The only two original letters with a direct link to William Wallace have gone on display at the Scottish Parliament today in a new exhibition.
On public display are a 700-year-old letter about William Wallace from the French King Philip IV and the famous Lübeck Letter, issued by Wallace and Andrew Moray as Guardians of Scotland after the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.
The exhibition, entitled ‘Special Delivery: The William Wallace Letters’, runs until Saturday 8 September as the letters’ age and fragility mean they can only be shown for a short period of time.
Audio-visual screens and panels in the exhibition display help to tell the story of William Wallace and the struggle for power that took place across Europe in the early 1300s. They include work by seven Scottish school classes and two Dovecot Studios tapestries.
Speaking as the exhibition opened, the Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick MSP said:
“While centuries have passed since the letters were written, this time in history clearly continues to excite, inspire and inform people today. Placing these two items of history in a contemporary setting like Holyrood helps bring Scotland’s history to life. Seeing them together in Scotland like this is rare, a once in a generation opportunity, and one I hope our thousands of visitors will enjoy.”
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said:
“This exhibition is of tremendous importance and I am delighted that the people of Scotland will have the opportunity once more to discover the story of Scotland’s legendary hero.
“These two rare and fragile documents are some of the only few surviving artefacts with a direct link to William Wallace and are a fascinating fragment of our nation's history.
“I am proud that the Wallace letter will now remain in Scotland on a longer term basis and It is particularly exciting that the exhibition coincides with the first ever International Culture Summit, giving Culture Ministers and delegates from around the world the opportunity to see the Wallace letters and gain an insight into Scotland's rich culture and heritage.”
George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records said:
“There are only two surviving documents with a direct link to Scottish hero William Wallace and neither is kept in Scotland. It’s hugely exciting to show them together in the Scottish Parliament and let people experience these unique, 700 year old objects.”
Oliver Morley, Keeper and Chief Executive of The National Archives in Kew, said:
“We are extremely pleased to have worked so closely with National Records of Scotland to enable another loan of this intriguing document, to be shown alongside the Lübeck letter in this exhibition, giving the public a further opportunity to view both of these documents relating to William Wallace together.”
Dr Jan Lokers, Director of Lübeck City Archives, said:
"The Hanse town of Lübeck is very glad and proud to lend the so-called 'Lübeck letter' to the Wallace exhibition at the Scottish Parliament for the enjoyment of the Scottish people. As one of only two surviving documents inspired directly by William Wallace, this letter is one of the greatest treasures in the collections of the Archives of Lübeck. It also reminds us of the long history of European economic relationships during the times of the 'Hanse'."
This unique exhibition has been developed by the National Records of Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Parliament, The National Archives, Kew, and Lübeck City Archives.
The exhibition in the Main Hall of the Scottish Parliament is open until Saturday 8 September. (Please note: the Parliament is closed to the public on Sunday 12 – Tuesday 14 August inclusive).
Special events are also taking place at the Parliament including two historical sessions in the Parliament’s annual Festival of Politics, a Glow (Scottish schools’ intranet education tool) session and education workshops for schools visiting the exhibition.
The Wallace Letter has been held in England since it was discovered in the Tower of London in the 1830s. It is now on loan to the National Records of Scotland after an agreement was reached with The National Archives in Kew. The Lübeck Letter is being loaned by the archives of the City of Lübeck, with the agreement of the Mayor and Council. It was last shown in Scotland in 2005, during the ‘For Freedom Alone’ exhibition at the Scottish Parliament.
The exhibition includes audio and video news reports, artwork and poetry from P5, S1 and S2 classes from:
John Paul Academy, Glasgow
Craigholme School, Glasgow
Canal View Primary School, Edinburgh
Croftmalloch Primary School, Whitburn, West Lothian
John Logie Baird Primary School, Helensburgh
Wester Hailes Education Centre, Edinburgh
Bishopbriggs Academy, East Dunbartonshire
Those wishing to comment on or follow news about the exhibition through Twitter should use the hashtag #wallaceletters
Festival of Politics
Events associated with the exhibition are taking place during the Parliament’s Festival of Politics on Friday 24 August:
10:00-11:00, Committee Room 1, FREE
The Attempted Restoration: Wallace's Support of King John, 1299-1302
In association with National Records of Scotland.
This talk by Dr Amanda Beam-Frazier of the University of Glasgow will focus on efforts by the Scots, including William Wallace, to restore John Balliol as king of Scots after his abdication in 1296. She will also consider Balliol's own desire to return to the Scottish throne, and the political and diplomatic context from 1299 to 1302.
11:30-12:30, Debating Chamber, FREE
Sir William Wallace, Scotland and the wider world
In association with National Records of Scotland.
Come and take part in this debate between four expert historians of medieval Europe, Dr Fiona Watson, Professor Michael Prestwich, Dr David Ditchburn and Dr Sandy Grant. Members of the audience have the chance to quiz the panel about Wallace and the momentous decades for Scotland around 1286 to 1306. The debate will be chaired by the Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick MSP.
For more information, please visit www.festivalofpolitics.org.uk
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.