Skip to comments.Braveheart letter to Pope returns to Scotland
Posted on 01/16/2012 1:49:00 PM PST by NYer
.- A 14th-century letter asking Pope Boniface VIII to look favorably upon the Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace during his visit to Rome has been returned to Scotland.
This document is an enigma, said George MacKenzie, head of National Records of Scotland at the unveiling ceremony in Edinburgh on Jan. 12.
Its a letter from the French king to his officials at the Vatican mentioning Wallace, but we don't know what his business was with the Pope. What we do know is that the document still fascinates, 700 years after it was written.
The life of Sir William Wallace was famously portrayed by Mel Gibson in his 1995 Oscar-winning film Braveheart. Until Jan. 12, the letter about the real-life Wallace was held in England, since being discovered in the Tower of London in the 1830s.
The letter was originally written in 1299, when Wallace traveled to the court of Philip IV of France to try and persuade him to support the Scots against Edward I of England. A year after Wallaces arrival, Philip IV wrote the letter in question to his agents in Rome.
The letter, begins, Philip by the grace of God, king of the French, to his beloved and loyal people appointed at the Roman Court, and commands the French officials to ask the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favor our beloved William le Wallace of Scotland, knight, with regard to those things which concern him that he has to expedite. It is signed at the royal castle of Pierrefonds on the Feast of All Saints, Nov. 7, 1300.
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, said Duncan Fenton of the Society of William Wallace, who had campaigned for the return of the letter.
The document suggests that Wallace intended to visit the papal court of Pope Boniface VIII, but it is unknown whether he actually reached Rome.
Wallace was later betrayed and captured by English forces near Glasgow in 1305. He was then taken to London where he was executed following a show trial at Westminster Hall. Scotlands freedom was subsequently secured, however, when Pope John XXII recognized the countrys independence in 1320.
I am delighted to welcome the Wallace letter back to Scotland, said Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop. To have it here in Scotland, where it can be viewed by the Scottish public, is very significant indeed.
The historic document will now go on public display this summer at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, alongside another rare letter associated with Wallace that dates back to 1297.
Well, would have been nice if they’d translated the full letter for context. It sounds like an endorsement or letter of recommendation of sorts...to further Wallace’s aims in country. A rally of support?
All Saints’ Day is November 1st—someone must have misread the number. I don’t know if they would be using Arabic numerals this early (where it would be easy to misread a 1 as a 7).
Very cool! Thanks for posting!
Perhaps someone can find Scotland’s lost spine and return it to them.
Is it possible that the discrepancy is due the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars?
Can I first say post
If they were counting days in the Roman fashion, the first day of November would be the Kalends of November and the 7th day of November would be the 7th day before the Ides of November.
We may have to wait until a full copy of the text is made available.
The document was written a week after the Feast of All Saints. Here is the Latin and the translation from the National Archives:
Ph[ilippus] dei gra[tia] Franc[orum] Rex dil[ec]tis et fidelib[us] gentib[us] n[ost]ris ad Roman[am] Cur[iam] destinatis, s[a]l[u]t[em] et dil[ectionem]. Mandam[us] vob[is] quat[enus] Sum[m]um Pontificem requiratis ut dilectum n[ost]r[u]m Guill[el]m[um] le Walois de Scotia militem reco[m]mendatum habeat in hiis q[ue] ap[ud] eum habu[er]it expedire. Dat[um] ap[ud] Petrafontem die Lun[e] post festum Omn[ium] Sanctor[um]. [Endorsed]: Quarta l[itte]ra R[egis] Franc[ie].
Philip by the grace of God, king of the French, to his beloved and loyal people appointed at the Roman Court, greetings and favour. We command you that you ask the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favour our beloved William le Wallace of Scotland, knight, with regard to those things which concern him that he has to expedite. Dated at Pierrefonds on the Monday after the feast of All Saints [7 November 1300]. [Endorsed]: Fourth letter of the King of France.
Billy here is a friend of ours from the other side
and he and his associates can help us with our English “problem”.
Weren’t there two popes at the time? One under the thumb of Phillip the Fair in Avignon and the other in Rome?
No, Boniface VIII was the only pope at the time. He’s one of the most controversial of the medieval popes. Shortly after his pontificate the popes began to reside at Avignon. The Great Schism when there was one pope in Rome and another in Avignon is later, after 1378.
I consulted the perpetual calendar in The World Almanac and November 1, 1300, was on a Tuesday, so they have the date November 7 right. The journalist who reported on the story obviously did not know that November 1 is the feast of All Saints and misinterpreted the translation to mean that 7 November was the feast rather than the Monday after the feast.
Gawd I love that. Yo, take care of my homeboy.
I second the Very Cool!
Wha’ hae, Scotland!
One of the first patriot fighters...
I thought it was a GREAT movie though I don't watch it anymore....way too sad.
Pope John XXII secured Scotland’s freedom in 1320 when Scotland was recognized as a sovereign country.
However, many of its children who immigrated to this country, and who seem to post here on FR, seem to have forgotten that fact.
|GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach|
Thanks NYer. Dang, the mail is slow.
TS — seems like the pope recognized Scotland’s independence in 1305 — when will london recognize it? :)
you're kidding, right? Btw, Gibson sure has a lot of hate for the English -- his movies are about Scots fighting the English, Americans fighting the English and Australians fighting the hated English. Next he should do some movies about the brawe Cymru (Welsh) fighting the English, the French fighting the english, the Dutch fighting the English, the Danes fighting the English, the Russians fighting the English, the Turks fighting the English, the French fighting the English, the Prussians fighting the English, the Germans fighting the English, the Argentinians fighting the English, the Japanese fighting the English, the Chinese fighting the English, the Marathas fighting the English, the Mughals fighting the english, the Bengalis fighting the english, the Jews in Israel fighting the English... man, those English don't seem to get along with anybody! :-P
yup, that’s true.
England recognised it in 1328, then preceded to ignore it when it suited them until 1707, when the two nation joined each other in the United Kingdom.
Unlike the Irish and Welsh, we joined, we werent coerced.
Yet the Act of union is kind of like the joining of many countries to the EU — the majority of the population were against it —> Sir George Lockhart of Carnwath, the only member of the Scottish negotiating team against union, noted that “The whole nation appears against the Union” and even Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, an ardent pro-unionist and Union negotiator, observed that the treaty was “contrary to the inclinations of at least three-fourths of the Kingdom”
If All Saints’ is observed with an Octave, which I would bet on at the time, then the Monday after the day is another way of saying the Monday within the Octave. If one’s life revolves around the liturgical calendar, this would be a very good way of identifying a day.
I have a Missal published in 1949 which still has November 8 as “Octave-Day of All Saints.” It says “Mass as on the feast” (but the Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion are different).
If my memory serves me correctly, Octaves took two big hits in the 20th century, one under St. Pius X and one under Bl. John XXIII. That said, as we are dealing with a time prior to the standardization under St. Pius V, it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to ascertain the details of the calendar used in the French court.
Force of arms secured Scotland’s freedom.
The octave has to be the eighth day (counting inclusively so Nov. 8 is the octave of Nov. 1).
Freedom was secured by the herculean efforts of Robert the Bruce and the Scots, not by some Pope in Rome.
If it was up to referendum, the English people would grant the Scots immediate independence. Whether the Scots wanted it or not -- and by 2-1 they don't.
After seeing the translation in post 11, I think the only problem is in the original article, which leaves out the “Monday after” part and implies that the writer of the letter observed All Saints’ on Nov. 7. That said, it is somewhat curious that All Saints’ is referred to on Nov. 7, and so the other discussion is worthwhile.
Observing an octave can have two meanings—observing the eighth day or observing eight days. In practice, the two often intersected, with Day one having the biggest splash, day eight having the second biggest splash, and days two through seven having a lesser splash yet. The Octave of Christmas as presently observed is a good example of that.
While all western European countries may have been using the same calendar in the secular sense of the word (though one of the earlier posts brought this into question in an interesting way via ides and calends), I am fairly certain that the variation in liturgical calendar was probably significant. November 1 was certainly All Saints pretty well everywhere in the west, but whether it was observed everywhere with an octave, and the same sort of octave, is not something that I’m particularly confident of—I am a theologian who has taught some liturgical history and so have read a reasonable amount in the field, and I would hesitate to draw or believe conclusions without seeing a fair number of documents from the era or at least copious references to such documents.
All that said, this document would certainly point to observance as an octave in some sort in France.
Then again, only one third of the American population wanted freedom from Britain 1776-1783. A third opposed it, and the latter third sat on the fence. Contrary to the myth an entire nation rose up against the hated British.
Exactly so. In 1307 Robert the Bruce was excommunicated by the Catholic church. 1314 at Bannockburn was the beginning of the end for the English in Scotland. In 1320 the Pope threatened to excommunicate all Scots who failed to kowtow to King Edward II. The peace treaty signed in 1328 finalized Scotland’s independance.
Scotsman will be Free:
That may be true on the milatary side. However, in teh 1300’s, that is 200 years before Fr. Martin Luther fell into dissident thinking and lead started the Protestant Rebellion.
So, the Pope recognizing Scotlands freedom gave it the diplomatic and legal recognition as well as the moral backing of Rome that meant other nation states, we are talking about Catholic Christendom in Western Europe at the time, all then were compelled to recognize Scotland as a free state.
This is a fact of history that Scotlands Reformed and Calvinist don’t want to admit, tsk, tsk,
I suggest that you read a little further as in the Bruce being excommunicated in 1307 and the Pope threatening to excommunicate all Scots who didn’t kowtow to Edward II in 1320. Tsk, tsk.
Scotsman will be free:
Again, all these guys were Catholic in the 1300’s and again, when the Pope finally recognized Scotland as independent, that is when the rest of Europe followed, otherwise, you would have had other countries claiming Scotland for themselves and trying to conquer it thru milatary expansion.
Scotsman will be Free:
I am aware that Bruce was excommunicated and that all of Scotland was placed under interdict by the Pope [i.e. No Eucharist could be celebrated and sacraments will not to be administered unless death of a person was imminent].
The Pope’s intent, was to get the war stopped. Edward at first promised to ask the Pope to lift the interdict on the Scottish people while still claiming Scotland as part of England. When he broke his promise, the Pope began to refer to Robert Bruce as King of England and within 5 years, the Pope lifted the interdict on the Scottish people and King Bruce, which then gave diplomatic recognition of Scotland as a free state.
In other words, the Pope of Rome was the first to formally recognize Scotland as free as No other country or King came out in favor of Robert Bruce and against England until the Pope recognized Scotland and King Bruce as Independent.
That is the only point I am making, early on, the Pope did want the war stopped and wanted the Scots to accept English rule but as the violation of the Scotish rights by the English grew, as well as England’s oppression of the Irish, eventually the Pope did in fact recognize Scotand’s freedom and he did intervene in the English oppression of the Irish, although unfortunately, the Irish did not have the same sense of National unity and lacked the leadership that Robert Bruce provided for the Scotts.
Again, I don’t disagree with you about Robert Bruce winning on the battlefield but politically it was Pope John XXII who was the first “head of state” as the Pope was the head of the papal states as well as the Bishop of Rome to formally recognize Scotland as a sovereign state.
edit to my earlier post.
Refer to King Bruce as the King of Scotland
The Pope merely accepted the inevitable and was playing politics. He sided with the english because they were the most powerful. When they got whipped, he changed his tune.
Other european countries claim Scotland? The French were allies of Scotland. Who else would claim it, and more importantly, enforce their claim? The Scots were free, freed themselves, and the Pope was a day late and a dollar short. Refusal to recognize that many Popes, if not all of them, played man’s game by man’s rules when they engaged in what is termed “The Great Game” is simply ignoring reality. Sympathy for the down trodden wasn’t part of the equation in Scotland, and I doubt that it was in Ireland, either.
Scotsman will be Free:
The rivalry of the French and English is well established. So it is never so easy as you would like. France siding with Scotland who is fighting with England is something that I am sure the Church viewed as potentially dangerous with England and France getting into war. Ireland was also oppressed by England.
France sided with Scotland’s cause because of its rivalry with England more than the concern of Scotland’s independence.
Once the Pope recognized Scotland’s independence, then all of Europe really had no choice but to recognize it as well as at that time you were still over 200 years before the Protestant Rebellion.
So whether you want to admit it or not, the Pope’s recognition of Scotland did provide the diplomatic means for all of Europe to follow suite.
And I think the Pope’s saw what was starting in the 1300’s, the gradual rise of Nationalism, which is not necessarily bad, but as the rise of nationalism took hold in the 1300’s, the notion of Christendom began to fade, and consequences of milatant nationalism, without a common Christian theology and philosophy to bind different ethnic groups together is ultimately what resulted in 2 world wars in the 20th century.
So from a Catholic point of view, and I will acknowledge it as such, the rise of nationalism in the 1300’s were one of the main causes of the Protestant rebellion in the 16th century which implicitly had radical nationalistic notions at its core.
Of course France’s siding with Scotland was politically expedient. All alliances are. As you stated, France and England went to war with each other frequently so I doubt the Pope viewed this particular conflict as anymore dangerous than the ones before.
The bottom line is that I don’t place my faith in man. Any man that has ever lived is capable of doing wrong, and does wrong, Popes included. Popes, Bishops, and Priests played political games all of the time. Many did it for what they thought would be best for the Catholic church and others did it for themselves. That’s human nature and that’s just the way it was and is.
If it was good for Catholicism for the Scots to be subjugated by the English why did that viewpoint change? Politics, pure and simple.
Thanks for the discussion.
Scotsman will be Free:
Nobody is doubting Pope’s sin, no orthodox Catholic would ever make such a claim because that would be theological nonsense. In the 14th century, Popes were involved in the affairs of politics as were everyone else. Politics is a human activity and as Popes are human, they too have to deal in the realm of politics as well, not so much today in terms of making policy and governing secular and civil matters, as was the case then, but all of us, including Popes are impacted by politics.
I don’t think it was good for the Catholic Church to have Scotland and Irelend subjugated by England. What I think was that the Pope did not want to see a full scale war where unecessary human life was lost due to the political rivalry of England and France, who along with Spain at the time, were the the 3 dominant European powers.
Yes, one in hindsight would have hoped that the Pope would have recognized Scotland’s independence earlier, i.e 1320 than 1325-1326 when Pope John XXII finally did. Nevertheless, the Pope did finally do so even if it rangled the feathers of other European Kings and Civil rulers, England included.
Again, I think the Pope did not recognize Scotlands independence in 1320 in order to help prevent a War between England and France [who was supporting Scotland]. In fact, in 1324, a war did break out between England and France [The Saint-Sardos War] and with the defeat of England, Henry II stepped down as King and a treaty was signed between England and France. Once there was a treaty in place, then Scotland was recognized by Rome.