The government of Scotland is preparing to make a formal request to the British government: hand over William Wallace’s passport.  William Wallace, the Scottish hero who inspired the movie Braveheart, may have had the passport with him when he was arrested by the English. The English never gave it back, instead storing it in their National Archives.

The Times Online quotes Scottish official Christine Grahame explaining why the passport should be returned:

“This is a very significant historical document related to [one of] Scotland’s most iconic and lasting national heroes. There are very few artefacts in existence which are believed to have been handled directly by Wallace and the return of his Safe Conduct would be an important step in better understanding this period. It is entirely inappropriate that it should languish, forgotten in some closed drawer in Surrey and I urge the UK National Archive to pass it to the National Museum of Scotland where it can be properly displayed.”

Naturally, William Wallace’s passport looked nothing like the familiar passport books you see today. In fact, in those days a passport was actually a letter written by a head of state, granting “Safe Conduct” to the bearer. Wallace’s letter was written by King Philip IV of France, granting Wallace safe conduct to travel to Rome where he hope to gain the support of the Pope.

A copy of the letter, as well as a translation, is viewable online here.

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