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Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath is the declaration of Scottish independence in the form of a letter that was submitted to Pope John XXII, after being signed by Scottish nobles on April 6, 1320, in order to overcome his objections to the end of a period of English dominance. The document is notable as the first formal declaration of independence by any nation.

The Declaration made an important point: that the independence of Scotland was more important to the Scots than the King of Scots. In fact it stated that a new King of Scots would be chosen if the current one did not support the independence of Scotland.

Written in Latin, it is believed to have been drafted by Bernard de Linton, the Abbot of Arbroath, who was the Chancellor of Scotland at the time. On the 6th of April, 1320, it was signed at Arbroath Abbey and the seals of eight earls and thirty-one other Scots nobles were attached to it. The declaration was then taken to the papal court at Avignon.

The Pope accepted the arguments which it contained and it was in part due to his intervention that a short-lived peace treaty between Scotland and England, the Treaty of Northampton, renouncing all English claims to Scotland, was finally signed by the English king, Edward III, on the 1st of March, 1328.

The original copy of the Declaration, which was sent to Avignon, the seat of the Papacy at the time, is lost. However a file copy still exists in the Scottish Archives.

The original Latin text of the Declaration follows together with a translation into English:

The Declaration of Independence and its Translation
Latin Text English Text
Sanctissimo Patri in Christo ac Domino, domino Johanni, diuina prouidiencia Sacrosancte Romane et Vniuersalis Ecclesie Summo Pontifici, Filii Sui Humiles et deuoti Duncanus Comes de Fyf, Thomas Ranulphi Comes Morauie Dominus Mannie et Vallis Anandie, Patricius de Dumbar Comes Marchie, Malisius Comes de Stratheryne, Malcolmus Comes de Leuenax, Willelmus Comes de Ross, Magnus Comes Cathanie et Orkadie et Willelmus Comes Suthirlandie; Walterus Senescallus Scocie, Willelmus de Soules Buttelarius Scocie, Jacobus Dominus de Duglas, Rogerus de Moubray, Dauid Dominus de Brechyn, Dauid de Graham, Ingeramus de Vmfrauille, Johannes de Menetethe Custos Comitatus de Menetethe, Alexander Fraser, Gilbertus de Haya Constabularius Scocie, Robertus de Keth Marescallus Scocie, Henricus de Sancto Claro, Johannes de Graham, Dauid de Lindesay, Willelmus Olifaunt, Patricius de Graham, Johannes de Fentoun, Willelmus de Abirnithy, Dauid de Wemys, Willelmus de Montefixo, Fergusius de Ardrossane, Eustachius de Maxwell, Willelmus de Ramesay, Willelmus de Montealto, Alanus de Morauia, Douenaldus Cambell, Johannes Cambrun, Reginaldus le chen, Alexander de Setoun, Andreas de Lescelyne, et Alexander de Stratoun, Ceterique Barones et Liberetenenetes ac tota Communitas Regni Scocie, omnimodam Reuerenciam filialem cum deuotis Pedum osculis beatorum. To the Most Saintly Father in Christ the Lord, the Lord John, by divine Providence, High Priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, from his humble and devoted sons, Duncan - Earl of Fife, Thomas Ranulph - Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and Annandale, Patrick Dunbar - Earl of March, Malise - Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm - Earl of Leven, William - Earl of Ross, Magnus - Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William - Earl of Sutherland; Walter - Seneschal of Scotland, William Soules - Butler of Scotland, James - Lord of Douglas, Roger Mowbray, David - Lord of Brechin, David Graham, Ingram Umfraville, John Menteith - Guardian of the Earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gibert Hay - Constable of Scotland, Robert Keith - Marischal of Scotland, Henry Sinclair, John Graham, David Lindsay, William Olifaunt, Patrick Graham, John Fentoun, William Abernethy, David Wemys, William Montefix, Fergus Ardrossan, Eustace Maxwell, William Ramsay, William Montealt, Alan Moray, Donald Campbell, John Cameron, Reginald leChien, Alexander Setoun, Andrew Lesley, and Alexander Stratoun, along with the other Barons, Freeholders and all the common people of the kingdom of Scotland, we send every filial reverence with devoted kisses of your blessed feet.
Scimus, Sanctissime Pater et Domine, et ex antiquorum gestis et libris Colligimus quod inter Ceteras naciones egregias nostra scilicet Scottorum nacio multis preconijs fuerit insignita, que de Maiori Schithia per Mare tirenium et Columpnas Herculis transiens et in Hispania inter ferocissimas gentes per multa temporum curricula Residens a nullis quantumcumque barbaricis poterat allicubi gentibus subiugari. Undeque veniens post mille et ducentos annos a transitu populi israelitici per mare rubrum sibi sedes in Occidente quas nunc optinet, expulsis primo Britonibus et Pictis omnino deletis, licet per Norwagienses, Dacos et Anglicos sepius inpugnata fuerit, multis cum victorijs et Laboribus quamplurimis adquisuit, ipsaque ab omni seruitute liberas, vt Priscorum testantur Historie, semper tenuit. In quorum Regno Centum et Tredescim Reges de ipsorum Regali prosapia, nullo alienigena interueniente, Regnauerunt. Most Holy Father and Lord, we know from the deeds of the ancients and we read from books -- because among the other great nations of course, our nation of Scots has been described in many publications -- that crossing from Greater Scythia, via the Tyrhennian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and living in Spain among the fiercest tribes for many years, it could be conquered by no one anywhere, no matter how barbarous the tribes. Afterwards, coming from there, one thousand two hundred years from the Israelite people's crossing of the Red Sea, to its home in the west, which it now holds, having first thrown out the Britons and completely destroyed the Picts, and even though it was often attacked by the Norse, the Danes and the English, it fought back with many victories and countless labours and it has held itself ever since, free from all slavery, as the historians of old testify. In their own kingdom, one hundred and thirteen kings have reigned of their own Blood Royal, without interruption by foreigners.
Quorum Nobilitates et Merita, licet ex aliis non clarerent, satis patenter effulgent ex eo quod Rex Regum et dominancium dominus Jhesus Christus post passionem suam et Resurreccionem ipsos in vltimis terre finibus constitutos quasi primos ad suam fidem sanctissimam conuocauit. Nec eos per quemlibet in dicta fide confirmari voluit set per suum primum apostolum vocacione quamuis ordine secundum vel tercium, sanctum Andream mitissimum beati Petri Germanum, quem semper ipsis preesse voluit vt Patronum. The merits and nobility of these people, even if they were not obvious from the other signs, shine out openly enough from this, that even though they lived at the furthermost ends of the Earth, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus Christ after His Passion and His Resurrection, called them nearly the first to his most Holy Faith. Nor did He want to confirm them in the said Faith by anyone but the first to be an Apostle, despite being second or third in rank, the brother of the Blessed Peter, gentle Saint Andrew, whom ever since, He has asked to protect them as their Patron.
Hec autem Sanctissimi Patres et Predecessores vestri sollicita mente pensantes ipsum Regnum et populum vt beati Petri germani peculium multis fauoribus et priuilegijs quamplurimis Munierunt, Ita quippe quod gens nostra sub ipsorum proteccione hactenus libera deguit et quieta donec ille Princeps Magnificus Rex Anglorum Edwardus, pater istius qui nunc est, Regnum nostrum acephalum populumque nullius mali aut doli nec bellis aut insultibus tunc assuetum sub amici et confederati specie inimicabiliter infestauit. Cuius iniurias, Cedes, violencias, predaciones, incendia, prelatorum incarceraciones, Monasteriorum combustiones, Religiosorum spoliaciones et occisiones alia quoque enormia et innumera que in dicto populo exercuit, nulli parcens etati aut sexui, Religioni aut ordini, nullus scriberet nec ad plenum intelligeret nisi quem experiencia informaret. However, the Holy Fathers, your predecessors, considering these thoughts with a careful mind, bestowed on this very kingdom and people many favours and countless privileges since it was the special charge of Blessed Peter's brother. Thus, obviously, the result was that until now our people lived free and untroubled under their protection until that mighty prince, Edward, King of the English, the father of he who now reigns, came with the appearance of a friend and ally to harass like an enemy, our leaderless kingdom and our people who were accustomed neither to evil or treachery nor to battles or ambushes. He committed injustices, killings, attacks, robberies, arson, the imprisonment of priests, the burning of monasteries, the looting of churches, and countless other enormous outrages, on the said people sparing no one on account of age or sex, saintliness or rank, to an extent that no one could describe nor fully believe unless they had experienced it.
A quibus Malis innumeris, ipso Juuante qui post uulnera medetur et sanat, liberati sumus per strenuissimum Principem, Regem et Dominum nostrum, Dominum Robertum, qui pro populo et hereditate suis de manibus Inimicorum liberandis quasi alter Machabeus aut Josue labores et tedia, inedias et pericula, leto sustinuit animo. Quem eciam diuina disposicio et iuxta leges et Consuetudines nostra, quas vsque ad mortem sustinere volumus, Juris successio et debitus nostrorum omnium Consensus et Assensus nostrum fecerunt Principem atque Regem, cui tanquam illi per quem salus in populo nostro facta est pro nostra libertate tuenda tam Jure quam meritis tenemur et volumus in omnibus adherere. From these countless evils, with His help who afterwards soothes and heals wounds, we are freed by our tireless leader, king, and master, Lord Robert, who like another Maccabaeus or Joshua, underwent toil and tiredness, hunger and danger with a light spirit in order to free the people and his inheritance from the hands of his enemies. And now, the divine Will, our just laws and customs, which we will defend to the death, the right of succession and the due consent and assent of all of us have made him our leader and our king. To this man, inasmuch as he saved our people, and for upholding our freedom, we are bound by right as much as by his merits, and choose to follow him in all that he does.
Quem si ab inceptis desisteret, regi Anglorum aut Anglicis nos aut Regnum nostrum volens subicere, tanquam inimicum nostrum et sui nostrique Juris subuersorem statim expellere niteremur et alium Regem nostrum qui ad defensionem nostram sufficeret faceremus. Quia quamdiu Centum ex nobis viui remanserint, nuncquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subiugari. Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. But if he should cease from these beginnings, wishing to give us or our kingdom to the English or the king of the English, we would immediately take steps to drive him out as the enemy and the subverter of his own rights and ours, and install another King who would make good our defence. Because, while a hundred of us remain alive, we will not submit in the slightest measure, to the domination of the English. We do not fight for honour, riches, or glory, but solely for freedom which no true man gives up but with his life.
Hinc est, Reuerende Pater et Domine, quod sanctitatem vestram omni precum instancia genuflexis cordibus exoramus quatinus sincero corde Menteque pia recensentes quod apud eum cuius vices in terris geritis cum non sit Pondus nec distinccio Judei et greci, Scoti aut Anglici, tribulaciones et angustias nobis et Ecclesie dei illatas ab Anglicis paternis occulis intuentes, Regem Anglorum, cui sufficere debet quod possidet cum olim Anglia septem aut pluribus solebat sufficere Regibus, Monere et exhortari dignemini vt nos scotos, in exili degentes Scocia vltra quam habitacia non est nichilque nisi nostrum Cupientes, in pace dimittat. Cui pro nostra procuranda quiete quicquid possumus, ad statum nostrum Respectu habito, facere volumus cum effectu. It is for these reasons, Reverend Father and Lord, that we beg your holiness with humble hearts and every urgent prayer, knowing that you will review everything with a true heart and a saintly mind since before Him in Whose name you reign on Earth there is neither bias nor difference between Jew or Greek, Scot or Angle, and considering the trouble and anguish brought on us by the English, that you will warn the king of the English, that he ought to be satisfied with what he owns because once it used to be enough for seven kings, and that you will think it right to encourage him to leave us Scots in peace, living in poor Scotland beyond which there is nothing habitable and nothing we desire. For this, we will effectively do whatever we can to gain peace, bearing in mind our situation.
Vestra enim interest, sancte Pater, hoc facere qui paganorum feritatem, Christianorum culpis exigentibus, in Christianos seuientem aspicitis et Christianorum terminos arctari indies, quantumque vestre sanctitatis memorie derogat si (quod absit) Ecclesia in aliqua sui parte vestris temporibus patiatur eclipsim aut Scandalum, vos videritis. Excitet igitur Christianos Principes qui non causam vt causam ponentes se fingunt in subsidium terre sancte propter guerras quas habent cum proximis ire non posse. Cuius inpedimenti Causa est verior quod in Minoribus proximis debellandis vtilitas proprior et resistencia debilior estimantur. Set quam leto corde dictus dominus Rex noster et Nos si Rex Anglorum nos is pace dimitteret illus iremus qui nichil ignorat satis novit. Quod Christi vicario totique Christianitati ostendimus et testamur. For this concerns you, Holy Father, since you see the raging ferocity of the pagans against Christians, which the sins of the Christians deserve, and the borders of Christendom being pushed back every day and you must see how much it will hurt your saintly reputation, if (which let it not) any part of the church is overcome or induced to sin during your time. Therefore let Him rouse those Christian leaders who say that they cannot go in support of the Holy Land for no reason although they pretend that the reason is wars with their neighbours. The reason for their difficulties is actually because they expect better rewards and weaker resistance in warring with their smaller neighbours. But the omniscient One knows well enough with how light a heart we and our aforesaid lord and king would go there, if the king of the English would leave us in peace.
Quibus si sanctitas vestra Anglorum relatibus nimis credula fidem sinceram non adhibeat aut ipsis in nostram confusionem fauere non desinat, corporum excidia, animarum exicia, et cetera que sequentur incomoda que ipsi in nobis et Nos in ipsis fecerimus vobis ab altissimo credimus inputanda. If your Holiness, trusting too much in the English version of these events, does not truly believe us, or does not stop supporting them to our disadvantage, then, we believe that the slaughter of bodies, the loss of souls, and all the other things that will follow, the injuries that they will do to us and we to them, will be blamed by the Most High on you.
Ex quo sumus et erimus in hiis que tenemur tanquam obediencie filii vobis tanquam ipsius vicario parati in omnibus complacere, ipsique tanquam Summo Regi et Judici causam nostram tuendam committimus, Cogitatium nostrum Jactantes in ipso sperantesque firmiter quod in nobis virtutem faciet et ad nichilum rediget hostes nostros. Thus, as if your sons, we are and always will be ready to do for you, His vicar, whatever you require insofar as it is our duty; and so, we commit the upholding of our cause to the Supreme King and Judge, entrusting our worries to Him and completely confident that He will fill us with courage and reduce our enemies to nothing.
Sanctitatem ac sanitatem vestram conseruet altissimus Ecclesie sue sancte per tempora diuturna. May God grant you holiness and health in His holy church for a long time.
Datum apud Monasterium de Abirbrothoc in Scocis Sexto die mensis Aprilis Anno gracie Millesimo Trescentesimo vicesimo Anno vero Regni Regis nostri supradicti Quinto decimo. Sent from the Monastery of Arbroath in Scotland, on the 6th day of the month April, in the year of Grace 1320, the fifteenth year of our abovementioned king's reign.