San Diego Scottish Highland Games

What is The Declaration of Arbroath?

Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath is a letter dated 6th April 1320, written by Barons and Freeholders of the Kingdom of Scotland to Pope John XXII. The Declaration of Arbroath was signed by eight earls and 40 barons. These signatories supported Robert Bruce’s claim to the throne. Letters in the 14th century were sealed to make an impression of their coats of arms onto a document. The title “Declaration of Arbroath” is modern and explains the letter with some clauses. Then a short account of where the Scots came from and arrived in Scotland and took over the country after they had destroyed the Picts. The letter reinforced with the statement “in their Kingdom 113 kings of their own royal stock in a line unbroken by a single foreigner.”

History of Declaration of Arbroath

The declaration was written during the time of strife in Scotland and the country was at war with England, after seizing the control of territories. The Scottish wars of independence were a series of battles fought between Scotland and its southern neighbours between 1296 and 1329. Several years later, William Wallace was caught and executed, and Robert the Bruce was secretly crowned king in 1396. It constituted King Robert’s response to ex-communication about disobeying the pope’s demand in 1317 to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the Country’s lawful king.

What does the Declaration of Arbroath say?

The declaration states that Scotland’s nobles would never be subjected to English rule, and they would continue to fight against it to keep their freedom. The letter opens with the names of persons who supported Robert the Bruce as a King, then outlines Scotland’s history and the crimes of English Kings. The Declaration of Arbroath was written in Latin as the main language of Scotland and heavily used in legal texts. Writing a letter in Gaelic or Scots wouldn’t be a good way to communicate with the Pope. All the quotes from the declaration of Arbroath are then translations of the original document. Some of the sections of this letter have been lost due to damage.

Declaration of Arbroath Quote

 “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.”

Response to the Declaration of Arbroath

The Pope wrote to King Edward II, to keep peace in Scotland and declare their independence worked after a peace treaty was signed in 1328. The peace treaty was called the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton. The Declaration of Arbroath was kept in Edinburgh Castle until the 17th Century then taken to Tyninghame. Children in Scotland learn about the Scottish Wars of independence in schools and find a lesson on the Declaration of Arbroath. This is a good way to build up learners’ knowledge of the late 13th and 14th centuries when it comes to the lives of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

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