Scotland - Declaration of Arbroath

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The list of Signatories and Sealants to the Baron's Letter are included at Nobility of the Declaration of Arbroath

Part of the Scotland Project


Welcome to the Declaration of Arbroath Project!

The Tyninghame copy of the Declaration of Arbroath, 1320.

About the Declaration of Arbroath, 1320

The Declaration of Arbroath, or more accurately titled A Letter from the Nobility, Barons and Commons of Scotland to Pope John XXII, was a declaration of Scottish independence, made in 1320. It is in the form of a letter in Latin submitted to Pope John XXII, dated 6 April 1320, intended to confirm Scotland's status as a sovereign State, independent of England, it defended Scotland's right to use force when unjustly attacked and sought support from the Pope to prevent English transgressions against the Scots.

Like the English Magna Carta, it is sometimes thought that the ideals of the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath inspired notions of individual liberty in the charters of the English colonies in North America, and later the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Quia quamdiu Centum ex nobis vivi remanserint, nuncquam Anglorum dominio aliquatenus volumus subiugari. Non enim propter gloriam, divicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit.
Latin Original.

For, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
English translation.

Text (Translated from the original Latin)

To the most Holy Father and Lord in Christ, the Lord John, by divine providence Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Roman and Universal Church, his humble and devout sons Duncan, Earl of Fife, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, Lord of Man and of Annandale, Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March, Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, William, Earl of Ross, Magnus, Earl of Caithness and Orkney, and William, Earl of Sutherland; Walter, Steward of Scotland, William Soules, Butler of Scotland, James, Lord of Douglas, Roger Mowbray, David, Lord of Brechin, David Graham, Ingram Umfraville, John Menteith, guardian of the earldom of Menteith, Alexander Fraser, Gilbert Hay, Constable of Scotland, Robert Keith, Marischal of Scotland, Henry St Clair, John Graham, David Lindsay, William Oliphant, Patrick Graham, John Fenton, William Abernethy, David Wemyss, William Mushet, Fergus of Ardrossan, Eustace Maxwell, William Ramsay, William Mowat, Alan Murray, Donald Campbell, John Cameron, Reginald Cheyne, Alexander Seton, Andrew Leslie, and Alexander Straiton, and the other barons and freeholders and the whole community of the realm of Scotland send all manner of filial reverence, with devout kisses of his blessed feet.

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown.

They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous.

Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today.

The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since.

In their kingdom there have reigned one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, the line unbroken a single foreigner.

The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith.

Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles - by calling, though second or third in rank - the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter's brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever.

The Most Holy Fathers your predecessors gave careful heed to these things and bestowed many favours and numerous privileges on this same kingdom and people, as being the special charge of the Blessed Peter's brother.

Thus our nation under their protection did indeed live in freedom and peace up to the time when that mighty prince the King of the English, Edward, the father of the one who reigns today, when our kingdom had no head and our people harboured no malice or treachery and were then unused to wars or invasions, came in the guise of a friend and ally to harass them as an enemy.

The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless Prince, King and Lord, the Lord Robert.

He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully.

Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to or laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King.

To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand.

Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule.

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom, for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Therefore it is, Reverend Father and Lord, that we beseech your Holiness with our most earnest prayers and suppliant hearts, inasmuch as you will in your sincerity and goodness consider all this, that, since with Him Whose Vice-Regent on earth you are there is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman, you will look with the eyes of a father on the troubles and privation brought by the English upon us and upon the Church of God.

May it please you to admonish and exhort the King of the English, who ought to be satisfied with what belongs to him since England used once to be enough for seven kings or more, to leave us Scots in peace, who live in this poor little Scotland, beyond which there is no dwelling-place at all, and covet nothing but our own.

We are sincerely willing to do anything for him, having regard to our condition, that we can, to win peace for ourselves.

This truly concerns you, Holy Father, since you see the savagery of the heathen raging against the Christians, as the sins of Christians have indeed deserved, and the frontiers of Christendom being pressed inward every day; and how much it will tarnish your Holiness's memory if (which God forbid) the Church suffers eclipse or scandal in any branch of it during your time, you must perceive.

Then rouse the Christian princes who for false reasons pretend that they cannot go to help of the Holy Land because of wars they have on hand with their neighbours.

The real reason that prevents them is that in making war on their smaller neighbours they find quicker profit and weaker resistance.

But how cheerfully our Lord the King and we too would go there if the King of the English would leave us in peace, He from Whom nothing is hidden well knows; and we profess and declare it to you as the Vicar of Christ and to all Christendom.

But if your Holiness puts too much faith in the tales the English tell and will not give sincere belief to all this, nor refrain from favouring them to our prejudice, then the slaughter of bodies, the perdition of souls, and all the other misfortunes that will follow, inflicted by them on us and by us on them, will, we believe, be surely laid by the Most High to your charge.

To conclude, we are and shall ever be, as far as duty calls us, ready to do your will in all things, as obedient sons to you as His Vicar; and to Him as the Supreme King and Judge we commit the maintenance of our cause, csating our cares upon Him and firmly trusting that He will inspire us with courage and bring our enemies to nought.

May the Most High preserve you to his Holy Church in holiness and health and grant you length of days.

Given at the monastery of Arbroath in Scotland on the sixth day of the month of April in the year of grace thirteen hundred and twenty and the fifteenth year of the reign of our King aforesaid.

Endorsed: Letter directed to our Lord the Supreme Pontiff by the community of Scotland.


The Mission of this project is to improve the Profiles of the Nobles and Barons of the Declaration of Arbroath, including three generations of their descendants within Scotland.

If you have Declaration of Arbroath ancestry, or you'd just like to help improve Declaration of Arbroath-related profiles on WikiTree, we'd love to have you join the project! Please note: To work on the profiles of the signatories you will need to be pre-1500 qualified. The steps to achieve this are noticed here. There will be an opportunity for members who do not have the pre-1500 badge but who are interested in working toward it, to assist on profiles under the guidance of a member who does hold the badge. Please see this page for further details.

Initial Goals

  1. To locate or create a WikiTree profile for each signatory and person who had their seal attached to the Declaration of Arbroath. To add each profile to Category:Declaration of Arbroath . The list of Singatories and Sealants to the Baron's Letter are included at Nobility of the Declaration of Arbroath;
  2. To trace three generations of descendants for each of the signers;
  3. To complete each profile in accordance with the Arbroath Managed Profiles Checklist.

Joining the Declaration of Arbroath Project

The Declaration of Arbroath Project is not for the faint of heart, but it offers a unique opportunity to collaborate and learn.

Because each signer may average from fifteen to twenty generations of descendants, which would include many thousands of profiles, we have limited the scope of the project to correctly identifying and creating comprehensive profiles for each signer and three generations of their descendants living within Scotland. When that has been accomplished, it may be possible to revisit our goals and enlarge the scope of the project.

Getting Started

Declaration of Arbroath Project members must be comfortable creating rigorous, sourced profiles; thoughtfully handling ambiguous and disputed information; and interacting courteously with less-experienced PMs and editors who may, understandably, have passionate feelings about their family's lineage.


There were, at least, four copies of the document. Two copies were certainly drafts; another was the copy held by the Papal Archives (the delivered copy), which has since been lost; and the final remaining copy is held by the National Records of Scotland at Edinburgh, which was damaged when held at Tyninghame during renovation of the National Archives. A copy, likely of the delivered copy, was located at St Isidore's College, Rome and transferred to the Irish Franciscans' Dublin Archive in 1872, becoming known as the Wadding document; this copy was not know to Ferguson. This copy is discussed at The Scottish Historical Review, Nov 2011, vo. 90, No. 2 : pp. 296-315.

The most widely known English language translation was made by Sir James Fergusson, formerly Keeper of the Records of Scotland, from the original document which he fortunately copied prior to the renovation. The text that he reconstructed uses the original copy and early copies of the original draft.

On this document there are 39 names —eight earls and thirty one barons— listed in the document as representing the "Nobility, Barons and Commons" (in other words, all freemen). All of these would have have had their seals appended, probably over the space of some weeks and months, with nobles sending in their seals to be used. On the last remaining copy of the Declaration there are only 19 seals, and of those 19 people only 12 are named within the document. It is thought likely that at least 11 more seals than the original 39 might have been appended.

To see a list of the profiles currently needing work and which are presently being updated by team members, please visit: Declaration of Arbroath Assignments.

Project Coordinator

Coordinator: TBD

Current Leader Contact: Jen Hutton

Current Members

Contact Us

How to Join Us


Other External Resources

  • Holton, Graham S. and Alasdair F. Macdonald. 2020 Declaration of Arbroath Family History Project: report. University of Strathclyde Centre for Lifelong Learning: Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, Publisher (Nov 2020). Available for purchase through the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy website.

Comments: 25

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Surely if it is dated 1320 it is after the Magna Carta in 1215, not as the comment 'the later Magna Carta' infers.
posted by Charles Stuart
Thanks for catching that, Charles. Correction made.


posted by Jen (Stevens) Hutton
Sorry Charles. That was my mistake when we were putting this together - I just checked my original text that we used to create the page and I still had later. Thanks for spotting that.
posted by [Living Guthrie]
edited by [Living Guthrie]
Just wanted to let everyone know that I just uploaded a version of Ancestor Listmaker that includes an option to generate a list of ancestors who were signatories of the Declaration of Arbroath. The option is called Arbroath Signatories. Since the app only goes 20 generations back and the Declaration was signed 700 years ago, it may not find signatory ancestors of living people, although it well might.

Please note that the app works off of the profiles listed on so it is important that that page have all the signatories (at least of the signatories who might have living descendants).

posted by Chase Ashley
edited by Chase Ashley
I note that the
Declaration of Arbroath
... ... ... signed the Declaration of Arbroath.
Join: Scotland Project
Discuss: Scotland
template does not currently seem to add the profile to Category: Declaration of Arbroath. For example, Edward Keith's profile (Keith-1295) has the template but is not currently in the category. Are the template and category going to be fixed so that adding the template automatically puts the profile in the category?
posted by Chase Ashley
edited by Chase Ashley
I will get it fixed. Thanks Chase
posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin
Done, I beat Amy to it. Thanks for noticing that, Chase. All the rest seem to be properly connected. It is worth noting that, at this point, we are still working on getting up a profile for each of the signers. We have quite a few still to go--it is a work in progress.


posted by Jen (Stevens) Hutton
Thanks, Jen and Amy! [added characters to get to 30 minimum]
posted by Chase Ashley
This page is currently being updated as the Scotland Project's Arbroath team is being reorganized. A revised page will be finalized and become available soon. If you are interested in or have questions about the Arbroath project in the meantime, please message me directly. Thanks, everyone, for your patience as this team reorganizes!


posted by Jen (Stevens) Hutton
Please sign me up! Nothing like huge challenges to help pass the time in social quarantine.
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Jen (Stevens) Hutton
Consider yourself signed, Jen!
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin
I would like to join the project as I have traced my descent from some of the signatories.
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Colin Thomson
Hi Colin! I'll add you to the team.

Thanks for joining!

~Amy Co-Leader, Scotland Project

posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin
I can't resist... please correct the spelling of "signatories" at the top of this page -- appearing directly under the Scottish flag.

Thanks in advance!

posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by J Stewart
I would like to join this project.

My current personal project is to identify my descent, if any, from each of the people named in the Declaration.

posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Colin Thomson
Wondering what happened to the people who put so much work into setting up this project? Their accounts appear to have been closed?
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by [Living Guthrie]

I have many Scottish ancestors and would love to join this group! Let me know what I can do. Thanks, Sally Guse

posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Sally Guse
Based on the Wikitree algorithym, I am related to 10 of the signers. I would be honored to join in searching for more information about the signers.
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Suzette Goolsby
Stewarts, Douglas', Plantagenets and more here
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by [Living Readman]
I would like to join please. I am of Scottish descent.. Stewart, Douglas to name a few, DNA matched with Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl.
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Sheri Stewart
I would Like to join the project. My ancestors include many Scotland and Wales connections. I am also a member of the One Name Study Guild.

Ron Floyd {Floyd-1923}

posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Ron Floyd
Ross-557, William, Earl of Ross, is my 23rd Great Grandfather. I would like to join the project, please.
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Marie (Fortner) Keeton
I would like to join the project. My research indicates I am a 22nd great granddaughter of King Robert the Bruce (and descendant of Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland). Scotland Forever!
posted on Declaration of Arbroath (merged) by Brenda (Burke) Carter