A 700-year-old letter believed to have once been in the possession of William Wallace has returned to Scotland.
The letter has been held in England since being discovered in the Tower of London in the 1830s. It is now on long-term loan to the National Records of Scotland after an agreement was reached with The National Archives in Kew.
Unveiling the fragile document in Edinburgh, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop confirmed it will go on display to the public this summer at the Scottish Parliament, alongside the famous Lübeck letter was sent in the name of William Wallace and Andrew De Moray shortly after the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and informed European trading partners that Scottish ports were once again open for business.
Ms Hyslop said:
“I am delighted to welcome the Wallace letter back to Scotland. It is one of the few surviving artefacts with a direct link to William Wallace and a fascinating fragment of our nation’s history. To have it here in Scotland, where it can be viewed by the Scottish public, is very significant indeed.
“This summer, the Wallace letter and the Lübeck letter will be displayed side by side in a once in a lifetime opportunity to view together the only two surviving documents directly connected to William Wallace. I am very much looking forward to the Scottish Parliament hosting this exhibition during the Year of Creative Scotland 2012.”
George MacKenzie, head of National Records of Scotland added:
“This document is an enigma. It’s a letter from the French king to his officials at the Vatican mentioning Wallace, but we don’t know what his business was with the Pope. What we do know is that the document still fascinates, 700 years after it was written.”
Oliver Morley, Keeper and Chief Executive of The National Archives in London, said:
“We are extremely pleased to have worked so closely with National Records of Scotland to enable another loan of this intriguing document to Scotland. In tandem with the Lübeck letter it gives the public a further opportunity to view both of these important documents relating to William Wallace together.”
Duncan Fenton from the Society of William Wallace said:
“We have been campaigning for years for this letter to be returned to Scotland and this is a fantastic result – not just for us, but for the Scottish people who will be able to see this document with their own eyes and feel a connection to William Wallace. We do not have a lot of tangible links with Wallace as most of the documentation has been destroyed, so to have something that Wallace actually touched is a massive boost for Scotland.”
Announcing the free exhibition, which will run from August 10 to 31, 2012 in the Main Hall of the Scottish Parliament, Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick MSP said:
“This unique exhibition will, alongside lectures and debates planned as part of our annual Festival of Politics, help visitors explore the documents’ impact on Scottish history.”
View an image of the Wallace letter