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2020 marked the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, one of Scotland's most important historical artefacts.

What is the Declaration of Arbroath?

The Declaration is a letter dated 6 April 1320 written by the barons and freeholders of the Kingdom of Scotland to Pope John XXII. The letter asked the pope to recognise Scotland's independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country's lawful king.

Despite the Scots' victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in June 1314, Robert the Bruce (Robert I) had not been recognised as king by either King Edward II of England or the Pope.

At the time, the Pope desired peace between England and Scotland so that both kingdoms could help in a crusade to the Holy Land. The Declaration of Arbroath 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.

Declaration of Arbroath image © National Records Scotland.

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To mark the 700th anniversary in 2020 we spoke to two experts to understand more about how the Declaration of Arbroath was created, and why it still resonates today. 

In this podcast we are joined by National Museums Scotland's Dr Alice Blackwell, Senior Curator of Medieval Archaeology & History, and Professor Dauvit Broun, Professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow.

Listen to the podcast now on or Spotify, or in the player below:

Wax Seals

Frayed document with many tassels affixed with green and red wax seals on a grey surface.

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 of Arbroath 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's text. 

In partnership with

National Records of Scotland

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