I wonder if Gerry Hassan
would agree with me that one of the myths surrounding the Declaration of Arbroath is the title itself. As he makes clear, the original document was simply a letter from the Scottish nobility and bishops to the then Pope asking him to recognise Scotland as an independent country and Robert the Bruce as the legitimate king of Scotland. Centuries were to pass before the letter became the Declaration of Arbroath – probably in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. (Perhaps a contemporary Scottish historian can come up with the exact date?)
What occasioned the change? As I have suggested here in the past, I believe the answer lies across the Atlantic. When Trent Lott, the conservative Republican senator from Mississippi, persuaded the American Senate in 1998 to establish 6 April as National Tartan Day (to rival Ireland's St Patrick's Day), his main argument was that the Declaration of Arbroath provided the model for the US Declaration of Independence in 1776. No actual evidence in support of this idea has ever been found. In fact, I believe the opposite is probably the case: the existence of the Declaration of Independence became in time the model for the Declaration of Arbroath.
Incidentally, recently watching Sam Mendes film 1917
, I was struck by the fact that the opening clip of military action is headed 6 April 1917. Then I remembered that one of the trenches we see is called Sauchiehall Street and that the film's co-scriptwriter was the Glaswegian, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Further evidence of the enduring mythical power of the Declaration of Arbroath?
I was surprised that Gerry Hassan made the basic error of confusing Edward II, English king at Bannockburn and when the Proclamation of Arbroath was written, with his father Edward I who earned the nickname 'Hammer of the Scots'. It is an error also present in 'Flower of Scotland', where the song speaks of 'Proud Edward's Army'. Edward II was no great shakes as a king or military commander and had already effectively lost control of Scotland by the time of Bannockburn, his depiction in Braveheart
being one of the few moderately accurate descriptions in that historic farce.
Edward II was deposed by the English nobles and his wife and her lover, and succeeded as king by his son, Edward III, who was one of England's most successful kings and who was in power when the Treaty of Northampton was signed in 1328 (which recognised Scottish sovereignty).
I enjoyed Alastair Osborne's
recent article. It was quite revealing and reassuring. I did wonder about the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe. These are the first words I have heard on the subject. It's also very interesting to know the background to the flag referred to as the EU flag. It seems to me that good reporting, which informs, is eclipsed by talking heads voicing opinion about their interpretation of a simple statement. The resulting chaos, far from informing, utterly confuses people. Thank you for informing me about these facts. Good journalism. Exactly what we need more of.
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