Letters Patent from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II granting city status to Stirling 22nd April 2002

This year was the twentieth anniversary of the granting of City Status to Stirling in the year of the late Queen’s Golden Jubilee. The Document of the Month for October looks at the official record of the royal grant and the background behind the bid.

On the 25th of July, 2001, the office of the Lord Chancellor issued an announcement that, as part of the celebrations for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, there would be a competition inviting towns in all of the countries of the United Kingdom to apply for the right to be granted city status. In Scotland, Stirling Council submitted an application along with Ayr, Paisley and Dumfries.

Since the time of the abolition of Royal Burghs in 1975, the designation of a place as a city does not confer any specific rights or privileges. The honorific title is granted by the monarch of the United Kingdom as a mark of prestige to encourage pride in the local community. It is still an indication of special favour however – only seventeen cities were granted the honour in the twentieth century.

There are no specific criteria that apply for a town to become a city, and in 2001, the only guidelines issued by the Lord Chancellor’s Department were that those assessing the entries would be looking at three main factors: notable features, including regional or national significance, historical features including connections with the crown, and a ‘forward-looking’ attitude.

Officers of Stirling Council worked alongside local groups and individuals to put together the bid, which was submitted in September 2001. The announcement from the Lord Chancellor’s Department that notified Stirling Council of the success of the town’s bid was then made on 14th March 2002. This came as a huge relief to the area, after the town had previously lost out to Inverness in a similar competition created to celebrate the new Millennium in 2000. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, said of all the winners, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland: “It was an extremely difficult competition to judge because all the towns in their own ways were exceptional.”

On receipt of the news, Stirling’s Provost Tommy Brookes was quoted as saying “Stirling was the town that always thought it was a city – now the whole of Britain knows that it is a city. This is a very special day and one that marks a watershed in the development of the whole area. Stirling’s history, its position at the heart of Scotland, as a university town and as a location for national and international events and businesses make it an outstanding Golden Jubilee City.”

To mark the formal grant of city status, the Queen visited Stirling on 24th May 2002 in order to make the presentation of the ‘letters patent’ – the document that lays-out the terms of the grant. This document was prepared by the conservation and preservation staff of the National Records of Scotland, using techniques that have not changed since mediaeval times. The letters patent are written in beautiful calligraphy on parchment, prepared from the hide of Scottish sheep. The words and phrases used in the document, although in English, have a precedent that goes back many hundreds of years, reading as follows: –

ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of our realms and territories, QUEEN,  Head of the Commonwealth Defender of the Faith.

 To all whom these Presents shall come Greeting. Whereas We for divers good causes and considerations Us thereunto moving are graciously pleased to confer on the Town of Stirling the status of a city. Now Therefore Know Ye that We of Our especial grace and favour and mere motion do by these Presents ordain declare and direct that the town of Stirling shall henceforth have the status of a City and shall have all such rank liberties privileges and immunities as are incident to a City.  IN WITNESS WHEREOF We have ordered the seal appointed by Treaty of the Union to be kept and made use of in place of the Great Seal of Scotland to be appended hereto. GIVEN at Our Court at St. James’s the Twenty Second Day of April in the year Two Thousand and Two and in the Fifty First year of Our Reign.


The Great Seal of Scotland, appended to the bottom of the document, is made of a mixture of wax from Scottish bees, and resin, and cast using the historic matrix held at the National Records of Scotland.

Although it rained during the Queen’s visit, thousands of enthusiastic Stirling residents turned out to greet Her Majesty and celebrate the occasion.

After the Queen’s visit and formal presentation of the document, it was returned to the National Records of Scotland, where conservators made a special case to keep it in that provides the optimum conditions to ensure that it remains in pristine condition. It was then presented to Stirling Council and sent to the Archives for storage where it is looked after and made accessible in our public search room to anyone who wishes to view it.