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Rare Wallace and Bruce manuscripts to go on display at Stirling Castle

4 April 2014

                                        National Records of Scotland logo
                              Wallace and Bruce letters to go on display at Stirling Castle

Rare medieval letters relating to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce are to be exhibited together for the first time.

The exhibition entitled ‘Wallace, Bruce and Scotland's Contested Crown’ will open at Stirling Castle next month and brings together two unique manuscripts which provide a fascinating insight into the different paths taken by these two leaders in securing the Scottish crown.

On display will be a 700-year-old letter from King Philip IV of France to his agents in Rome commanding them to ask Pope Boniface VIII to support Wallace. Written in November 1300, the letter was discovered in the Tower of London in the 1830’s and is currently on loan to the National Records of Scotland from The National Archives in London.

In 2011 a panel of experts concluded that it was likely to have been in Wallace's possession, although how and why remain unclear.

The Wallace letter will appear alongside a letter to King Philip IV of France. Dating from 1309 it was written by Scottish barons attending the first parliament following Robert the Bruce’s seizure of the throne in 1306.

Their declaration of support for Bruce as the rightful king of Scots marked an important moment in the recognition of his crown. The document is preserved in the National Records of Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said;

“The bringing together of these documents for the first time will provide a fascinating insight into one of the most turbulent periods in Scotland’s history.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for visitors to view these rare and special documents which provide a tantalising glimpse into the lives and legacy of two of Scotland’s most famous historical figures.”  

Tim Ellis, Keeper of the Records of Scotland and Chief Executive of the National Records of Scotland, said;

“The death of Alexander III in 1286 triggered a dynastic scramble that came to a head in 1306, when Robert the Bruce seized the Scottish throne.

“This exhibition brings together for the first time two archival treasures connected to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and adds to our understanding of this fascinating period of Scottish history.

“We're delighted to be holding the exhibition which has been made possible through support from Historic Scotland and The National Archives.”

The ‘Wallace, Bruce and Scotland’s Contested Crown’ exhibition will form part of a series of events at Stirling Castle which will tell the story of the events leading up to the Battle of Bannockburn, which marks its 700th anniversary this year. This will include a living history event ‘The Road to Bannockburn’ and an exhibition of paintings by renowned artist Iona Leishman.

Lorna Ewan, Head of Visitor Experience for Historic Scotland, who operate Stirling Castle said;

“Stirling Castle played a key role in the events leading up to Bannockburn.

“The siege of the castle was the catalyst for Edward II to send a 17,000 strong army to Scotland who met Bruce’s men at Bannockburn so it provides a fitting location to tell the story to visitors.

“Over the weekend of the 24th and 25th May, the Road to Bannockburn living history event will explore the events that led to this decisive clash. Visitors can find out about the tactics and weapons of the armies and join our forensic team in discovering more about the injuries sustained by the soldiers.

“Meanwhile Iona Leishman’s exhibition of paintings will provide a poignant overview of the realities of war.

“Together with the Wallace and Bruce exhibition they will provide visitors with an insight into one of the most famous periods in Scotland’s history.”

The ‘Wallace, Bruce and Scotland’s Contested Crown’, exhibition which is part of the Year of Homecoming programme, will open at Stirling Castle on 3rd May and will run until 1st June.

Notes for editors:

PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE LETTERS IS AVAILABLE BY CONTACTING HISTORIC SCOTLAND’S MEDIA OFFICE

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.


  • Scotland welcomes the world in the Year of Homecoming 2014 providing a year-long programme of events alongside the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games. The Year of Homecoming Scotland will run until 31 December 2014 throughout the length and breadth of the country. Visitors from around the world are invited to join in a celebration of the nation’s food and drink, active pursuits, cultural heritage, nature and ancestral heritage. Homecoming Scotland 2014 is a Scottish Government initiative being led by EventScotland and VisitScotland, supported by numerous partners. To find out more visit www.homecomingscotland.com. For more on Historic Scotland’s Homecoming activities visit  www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/homecoming or tweet us using #hshomecoming.

  • National Records of Scotland is a Non-Ministerial Department of the Scottish Government.  It holds and gives access to the nation’s archives, oversees the registration of births, marriages and deaths, produces statistics on Scotland’s population and conducts the Scottish Census. It is a centre of expertise on data handling, record keeping and archives. For more information visit www.nrscotland.gov.uk or follow NRS on Twitter @NatRecordsScot

  • About The National Archives:For the record, for good…The National Archives is a government department and an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). As the official archive of the UK government and England and Wales, we look after and make available to the public a collection of historical records dating back over 1,000 years, including records as diverse as Domesday Book and MI5 files. www.nationalarchives.gov.uk www.legislation.gov.uk

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For further information contact:


Iona Matheson or Alice Wyllie
Historic Scotland Media Office
Direct line: 0131 668 8703 | 0131 668 8603
Mobile: 07827 956 858 | 07920 768 096
iona.matheson@scotland.gsi.gov.uk | alice.wyllie@scotland.gsi.gov.uk