6th April 1320

Declaration of Arbroath asserts Scotland’s independence

The First War of Scottish Independence brought Scotland into conflict not only with Edward I – and subsequently Edward II – of England and Ireland, but also the pope. Rome had sided with the English throne in Edward I’s claim to have rights over Scotland.

Robert the Bruce was crowned King Robert I of Scotland in 1306, and two years later the pope excommunicated him over the killing of John Comyn at Dumfries, which had cleared his path to the throne. Although he was later accepted back into the church, he was excommunicated for a second time in 1320 for not having heeded Rome’s demands that he make peace with England.

Declaration of Arbroath

The Declaration of Arbroath, which was written in Latin and to which the seals of 51 authorities in Scotland were attached, was soon after issued, defending Robert I and arguing that Scotland was a nation independent from England. It outlined Scotland’s long and varied history, stretching back to Biblical times, while also pointing out that the aggressor, in the First War of Independence, was Edward I who had sent his troops to attack Scotland. It was clearly persuasive, as the pope once again rescinded Robert’s excommunication.

The text noted that “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”.

Request to the pope

It asked the pope to “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”.
The Declaration was persuasive. The pope in Avignon now called on Edward II to make peace with Scotland, but this change of heart was short lived and, soon after, the papacy was once again supportive of England in its argument against Scotland.



Other events that occured in April

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