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Barons of Scotland Pave Way for Declaration of Independence

Seals of Scotland’s bravest & finest: crests shown: Cheyne of Duffus, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, and Gilbert de la Hay, Baron of Errol in Gowrie

BARONS OF SCOTLAND PAVE WAY FOR DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
700 Years since Declaration of Arbroath 1320: Food for Writerly Thought in 2020

For so long as there shall but one hundred of us remain alive we will never give consent or subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. For it is not glory, it is not riches, neither is it honours, but it is liberty alone that we fight and contend for, which no honest man will lose but with his life
Barons of Scotland, April 6th, 1320 Aberbrothock

Arbroath, former Aberbrothock, is an historic royal burgh (town), North Sea fishing port, and holiday resort in the county of Angus, Northeast Scotland. Dundee, home to RSS Discovery (Capt.Robert F Scott’s frozen Antarctic vessel),jute, jam and journalism, lies 15miles south. Aberdeen 50 miles north.

It is famous today for Arbroath smokies—or smoked haddock ‘kippers’. And for its mediaeval Abbey, once foremost (richest) cathedral church and chief Benedictine monastery in the realm.

Founded 1178 by King William the Lion for Thomas à Becket, Arbroath Abbey served by 14thC as both secular parliament and most revered religious hub


Arbroath Abbey, the richest and most influential religious center in the North, was founded in 1178 by King William I, the Lion, of Scotland, who chose to be buried there. The Declaration of Arbroath, asserting Scotland’s independence from English rule, was a letter written 700 years ago this week to the (French) Pope by Bernard de Linton, Abbot of Arbroath and Chancellor of Scotland.

It is one of the great icons of the Scots, written in Latin to the Pope in Avignon, and signed by eight earls and 31 barons of Scotland. They plead with him to rescind excommunication—which the Roman Catholic church had just imposed on the King of Scots along with his earls and nobles, based on claims by the English king Edward. They ask him to acknowledge Scotland as an independent nation—which eventually he does.

It has been claimed to serve as model for slave-owning American landowners in their 1766 Declaration of Independence, but history may dispute that.

It was signed by Nobles and Parliament at Arbroath Abbey—richest and most elite religious and secular center of the land. Those nobles unable to attend sent their seals by messenger to the Chancellor to be affixed to the final document. The Declaration was then sent by sea from the small fishing port to Pope John XXII at his court in Avignon. It left the harbour—looking much as it looks today—in a small fishing vessel on April 6th, 1320, headed for Provence and the Mediterranean coast.

By then, as the nation’s supreme cathedral church, the Abbey was enlarged through 14th-16th centuries inkeeping with its grandeur. The Abbey church at that time boasted the nation’s largest known stained glass windows—in the south transept. It replaced nearby St.Vigean’s (Pictish 8thC heraldic/religious stone center) and was briefly home to Aberdeenshire‘s Monymusk Reliquary, believed to hold relics of St. Columba, now housed in National Museum of Scotland.

Cancelled Celebrations and Call for Loyalty in 2021
It is no surprise to learn that the City & Burghers of Arbroath have announced cancellation of their long-awaited “700 Years” Festival for this year, but have rescheduled festivities for 2021. Hurrah for the smokies!

Signatories included the Earl Marischal Robert Keith, Gilbert de la Hay Constable of Scotland, the Earls of Mar, Fife, Ross & Sutherland, & Lords of Brechin, Kincardine, Lovat & Saltoun. No seal represents the Comyn Mormaer of Buchan

Scots, wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae yer gorey bed,
Or tae victorie

Now’s the day, an now’s the hour:
See the front o’ battle lour,
See approach proud Edward’s power
Chains and Slaverie

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an’ flee

Wha, for Scotland’s King and Law,
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw?
Freeman stan’, or Freeman fa’,
Let him on wi’ me…
Robert Burns, 1793, recently used as SNP anthem

Words put in the mouth of Robert I Brus, self-proclaimed king of Scots, on eve of Bannockburn, 1314. Reason for papal decress: Bruce, a west-coaster claiming royal lineage, had murdered last Pictish Earl and Mormaer, John “Red” Comyn of Buchan, 1306 on the altar of Greyfriars church, Dumfries. His army of followers subsequently put torch to all Comyn hunting lands in N.E.Scots landmass: Buchan——modern Aberdeenshire——and the people spoke of the Herschip o’ Buchan Caledonian hunting forests,”burning for 30 years” i.e. fires were still smoking during Bannockburn; Comyn’s descendants did not sign the Declaration, above left; no signature represents Buchan or half the landmass of NorthEast Scotland on the document.
[caveat:In 242 sq.miles of Buchan ‘Broch loons’ and ‘Doric quines’ still feel this way aboot R the B]

The Round O and Reid Lichties
We sympathize with all Scots at this time, particularly celebrants in the coastal town—so-called Reid Lichties*—for their temporarily-suspended Festival because of Corona virus precautions. Councillors and festival organizers have proposed April 2021 as the month they will be “ready to roll” once again.

Distinctive round window high in the 15thC south transept, top, was originally lit up at night as a beacon for mariners aiming for the North Sea port. It is known locally as the ‘Round O’. From this maritime tradition inhabitants of Arbroath are colloquially known as *’Reid Lichties’ (Scots reid = red). Not to be confused with any other red light district.<3

Earth Week now Earth Month
April, as we writing fanatics know, is A-to-Z Challenge month—2020 Challenge sign-up closes April 5th. So my writing cohorts, Insecure or otherwise may forgive me for sidestepping our usual first Wednesday blog-hopping ritual—and daily wordcount—in order to give precedence to Scotland’s historical milestone. I feel Arbroath deserves the mention. There are many American descendants of those noble families whose seals deck the document who may feel inspired to visit the great Abbey after all this medical stuff has blown over. I hope they will.

And we writers KNOW—when the Muse speaks, we listen. We ignore her at our peril. So what’s a few missed sentences between the centuries?

Post scriptum: On Christmas Day 1950, the Stone of Destiny—used in recent centuries for royal coronations—was removed from Westminster Abbey, London. On April 11, 1951, the missing stone was found lying on the site of the Abbey’s altar at Arbroath.
©2020 Marian Cameron Youngblood

April 1, 2020 Posted by | blogging, culture, history, sacred sites, traditions, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment