Expert panel sheds some light on Wallace mystery
A 700 year old letter linked to Sir William Wallace was likely to have been in his possession, an international team of experts has agreed.
The group was formed to investigate the origins of the document, which is currently held in The National Archives in London. The letter from King Philip of France asks his agents to help Wallace in business with the Pope and has puzzled historians since it came to light in the Tower of London in the 1830s.
A mystery to unravel
The medieval experts - from Scotland, England and France - agree the letter is French and was issued on 7 November 1300. It also strongly suggests Wallace intended to travel to Rome, although it is not known whether he reached his destination.
Sean Cunningham, panel member and Medieval Records Specialist at The National Archives said: 'The panel agreed that if French diplomatic practice had been followed then Wallace was likely to have been handed the document in Paris. The implication being that Wallace himself would have carried it to Rome. However, since he was not a subject of the King of France and no known records exist of what happened next, there is much still unknown about this letter, not least, how it ended up in the English crown's possession.'
Widening access to important documents
Scottish Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop has now written to the UK government requesting that the letter is brought to Scotland from 2012 to 2014, with plans for it to go on public display.
In addition, officials of both national archives are exploring the possibility of a constructive agreement which would allow the document to be housed in Scotland in the longer term.
Oliver Morley Chief Executive and Keeper, The National Archives, said: 'As the official archive for the UK government, we hold a range of records that are part of our shared history across the whole of the British Isles, including Scotland. Making our collection accessible to everyone is a priority and we are delighted to work in partnership with The National Archives of Scotland. The loan is a great opportunity to widen access to this important document.'
The group met on 5 August 2010 and 7 March 2011 and will submit a final report to Scottish and UK ministers later this year. Download the latest meeting notes here:
William Wallace Working Group meeting notes 7 March 2011 (PDF, 0.03Mb)
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