According to Roger of Wendover, as King John lay dying he commended his body and soul to God and St Wolstan. Wolstan was the Saxon Archbishop of Worcester, consecrated in 1062, who remained in post after the Norman Conquest. Legend says he was called upon to resign his bishopric but lay his crozier upon the shrine Edward the Confessor in Westminster from whom he’d gained his bishopric. No one could move the crozier except for Wolstan. This was taken as a sign that the devoted, but not especially learned priest, should retain his see. It is hard to find a rationale for King John’s appreciation of Wolstan – who incidentally was canonised during John’s reign. Certainly chroniclers do not record a lifetime of prayer on John’s lips. Perhaps John admired a man who overcame his temptations and turned aside from ambition but who still ended his life as a bishop. Whatever the reasons, John was drawn to St Wolstan. He visited Wolstan’s shrine at Worcester twice – once in 1207 and again in 1214. He may have visited more often. He came to Worcester to negotiate with the Welsh and also to hunt in nearby forests. John asked to be buried next to his favourite saint which is why he lies in Worcester Cathedral, as does Prince Arthur (Henry VIII’s elder brother). The cathedral library contains John’s will and one of his thumb bone’s in its collection.
Sir John Carmichael (1542-1600) was described by the Bishop of Durham as “the most expert borderer.” He was well liked by many people. MacDonald Fraser records that Carmichael was an honest official who received additional powers from his own government as well as the goodwill of the Wardens of the English West March. The man who followed him into post after his first term as warden, the Lord Maxwell, said of Carmichael that he was more worthy than Maxwell ever was or would be. High praise indeed!
Not that events were always so friendly.
1575: Sir John Carmichael was the Deputy warden during the events recorded as the Raid of Reidswire. Sir John was the Scottish Deputy March Warden at the ‘Day of Truce’. Everyone who came to the day of truce was supposed to be unarmed and they swore that they would not offend ‘by word, deed or countenance’. Of course, these are the “Riding Times” we’re talking about. At the Raid of the Reidswire Carmichael fell out with his English counterpart Sir John Forster, seventy-five years old, and English Middle March Warden. Reaction to the aggressive exchanges of the two Wardens soon spilled over to the men of both sides who attended and all hell let loose resulting in several deaths and even worse, capture of English officers. Reidswire was the last time that the English used the longbow in warfare. And since the English came off the worse in this encounter and Carmichael found himself incarcerated in York while Elizabeth I calmed down.
1582: The Raid of Ruthven. King James Vl, aged just sixteen, was captured by William Ruthven, Earl of Gowrie. He was vehemently anti-Catholic and was concerned that James’ favourite- Esme Stuart was too Catholic as well as too French. Carmichael became involved but was pardoned when James extracted himself from Ruthen’s ‘care’ some ten months later.
1588: Carmichael was one of the ambassadors sent to Denmark to negotiate the marriage between James Vl and Anne of Denmark.
1598: Carmichael was made Warden of the Scottish West March. He was well qualified. In addition to having been a deputy warden he had also been Keeper of Liddesdale on previous occasions.
1600: Carmichael met with the Armstrong clan in an effort to bring an end to their nefarious habits. The Armstrong’s sent one of Kinmont Willie Armstrong’s brothers. Alexander Armstrong was known as Sandeis Ringane. Some of Carmichael’s men set about humiliating Ringan. At some point in proceedings for a jest Ringan’s sword was removed from its scabbard and egg yolks put in. The sword was returned and became stuck. Not surprisingly Sandeis Ringane was furious and swore vengeance. The meeting did not finish on a positive note.
June 14 1600: Gretna Warden Meeting. Carmichael met with Richard Lowther the English Warden. During this time there was a football match… Ringan’s Tom Armstrong, William ‘the Pecket’ Scott and Willie Kang Irvine met. Thomas Armstrong plotted revenge for his father’s humiliation.
June 16 1600: Carmichael was ambushed by a party of Armstrongs including Thomas Armstrong and his father along with a Taylor, a Forrester, a Scott and a Graham at Raesknowes, on the way to Lochmaben. Richard Lowther commented that it was the third warden that had been killed in Scotland.
The Armstrongs then proceeded to raid Stanwix, just across the river and up the hill from Carlisle Castle. As the bishop preached his sermon – the Armstrongs were helping themselves to the available horses. They then moved on to Linstock for some cattle.
1601: Thomas Armstrong, son to Sandies Ringane, was tried for his part in the murder, had his right hand cut off and was then hanged at the Mercat Cross at Edinburgh. His body was left to hang in chains.
‘And Thomas Armstrang, “sone to Sandeis Ringane” was condemned to be “tane to the mercat croce of Edinburgh, and thair his richt hand to be stricken fra his arme; and thaireeftir, to be hanget upoune ane gibbet, quhill he be deid; and thaireefter, to be tane to the Gallows on the Burrowmure, and thair his body to be hangit in irn chains.
1606: Lang Sandy Armstrong of Rowanburn, so-called because he was over six feet tall, evaded capture for his part in Carmichael’s murder until 1606. He was hung together with all eleven of his sons and Willie Kang was indicted. Lang Sandy agreed that he’d taken part in the murder but added that he felt forced to the act of violence.
“To the men that hangit the theves in Canonbie, be the king’s command, 13 shillings.
The following verses are said to have been composed by one of the Armstrongs, probably Thomas, executed for the murder of Sir John Carmichael, of Edrom, Warden of the Middle Marches.
This night is my departing night,
For here nae langer must I stay;
There’s neither friend nor foe o’ mine,
But wishes me away.
What I have done thro’ lack of wit,
I never, never can recall;
I hope ye’re a’ my friends as yet;
Goodnight, and joy be with you all!
For further comment as to the originality of the piece, Sir Walter Scott offers some thoughts in his Border Minstrelsy.
The border lands between England and Scotland were divided into six marches. Three on the English side: The West March (Carlisle), The Middle March (Hexham and Norham); The East March (Newcastle and Berwick) and three corresponding marches on the Scottish side.
Each march was administered by a Lord Warden and his deputy as well as other officers such as land sergeants. The Scottish wardens were largely local men which meant that there was a tendency for them to become embroiled in family feuds and long-standing enmities. On the English side of the border the wardens were appointed from further afield as well as from the local population.
In addition to the wardens there was also a man appointed with the title Keeper of Liddesdale. This was a particularly thankless post as it involved administering the Debateable Land. A patch of territory approximately twelve miles by four that was home to the Armstrongs, Eliotts and Grahams – or in other words some of the most notorious men in the borders. It was here too that outlaws and broken men fled since it was neither Scottish nor English. Some of Liddesdale’s keepers seem to have been as much rogues as the men they were supposed to be keeping under control – The Fifth Earl of Bothwell and the Bold Buccleuch being two that spring immediately to mind.
The wardens and the Keeper of Liddesdale were responsible for enforcing the March Laws and for seeing that justice was done. One of the ways of doing this was to hold a Truce Day where both sides met, bills of complaint were filed and trials held. The Ballad of Reidswire demonstrates that these meetings were not always altogether friendly! The Ballad of Kinmont Willie starts with a truce day at Kershopefoot where the English did not honour the truce to allow William Armstrong to return home.
The trysting-places of the Wardens of the Marches seem usually to have been, Riding burn ; for the Middle, Hexpeth gate on Windy Gyle or Gambles-for the Eastern March the Hanging Stone on Cheviot or the path slightly farther westward at head of Coquet ; and for the Western, Kielder stone and Kershope foot. Cp. Lord Scrope’s report, ‘ Cesford also demanded meeting at Gamblespath, instead of Kirshopfoot, the accustomed place, and put off justice for five years.’ (Calendar of Border Papers.)
Click on the horseman to access further information about Wardens and Truce Days from Howard Pease’s 1912 text.
Map showing location of Kershopefoot.
map accessed from http://www.geog.port.ac.uk/webmap/thelakes/html/lakemenu.htm (13.00, 26/02/2013)
In 1092 William Rufus (William II) established a motte and bailey fortress in Carlisle. The castle was strengthened with stone during the reign of Henry I but fell into Scottish hands during the reign of King Stephen. He was somewhat occupied in a nineteen year-long civil war with his cousin the Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I and heir nominated by him. These years were the years of the nineteen long winters.
King David I of Scotland came into the war on his niece’s side- he knighted Matilda’s son, the future Henry II in Carlisle. The Scots strengthened the city’s defences as well as those of the castle. He died in Carlisle Castle in 1153 and was succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm (known as Malcolm the Maiden), who lacked the strength to hold the Cumbrian and Northumbrian lands that he grandfather had maintained.
Scottish claims to the castle didn’t die with David though even though they signed the Treaty of York in 1237 giving up their claims to Cumberland and Northumberland.
1174 William the Lion crossed into England with up to 80,000 men and besieged the castle for three months. Thanks to his grandfather’s building work, the castle remained in English hands.
1216 King Alexander II of Scotland took Carlisle from King John who was having problems with his barons at the time. Upon the accession of Henry III, Alexander gave the castle back once he had been suitably compensated. Carlisle castle has remained in English hands there after with one or two slight hiccoughs.
In 1596 Kinmont Willie Armstrong, a notorious border reiver, was rescued by the Bold Buccleuch much to Queen Elizabeth I’s irritation.
Following the fall of Carlisle in 1645 after a year-long siege during the English Civil War the city and castle were occupied by a Parliamentarian force led by General Leslie and his Scots.There was also a brief occupation in 1745 by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Gerald of Wales described Geoffrey as a “deceiver and a dissembler.” Roger of Howden described him as a “son of perdition”. However, given that none of Henry II’s legitimate surviving sons could be described as loyal to their father it is perhaps not surprising that Geoffrey as son number three should have been untrustworthy. He joined the Young King and Prince Richard in their rebellion against their father in 1173.
Nor is it surprising that Henry II used Geoffrey as a political pawn in his empire building strategies. Henry had supported the subjects of Conan IV of Brittany when they rebelled against him. Finally Henry was victorious, peace required that Conan was forced to abdicate and his daughter Constance was betrothed to Geoffrey – Geoffrey taking on the title Duke of Brittany (in 1166) which Henry ruled personally, in theory, until Geoffrey came of age. Geoffrey was required to give homage to the French king, just as Richard was required to give homage for Aquitaine. It was a neat device that allowed Henry to continue to build his empire without public recognition that Henry was the French king’s vassal.
Part of the problem between father and son in later years was Henry’s inability to relinquish power from his own hands. In response to the rebellion of 1173 Henry did concede that Geoffrey should marry Constance and have half of the revenues of the duchy, along with the task of quelling the rebellion that he had stirred in Brittany. In November 1179 Geoffrey was in Paris to witness the coronation of King Philip. Geoffrey and Constance married in 1181.
By 1184 unrest stirred again. The Young King’s death during his rebellion against Henry in 1183 elevated Richard to the role of Henry’s heir. Henry envisioned a land redistribution with Richard’s duchy of Aquitaine being handed to Prince John. Richard having been raised in Eleanor’s court and having subdued the region by force was not prepared to hand his territory over so easily. In the end Richard was obliged to hand the duchy back to his mother who was removed from prison in England and bought to France for the occasion. In effect this meant that once again Aquitaine was in Henry’s hands. Geoffrey and Richard remained at loggerheads about land and position as Henry did not establish any of his sons as heir apparent.
Geoffrey, perhaps recognising the importance of strong allies, became friends with the French King Philip Augustus (Louis VII’s son). Philip made him a senschal of France. He died on the 19th August in Paris as the result of an accident that occurred during a tournament. Chroniclers record that Philip was so distressed that he attempted to climb into Geoffrey’s grave.
Geoffrey’s son, Arthur, was born the following year in 1187. He also left two young daughters; Eleanor, who was born in 1184 and Matilda, born 1184. Matilda died before she reached her fifth birthday while Eleanor and young Arthur faced uncertain futures in the hands of their Uncle John.
On the 3rd September 1189 King Richard was crowned in Westminster Abbey. That autumn he began to gather the resources he required for his crusade and put into places measures that would keep his kingdom secure, he hoped, in his absence. At home he needed to decide who would be the de facto regents in his absence, secure the Welsh Marches, keep the Scots quiet and his brother John and his half-brother Geoffrey and resolve the ongoing dispute between Church and State as to issues such as benefit of the clergy. He also needed cash to buy ships, weapons, men and food.
With those ends in mind he levied taxes, sold off royal estates and castles. He is supposed to have said that he would have sold London if he could have found someone to buy it.
He appointed four new bishops including his brother Geoffrey who was already Bishop of Lincoln but who had not been ordained. Richard made him Archbishop of York and ensured that he was priested. Geoffrey had to be carried protesting to the ordination. Henry II’s illegitimate son was the only one who’d remained loyal to Henry throughout his life and rumour speculated that he saw no reason why illegitimacy should prevent him from seizing the crown. Whatever the truth Richard’s swift actions ensured that Geoffrey was no longer a contender for the throne. Prince John was Lackland no longer. Richard showered him with lands and titles as well as the rich heiress Isabella of Gloucester in an attempt to keep John content. Just before he set off on crusade, Richard required both his brothers to swear a solemn oath that they would not set foot on English soil for the next three years. As a further disincentive to John he also named his young nephew Arthur of Brittany as his heir.
Arthur was the son of Richard and John’s legitimate brother Geoffrey who had been made Count of Brittany by their father but who had died during one of the sons intermittent rebellions at the court King Philip of France during a jousting tournament.
Richard also ensured that there were strong regents in place. He appointed Hugh, Bishop of Durham and following the death of the Earl of Essex his chancellor William Longchamp who was also the Bishop of Ely. Richard had barely set sail for Sicily on the 4th July 1190 en route to Outremer and the Third Crusade when John, disgruntled by Richard’s choice of regents, started to plot against him.
One thing Richard did not do was to marry the Princess Alys to whom he’d been engaged since 1169. This fact was one of many that caused the relationship between Richard and King Philip of France to deteriorate. The atmosphere between the two kings soured even further upon Richard’s arrival in Sicily.
Though born in England, the second of four surviving sons, he was destined to inherit Queen Eleanor’s duchy of Aquitaine. He grew up in an atmosphere of courtly love, speaking the langue d’oc. Today we think of him as a warrior but he was an accomplished musician thanks to his early years in Eleanor’s court. Ralph of Coggleshall, records the fact that he ‘conducted’ the clerks of the Royal Chapel in song.
By the time Richard was ten his father (Henry II) had betrothed Richard to the daughter of Count Richmond of Barcelona. Nothing came of this engagement but in 1168 when Richard was formally invested with the Duchy of Aquitaine he was betrothed to Princess Alys of France, the daughter of King Louis VII – his mother’s ex-husband- by his second wife. Presumably the laws of consanguinity did not account for such things. What they did account for though was a father ‘knowing’ his son’s bride. Alys came to Henry II’s court and eventually Henry made her his mistress which goes some way towards explaining Richard’s reticence when it came to honouring the engagement.
By 1173 Henry II’s relationships with all his sons had reached breaking point. Henry expended huge amounts of energy creating an empire that stretched from the Welsh Marches to the Pyrenees. He did not wish to do homage to King Louis VII so he gave his European lands into the keeping of his sons Henry, Geoffrey and Richard. He even went so far as to have Henry crowned king of England while he was still living. However, they were rulers in name only. Henry retained the power. His sons rebelled. Queen Eleanor, perhaps tiring of Henry’s infidelities, her own lack of power and a mother’s need to protect her sons joined in the rebellion. Fortunately for Henry, Eleanor was swiftly captured and then subjected to fifteen years of captivity. Monarchs on the edge of his kingdom added their armies to the fray.
Young Prince Richard battled on, attempting to besiege La Rochelle despite the fact that King Louis unable to capture Rouen had sued for peace. King William of Scotland had been roundly beaten at Alnwick. Was it stubbornness? Was it anger at his mother’s treatment? Or was it simply because his father excluded him from the peace that he negotiated with King Louis? In any event, it was 23 September 1174 before he threw himself on his father’s mercy.
In 1175 Henry set his son the task of quelling the Aquitanian nobles who had risen with Richard two years earlier. Richard set about subduing nobles and towns one by one. Limoges fell having been besieged for only two days. He was accused, in Aquitaine, of being ‘evil to all men.’ Yet he succeeded where his father could not. He went on to make the road through to the Pyrenees safe for travellers, thus furthering his father’s diplomatic allegiances with Spain. In 1179 Richard sided with his father when his brothers Henry (the Young King) and Geoffrey (Count of Brittany) rebelled once more. Four years later Henry was dead of dysentery and Richard was heir to the English throne.
King Henry ordered Richard to hand over Aquitaine to Prince John. Richard refused. He held an ostentatious Christmas court at Talmont where he gave generous New Year gifts to his nobles. He’d fought long and hard for the kingdom that was his mother’s and he had no intention of handing it over to his little brother despite the fact that allocating inheritances between sons in this manner was a normal procedure. He showed no sign of backing down even when Henry openly toyed with the idea of marrying Princess Alys off to John and bypassing Richard altogether. Roger of Hoveden’s account shows that King Philip of France (Louis VII’s much long for son) would not agree to this. Eventually King Henry informed John that he could have Aquitaine if he could take it.
Inevitably these family tensions led to Richard coming to terms with the King of France. It was this coming to terms that has given history pause for thought about Henry’s sexual orientation despite the existence of two illegitimate sons. It was reported that Philip and Richard shared the same bed following a day of negotiations. It was not regarded with the raised eyebrows of today and suggests instead a symbolic sealing of an agreement.
Richard was not the callow youth he’d been last time he’d rebelled against his father, nor was his father a well man. Neither for that matter was Philip much like his father in matters of warfare. Eventually the city of Le Mans was captured and Henry was forced to flee.
The king sued for peace. He came to terms with the french king and Richard during a thunder-storm. He was so shattered that his men had to hold him upright on his horse. Some accounts describe a tear in Henry’s back passage that bled so much during the hours of negotiation that the blood streamed down his horse’s flanks. Henry, vanquished and in pain, returned to Chinon a broken man having learned that John, the son for whom he’d gone to war, had betrayed him. Henry died on the 6th July 1189.
Prince Richard, Duke of Aquitaine was now King Richard I. One of the first things he did was to give orders setting Eleanor free from her captivity.
For a full account of Henry II’s final campaign and encounter with his son visit: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1189hoveden.asp
Jones, Dan. (2012). The Plantagenents. London: Harper Press
Daughter of Sancho the Wise of Navarre, Berengaria was related to the royalty of Spain, England and France.
She was brought from Navarre to Sicily by her future mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1190 to marry King Richard I of England. She was in her twenties at the time.
Richard was in Sicily on his way to the Holy Land to join with the Third Crusade having taken the cross in 1187. He had been prevented from fulfilling his vow because of a Plantagenet power struggle with his father King Henry II and younger brother Prince John over control of Aquitaine. His ally in his rebellion against his father was the French King Philip but by the time Berengaria arrived on the scene relations were souring between the two monarchs, not least because Philip expected Richard to marry the french princess Alys, a bride-to-be of some twenty years. Unfortunately, Philip’s half-sister was an unsuitable match in Richard’s eye – not least because she had been Henry II’s mistress, not that this stopped Philip from pocketing some 10,000 marks in compensation.
Berengaria accompanied Richard and Richard’s widowed sister Queen Joanna of Sicily to the Holy Land. Before their ship could reach Outremer it was separated from the main fleet and the royal women were ship wrecked off Cyprus. The ruler of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenus, whose only redeeming feature seems to have been the love he bore his daughter, attempted to take them hostage. This resulted in Richard leading an attack on Cyprus and capturing the island in less than a month. As well as demonstrating his prowess in battle, Richard also captured a useful staging post. Berengaria and Richard were married in May 1191 at Limassol. Berengaria was also crowned at this time and Richard gave her dower rights to all territories in Gascony south of the River Garonne. The marriage had been delayed thus far because of it being Lent.
Why marry Berengaria? Richard was the Duke of Aquitaine before he became King of England. An alliance with Navarre went some way to off setting the expanding power of Castille and Count Raymond of Toulouse who was undoubtedly a thorn in Richard’s side. It could also be that Berengaria’s reputation was spotless, a direct contrast to Alys. Chroniclers of the time were generous in their praise of a queen who never came to England. William of Newburgh described her as prudent and beautiful.
Both royal women accompanied Richard to the Holy Land. They were at the Siege of Acre and remained there while the crusaders pushed in land and it was from here that they sailed when Richard and Saladin agreed their truce in 1191. Berengaria and Joanna sailed to Brindisi and from there they travelled to Rome while Richard travelled home a different route and found himself a captive of the Duke of Austria.
Following his release, Berengaria did not join her husband. The estrangement between husband and wife was never fully reconciled. Perhaps because Richard needed to secure his empire from the machinations of Philip of France or possibly because Berengaria’s father was now dead and her brother, Sancho VII, had succeeded to the throne. The Navarre alliance served Richard well during his crusading years. Certainly he’d never bothered to demand the two castles that were Berengaria’s dowry. Now however, Richard set about gaining what the marriage treaty guaranteed. He even involved Pope Innocent III. The couple remained childless and spent very little time in one another’s company. As he lay dying he sent for his mother, not his wife. Berengaria did not attend Richard’s funeral and remained in a small castle near Angers -in effect a penniless princess having failed to provide Richard with an heir.
Berengaria now entered into a long struggle with King John for her dower lands which were all in France. In addition to her own dower lands in Gascony she was supposed to receive Eleanor’s lands in England, Normandy and Poitou after Eleanor’s death. John, once named Lackland, was not forthcoming. Fortunately, her sister, Blanche of Champagne took in the widowed queen and later King Philip gave her the city of Le Mans to rule. It was only in 1214 that John said he would settle the claim. This was, in part, due to Magna Carta and the fact that the Pope had excommunicated him but he never did pay what was owed. King Henry III settled Berengaria’s claim when he came to the throne.
Berengaria lived in Le Mans and ruled there from 1204 until her death in 1230. She ruled well and with determination, even tackling corrupt clerics. The Bishop of Le Man once closed the door of the cathedral in her face as she arrived for a Palm Sunday service. She also founded the abbey of L’Epau
Prior to the death of Alexander III of Scotland in 1286, relations between the two kingdoms had been amicable. Alexander III of Scotland was married to Edward’s sister Margaret – not in itself a guarentee of peace , just look at Henry VIII’s relationship with his brother-in-law James IV of Scotland. Certainly Edward shared Alexander’s grief when on Alexander’s eldest son, also named Alexander, died aged 20 without children.
The Scottish king’s younger son had died in 1281, and his daughter, Margaret, in 1283, leaving him with an infant granddaughter, also called Margaret, living in Norway. The grieving king had not only lost his sons he’d also lost his wife in 1275. After ten years as a widower he remarried. There was, after all, a need for an heir.
Alexander married Yolande de Dreux at Jedburgh Abbey and then famously charged out from a council meeting into a dark and stormy night to be with his young bride. He fell from his horse and was killed. His only heir was his granddaughter Margaret, The Maid of Norway. She was just three years old. Her mother, also called Margaret wife to King Eric II of Norway, had died giving birth to her.
In September 1290, The seven-year-old Queen of Scots left her home in Norway but died en route to Scotland of sea sickness. With her died an arranged marriage to Prince Edward of England and a stable relationship between the two kingdoms.
There were now many competing claims to the Scottish throne. In 1292 Edward agreed to oversee the selection between competing claims to the Scottish throne, on condition he is acknowledged as Lord Superior of Scotland. Thirteen competitors were narrowed down to two. In the end John Balliol was selected rather than Robert Bruce. Balliol did homage to Edward I of England following in the footsteps of Malcolm Canmore who had sworn fealty to William the Conqueror but it gained King John no popularity in Scotland.
The stage was set for rebellion by King John’s subjects and war between the two nations – a war that would shape the landscape and people of the border region for centuries to come.
For more information:
Ridpath, George. (1979) Border History. Edinburgh: The Mercat Press
Sadler, John. (2006) Border Fury England and Scotland at War 1296-1568. London: Pearson Education Ltd
The Romans built a wall, actually two walls, there’s some question as to whether they wanted to keep the locals in and the Picts out or whether they were considering the more salient aspects of effective customs and excise. Whatever its main uses were, other than keeping Roman squaddies busy building it and then miserable guarding it, a nice solid stone (or soil and turf) structure with gates at regular intervals is quite hard to argue with.
During the medieval period the border between England and Scotland shifted depending upon the strength of the English and Scottish monarchs and,of course, what else was occupying their attention. During the Anarchy or the Nineteen Long Winters as the war between Stephen and Matilda in England was known the Scots were able to extend their borders in a southerly direction. Carlisle was in King David of Scotland’s hands at this time.
The reign of King John (a.k.a. Lackland or Softsword depending on how mean you’re feeling) is also a good example of Scottish kings availing themselves of convenient opportunities. In 1209 William I of Scotland and King John of England signed the Treaty of Norham which stopped the English building a fort at Tweedmouth, but at the cost of a £10,000 payment to the English: and William’s two oldest daughters, who John later married to English nobles. On the 4th December 1214 Alexander II succeeded to the Scottish throne and the following year took advantage of King John’s weakness after the signing of the Magna Carta to try to capture Northumberland. He was beaten back but a period of cross border warfare followed until John’s death in 1216.
In 1237 The Anglo-Scottish border was established at The Treaty of York but like most next door neighbours with a shared fence there was still some argument about who was responsible for what.
By 1244 cross border tension led to the betrothal of the three-year-old future Alexander III and four-year-old Margaret, daughter of Henry III. In October 1245 both kings sent men to agree where the border line lay from the Solway Firth in the West to the mouth of the River Tweed in the East so as to avoid any future unpleasantness. In total that’s between 97 and 120 miles, depending on what you’re reading, with lots of ups and downs. Six English knights and the six Scottish knights were sent off to ‘perambulate’ the borderline but weren’t able to agree. Twelve more knights were sent for a hike in December 1246. Again, what could have been a pleasant though rather lengthy walk turned into a rather undignified argument with the two nationalities unable to agree about which bits of land were Scottish and which were English. In the end Henry arranged for twenty-four knights to take a stroll and they all agreed. They were also all English which perhaps explains the unexpected harmony.