By Jill Geoghegan
A 700-year-old letter believed to have been in the possession of Scottish hero William Wallace has returned to Scotland, the Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has announced.
The letter has been held in England since being discovered in the tower of London in the 1830s, but the National Records of Scotland has now reached an agreement with the National Archives in London to borrow the piece of Scottish heritage from 2012 to 2014.
Confirming that the fragile document will go on display this summer alongside the famous Lubeck letter, Ms Hyslop expressed her delight at the arrival of this rare piece of history.
“I am delighted to welcome the arrival of a document associated with one of the most prominent Scots. It is one of the few surviving artefacts with a direct link to our national hero William Wallace and a fascinating fragment of our nation’s history. To have it here in Scotland, where it can be viewed by the Scottish public, is very significant indeed.”
The letter itself is from the French king to his officials at the Vatican mentioning Wallace, but the reason for Wallace’s business with the Pope remains unknown.
George Mac Kenzie, head of the national records of Scotland added: “This document is an enigma. What we do know is that the document still fascinates, 700 years after it was written.”
Duncan Fenton from the society of William Wallace, which has campaigned tirelessly for the letter to be returned to Scotland, said: “We do not have a lot of tangible links with Wallace as most of the documentation has been destroyed, so to have something that Wallace actually touched is a massive boost for Scotland.”
Mr Fenton also feels that the documents arrival in Edinburgh may increase tourism: “This letter is such an iconic item; people are going to structure holidays to come and see it with their own eyes.”
The Culture Secretary also feels strongly about the letters letter’s potential to entice visitors to Scottish shores: “Of course people come to Scotland for lots of reasons including its heritage and its warm welcome but this document is special because it’s related to William Wallace.
“Undoubtedly ‘Braveheart’ the Mel Gibson film was extremely successful internationally and the association with William Wallace and Scotland is very powerful. The unveiling of this letter is wonderful for Scotland especially in the year of creative Scotland 2012.”
The free exhibition will run from August 10 to 31, 2012 in the main hall of the Scottish parliament.