A group of experts, who have been invited by the Scottish Government to examine the authenticity of a letter that was purportedly in the possession of William Wallace when he was betrayed to the English, have concluded that it is an original.
Their findings will now increase the pressure on the National Archives of
England and Wales, which is based in Surrey, England to relinquish the `Safe
Conduct’ document or the `Wallace Passport’ and return it to Scotland. In the past the National Archives have argued that the document is a copy made from the original, but the team of experts who have been drawn from Scotland, France and England and have examined the authenticity and history of the document believe it to be the original. The minutes from the first meeting of the experts stated:
“The experts are unanimous in judging that the letter itself, far from being a
copy, is an original produced in the French royal chancery.”
The call for the `Safe Conduct’ document to be returned to Scotland has been
made a number of times. Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Jim Mather, lodged a motion with the Scottish Parliament in 2005 calling for the return of the document to mark the 700th anniversary of the death of William Wallace. Now the Scottish Government have requested that the document be handed to the Scottish Archives. The Safe Conduct note is also one of the `Celtic Treasures’ that the Celtic League has been calling for the return of for a number of years and is one of the artefacts listed on the newly launched campaign website `Celtic Treasures’.
The note was purportedly being carried by Wallace when he was betrayed the Earl of Menteith and arrested in Robroyston, near Glasgow, in August 1305 and was written by King Philip IV of France to urge the Pope to “hold our loved William le Walois of Scotland, knight, recommended to his favour”. After he was arrested, Wallace was illegally tried by the English in 1305 and executed on charges of treason. He was hanged and dismembered, with his head put on public display at London Bridge and his limbs sent to Scotland.
The decision to return the document to the country it originated from would
require approval from both The National Archives’ management board and the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. The final report of the
Wallace Working Group is not due out until at least the end of 2011.
This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary
Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:
Tel: 0044 (0)1209319912
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information