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The Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath


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From Angus to Avignon: the story of the Declaration of Arbroath

Around 6 April 699 years ago, an important document left Arbroath Abbey on a long journey to Pope John XXII in Avignon. That document is now known as the Declaration of Arbroath.

The Declaration was dated 6 April 1320: it may not have left Arbroath the same day, but the date is significant.

In that year, 6 April was the Sunday after Easter, which marks a festival known as Quasimodo. Nothing to do with the Hunchback of Notre Dame: this was a time of renewal and redemption.

The Declaration was seeking redemption in Scotland’s relationship with England and with the wider world.

What did the Declaration say?

A re-enactment of the Declaration of Arbroath performed by the Arbroath Pageant Society. Date unknown (Image via Scran)

It was a letter to the Pope from the ‘Barons’ of Scotland – a swathe of noblemen and landowners pledging loyalty to King Robert the Bruce. The letter also noted that it represented ‘the whole community of the realm’.

It was accompanied by letters from the king himself and from his ally William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews, though these have now been lost.

So this message to the Pope was endorsed by the king and the ‘Three Estates’ of his realm: church, nobles and ordinary people.

The Declaration was worded skilfully, forcefully and with some elaboration. But its message was straightforward: we must be recognised as an independent country with its own legitimate king.

A rightful King of Scots

A statue of Robert the Bruce at Edinburgh Castle

Bruce had become King of Scots in 1306. In 1314 he had triumphed over a vast English army at Bannockburn, driving out the occupying power. But English attempts to gain control of Scotland continued.

Bruce’s claim to the throne was still disputed by the English, and by the papacy. This enraged him so much that he had refused to acknowledge letters from Pope John, which failed to address him as rightful King of Scots.

As a result, he had been excommunicated. He was officially excluded from the Church, and therefore from Christian Salvation. This was no laughing matter in an age when everyone had a vivid idea of eternal damnation in Hell.

A replica of the Declaration

Loyalty

Equally crucial to Bruce’s kingship was the loyalty of his own subjects, and this too was in doubt. He had seized the throne after murdering John Comyn, a key supporter of the royal Balliol dynasty.

Almost his first act as king was the ‘herschip of Buchan.’ This ruthless military offensive aimed to wipe out the Comyns in their north-eastern homelands. Few people can have seen this is as the action of a just and peace-loving king.

But Bruce had gradually built up popular support, through a long campaign of guerrilla warfare against the English, coupled with a political programme of bestowing lands and titles on his allies.

Balvenie Castle was one of the many strongholds which fell during the herschip of Buchan

A rival claim

Despite this, some Scots still believed their rightful monarch was Edward Balliol. Edward was son of King John, who had been forced to abdicate in 1296 and died in exile in 1314. Edward Balliol was poised to claim the Scottish throne, with English support.

The Declaration alludes to this, declaring that the Scots would depose any king ‘seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English’. This is not only a dig at English-backed Balliol. It also helps justify Bruce’s seizure of the crown, to prevent it falling under English control.

And crucially, it invites the reader to hold Bruce to his word. If he ever did yield to the English, he would be inviting his people to depose him.

An important milestone

The Declaration of Arbroath (as it later became known) was an important milestone in Scotland’s long struggle for independence and recognition.

It greatly improved relations with Pope John. Bruce’s excommunication was put on hold and referred to him as ‘Robert illustrious King of Scotland’.

A statue of Robert the Bruce at Stirling Castle

But the English were not so easily convinced. It was eight years before the Treaty of Edinburgh brought a temporary halt to the Wars of Independence.

It was not until 1357 – nearly 30 years after Bruce’s death – that peace was finally achieved with the Treaty of Berwick. Until then, the conflict continued.

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The Story of the Declaration of Arbroath

Seven hundred years ago, an important document left Arbroath Abbey on a long journey to Pope John XXII in Avignon. That document is now known as the Declaration of Arbroath.

The Declaration of Arbroath was dated 6 April 1320: it may not have left Arbroath on that precise date, but the date is significant.

In that year, 6 April was the Sunday after Easter, which marks a festival known as Quasimodo. Nothing to do with the Hunchback of Notre Dame (except that he was found abandoned on the Sunday after Easter): this was a time of renewal and redemption.

The Declaration was seeking redemption in Scotland’s relationship with England and with the wider world.

This April marks 700 years since the Declaration of Arbroath left Abroath Abbey, founded by William the Lion in 1178

What did the Declaration of Arbroath say?

It was a letter from the Barons of Scotland to the Pope, demanding freedom for their nation and recognition for King Robert the Bruce.

The barons were a swathe of noblemen and landholders, who also said they represented ‘the whole community of the realm’. Their letter was accompanied by two others, one from the king himself and one from his ally William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews, though these have now been lost.

The letter was worded skilfully, forcefully and with some elaboration. But its message was straightforward: we must be recognised as an independent country with its own legitimate king.

A re-enactment of the Declaration of Arbroath performed by the Arbroath Pageant Society (Image via Scran)

A rightful King of Scots

Bruce had become King of Scots in 1306. He had spent the past 14 years struggling to assert his right to rule. In 1314 he had triumphed over a vast English army at Bannockburn, driving out the occupying power. But English attempts to gain control of Scotland continued.

Bruce’s claim to the throne was still disputed by the English, and by the papacy. This enraged him so much that he had refused to acknowledge letters from Pope John, which failed to address him as King of Scots.

A statue of Robert the Bruce at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle

Ignoring the truce demanded by the Pope, Bruce had besieged and captured Berwick – a vital port on the border between Scotland and England.

Not for the first time, Bruce had been excommunicated. He was officially excluded from the Church, and therefore from Christian Salvation. This was no laughing matter in an age when everyone had a vivid idea of eternal damnation in Hell.

Loyalty

Equally crucial to Bruce’s kingship was the loyalty of his own subjects, and this too was in doubt. He had seized the throne after murdering John Comyn, a key supporter of the royal Balliol dynasty.

In 1307–8, he had launched a ruthless military offensive aimed to wipe out the Comyns in their north-eastern homelands. Few people can have seen this is as the action of a just and peace-loving king.

But Bruce had gradually built up popular support, through a long campaign of guerrilla warfare against the English, coupled with a political programme of bestowing lands and titles on his allies.

Balvenie Castle was one of the many northern strongholds which fell to Bruce

A rival claim

Despite this, some Scots still believed their rightful monarch was Edward Balliol. Edward was son of King John, who had been forced to abdicate in 1296 and died in exile in 1314. Edward Balliol was poised to claim the Scottish throne, with English support.

The Declaration alludes to this, declaring that the Scots would depose any king ‘seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English’.

This is not only a dig at English-backed Balliol. It also helps justify Bruce’s seizure of the crown, to prevent it falling under English control.

And crucially, it invites the reader to hold Bruce to his word. If he ever did yield to the English, he would be inviting his people to depose him.

A statue of Robert the Bruce looking out from the esplanade at Stirling Castle

An important milestone

The Declaration of Arbroath (as it later became known) was an important milestone. It greatly improved relations with Pope John. Bruce’s excommunication was put on hold and referred to him as ‘the illustrious man Robert, who assumes the title and position of King of Scotland’.

But the English were not so easily convinced. It was eight years before the Treaty of Edinburgh brought English recognition of Bruce’s kingship and a temporary halt to the Wars of Independence.

It was not until 1357 – nearly 30 years after Bruce’s death – that peace was finally achieved with the Treaty of Berwick. Until then, the conflict continued.

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The Declaration of Arbroath - History

By Graham S Holton and Alasdair F Macdonald

Background to the heraldic research and images of coats of arms by Andrew Douglas

Published by the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy on behalf of the Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Strathclyde, 2020.

The Declaration of Arbroath, created in 1320, was an enormously important historical document with significance in Scotland and beyond. The Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project, run by the Genealogical Studies Postgraduate Programme based in the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Strathclyde and funded by the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, was devised for two purposes. Firstly, it aimed to provide a learning opportunity for students to carry out research in medieval genealogy. Secondly, it aimed to research the lives and families of the ‘signatories’ including present day descendants, and to develop methodologies for the use of genetic genealogy in tracing early descents.

The Report on the Project presents findings from the two strands of the Project, the documentary strand and the genetic genealogy strand. Of the 48 ‘signatories’ and their families researched in the documentary strand, the Report focuses on 15 of these plus the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce. Eight families formed the major focus of the genetic genealogy strand. The methodologies employed in the research are described as well as the conclusions reached on the eight families.

The Report includes brief biographies, genealogical charts, colour coats of arms and genealogical haplotrees to illustrate the findings.

Paperback A4, 89 pages including indexes, ISBN 978-0-9546812-3-4,

UK price inclusive of 2nd class mail: £12.50, Other countries see shop page. Discount available for FMG members.

To order the book go to our secure online shop [also available through our Genfair stall]

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The 700-year history of the Declaration of Arbroath

This April marked the 700th anniversary of the sealing of one of the most famous documents in Scotland’s history: the Declaration of Arbroath. The lead up to and story behind the declaration is as captivating as ever and was awarded ‘Memory of the World’ status by UNESCO in 2016 for its international importance.

Here, we journey through the events preceding the declaration’s creation with a look at its purpose and legacy to try and understand the lasting significance of this fascinating artefact.

The Wars of Scottish Independence

The year 1286 sparked a series of unfortunate events that spiralled into a succession crisis in Scotland. It began with the sudden death of Alexander III, who had ruled since 1249. He sadly outlived his three children and his only legitimate heir, granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, died shortly after him and before she could be crowned. This left Scotland leaderless and governed temporarily by nobles under the catchy moniker, Guardians of Scotland. It pushed the country close to civil war as rival claimants, John Balliol and Robert Bruce (father of Robert the Bruce), both declared their rights to rule.

It was in this maelstrom of tension that the wily English monarch, Edward I (or Edward Longshanks), saw his chance to fulfil his ambition of sewing Scotland into his kingdom by reasserting English claims of overlordship. Through a loophole in medieval law, he happily played his part choosing the next King of Scotland, opting for John Balliol. However, Edward I couldn’t resist demanding homage, troops and taxes before eventually invading. The Battle of Dunbar in 1296 marked the start of the Wars of Scottish Independence.

The controversial Bruce

So followed decades of conflict and turbulence, not to mention an evolving cast: King John Balliol abdicated and went to France in 1299 leaving Scotland monarch-less again, ushering in another set of guardians, including William Wallace and Robert the Bruce Edward I died in 1307 and his son, Edward II, became King of England.

Following the death of his father, Robert the Bruce had a strong claim to the Scottish throne but he also had an image problem. He was believed – although accounts differ – to have committed a cardinal sin: the killing of regal rival John Comyn at the high altar in Greyfriars Church, Dumfries in 1306. Nevertheless, soon after, he was crowned King of Scots.

King Edward II of England. Credit: Histroical Images Archive/Alamy

But mud (or should that be blood) sticks and this great sin, combined with what the papacy saw as Bruce rejecting their efforts to orchestrate peace with England, led to him being rapidly ex-communicated by the church, thereby eroding any hope of the legitimacy he needed as the newly-crowned King of Scotland.

By 1320, Robert I had been king for 14 years. He had won the hearts and minds of many people across Scotland, was a master of guerilla warfare and revered for his sweeping victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Scotland was, theoretically, in the position to claim its independence. However, Bruce still lacked official recognition and Scotland was devoid of sovereign status.

What was the Declaration of Arbroath?

The declaration was an attempt to get back in the good books with the papacy. If the Pope granted his request for Scotland to be recognised as a sovereign state and accepted him as the lawful ruler, this would legitimise Robert I, not just domestically but internationally.

The Declaration of Arbroath will eventually be exhibited at the National Museum of Scotland after the covid-19 crisis. Credit: M Brodie/Alamy

Practically speaking, the Declaration of Arbroath was a letter from leading members of the Scottish nobility to Pope John XXII, residing in Avignon. It was drafted in Arbroath Abbey, a logical location being home to the king’s chancery. Dated 6 April 1320, it was inscribed in Latin and sealed – as documents were not yet signed but stamped – by eight earls and around 40 barons.

Dr Alice Blackwell, Senior Curator of Medieval Archaeology and History at National Museums Scotland, says: “The document is not a statement or a literal declaration.” In fact, it was one of a trio of letters sent to the Pope from Robert I, the Bishop of St Andrews and the barons of Scotland. Blackwell continues, “Together with the accompanying letters, the declaration aimed to show a united front – king, community and church”: “…as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

Although the three letters sent to Avignon did not survive, the copy of the barons letter kept for reference in Scotland did,” says Blackwell, and “that is the document we know today as the Declaration of Arbroath. So, although it is singularly iconic now, it was never intended to be such.”

What was the aim of the declaration? As head of the church and “a kind of international arbitrator,” says Blackwell, the Pope was no stranger to petitions from kings or the Anglo-Scottish conflict. “To Robert, the danger was that the Pope would side with Edward II.” Blackwell continues, “The aim of these documents was two-fold: to assert Scotland’s long pedigree as a sovereign kingdom and to demand that Robert I was recognised as its legitimate monarch.”

Blackwell believes there’s another element that demands a mention: “it was an initiative borne of political guile – an act of international diplomacy.” But could it also have been something greater – perhaps a defining moment in constitutional history, an early contract between the king and his people?

A quick look at this passage translated from the declaration hints at just that: “Yet if he [Robert I] should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King.”

Did it achieve its goal?

In isolation, no, it did not deliver the immediate recognition Robert I sought. The Pope’s reply, which arrived dated 28 August 1320, acknowledged the letters but urged him to make peace with King Edward II.

It would be another eight years until the Pope lifted the ex-communication of Robert I, and King Edward III would officially recognise Scotland as a sovereign state with Robert I as its lawful king.

Robert the Bruce died in 1329, living just long enough to see his dream of an independent Kingdom of Scotland officially recognised, with the Bruces at its helm. For its part, the Declaration of Arbroath, helped pave the way by adding weight to Robert I’s claim and demonstrating that the named clergy and nobles supported him. There’s a lingering suggestion that the 1776 American Declaration of Independence was modelled on the Declaration of Arbroath. However, Blackwell points out that “At present, there is no convincing evidence that the Declaration of Arbroath influenced the United States Declaration of Independence.” She continues, “In fact, it may be that the influence was the other way around the name ‘Declaration of Arbroath’, was only given to the document in the early 20th century”.

Arbroath Abbey. Credit: Kenny Lam/Visit Scotland

Closer to home, its enduring significance remains debated. As Blackwell stated, the document was a copy of one of three letters – it was not meant to be a stand-alone statement. It was also a political tool diplomacy in action to achieve a specific goal. The Declaration of Arbroath not only bolstered King Robert I’s claim as the lawful ruler of the sovereign state of Scotland, but acted as a template, laying the foundations of a contract between the monarchy and its people, with the onus on the king to deliver a free society.

Anniversary Celebrations

Arbroath 2020 + 1 Festival

Sadly Arbroath 2020 Festival has been postponed until 2021 and will open in April and run until September. Now branded as the Arbroath 2020 + 1 Festival, it will celebrate The Declaration of Arbroath’s 701st Anniversary.

National Records of Scotland

The Declaration of Arbroath is held by National Records of Scotland (NRS). The document in National Records of Scotland is the “file copy” of the Declaration: the only version to survive in its original form was due to go on public display in Edinburgh March 2020. NRS hopes that in due course the exhibition will be rescheduled so that members of the public have the opportunity to see this iconic document. For now you can read a translation of the Declaration of Arbroath in the ‘Declaration of Arbroath 700th Anniversary Booklet‘, which is available to download now.

‘The Declaration’ on BBC Radio Scotland

On 6-8 April 2020 at 13.32pm (and for one month on BBC Sounds) Billy Kay presents a major series on one of the most iconic moments in Scottish and world history, when the nobles, barons, freeholders and the community of the realm of Scotland felt compelled to create the document in 1320.


The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320

The efforts to persuade the Pope of Robert Bruce’s right led in 1320 to one of the most famous documents in Scottish history – the Letter of the Barons – or the Declaration of Arbroath.It is in fact a letter, which was taken to the Pope by Bishop William Lamberton on behalf of 8 earls, and 31 barons, from the whole community of the realm telling the Pope that Robert Bruce was their king by right and that it was English avarice that was the problem here, not their disobedience. It seemed to repeat a theme that had emerged in the earlier Declaration of the Clergy – that it was the community of the realm who ultimately decided who was king of Scotland.

Most historians dispute that Bruce and the authors of the letter believed that the king was only king because of some idea of popular sovereignty the point was to convince the Pope that the problem was not Robert Bruce’s intransigence – to make it clear that if Bruce did any backsliding he would have a serious problem back home with the community of the realm who stood behind him. In addition rather than a declaration of independence, the purpose of the letter was for a specific purpose – of persuading the Pope to recognise their rights. None of this matters – since the document was rediscovered, it has been treated as a declaration of independence, and you’ll look far to find a better one.

TO THE most Holy Father and Lord in Christ, the Lord John, by divine providence Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman and Universal Church, his humble and devout sons Duncan, Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and of Annandale, Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, William, Earl of Ross, Magnus, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William, Earl of Sutherland Walter, Steward of Scotland, William Soules, Butler of Scotland, James, Lord of Douglas, Roger of Mowbray, David Lord of Brechin, David of Graham, Ingelram of Umfravil, John of Menteith, Guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gilbert of Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert of Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry of St Clair, John of Graham, David of Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick of Graham, John of Fenton, William of Abernethy, David of Wemyss, William Muschet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace of Maxwell, William of Ramsay, William Mowat, Allan of Moray, Donald Campbell, John Cambrun, Reginald le Cheyne, Alexander of Seton, Andrew of Leslie, Alexander of Straton, and the rest of the barons and freeholders, and whole community, of the kingdom of Scotland, send all manner of filial reverence, with devout kisses of your blessed and happy feet.

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown.

They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since. In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner. The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles – by calling, though second or third in rank – the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.

The Most Holy Fathers your predecessors gave careful heed to these things and bestowed many favours and numerous privileges on this same kingdom and people, as being the special charge of the Blessed Peter’s brother. Thus our nation under their protection did indeed live in freedom and peace up to the time when that mighty prince the King of the English, Edward, the father of the one who reigns today, when our kingdom had no head and our people harboured no malice or treachery and were then unused to wars or invasions, came in the guise of a friend and ally to harass them as an enemy.

The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes. But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert. He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Therefore it is, Reverend Father and Lord, that we beseech your Holiness with our most earnest prayers and suppliant hearts, inasmuch as you will in your sincerity and goodness consider all this, that, since with Him Whose Vice-Regent on earth you are there is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman, you will look with the eyes of a father on the troubles and privation brought by the English upon us and upon the Church of God.

May it please you to admonish and exhort the King of the English, who ought to be satisfied with what belongs to him since England used once to be enough for seven kings or more, to leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor little Scotland, beyond which there is no dwelling-place at all, and covet nothing but our own. We are sincerely willing to do anything for him, having regard to our condition, that we can, to win peace for ourselves. This truly concerns you, Holy Father, since you see the savagery of the heathen raging against the Christians, as the sins of Christians have indeed deserved, and the frontiers of Christendom being pressed inward every day and how much it will tarnish your Holiness’s memory if (which God forbid) the Church suffers eclipse or scandal in any branch of it during your time, you must perceive. Then rouse the Christian princes who for false reasons pretend that they cannot go to help of the Holy Land because of wars they have on hand with their neighbours. The real reason that prevents them is that in making war on their smaller neighbours they find quicker profit and weaker resistance. But how cheerfully our Lord the King and we too would go there if the King of the English would leave us in peace, He from Whom nothing is hidden well knows and we profess and declare it to you as the Vicar of Christ and to all Christendom. But if your Holiness puts too much faith in the tales the English tell and will not give sincere belief to all this, nor refrain from favouring them to our prejudice, then the slaughter of bodies, the perdition of souls, and all the other misfortunes that will follow, inflicted by them on us and by us on them, will, we believe, be surely laid by the Most High to your charge.

To conclude, we are and shall ever be, as far as duty calls us, ready to do your will in all things, as obedient sons to you as His Vicar and to Him as the Supreme King and Judge we commit the maintenance of our cause, casting our cares upon Him and firmly trusting that He will inspire us with courage and bring our enemies to nought.

May the Most High preserve you to his Holy Church in holiness and health and grant you length of days.

Given at the monastery of Arbroath in Scotland on the sixth day of the month of April in the year of grace thirteen hundred and twenty and the fifteenth year of the reign of our King aforesaid.


The Declaration of Arbroath

2020 marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath held by National Records of Scotland (NRS). 700th anniversaries do not come around all that often and NRS staff were greatly looking forward to exhibiting this unique document in the National Museum of Scotland. However the health and safety of the public and staff is always our top priority and following updated guidance from the UK and Scottish Government on Covid-19/Coronavirus the exhibition of the Declaration has been postponed.

NRS hopes that in due course the exhibition will be rescheduled so that members of the public have the opportunity to see this iconic document.

For now you can read more about the Declaration of Arbroath and its history with NRS below, and in the 'Declaration of Arbroath 700th Anniversary Booklet' available for download.

"As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself".

These are the best known words in the Declaration of Arbroath, foremost among Scotland's state papers and the most famous historical record held by National Records of Scotland. The Declaration is a letter written in 1320 by the barons and whole community of the kingdom of Scotland to the pope, asking him to recognise Scotland's independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country's lawful king.

The Declaration of Arbroath, 6 April 1320

Mike Brooks © Queen’s Printer for Scotland, National Records of Scotland, SP13/7

The Declaration was written in Latin and was sealed by eight earls and about forty barons. Over the centuries various copies and translations have been made, including a microscopic edition.

Scottish Independence

The Declaration was written during the long war of independence with England which started with Edward I's attempt to conquer Scotland in 1296. When the deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, left Scotland without a monarch, Edward used the invitation to help choose a successor as an excuse to revive English claims of overlordship. When the Scots resisted, he invaded.

Detail of the Declaration of Arbroath, 6 April 1320

Mike Brooks © Queen’s Printer for Scotland, National Records of Scotland, SP13/7

Edward refused to allow William Wallace's victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297 to derail his campaign. In 1306 Robert the Bruce seized the throne and began a long struggle to secure his position against internal and external threat. His success at Bannockburn in 1314, when he defeated an English army under Edward II, was a major achievement, but the English still did not recognise Scotland's independence or Bruce's position as king.

On the European front, by 1320 Scottish relations with the papacy were in crisis after the Scots defied papal efforts to establish a truce with England. When the pope excommunicated Robert I and three of his barons, the Scots sent the Declaration of Arbroath as part of a diplomatic counter-offensive. The pope wrote to Edward II urging him to make peace, but it was not until 1328 that Scotland's independence was acknowledged.

Detail of the Declaration of Arbroath showing seals, 6 April 1320

Mike Brooks © Queen’s Printer for Scotland, National Records of Scotland, SP13/7

Detail of the Declaration of Arbroath showing seals, 6 April 1320

Mike Brooks © Queen’s Printer for Scotland, National Records of Scotland, SP13/7

The Declaration was probably drawn up by Bernard, Abbot of Arbroath. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain of what might have been 50 originally, and many are in poor condition.


The Declaration of Arbroath - History

THE DECLARATION OF ARBROATH

DECLARATION OF SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE 1320

THE HISTORY OF THE MANUSCRIPT

The Declaration was written on behalf of the Community of the Realm of Scotland at Arbroath,

by Bernard de Linton, Abbot of Arbroath, Chancellor of Scotland, 6th April 1320 to Pope John XXII,

at Avignon, France, as International Arbitrator. It was a direct result of the solemn considerations

of a Great Council of Earls, Barons and Freeholders, who had foregathered

at Newbattle Abbey, near Edinburgh, in March of that year.

It bears the seals of eight Earls, thirty-eight Barons, and several

Freeholders of the Realm of Scotland (further seals have been appended)

Duncan, Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and of Annandale,

Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox,

William, Earl of Ross, Magnus, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William, Earl of Sutherland Walter, Steward of Scotland, William Soules, Butler of Scotland, James, Lord of Douglas,

Roger Mowbray, David, Lord of Brechin, David Graham, Ingram Umfraville,

John Menteith, Guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser,

Gilbert Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry St Clair,

John Graham, David Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick Graham, John Fenton, William Abernethy,

David Wemyss, William Mushet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace Maxwell, William Ramsay,

William Mowat, Alan Murray, Donald Campbell, John Cameron, Reginald Cheyne, Alexander Seton, Andrew Leslie, and Alexander Stration and the other Barons and Freeholders

and the whole community of the realm of Scotland.

This was the first time in European history that Power and Rights were declared by the People.

It was made clear to King Robert I (the Bruce) in his presence, that he had a Nation’s

true and loyal support for so long as he returned this Loyalty. Truly, it is one of the world’s

great affirmations, which will forever inspire all Scots - wherever they may be.

"For as long as but one hundred of us remain alive, we will never on any conditions

submit to the domination of the English. It is not for glory nor riches, nor honours

that we fight, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life."

FULL TRANSLATION IN ENGLISH

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A COMPLETE COPY OF THE ORIGINAL LATIN IN MODERN FONT

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Wax Seals

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

The surviving Declaration is a copy of the letter made at the same time as the one sent to the pope in Avignon (which is now lost) . It is cared for by National Records of Scotland and is so fragile that it can only be displayed occasionally in order to ensure its long-term preservation.

Find out more about the Declaration of Arbroath on the National Records of Scotland website, including a transcription and translation of the Declaration text.

Please note

The Declaration of Arbroath display has been postponed until further notice. We will make a further announcement once new display dates have been agreed.


Contents

The Declaration was part of a broader diplomatic campaign, which sought to assert Scotland's position as an independent kingdom, [5] rather than its being a feudal land controlled by England's Norman kings, as well as lift the excommunication of Robert the Bruce. [6] The pope had recognised Edward I of England's claim to overlordship of Scotland in 1305 and Bruce was excommunicated by the Pope for murdering John Comyn before the altar at Greyfriars Church in Dumfries in 1306. [6] This excommunication was lifted in 1308 subsequently the pope threatened Robert with excommunication again if Avignon's demands in 1317 for peace with England were ignored. [2] Warfare continued, and in 1320 John XXII again excommunicated Robert I. [7] In reply, the Declaration was composed and signed and, in response, the papacy rescinded King Robert Bruce's excommunication and thereafter addressed him using his royal title. [2]

The wars of Scottish independence began as a result of the deaths of King Alexander III of Scotland in 1286 and his heir the "Maid of Norway" in 1290, which left the throne of Scotland vacant and the subsequent succession crisis of 1290-1296 ignited a struggle among the Competitors for the Crown of Scotland, chiefly between the House of Comyn, the House of Balliol, and the House of Bruce who all claimed the crown. After July 1296's deposition of King John Balliol by Edward of England and then February 1306's killing of John Comyn III, Robert Bruce's rivals to the throne of Scotland were gone, and Robert was crowned king at Scone that year. [8] Edward I, the "Hammer of Scots", died in 1307 his son and successor Edward II did not renew his father's campaigns in Scotland. [8] In 1309 a parliament held at St Andrews acknowledged Robert's right to rule, received emissaries from the Kingdom of France recognising the Bruce's title, and proclaimed the independence of the kingdom from England. [8]

By 1314 only Edinburgh, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Roxburgh, and Stirling remained in English hands. In June 1314 the Battle of Bannockburn had secured Robert Bruce's position as King of Scots Stirling, the Central Belt, and much of Lothian came under Robert's control while the defeated Edward II's power on escaping to England via Berwick weakened under the sway of his cousin Henry, Earl of Lancaster. [7] King Robert was thus able to consolidate his power, and sent his brother Edward Bruce to claim the Kingdom of Ireland in 1315 with an army landed in Ulster the previous year with the help of Gaelic lords from the Isles. [7] Edward Bruce died in 1318 without achieving success, but the Scots campaigns in Ireland and in northern England were intended to press for the recognition of Robert's crown by King Edward. [7] At the same time, it undermined the House of Plantagenet's claims to overlordship of the British Isles and halted the Plantagenets' effort to absorb Scotland as had been done in Ireland and Wales. Thus were the Scots nobles confident in their letters to Pope John of the distinct and independent nature of Scotland's kingdom the Declaration of Arbroath was one such. According to historian David Crouch, "The two nations were mutually hostile kingdoms and peoples, and the ancient idea of Britain as an informal empire of peoples under the English king's presidency was entirely dead." [8]

The text makes claims about the ancient history of Scotland and especially the Scoti, forbears of the Scots, who the Declaration claims originated in Scythia Major and migrated via Spain to Britain, dating their migration to "1,200 years from the Israelite people's crossing of the Red Sea". [a] The Declaration describes how the Scots had "thrown out the Britons and completely destroyed the Picts", [b] resisted the invasions of "the Norse, the Danes and the English", [c] and "held itself ever since, free from all slavery". [d] It then claims that in the Kingdom of Scotland, "one hundred and thirteen kings have reigned of their own Blood Royal, without interruption by foreigners". [e] The text compares Robert Bruce with the Biblical warriors Judas Maccabeus and Joshua. [f]

The Declaration made a number of points: that Edward I of England had unjustly attacked Scotland and perpetrated atrocities that Robert the Bruce had delivered the Scottish nation from this peril and, most controversially, that the independence of Scotland was the prerogative of the Scottish people, rather than the King of Scots. (However, this should be taken in the context of the time - ‘Scottish People’ refers to the Scottish nobility, rather than commoners.) In fact it stated that the nobility would choose someone else to be king if Bruce proved to be unfit in maintaining Scotland's independence.

Some have interpreted this last point as an early expression of 'popular sovereignty' [9] – that government is contractual and that kings can be chosen by the community rather than by God alone. It has been considered to be the first statement of the contractual theory of monarchy underlying modern constitutionalism. [10]

It has also been argued that the Declaration was not a statement of popular sovereignty (and that its signatories would have had no such concept) [11] but a statement of royal propaganda supporting Bruce's faction. [12] [13] A justification had to be given for the rejection of King John Balliol in whose name William Wallace and Andrew de Moray had rebelled in 1297. The reason given in the Declaration is that Bruce was able to defend Scotland from English aggression whereas, by implication, King John could not. [14]

To this man, in as much as he saved our people, and for upholding our freedom, we are bound by right as much as by his merits, and choose to follow him in all that he does.

Whatever the true motive, the idea of a contract between King and people was advanced to the Pope as a justification for Bruce's coronation whilst John de Balliol still lived in Papal custody. [5]

For the full text in Latin and a translation in English, See Declaration of Arbroath on WikiSource.

There are 39 names—eight earls and thirty-one barons—at the start of the document, all of whom may have had their seals appended, probably over the space of some weeks and months, with nobles sending in their seals to be used. On the extant copy of the Declaration there are only 19 seals, and of those 19 people only 12 are named within the document. It is thought likely that at least 11 more seals than the original 39 might have been appended. [15] The Declaration was then taken to the papal court at Avignon by Bishop Kininmund, Sir Adam Gordon and Sir Odard de Maubuisson. [5]


Watch the video: Declaration of Arbroath: A Dramatic Reading (June 2022).


Comments:

  1. Paco

    Well done, the sentence remarkable and is timely

  2. Eimar

    at you the inquisitive mind :)

  3. Tojabei

    In my opinion, he is wrong.

  4. Caedwalla

    does not exist Probable

  5. Trevor

    Now everything became clear to me, thank you for the information you need.

  6. Raynell

    In my opinion, this is obvious. Try to search for the answer to your question on google.com

  7. Frontino

    and everything, and the variants?



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