Happy Tartan Day! This is actually a North American celebration, beginning in Canada in the 1980s, but adopted in this country thanks to people who recognized that the Declaration of Arbroath (adopted in the Scottish city of Arbroath in the year 1320) is an ancestor of, and model for, the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
So, before I wrap my MacDonald tartan muffler around my neck and go out into the remaining cold of a Chicago April, I’ll tell you a bit about the Declaration of Arbroath.
According to National Records of Scotland (www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/learning/features/the-declaration-of-arbroath), “The Declaration was written during the long war of independence with England which started with Edward I’s attempt to conquer Scotland in 1296. When the deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, left Scotland without a monarch, Edward used the invitation to help choose a successor as an excuse to revive English claims of overlordship. When the Scots resisted, he invaded.”
(Norway? Seriously? I’ll check later! But that’s how deeply the name Margaret goes back in Scottish history, the 13th century.)
England’s King Edward “refused to allow William Wallace’s victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297 to derail his campaign.” (You remember Stirling Bridge, fellow “Braveheart” watchers — “They can take our lives, but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!” is apocryphal, but still powerful stuff.)
The diplomatic niceties of battling the English, with whom they wouldn’t unite until 16o3 (when James VI of Scotland became James I of Great Britain), and how the declaration was actually meant as a letter to the pope, asking him to acknowledge Scottish independence, can be glossed over at this point as longer than what I want to achieve in this post.
I want to call more attention to the glorious words the barons who put their seals on the declaration put into the document. (Yes, they sealed it. This was so long ago that such things weren’t signed.) Here’s the best part:
“It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honors, that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
Let freedom ring. Happy Tartan Day!
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
Filed under: Scottish words in English