Declaration of Arbroath to be displayed in Edinburgh to mark 700th anniversary

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Scotland’s most famous document, the Declaration of Arbroath, will go on display to the public for the first time in 15 years in 2020, to mark its 700th anniversary.

The “precious and fragile” document, dated April 6, 1320, will be shown for free at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) for a month from March 27 to April 26.

The Declaration of Arbroath.

The Declaration of Arbroath.

The “Declaration” was a letter to Pope John XXII to assert Scotland’s status as an independent kingdom.

Sealed by 51 magnates and nobles, it is recognised as the first declaration of contractual monarchy in Europe.

The document will be displayed within the Scotland galleries of the NMS.

The announcement was made yesterday on the anniversary of Robert the Bruce’s birth, on July 11, 1274.

Cared for by National Records of Scotland, the document can only be occasionally displayed in order to ensure its long-term preservation.

Alice Blackwell, Curator of Medieval Archaeology and History at NMS, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to display the Declaration of Arbroath.

“It is a hugely significant document and a vital piece of Scotland’s history. We look forward to welcoming many visitors next year to enjoy the rare opportunity of seeing this iconic document close up.”

The Declaration of Arbroath was drafted six years after Robert the Bruce’s historic victory against Edward II at Bannockburn as a plea to the Pope to stop supporting the English and recognise Scotland’s independence.

Written in Latin, it was most likely drafted in the scriptorium of Arbroath Abbey by Abbot Bernard on behalf of the nobles and barons of Scotland.

It states: “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.”

Paul Lowe, Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland, added: “The Declaration of Arbroath is a key treasure and we’re very proud of the role we play in conserving this hugely significant historical artefact.

In 2016, the Declaration of Arbroath, was included by UNESCO in its UK “Memory of the World” register.