The Royal Faculty of Procurators was incorporated prior to 1668 as a body which supported and regulated the procurators of the Commissary Court of Glasgow. Find out more about the early history of the legal system in Glasgow and the RFPG's role in it.
A view of the front of Glasgow Cathedral. The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow and Glasgow Cathedral are closely linked, as the Faculty served the procurators of the ecclesiastical courts which sat in the Cathedral.
A view of the city of Glasgow from the North East dating from the mid-18th century, looking down on the city from the Necropolis hill, with the Cathedral on the right.
The story of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow must begin with the history of the legal profession and the courts in Glasgow, as the two developed in parallel. The Faculty was very influential in the early legal history of Glasgow, as procurators had to be members in order to practise in the Glasgow courts. The earliest Glasgow court was established before records of the city began, with the first reference to the legal profession in Glasgow occurring in 1116. That was the year when David, Prince of Cumbria and later King of Scotland, conducted an inquisition into the lands of the Church of Glasgow, in which two Glaswegian judges, Leysing and Oggo, are mentioned as witnesses.
The Glasgow courts, at their beginning, were ecclesiastical courts, and they were closely tied to Glasgow Cathedral and the Church establishment in Glasgow for a long time; it wasn't until the 16th century that the Court of Session became the central judicature. Church officials like the Bishop of Glasgow would have owned and administered much of the land in Strathclyde, and in Scotland, unlike in England, many Royal Judges also held ecclesiastical positions. In fact, laymen did not practise law until the mid-15th century. In Glasgow, the legal profession had two branches: notaries and procurators. In general, the notaries acted as court clerks, while the procurators were advocates who appeared before the court, although as time went on, their roles increasingly overlapped, and the difference between the two became less distinct. The term 'procurator' originated as a Roman name for a law agent, and was adopted by the Scottish legal system. The title 'procurator' is not commonly used to refer to lawyers today, but remains in the names of some legal bodies, such as the Procurator Fiscal, the name for the public prosecutor in Scotland.
The ecclesiastical courts remained the most prominent in Scotland until the Reformation, which provoked a dramatic upheaval of all existing establishments connected to the Church.
"The Revolution of 1560 deprived Glasgow of its position as the ecclesiastical capital of nearly half of Scotland [...] The Glasgow lawyers were now a local body, depending for their livelihood on the prosperity of the Burgh." -John Spencer Muirhead
The Royal Faculty of Procurators, due to the prominence of the ecclesiastical courts in Glasgow's early history, has always had a close relationship with the Cathedral, where most legal business was conducted. For many years, the Faculty has had a pew in the Cathedral. The Faculty lost this right temporarily in 1859 when the gallery in which the pew was located was removed, but the Faculty's pew was afterwards restored. The Faculty's connection to the history of Glasgow and the Cathedral can be seen most plainly in the crests belonging to each: all feature Saint Mungo with the four symbols of his miracles. The crest of the Faculty can be seen in several places around the library building and closely resembles the Glasgow coat of arms.