New images released ahead of Declaration of Arbroath anniversary

Friday April 7th 2023


First letter of the Declaration, a sheepskin document inscribed in Latin.

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

New photographs of the Declaration of Arbroath have been published by National Records of Scotland, ahead of the famous document going on display in June of this year.

These never-before-seen photographs are being made available to mark its 703rd anniversary.

The Declaration of Arbroath is a letter dated 6 April 1320, written by the barons and freeholders of Scotland, on behalf of the Kingdom of Scotland, to Pope John XXII asking him to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king.

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

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 forty barons. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain.

It will be displayed at the National Museum of Scotland this summer for the first time in 18 years, when it was last displayed at the Scottish Parliament. The display has been organised in partnership between National Museums Scotland and National Records of Scotland, who are custodians of the document. The famous document will be on show from 3rd June to 2nd July 2023

The iconic and fragile 700-year-old document, which is cared for and preserved for future generations by National Records of Scotland, can only be displayed occasionally in order to ensure its long-term preservation.

The Declaration was initially due to be displayed in April 2020 to coincide with its 700th anniversary, but this had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The new summer date has been chosen to give as many people as possible the rare chance to see one of Scotland’s most important historical documents.

NRS Chief Executive Janet Egdell said:

“NRS is proud to help display the Declaration of Arbroath, one of the most prestigious documents in our collections, a record of a key period in Scottish history.

“The Declaration is striking but at 703 years old, it’s fragile and can only be displayed occasionally to ensure its long-term preservation, under the care of our conservation experts.

“I hope that these new images released today bring this key period in Scottish history to life for people and as many as possible take the chance to see the Declaration for themselves from 2 June.”

Dr Alice Blackwell, Senior Curator of Medieval Archaeology and History at National Museums Scotland said:

“We’re delighted to be able to present this rare and fragile part of Scotland’s medieval past in a free exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland this summer.

“Its evocative sentiments have given the Declaration of Arbroath a special distinction, not just in Scotland but around the world.

“We are looking forward to inviting visitors to learn more about this fascinating document and to enjoy a rare opportunity to see it first-hand.”

The Declaration of Arbroath will be displayed at the National Museum of Scotland from 3rd June until 2nd July 2023. Admission is free and the exhibition will be in Gallery 2, Level 3, 10:00 – 17:00 daily.

Further information on the Declaration and its history is available at the NRS website.

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