James V – King of Scots – Passport

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The following document, which seems to be a passport, was auctioned years ago for GBP 5,000. What a fantastic document of British (passport) history! James V Scots passport

JAMES V (1512-1542), King of Scots. Document signed (‘James R’), a passport for William Livingston of Kilsyth, Stirling, December 1529.

Eighteen lines are written in a secretary hand, one page, 205 x 266 mm, endorsed on verso (small tear in blank margin, two punctures, one is touching the ‘R’ of ‘Rex’ at the head, a few tiny splits in folds, traces of mount on verso).

James V Scots passport
A license for a nobleman to go on a pilgrimage: James gives William Livingstone of Kilsyth permission ‘to depart furth of his realm in pilgrymage unto quhat cuntreth he pleasis and there to remaine at his pleasure’, together with his family and household. James V Scots passport

James had inherited the throne as a baby after his father’s death at the Battle of Flodden (at which the recipient’s father had also perished). Still, his rule began only in 1528 when he escaped from the virtual captivity of his stepfather, the Earl of Angus. He spent much of 1529 presiding at justice ayres in the Lowlands and Borders.

James V, (born April 10, 1512, LinlithgowWest Lothian, Scot.—died December 14, 1542, Falkland, Fife), king of Scotland from 1513 to 1542.

During the period of his minority, which lasted throughout the first half of his reign, James was a pawn in the struggle between pro-French and pro-English factions; after he assumed personal control of the government, he upheld Roman Catholicism against the Protestant nobles and allied his country with France.

James was 17 months old when he succeeded to the throne of his father, James IV (ruled 1488–1513). In the power struggle that developed between the pro-French regent, John Stewart, Duke of Albany, and the head of the English party, Archibald Douglas, earl of Angus, each side sought to gain possession of the young ruler. James’s mother, Margaret Tudor, complicated events by shifting her allegiance from her husband, Angus, to Albany. James V Scots passport

Albany retired to France in 1524, and Angus kept James in confinement from 1526 until 1528 when the king escaped and forced Angus to flee to England. By 1530 James had consolidated his power in Scotland. He signed a treaty with his uncle, King Henry VIII of England, in 1534, but in 1538 he married the French noblewoman Mary of Lorraine and, after that, allied with France against England. A cruel man, he instituted in his later years a near reign of terror in Scotland, and his financial exactions did not endear him to his subjects. James V Scots passport

When Henry VIII’s forces attacked Scotland in 1542, James’s small army, weakened by the disaffection of the Protestant nobles, crossed into England and was easily routed near the border at Solway Moss in November 24, 1542. The disaster caused the king to suffer a mental breakdown; he died on December 14, 1542, a week after the birth of his daughter—his only surviving legitimate child—Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots). Among his several illegitimate children was James, earl of Moray (died 1570), who became regent of Scotland when Mary Stuart abdicated her throne in 1567.

 

William Livingston of Kilsyth
Died before July 21, 1545

William succeeded his father after the Battle of Flodden (September 9, 1513).  Miss Van Rensselaer wrote: “William was the eldest son and heir to the lands of Castletown and Balmallock on March 15, 1513/14 and son and heir of the late William Livingston of Kilsyth who had died under the King’s banner in the battle in Northumberland” (Florence Van Rensselaer: “The Livingston Family in America and Its Scottish Origins”, New York, 1949 page 46) James V Scots passport

William married Janet Bruce of Airth, a daughter of Sir John Bruce of Airth.  For Janet’s ancestry, including a probable connection with the Bruce Kings of Scotland, please click on Bruce of Airth. Janet and William had a son: Alexander Livingston of Over & Nether Inches

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

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"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...