Shropshire Star

Declaration of Arbroath to go on show for first time in 18 years

The letter, written in the 14th century to assert Scotland’s right to independence, can only be displayed occasionally due to its age.

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Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath, one of the most significant documents in Scottish history, will go on public display this weekend for the first time in 18 years.

The letter, written in the 14th century to assert Scotland’s right to independence, will be unveiled at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The fragile 700-year-old document can only be displayed occasionally in order to ensure its long-term preservation, and it was last put on show at the Scottish Parliament.

The Declaration was originally due to go on show again in April 2020 to coincide with its 700th anniversary, but this was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Declaration of Arbroath
The Declaration of Arbroath will be on display until next month (Jane Barlow/PA)

The new summer date has been chosen to give as many people as possible the rare chance to see the document, and it will remain on display until July 2.

Alan Borthwick, head of medieval and early modern records at National Records of Scotland, said: “The Declaration of Arbroath is one of the most significant documents we have in our collections.

“At National Records of Scotland we are hugely proud of the role we play in conserving it to ensure it is still here for future generations to see and study.

“We hope people from Scotland and beyond will take this rare opportunity to see it for themselves.”

The Declaration is a letter dated April 6, 1320 written by the barons and freeholders of Scotland, on behalf of the Kingdom of Scotland, to Pope John XXII.

The document asks him to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king.

Declaration of Arbroath
Detail of the seals on the Declaration of Arbroath (Jane Barlow/PA)

The letter also asks the pontiff to persuade King Edward II of England to end hostilities against the Scots, so their energy may be better used to secure the frontiers of Christendom.

It is thought the Declaration was probably drafted at a meeting of the King and his council at Newbattle, then written up in the scriptorium of Arbroath Abbey.

Written in Latin, it was sealed by eight earls and about 40 barons. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain.

Alice Blackwell, senior curator of medieval archaeology and history at National Museums Scotland, said: “It is great to be able to display the Declaration of Arbroath here at the National Museum of Scotland, the home of our nation’s material history and the country’s most visited attraction.

“We look forward to welcoming many visitors to enjoy the rare opportunity of seeing this hugely significant document in person.”

Culture minister Christina McKelvie said: “The Declaration of Arbroath is of great historic and cultural interest to Scots and people around the world of Scottish descent.

Declaration of Arbroath
The Declaration of Arbroath is going on public display for the first time in 18 years (Jane Barlow/PA)

“The display of this iconic document will give people from across Scotland and further afield a wonderful opportunity to visit the museum and see this important piece of history for themselves.”

The Declaration was written during the long Wars of Independence with England when, despite the Scots’ success at the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert I had not been recognised as king by either Edward II or by the Pope, and had been excommunicated by the latter.

At this time, the Pope desired peace between England and Scotland, so both could help in a crusade to the Holy Land. The Declaration sought to influence him by offering the possibility of support from the Scots for his long-desired crusade if they no longer had to fear English invasion.

After receiving the Declaration, the Pope urged reconciliation between the warring sides and a truce was agreed in 1323.

A peace treaty was signed between England and Scotland in March 1328 and the following year the Pope issued a papal bull permitting the anointing and crowning of a King of Scots.

The peace was short-lived, however, as the Second War of Independence broke out in 1332 and went on for 25 years.

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