form, which is often supposed to have been confined to ecclesiastics and ladies. Importance has been sometimes attached to a seated effigy on a seal, and also to a sword, as indicating rank and authority; and the mantle fastened on the right shoulder would very well agree with that supposition; yet, seeing the silence of the charters and the legend on the subject, no reliance can be placed upon such an interpretation of the device; and the authority which he probably had in his own domain may sufficiently account for the display of the sword by him while seated and in civil costume.

Charter by Thor Longus. to the Monks of St. Cuthbert, circa A.D. 1105.
The original is in the Treasury at Durham.[4]
OMNIBUS sanctae matris ecclesiae filiis, Thor longus in Domino salutem. Sciatis quod AEdgarus, dominus meus, Rex Scottorum, dedit mihi AEdnaham desertam quam ego suo auxilio et mea propria pecunia inhabitavi, et ecclesiam in honorem Sancti Cuthberti fabricavi, quam ecclesiam cum una carrucata terrae Deo et Sancto Cuthberto et monachis ejus in perpetuum possidendam dedi. Hanc igitur donationem feci pro anima domini mei, regis AEdgari, et pro animabus patris et matris illius et pro salute fratrum et sororum ipsius et pro redemptione Leswini, fratris mei dilectissimi, et pro meimet ipsi tam corporis quam animae salute. Et si quis hanc meam donationem Sancto praedicto et monachis sibi servientibus aliqua vi vel ingenio auferre praesumpserit, auferat ab eo Deus Omnipotens vitam regni coelestis et cum diabolo et angelis ejus poenas sustineat aeternas: Amen
  1. The Archaeological Journal, Vol 14 Published London 1857 by the British Archaeological Association, Royal Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland pages 48-49
  2. Wikipedia article on Malcolm Canmore
  3. Wikipedia Article - Ednam Church
  4. Seals at Durham Cathedral



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