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The William Wallace Letter is to be returned to Scotland this coming January following a successful six year campaign during which a parliamentary petition played a pivotal role.

The letter was written by King Philip IV of France commanding his agents in Rome to recommend ‘our beloved William le Wallace of Scotland’ to the Pope.

Historians believe the letter dates to 1300 and was written to assure Sir William Wallace would receive safe passage as he journeyed through Europe on his way to Rome.

Background

Sir William Wallace, having led resistance to the English king, Edward I, travelled to the court of Philip IV of France in 1299 to try to persuade him to support the Scots against Edward.  On 7th November 1300, a year after Wallace’s arrival in France, Philip wrote a letter to his agents in Rome concerning Wallace.

This document is often described as a safe–conduct, passport, or a grant of safe–passage for William Wallace, but is, in fact, a letter from King Philip to French agents in Rome, commanding them to ask Pope Boniface VIII to support Wallace in (unspecified) business.

It is recorded that three safe conducts (from the Kings of France, Norway and Scotland) were taken from Wallace when he was arrested in 1305; however the last time they were known to be in the custody of the English Crown was in 1323 in an inventory of records contained in the Exchequer (document reference E 36/268, pp. 238–40). No trace of the safe–conducts has been found after that date.

It is thought the letter was later confiscated when the Scottish hero was betrayed by the Scottish nobleman and Governor of Dumbarton castle, Menteith – earning him the title ‘fausse Menteith’ (false Menteith) – and delivered into English hands at Robroyston resulting in the barbaric execution of Wallace, an act that horrified all Scotland.

The letter was discovered in the 1830s in the Tower of London and subsequently kept at the national archives in Kew, in Surrey, remaining largely under the radar until the Society of William Wallace launched a campaign in 2005 for the Letter to be returned to Wallace’s homeland.

Gary Stewart, vice convenor of the society said: "We do not have a lot of tangible links with Wallace, as most of the documentation has been destroyed".

"We felt it would be a massive boost for Scotland and for the tourist industry to have something that Wallace actually touched.  For people to see this document and feel a connection to Wallace is something they could never get by seeing a copy of the letter on a computer screen."

Christine Grahame MSP, lodged a parliamentary motion which called for the document to be returned to Scotland, this combined with a petition to bring the document back to Scotland helped focus political and public attention on the demands.

Historians Dr Fiona Watson and Professor Geoffrey Barrow gave evidence in favour of returning The William Wallace Letter to Scotland, and as the petition continued to gain support, Fiona Hyslop, the Culture Minister, called for an academic research group to be assembled to consider the case.  They agreed it was likely that the document had been in William Wallace's possession.

The Scottish Government submitted a written request to the Ministry of Justice for the letter to come to Scotland – it is now to be loaned to Scotland from January 2012 until at least December 2014.

The letter itself will not be on display immediately because it is very fragile and can only be shown for a few weeks at a time per year.   It will initially be kept by the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh – a summer exhibition is intended for The William Wallace Letter which will also include the Lübeck letter, written by Wallace, in the summer.

After 2014, the document’s future is as yet unclear but as it stands the Scottish public will be able to view the famous historical document that was until now unavailable to them.

The William Wallace Letter (translatation)

'Philip by the grace of God, king of the French, to his beloved and loyal people appointed at the Roman Court, greetings and favour.  We command you that you ask the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favour our beloved William le Wallace of Scotland, knight, with regard to those things which concern him that he has to expedite.  Dated at Pierrefonds on the Monday after the feast of All Saints [7 November 1300].'

Comments  

 
# art1001 2011-12-14 22:00
Under no circumstances should this letter ever be returned to London.
 
 
# Jester 2011-12-14 22:09
I agree, however I have no doubt it will be returned to London to reside with the other looted and stolen treasures.
 
 
# Kinghob 2011-12-14 22:29
I don't believe there will be a case put forward for this safe conduct letter to be "given" to London as there will be no campaign or academical desire to see it go there. the desire will only be for further retention of the document where it belongs which is here, not gathering dust in some drawer in England.

It is undisputed that Sir William Wallace was "captured" in Scotland and that any documents in his possession pertained to the Scottish interest at that time and that it still has a purpose in Scotland today from a historical context and would obviously generate much interest having been neglected for so long.

One of the very few tangible pieces of documentary evidence of the actual existence of Wallace, not a report or a mention in some primary source but a bona fide political document that demonstrates the diplomatic activities of Wallace on behalf of this country as opposed to the more widely known defence of the community of the realm of Scotland for the few years he was able to do so.

It also shows how much Scotland engaged in Europe and how we had diplomatic structures in place that we now rely on er, David Cameron the Tory to represent for us- rumours are that this rather lacklustre unrepresentativ e Tory effort isn't going so well.
 
 
# Macart 2011-12-15 09:25
Stoap ye'll mak me laff! Cameron, Europe Hee hee heeee! :0)

Still I look forward to the FM negotiating settlement with Wastemonster and hopefully the return of many important Scottish treasures will be a part of these negotiations.
 
 
# km 2011-12-14 23:15
Great news. And the Wallace Monument is well worth a visit and a climb up the steps any time of year.
 
 
# UpSpake 2011-12-15 09:11
I for one will look forward to seeing it as well as the Lewis Chessmen in their rightful home.
 
 
# Robert Louis 2011-12-15 12:36
Quoting UpSpake:
I for one will look forward to seeing it as well as the Lewis Chessmen in their rightful home.



Indeed. This letter does not 'belong' to England, so it should never be returned.
 
 
# Mei 2011-12-15 09:47
This letter was part of the effects of a victim of political murder and should have been returned to his next of kin.
 
 
# Jake62 2011-12-15 15:42
"William Wallace letter loaned to Scotland untill 2014"

Um. That should be 'until' I think.

Is the 2014 date significant? Do they know something we don't?

;)
 
 
# proudscot 2011-12-15 17:48
Might be the loan is to remind us uppity Jocks of the fate of others who have opposed "union" with Mother England in the past. In those far-off days they controlled us for periods of time by using Scots born aristocrats (vermin in ermine) likes of the Fausse Menteith. Nowadays they're doing it through Scots born lapdog LibDems likes of Moore, Alexander and Jim Wallace.
 
 
# Mad Jock McMad 2011-12-15 21:25
They are still at it with the sniff of ermine, watch the antics of the Thrie Tabbard Tooms - Watson, Foulkes and Wallace - thon beltie's ca'd a laird.

I widnae trust them wi an orange aff ma barra'.
 
 
# MAcandroid 2011-12-16 15:41
I would like to see the letter sent to Jim Wallace promising him a Lardship if he handed over a big chunk of Scotland's resources by moving the sea boundary.
 
 
# Hing em high 2012-02-12 15:37
There something poetic about "vermin in ermine"

It would be poetic justice if we kept the letter!!!!
 
 
# ready4anything 2011-12-16 05:49
So after a resounding victory in our Independence referendum they . . . what? Take our national property back to a foreign land as punishment? Hardly the same as the savage treatment they handed out to our greatest hero, but shows their mentality hasn't changed in 700 years. Once it is in rightful ownership I doubt our new government will hand it back, after all, even though it was blatantly ignored the first time, it should give us safe custody on our way to fight the case of ownership at the European courts. We have allies there - the Auld Alliance isn't dead!
 
 
# Arraniki 2011-12-16 15:28
Let us be a wee bit gracious.

And after 2014 I do not think our neighbours will seek to have it returned.

Jake62 - It's a Tuesday in June. You can work it out!
 
 
# cokynutjoe 2011-12-16 16:31
James IV's sword, dagger & ring, back would be nice! as a goodwill gesture.We could give them an oil well.
Anybody want Berwick?
 
 
# the wallace 2011-12-28 13:57
All of scotlands historical artefacts and relics,wich are in english possesion should be returned forthwith to their rghtful owners.(re the people of scotland)
 

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