04/06/2013
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Robert the Bruce letter discovered in The British Library

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A letter written by Robert the Bruce to King Edward II of England in the run-up to the Battle of Bannockburn has been discovered in The British Library. The discovery was made by Professor Dauvit Broun, Professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow.

The document was written in 1310 and presents historians with fresh information about a 'pivotal time in the Wars of Scottish Independence'. In the letter, Robert the Bruce appeals to Edward II for peace - and his recognition of Scotland as a separate nation with its own king.

Professor Broun said of the letter: 'The letter reveals a couple of things: firstly, Bruce’s tone is extremely conciliatory; he seems to be offering to do anything possible to establish peace. However, he is nonetheless plainly addressing Edward as one king to another. There is no doubt that the bottom line here is that Edward should recognise Robert as king of the Scots and the Scots as separate from the English.

It’s impossible to know if Bruce was serious about keeping the peace, however it seems likely that he would have known that Edward was coming north to escape trouble in England as much as to assert control over Scotland.

'This could be seen as an attempt at fishing to see how Edward would react.

'The writing of this letter should be seen as a bold move by Bruce who had perhaps recognised that the tables were turning and he could stand his ground in the face of an advancing English army and open negotiations with the king. It allows us a clear sense of Bruce’s terms, which were basically anything as long as Scottish independence is recognised.'

The letter was written at a time when Robert the Bruce was in a strong position, taking former English strongholds and 'winning the hearts and minds of the Scottish people'. Just four years later, Edward II would be defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn.

A translation of the letter, which can be read in its original form at the University of Glasgow's website, reads as follows:

To the most serene prince the lord Edward by God’s grace illustrious king of England, Robert by the same grace king of Scots, greeting in Him through whom the thrones of those who rule are governed. When, under the sweetness of peace, the minds of the neighbouring faithful find rest, then life is adorned with good conduct, and also the whole of Holy MotherChurch, because the affairs of kingdoms are everywhere arranged more favourably by everyone. Our humbleness has led us, now and at other times, to beseech your highness more devoutly so that, having God and public decency in sight, you would take pains to cease from our persecution and the disturbance of the people of our kingdom in order that devastation and the spilling of a neighbour’s blood may henceforth stop. Naturally, everything which we and our people will be able to do by bodily service, or to bear by giving freely of our goods, for the redemption of good peace and for the perpetually flourishing grace of your good will, we are prepared and shall be prepared to accomplish in a suitable and honest way, with a pure heart. And if it accords with your will to have a discussion with us on these matters, may your royal sublimity send word in writing to us, by the bearer of this letter. Written at Kildrum in Lennox, the Kalends of October in the fifth year of our reign [1 October 1310].

(Image courtesy of The British Library/Breaking of Britain project)

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