Dr Alice Blackwell with the Declaration of Arbroath credit Duncan McGlynn

Declaration of Arbroath goes on display for the first time in 18 years at the National Museum of Scotland

Saturday June 3 to Sunday 2 July 2023

Admission: Free



The Declaration of Arbroath goes on display at the National Museum of Scotland tomorrow for the first time in 18 years. The display has been organised in partnership between National Museums Scotland and National Records of Scotland, who are custodians of the Declaration. The famous document will be on show from 3 June to 2 July 2023.

A selection of press images and film can be found here. 

The Declaration of Arbroath was last displayed 18 years ago at the Scottish Parliament. The iconic and fragile 700-year-old document, which is cared for and preserved for future generations by National Records of Scotland, can only be displayed occasionally in order to ensure its long-term preservation.

The Declaration was due to be displayed in April 2020 to coincide with its 700th anniversary, but this was postponed due to the pandemic. The new summer date has been chosen to give as many people as possible the rare chance to see one of Scotland’s most important historical documents.

The Declaration of Arbroath is a letter dated 6 April 1320, written by the barons 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 drafted at a meeting of the King and his council at Newbattle, then written up in the scriptorium of Arbroath Abbey. Written in Latin, it was sealed by eight earls and about 40 barons. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain.

Alice Blackwell, Senior Curator of Medieval Archaeology and History at National Museums Scotland said,

It is great to be able to display the Declaration of Arbroath here at the National Museum of Scotland, the home of our nation’s material history and the country’s most visited attraction. We look forward to welcoming many visitors to enjoy the rare opportunity of seeing this hugely significant document in person.”

Culture Minister Christina McKelvie said:

“The Declaration of Arbroath is of great historic and cultural interest to people living in Scotland as well as the sizeable Scottish diaspora around the world.

“I hope people from across the country, and further afield, will take this rare opportunity to visit our wonderful national museum to view this iconic document which has played such an important part in the history of our country.”

  Dr Alan Borthwick, Head of Medieval and Early Modern Records, National Records of Scotland, said:

“The Declaration of Arbroath is one of the most significant documents we have in our collections. At National Records of Scotland we are hugely proud of the role we play in conserving it to ensure it is still here for future generations to see and study. We hope people from Scotland and beyond will take this rare opportunity to see it for themselves.”

 The Declaration was written during the long Wars of Independence with England when, despite the Scots’ success at the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert I had not been recognised as king by either Edward II or by the Pope, and had been excommunicated by the latter. At this time, the Pope desired peace between England and Scotland, so both could help in a crusade to the Holy Land. The Declaration sought to influence him by offering the possibility of support from the Scots for his long-desired crusade if they no longer had to fear English invasion. 

After receiving the Declaration, the Pope urged reconciliation between the warring sides and a truce was agreed in 1323.  A peace treaty was signed between England and Scotland in March 1328 and the following year the Pope issued a papal bull permitting the anointing and crowning of a King of Scots.  The peace was short-lived, however, as the Second War of Independence broke out in 1332 and went on for 25 years.

2 June 2023


Notes to editors

Notes to editors 

  1. National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.

Twitter: @NtlMuseumsScot

Facebook: www.facebook.com/NationalMuseumsScotland

Instagram: @NationalMuseumsScotland

  1. The National Museum of Scotland is the most popular attraction in the country outside of London (source: Association of Leading Visitor Attractions). The National Museum of Scotland was awarded ‘Gold’ Level Green Tourism Visitor Attraction status in 2016.
  1. Bheireadh Oifis nam Meadhanan eadar-theangachadh Gàidhlig den bhrath-naidheachd seachad do bhuidhinn mheadhanan bharantaichte. Cuiribh fios do dh'Oifis nam Meadhanan airson bruidhinn air cinn-latha freagarrach.
  1. National Records of Scotland is a non ministerial department of the Scottish Government tasked with collecting, preserving and producing information about Scotland's people and history and making it available to inform current and future generations.

National Records of Scotland holds one of the most varied collections of records in Britain including public, private and legal records spanning the 12th to the 21st centuries, touching on virtually every aspect of Scottish life.

Contact: communications@nrscotland.gov.uk

            Website: nrscotland.gov.uk

            Twitter: https://twitter.com/NatRecordsScot