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Wallace 'likely' to have had letter

16/03/2011

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 asked by Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop 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.

View an image of the document
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/williamwallace.asp

The medieval experts - from Scotland, England and France - agree the letter is French and was issued on November 7, 1300. It also strongly suggests Wallace intended to travel to Rome although it is not known if he reached his destination.

Ms 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 both those years.

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.

The Minister said:

"There has always been tremendous interest in this letter and its origins and precise link to William Wallace have remained a mystery for many years.

"By bringing together historians and archivists from Scotland, England and France, we have gained valuable new knowledge of this fascinating document and the context in which it was created.

"Given the special Scottish interest in this letter, I am keen to bring it to Scotland and look forward to seeing it on public display here next year."

Oliver Morley, Chief Executive and Keeper of 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."