Friday, 9 April 2010

Letter concerning William Wallace

The National Archives at Kew has made a digitised facsimile of a letter concerning William Wallace (the real one, not mel Gibson!) available for free through its Documents Online service.

From the site:

As a result of increasing interest in a fourteenth century letter that mentions William Wallace, The National Archives has made available on DocumentsOnline a full transcription and translation to promote greater understanding of the document, alongside the digital copy of the letter that has been available for some years. The original document remains available for anyone to view in The National Archives, Kew (Catalogue Reference SC 1⁄30, no. 81).

Sir William Wallace, having led resistance to the English king, Edward I, travelled to the court of Philip IV of France in 1299 to try to persuade him to support the Scots against Edward. On 7th November 1300, a year after Wallace’s arrival in France, Philip wrote a letter to Rome concerning Wallace.

This document is often described as a safe–conduct, passport, or a grant of safe–passage for William Wallace, but is, in fact, a letter from King Philip to French agents in Rome, commanding them to ask Pope Boniface VIII to support Wallace in his case regarding Scottish independence.

It is recorded that three safe conducts(from the Kings of France, Norway and Scotland) were taken from Wallace when he was arrested in 1305; however the last time they were known to be in the custody of the English Crown was in 1323 in an inventory of records contained in the Exchequer (document reference E 36⁄268, pp. 238–40). No trace of the safe–conducts has been found after that date.

For more information, and to see the document, visit the TNA site at

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