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.
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.