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The Battle of Solway Moss

james5.jpgMary Stuart became queen of Scotland at barely a week old when her father King James V died at Linlithgow Palace on 14 December 1542. It is often said that he died of the shame of losing the Battle of Solway Moss. Though in all honesty he’d been under the weather beforehand which why he wasn’t actually present on the battlefield.

The conflict between the Scots and the English came about because James V refused to turn Protestant and Henry permitted the borderers to cross into Scotland on a massive raid.  Henry VIII had asked his nephew to meet him for a conference in York but James failed to turn up – which was probably enough to  cause his uncle to send in the reivers and the duke of Norfolk. Matters probably weren’t helped when Lord Wharton came up with a plan to kidnap James V.  Henry VIII wasn’t terribly keen on the idea but it probably didn’t help international relations.

In November 1542 the Scots crossed the Esk to exact their revenge under the command of Lord Maxwell. James, who didn’t trust his Lord Warden of the West March travelled as far as Lochmaben before being taken ill.  He was in Caerlaverock Castle during the battle.

solway moss map - john speed.jpg

Henry VIII and the northerners in the western march had already received word of the Scots plans for invasion from an informer named Dand Nixon. Sir William Musgrave  who was to take a leading part in the battle wrote an account which can be found in Henry VIII’s letters and papers for 1542:

On the 24th inst. a great army of Scotland, numbering 18,000, entered these Marches, and burnt the Graimes’s houses upon Esk and in the Debateable Ground. Master Warden, the writer, and all other gentlemen of these marches made speed towards them with 3,000 men at the most; sending Thos. Dacre, Jac of Musgrave and other Border spears to prick at them, while the rest, putting away their horses, marched up on foot within two arrow shot of the enemies to give battle. At this the noblemen and gentlemen of Scotland lighted off their horses; but the multitude durst not give battle, so they mounted again. Then the writer’s brother Simon Musgrave, Jac Musgrave, and others of his rule, and the Graimes “pricked sore at them, Thomas Dacre with the men of Gillesland, and John Leigh, with the barony of Brough standing in a flieng stadle,” and as the footmen marched forward, the Scots withdrew softly, until Jac Musgrave and others aforenamed, with the writer’s cousin Ayglyoinby, set on them and struck down many, and the rest fled over Esk. Lord Maxwell and other noblemen and courtiers lighted at the waterside and fought valiantly, but were taken prisoners. The horsemen of England took from two to five prisoners each, and also 5 fawcons, 5 demifacons, and many half hakes. It is thought that Lord Flemyng is taken, and the lord of Lowhenveure drowned. Over a thousand of their best men are taken or slain. Never saw goodlier personages. The Graimes and others who follow, will this night take many more; for they are past resisting, and, having left their victual and wallets behind, are like to famish ere they come home. Cannot report what other noblemen and gentlemen are taken, for most of the prisoners are not yet brought in. Trusts Browne will declare these pleasant tidings to the King, and take in good part this first knowledge of them. Of Englishmen only Robt. Briscow, a pensioner, and one Dogeson, a yeoman, are dead as yet. Begs help for his brother Simon, or cousin Ric. Musgrave to have Briscow’s pension. Yesterday Master Warden and the writer, with 2,000 men, went into Scotland and tarried in a bushment within half a mile of Mydleby, while the writer’s men, under Jac Musgrave, burned eight “great dwelling places called unsettes, and all their corn.” Other gentlemen, as Thos. Dacre and John Leigh, were appointed to go, but had not forty men there. All the Graimes were there, but they burned not. Two other “unsettes” were burnt. Sends a bill of articles “exploict in Scotland” by Jac Musgrave, since 20 Oct., with other letters. Credence for bearer, who took two prisoners in the chase.

Lord Wharton representing the English had approximately 3,500 men to the maximum of 18,000 Scottish men. On the down side the Scots were arguing amongst themselves  on account of the fact that Oliver Sinclair, the King’s favourite, rocked up and declared that he was in charge – this did not go down terribly well with Maxwell or any of the other scottish lords so when William Musgrave started to harry them there wasn’t much of what you might describe as a unified response. Effectively the Scots fled – many of them taking the opportunity to surrender as soon as possible.  Unfortunately for the rest of the fleeing army they encountered the reivers of Liddesdale and were stripped of everything they owned apart from their hose.

Shortly after that James V turned his face to the wall and died leaving his infant daughter to become the Queen of Scots.  The only other Scottish queen had been the Fair maid of Norway who died of seasickness before she could arrive in Scotland.

‘Henry VIII: November 1542, 26-30’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 17, 1542, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1900), pp. 618-643. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol17/pp618-643 [accessed 14 April 2017].

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Robert, First Lord Clifford

IMG_4008Robert Clifford was born in 1274. He was the son of Isabella de Vieuxpont and Roger Clifford. The Cliffords were an old Norman family who took their name from their main seat in Herefordshire meaning that the Lords of Skipton were distantly related to Rosamond Clifford (Fair Rosamond) who was Henry I’s mistress. On his mother’s side – Isabella and her sister Idonea were coheirs to the lordship of Westmorland which, together with Edward I’s campaign to subdue Scotland, would ultimately change the marches upon which the Cliffords prowled.

 

Young Robert lost his father early so the vast lands (including Brough, Brougham and Appleby) that would one day be his passed into other hands for the time being. When he reached his majority Robert would spend years trying to regain property which had been stolen during his minority.  He ultimately grew to maturity under the care of Edward I from whom he learned the art of warfare in North Wales before making a name for himself in Scotland. By 1297 he was responsible for Edward’s castles in Cumberland as well as taking part in the perennial border warfare of the period. The following year, according to Summerson, he became Keeper of Nottingham Castle and the justice in the royal forests north of the River Trent. That same year Edward I gave Robert Clifford Caerlaverock Castle and all the lands that belonged to Sir William Douglas as a reward for his work. On one hand this was very nice for Robert on the other hand the Douglas family were not best pleased. Edward’s grant triggered a feud between the Douglasses and the Cliffords that lasted for the next hundred years.  It probably didn’t help that Robert’s actions in Dumfries and Annan were recorded in the Song of Caerlaverock. Clifford was undoubtedly a capable as well as loyal officer to the crown – it certainly helped him to build an extensive power base on which to build his family’s fortunes.

He attended Edward I until his death and from his appointment as Marshall of England by Edward II whom Clifford had served during the Prince of Wales’ time on campaign in Scotland. He didn’t hold the job for long. He also gave up his role of Justice and Keeper of Nottingham Castle.  In October 1309 he was appointed keeper of the English West March with Carlisle as its headquarters, and was ordered to act as Warden of Scotland, with a force of 100 men-at-arms and 300 foot soldiers – so he probably didn’t have much time to sit around in Nottingham.

 

It was at about this time Robert came to an accommodation with his childless aunt (Idonea) which ultimately resulted in the Lordship of Westmorland being granted to him. Robert Clifford already held Brough Castle and Appleby and now he was granted Skipton Castle making him a force to be reckoned with in the north.

 

Unfortunately the business of the Scottish Wars of Independence were somewhat sidelined by Edward II’s relationship with Piers Gaveston. The King’s favourite was greedy for wealth and power. In October 1310, just as Clifford was building a substantial power base for himself in the north-west the king granted the Honour of Penrith to Gaveston – a bit of a fly in the ointment so far as Clifford was concerned but not sufficient to make him join with many of the other English barons who formed a commission against Edward II to reform the way in which Edward governed his household and the realm.  The barons issued ordinances from which they gained the name Lords Ordainers.  One of the ordinances made Edward II take back into royal custody all the land which he’d given away.  This meant that Robert having gained Skipton was forced to return it to the crown.  A bizarre game of pass the castle then followed in which Skipton was then handed back to Clifford.  The reason behind this probably lies in the fact that Clifford had given his lands in Monmouth in exchange for the Honour of Skipton – so he wasn’t depriving the crown of its revenue. Clifford resumed his building work on the outer defences of the castle.

 

This uncertainty and his previous record for loyalty didn’t mean that Clifford wasn’t sympathetic to the demands of the Lords Ordainers. In 1312 he prevented Gaveston from receiving Scottish help, besieged him in Scarborough Castle and recovered royal jewels from Newcastle when they were abandoned by the king and his favourite. Later he acted as a go-between for the Earls of Lancaster and Warwick who sought a pardon when Edward II regained control of his realm. The earls received a pardon and so did Robert Clifford.

 

The pardons signaled a resumption of the Scottish War of Independence. In June 1314 Clifford was summoned to Berwick and the start of the campaign that ended in disaster for the English at Bannockburn. Clifford was killed in action. His body was taken to Carlisle and from there to Shap Abbey where he was buried.

Skipton Castle was about to face Scottish invasion and be plunged into civil war – life wasn’t going to be very restful for the Clifford family either.

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John Maxwell, Fourth Lord Herries

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle

John Maxwell was born in Dumfries the year before the Battle of Flodden.  The Maxwells were an important family in the Scottish West Marches – one of their castles was Caerlaverock.  Together with the Johnstones they made their mark on the Scottish West Marches – largely based on their hatred of one another.

When his father died in 1546, after losing the Battle of Solway Moss and spending some time in English captivity John Maxwell succeeded him as warden of the march- he took his role seriously and later in life made suggestions for reforms that set about ridding the region of lawless Grahams, Armstrongs and other reivers.

More immediately however, John needed to make his fortune.  He had set his sights on Agnes Herries- it might perhaps have been a love match apart from the small fact that she was an important heiress whose lands marched with his own.  Mary Queen of Scots’ regent – the Earl of Arran had also identified the match as a good one for his own son so there was a stand-off as to which man should wed young Agnes. Her opinion was not sought.

 

It was the time of the Rough Wooing, Maxwell was an assured Scot – the English had overrun Dumfries and burned the homes of the lairds who’d refused to sign a paper to say that they would support the English.  The assurances came with hostages.  It was an established system.  Maxwell sent twelve hostages to Carlisle as surety for his good behaviour and he received an English pension in return.  The twelve included members of his family.  Maxwell was soon faced with a stark choice: he could marry Agnes Herries but he would have to break his assurance with the English.  Arran would permit the marriage only if Maxwell agreed.  And so John Maxwell became the Fourth Lord Herries.  The hostages were executed and according to a local story Maxwell built Repentance Tower as a sign of his repentance  for their deaths.  More of the tale can be read in my forthcoming book about Harraby Hill – Carlisle’s site of execution.

 

Maxwell was not unduly troubled by the bloodthirsty habits of the times.  He and Agnes produced twelve children; he fulfilled his role as Lord Herries and assumed the role of Warden of the Scottish West Marches for several terms of office.  Maxwell was also praised by John Knox for his staunch Protestantism.  Indeed, the border laird spent time in Edinburgh Castle for his beliefs.

 

It is perhaps strange then Lord Herries, border reiver, Protestant and signatory of the Treaty of Berwick was loyal to Mary Queen of Scots throughout his life.  Mary, captured after the disaster at Carberry in 1567 was imprisoned in Lochleven.  The English Ambassador, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton identified him as the wisest person in the queen’s faction and also reported that   Mary Queen of Scots said  ‘there is nobody can be sure of him.’  Certainly he was very critical of her when she refused to be divorced from the Earl of Bothwell – but then James Hepburn  was a border baron as well.

 

But then having spoken for the infant King James’ party of Lords on the morning of 13 May 1568 he commanded Mary’s cavalry at the Battle of Langside.  Forty-five minutes after the battle began he and his queen were in headlong flight.

 

They rode sixty miles through the night.  The queen slept on the ground and cut her hair short to disguise herself.  Herries led her through Dumfries to his home at Terregles.  Herries wrote to the English Deputy warden, Sir Richard Lowther asking for permission to enter England.  The sad little party moved on to Dundrennan Abbey. On 16 May Herries and  fifteen  loyal followers  of the queen accompanied Mary across the Solway Firth to Workington.

 

Herries found himself drawing on old friendships and travelling to London on behalf of his queen who wrote frantic letters to her cousin asking for help in her time of need.  It was Herries who helped to represent the queen that October at the Conference of York in an attempt to prove her innocence from any complicity in the murder of Darnley at Kirk o’ Field.  By January 1569 it was clear that Mary had thrown herself straight out of the frying pan and into the fire.  She was a prisoner.

 

In Scotland, civil war erupted and simmered for a further two years.  Unsurprisingly Herries found himself in trouble with the Scottish Regent (and Mary’s half-brother) the Earl of Moray.  Once more he found himself in the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle. Although he was released Herries found himself on the receiving end of English raids encouraged by the Scottish government as well as penalties imposed by the Scottish government.

 

Herries was getting old but he made one last attempt to help his queen. He threatened Queen Elizabeth with the suggestion that if she did not support Mary then her friends would have to look abroad for help – a fear that filled Cecil and Walsingham’s minds.  Herries continued to play a part in Scottish politics as well as writing his memoirs- he even took on the office of Border Warden on more time under the Regent Morton.

 

He died at the beginning of 1583, four years before his queen.

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Border Reivers, Carlisle, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century