Declaration of Arbroath to go on public display for the first time in fifteen years


11 July 2019
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National Museums Scotland and National Records of Scotland have today announced, on the anniversary of Robert the Bruce’s birth, that the Declaration of Arbroath will be displayed at the National Museum of Scotland next year to mark 700 years since its creation.

National Museums Scotland and National Records of Scotland have today announced, on the anniversary of Robert the Bruce’s birth, that the Declaration of Arbroath will be displayed at the National Museum of Scotland next year to mark 700 years since its creation.

The document will be displayed within the Scotland galleries of the National Museum of Scotland from 27 March to 26 April 2020.

The document has not been on public display for 15 years, when it was last displayed at the Scottish Parliament. The 700-year-old document, which is cared for by National Records of Scotland, can only be occasionally displayed in order to ensure its long-term preservation, they explain.

The Declaration of Arbroath

National Records of Scotland describe the importance of the Declaration on their website: The Declaration of Arbroath is one of Scotland’s most important historical documents, capturing a powerful call for the recognition of the Kingdom of Scotland’s sovereign independence.

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

The letter also asks the Pontiff to persuade King Edward II of England to end hostilities against the Scots, so that their energy may be better used to secure the frontiers of Christendom.

The Declaration was probably drawn up in the scriptorium of Arbroath Abbey. Written in Latin, it was sealed by eight earls and about forty barons. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain.

Alice Blackwell, Curator of Medieval Archaeology and History at National Museums Scotland said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to display the Declaration of Arbroath here at the National Museum of Scotland. 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.”

Paul Lowe, Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland, added: “National Records of Scotland is delighted to help display this famous and fragile document for Scots and for visitors from further afield. The Declaration of Arbroath is a key treasure in our extensive collections and we’re very proud of the role we play in conserving this hugely significant historical artefact for future generations.”

How to see the Declaration of Arbroath

Admission to view the Declaration of Arbroath will be free.  More information about the display is available on the National Museum of Scotland website.

(Report courtesy of National Records Scotland/National Museums Scotland. Image copyright National Records Scotland)