This isn’t quite the article I’d been expecting to be writing today given that we were due to be down at The all Under One Banner March in Arbroath which had been due to happen on Saturday 4th April; the March had to be cancelled because of Covid-19.
It always surprises me that when you mention Arbroath that very often the first question asked is “did you try the Smokies”? Now don’t get me wrong, Arbroath Smokies are in fact absolutely delicious; however it is in my opinion not the most important thing to ever have been produced in Arbroath. For me that would be the Declaration of Arbroath arguably the most important document ever produced in Scotland.
On 6th April 1320 a missive; a Declaration of Scotland’s Independence was sent to the Pope John XXII in Avignon from Arbroath Abbey asking for acknowledgement of Scotland’s right to be an Independent Country and for Robert The Bruce to be the lawful King; attached to the document were the seals of all eight Earls, in the region of forty Barons and freeholders in Scotland affording it great weight.
Scotland had been left without a Monarch after the deaths of Alexander III and his Granddaughter Margaret; this was enough for Edward I to attempt resurrection of his claim to overlordship. The Scots refused, leading to the long war of Independence and many famous battles, including the William Wallace victory at Stirling Bridge against Edward I in 1297; then against Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 which was led by Robert the Bruce who had seized the throne in 1306; even after this victory neither the pope or Edward would accept Robert the Bruce’s right to reign.
In 1318 the Scots took Edward’s last stronghold at Berwick but even then he refused to accept Robert as King, so in 1320 the nobles of Scotland wrote The Declaration of Arbroath demanding that Robert be accepted as their legitimate King and of Scotland’s right to be an independent country. “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”.
It would be 1324 before the Pope would acknowledge Robert as King Robert I of Scotland. Then with the deposing by the English of Edward II for his son Edward III, peace was finally found in 1328 with the signing of the treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton at which point Edward gave up any rights over Scotland.
The Declaration of Arbroath is held at the National Records for Scotland (NRS), but with the historic 700 year anniversary it was being lent to The National Museum of Scotland for display. This has had to be put on hold because of the Coronovirus pandemic, however NRS are hoping that this can still go ahead at a later date still to be confirmed.
Ken and I visited Arbroath and the Abbey back in January, we didn’t get inside but managed a few photos anyroads.