In just four weeks, a historic document that is widely regarded as the most famous in the National Records of Scotland collection will make its first public appearance in 18 years. The Declaration of Arbroath will be displayed at the National Museum of Scotland from 3 June to 2 July 2023.

The Declaration of Arbroath is a letter written in 1320 by the barons of the Kingdom of Scotland to the Pope, seeking his recognition of Robert the Bruce as the lawful king of Scotland. The document was drafted at Arbroath Abbey, a site of great significance to Scotland’s history and heritage. The letter was sent in response to the ongoing wars between Scotland and England that lasted for several decades.

The Declaration of Arbroath is considered to be one of the most important documents in Scottish history. It asserts Scotland’s right to self-determination and sovereignty, and it is also significant because it is one of the earliest examples of a written constitution in Europe. The letter makes a clear case for the independence of Scotland, declaring that “as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.”

The document is preserved by the National Records of Scotland as part of the national collections, and it is cared for by a team of conservationists. The document is over seven hundred years old, making it not only precious and historic but also extremely fragile. Ahead of the public display at the National Museum of Scotland, the conservation team is working with archivists to ensure the preservation of the Declaration of Arbroath for future generations.

The Declaration of Arbroath is an iconic document that has had a significant impact not only in Scotland but around the world. Its stirring language and evocative sentiments have given it a special distinction that transcends national boundaries. As Senior Curator of Medieval Archaeology and History at National Museums Scotland, Alice Blackwell, explains, the opportunity to display the Declaration of Arbroath is a rare and exciting one: “It is a hugely significant document and a vital piece of Scotland’s history. We look forward to welcoming many visitors to enjoy the rare opportunity of seeing this iconic document up close.”

In summary, the Declaration of Arbroath is an essential piece of Scotland’s history and heritage that asserts the country’s right to self-determination and sovereignty. Its historical significance and its rarity make it a vital document to be preserved and protected for future generations to appreciate and learn from. The public display of the Declaration of Arbroath at the National Museum of Scotland presents a unique opportunity for people to engage with this iconic piece of Scottish history and to gain a deeper understanding of the country’s heritage.

Image Source:

  • The Declaration of Arbroath: Picryl