Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Declaration of the Clergy

The Declaration of the Clergy was made on the 24th of February, 1310.

The Declaration of the Clergy could be said to be a prelude to the far more famous Declaration of Arbroath, which contains the immortal lines: “…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.” Like the Arbroath statement of 1320, the one made by the Clergy, ten years previously, contained rhetoric in support of Robert the Bruce, King Robert I as then was, King of Scots. The proclamation was made
from the Church of the Friary Minor in Dundee.

The 1310 Declaration of the Clergy was issued by the annual convocation of the Scottish Clergy for the purpose of proclaiming the Kingship of Robert the Bruce to the General Council of the Church, which was assembled at Vienne, in France. In that Church Declaration, the Clergy of Scotland declared themselves in favour of 'The Bruce'. It begins by stating that John Balliol (yon 'Toom Tabard') was made King of Scots by Edward Longshanks of England, but goes on to criticise Balliol’s status, because an English King does not have any authority to determine who will be the King of Scots. Such authority rests with the Scots themselves and alone, it stated, ignoring the fact that the other Estate, the Scottish Nobles, had given up that right in negotiations with Edward over twenty years beforehand. Like a lot of such grandiose statements we've seen down through the ages, the Clergy's declaration was nothing more than misleading propaganda, which sought to disguise the facts of history.

The declaration of Dundee stated: “The people, therefore, and commons of the foresaid Kingdom of Scotland, ...agreed upon the said Lord Robert, the King who now is, in whom the rights of his father and grandfather to the foresaid kingdom, in the judgement of the people, still exist and flourish entire; and with the concurrence and consent of the said people he was chosen to be King, that he might reform the deformities of the kingdom, correct what required correction, and direct what needed direction; and having been by their authority set over the kingdom, he was solemnly made King of Scots... And if any one on the contrary claim right to the foresaid kingdom in virtue of letters of time past, sealed and containing the consent of the people and the commons, know ye that all this took place in fact by force and violence which could not at the time be resisted.”

Well, there you have it. The 'people' of Scotland were the Nobles and Magnates, the majority of whom at that time were still fairly much, culturally, Anglo-Norman, despite inter-marriage within the Scoto-Gaelic ruling echelon and further integration in terms of land holding and property ownership. That ownership arose in several ways, many of which ignored the rights of the native Scots at the time. Norman Barons and Knights had been granted lands by Scottish Kings, from the time of the 'Margaretsons'; essentially, from the reign of King Edgar. Those grants simply took the land away from the Mormaers and Earls of Scotland and gave them to the incomers, without so much as a by your leave. In other cases, those peaceful invaders gained land rights by marrying the widows of the indigenous Nobility, without too many questions being asked, such as, “How come she's a widder then? Auld Jock seemed in the best of health last time I saw him.” As for the 'commons' of Scotland; it had no say in the matter as the Declaration spoke on its collective behalf. The idea that the common man, the peasant, the labourer in the fields, had a say is laughable.

Although the date of the original Declaration is disputed, it is true that the document itself bears the 24th of February date. However, there was a similar, if not identical, declaration made the year before at Bruce’s first Parliament as King, on the 17th March, 1309. Both declarations were significant factors in legitimising Robert the Bruce's claim to the Scottish crown and the First War of Independence, against the ‘Inglis’ (English). The 1309 Parliamentary Declaration, made by the lay magnates, pronounced that Robert de Bruce, Lord of Annandale, the ‘Competitor’, had had the superior title to the throne of Scotland, and ought, by the laws and customs of the realm and the wishes of the people, to have become King. Bruce was declared to be the true and nearest heir of King Alexander last deceased.

These documents, the Declaration of Parliament and the Declaration of the Clergy, based the Kingship of Robert the Bruce on what the ruling class and the Church, in its support, believed to be firm foundations. Those beliefs, real or opportune, were legitimacy; divine approval; the choice of the people; and military success. That latter was gained, of necessity, through victory, which also, conveniently, implied divine approval. A self fulfilling proclamation. The declarations also made official the ‘myth’ that Bruce the ‘Competitor’ had the better claim to the Scottish throne. He didnae and if he hadn't murdered his main rival, John Comyn, in Dumfries, he'd never have gained the throne. But, in 1310, that inconvenient suggestion would have been more or less irrelevant.

In his excellent trilogy of Robert the Bruce, in the second volume ‘The Path of the Hero King’, Nigel Tranter has Bishop Nicholas Balmyle read a declaration on behalf of the Clergy to the assembled Parliament. With the declaration of the magnates then being pronounced by The Lennox. At that 1309 Parliament, Bruce also received the first acknowledgement of his right to be King of Scots from a major foreign power – from Philip, King of France. Well, that was all right, then, except that England's Edward had claims to France as well, so what else would Philip say? Maybe someone reminded him of the Auld Alliance? Most French rulers conveniently ignored it, unless it suited them.

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