Declaration of Arbroath

Declaration of Arbroath

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The Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence
Scottish independence
Scottish independence is a political ambition of political parties, advocacy groups and individuals for Scotland to secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent sovereign state, separate from England, Wales and Northern Ireland....

, made in 1320. It is in the form of a letter submitted to Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII , born Jacques Duèze , was pope from 1316 to 1334. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy , elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France...

, dated 6 April 1320, intended to confirm Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

's status as an independent, sovereign state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 and defending Scotland's right to use military action when unjustly attacked.

Generally believed to have been written in the Arbroath Abbey
Arbroath Abbey
Arbroath Abbey, in the Scottish town of Arbroath, was founded in 1178 by King William the Lion for a group of Tironensian Benedictine monks from Kelso Abbey. It was consecrated in 1197 with a dedication to the deceased Saint Thomas Becket, whom the king had met at the English court...

 by Bernard of Kilwinning
Bernard of Kilwinning
Bernard was a Tironensian abbot, administrator and bishop active in late 13th- and early 14th-century Scotland, during the First War of Scottish Independence...

, then Chancellor of Scotland
Lord Chancellor of Scotland
The Lord Chancellor of Scotland was a Great Officer of State in pre-Union Scotland.Holders of the office are known from 1123 onwards, but its duties were occasionally performed by an official of lower status with the title of Keeper of the Great Seal...

 and Abbot of Arbroath
Abbot of Arbroath
Abbot of Arbroath was the head of the Tironensian Benedictine monastic community of Arbroath Abbey, Angus, Scotland, founded under the patronage of King William of Scotland from Kelso Abbey and dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury. The abbot, John Gedy, was granted the mitre on 26 June 1396...

, and sealed by fifty-one magnate
Magnate
Magnate, from the Late Latin magnas, a great man, itself from Latin magnus 'great', designates a noble or other man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities...

s and nobles, the letter is the sole survivor of three created at the time. The others were a letter from the King of Scots, Robert I
Robert I of Scotland
Robert I , popularly known as Robert the Bruce , was King of Scots from March 25, 1306, until his death in 1329.His paternal ancestors were of Scoto-Norman heritage , and...

, and a letter from four Scottish bishops which all presumably made similar points.

Overview


The Declaration was part of a broader diplomatic campaign which sought to assert Scotland's position as a kingdom, rather than being a feudal land controlled by England's Norman kings, as well as lift the excommunication
Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 of Robert the Bruce
Robert I of Scotland
Robert I , popularly known as Robert the Bruce , was King of Scots from March 25, 1306, until his death in 1329.His paternal ancestors were of Scoto-Norman heritage , and...

. The Pope had recognised Edward I of England
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

's claim to overlordship of Scotland in 1305 and Bruce was excommunicated by the Pope for murdering John Comyn
John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch
John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Lord of Lochaber or John "the Red", also known simply as the Red Comyn was a Scottish nobleman who was an important figure in the Wars of Scottish Independence, and was Guardian of Scotland during the Second Interregnum 1296-1306...

 on the altar in Greyfriars Church in Dumfries in 1306.

The Declaration made a number of much-debated rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

al points: that Scotland had always been independent, indeed for longer than England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

; that Edward I of England
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 had unjustly attacked Scotland and perpetrated atrocities; that Robert the Bruce had delivered the Scottish nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

 from this peril; and, most controversially, that the independence of Scotland was the prerogative of the Scots people, rather than the King of Scots. In fact it stated that the nobility would choose someone else to be king if the current one did anything to threaten Scotland's independence. Some have interpreted this last point as an early expression of 'popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with Republicanism and the social contract...

' – that kings could be chosen by the population rather than by God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 alone.

It has also been argued that the Declaration was not a statement of popular sovereignty (and that its signatories would have had such a concept)
but a statement of royal propaganda supporting Bruce's faction.
A justification had to be given for the rejection of King John
John of Scotland
John Balliol , known to the Scots as Toom Tabard , was King of Scots from 1292 to 1296.-Early life:Little of John's early life is known. He was born between 1248 and 1250 at an unknown location, possibilities include Galloway, Picardy and Barnard Castle, County Durham...

 in whose name William Wallace and Andrew de Moray rebelled in 1297. The reason given in the Declaration is that Bruce was able to defend Scotland from English aggression whereas, by implication, King John could not.

To this man, in as much as he saved our people, and for upholding our freedom, we are bound by right as much as by his merits, and choose to follow him in all that he does.

Whatever the true motive, the idea of a contract between King and people was advanced to the Pope as an excuse for Bruce's coronation whilst John de Balliol still lived in Papal custody.

There are 39 names (eight earl
Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...

s and thirty one baron
Baron
Baron is a title of nobility. The word baron comes from Old French baron, itself from Old High German and Latin baro meaning " man, warrior"; it merged with cognate Old English beorn meaning "nobleman"...

s) at the start of the document, all of whom may have had their seals appended, probably over the space of some weeks and months, with nobles sending in their seals to be used. (On the extant copy of the Declaration there are only 19 seals, and of those 19 people only 12 are named within the document. It is thought likely that at least 11 more seals than the original 39 might have been appended.) The Declaration was then taken to the papal court
Papal court
The Papal Household or Pontifical Household , called until 1968 the Papal Court , consists of dignitaries who assist the Pope in carrying out particular ceremonies of either a religious or a civil character....

 at Avignon
Avignon Papacy
The Avignon Papacy was the period from 1309 to 1376 during which seven Popes resided in Avignon, in modern-day France. This arose from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown....

 by bishop Kininmund, Sir Adam Gordon and Sir Odard de Maubuisson.

The Pope heeded to the arguments contained by the Declaration, influenced by the offer of support for his long-desired crusade from the Scots if they no longer had to be wary of English invasion, and exhorted Edward II in a letter to make peace with the Scots, but the following year he was again persuaded by the English to take their side and issued six bulls to that effect. It was only in October 1328, after a short-lived peace treaty
Peace treaty
A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, that formally ends a state of war between the parties...

 between Scotland and England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, the Treaty of Northampton (which renounced all English claims to Scotland and was signed by the new English king, Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, on the 1 March 1328), that the interdict on Scotland and the excommunication of its king were finally removed.

The original copy of the Declaration that was sent to Avignon is lost. A copy of the Declaration survives among Scotland's state papers, held by the National Archives of Scotland
National Archives of Scotland
Based in Edinburgh, the National Archives of Scotland are the national archives of Scotland. The NAS claims to have one of the most varied collection of archives in Europe...

 in Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

. The most widely known English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 translation was created by Sir James Fergusson, formerly Keeper of the Records of Scotland, from text that he reconstructed using this extant copy and early copies of the original draft. One passage in particular is often quoted from the Fergusson translation:

See also

  • Declaration of Independence
    Declaration of independence
    A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

  • Claim of Right for Scotland
  • Declaration of Calton Hill
    Declaration of Calton Hill
    The Declaration of Calton Hill was a declaration calling for an independent Scottish Republic. It was declared on October 9, 2004, at Calton Hill in Edinburgh New Town, at the same time that Queen Elizabeth II was officially opening the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood.This was the...


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