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An Outline of the Relations between England and Scotland (500-1707)
Chapter VII - The Beginnings of the English Alliance 1500 - 1542


When, in 1501, negotiations were in progress for the marriage of James IV to Margaret Tudor, Polydore Virgil tells us that the English Council raised the objection that Margaret or her descendants might succeed to the throne of England. "If it should fall out so," said Henry, "the realm of England will suffer no evil, since it will not be the addition of England to Scotland, but of Scotland to England." It is obvious that the English had every reason for desiring to stop the irritating opposition of the Scots, which, while it never seriously endangered the realm, was frequently a cause of annoyance, and which hampered the efforts of English diplomacy. The Scots, on the other hand, were separated from the English by the memories of two centuries of constant warfare, and they were bound by many ties to the enemies of England. The only King of Scots, since Alexander III, who had been on friendly terms with England, was James III, and his enemies had used the fact as a weapon against him. His successor had already twice refused the proffered English alliance, and when he at length accepted Henry's persistent proposal and the thrice-offered English princess, it was only after much hesitation and upon certain strict conditions. No Englishmen were to enter Scotland "without letters commendatory of their own sovereign lord or safe conduct of his Warden of the Marches". The marriage, though not especially flattering to the dignity of a monarch who had been encouraged to hope for the hand of a daughter of Spain, was notable as involving a recognition (the first since the Treaty of Northampton) of the King of Scots as an independent sovereign. On the 8th of August, 1503, Margaret was married to James in the chapel of Holyrood. She was received with great rejoicing; the poet Dunbar, whom a recent visit to London had convinced that the English capital, with its "beryl streamis pleasant ... where many a swan doth swim with wingis fair", was "the flower of cities all", wrote the well-known poem on the Union of the Thistle and the Rose to welcome this second English Margaret to Scotland. But the time was not yet ripe for any real union of the Thistle and the Rose. Peace continued till the death of Henry VII; but during these years England was never at war with France. James threatened war with England in April, 1505, in the interests of the Duke of Gueldres; in 1508, he declined to give an understanding that he would not renew the old league with France, and he refused to be drawn, by Pope Julius II, into an attitude of opposition to that country. Even before the death of Henry VII, in 1509, there were troubles with regard to the borders, and it was evident that the "perpetual peace" arranged by the treaty of marriage was a sheer impossibility.

Henry VIII succeeded to the throne of England in April, 1509; three years and five months later, in September, 1513, was fought the battle of Flodden. The causes may soon be told. They fall under three heads. James and Henry were alike headstrong and impetuous, and they were alike ambitious of playing a considerable part in European affairs. They were, moreover, brothers-in-law, and, in the division of the inheritance of Henry VII, the King of England had, with characteristic Tudor avarice, retained jewels and other property which had been left to his sister, the Queen of Scots. In the second place, the ancient jealousies were again roused by disputes on the borders, and by naval warfare. James had long been engaged in "the building of a fleet for the protection of our shores"; in 1511, he had built the _Great Michael_, for which, it was said, the woods of Fife had been wasted. The Scottish fleet was frequently involved in quarrels with Henry's ships, and in August, 1511, the English took two Scottish vessels, which they alleged to be pirates, and Andrew Barton was slain in the fighting. James demanded redress, but, says Hall, "the King of England wrote with brotherly salutations to the King of Scots of the robberies and evil doings of Andrew Barton; and that it became not one prince to lay a breach of a league to another prince, in doing justice upon a pirate or thief".[60] These personal irritations and petty troubles might have proved harmless, and, had no European complications intervened, it is possible that there might have "from Fate's dark book a leaf been torn", the leaf which tells of Flodden Field. But, in 1511, Julius II formed the Holy League against France, and by the end of the year it included Spain, Austria, and England. The formation of a united Europe against the ancient ally of Scotland thoroughly alarmed James. It was true that, at the moment, England was willing to be friendly; but, should France be subdued, whither might Scotland look for help in the future? James used every effort to prevent the League from carrying out their project; he attempted to form a coalition of Denmark, France, and Scotland, and wrote to his uncle, the King of Denmark, urging him to declare for the Most Christian King. He wrote Henry offering to "pardon all the damage done to us and our kingdom, the capture of our merchant ships, the slaughter and imprisonment of our subjects", if only Henry would "maintain the universal concord of the Church". He made a vigorous appeal to the pope himself, beseeching him to keep the peace. His efforts were, of course, futile, nor was France in such extreme danger as he supposed. But the chance of proving himself the saviour of France appealed strongly to him, and, when there came to him, in the spring of 1513, a message from the Queen of France, couched in the bygone language of chivalry, and urging him, as her knight, to break a lance for her on English soil, James could no longer hesitate. Henry persevered in his warlike measures against France, and James, after one more despairing effort to act as mediator, began his preparations for an invasion of England. His wisest counsellors were strongly opposed to war: most prominent among them was his father's faithful servant, Bishop Elphinstone, the founder of the University of Aberdeen. Elphinstone was a saint, a scholar, and a statesman, and he was probably the only man in Scotland who could influence the king. During the discussion of the French alliance he urged delay, but was overborne by the impetuous patriotism of the younger nobles, whose voice was, as ever, for war. So, war it was. Bitter letters of defiance passed between the two kings, and, in August, 1513, James led his army over the border. Lowlanders, Highlanders, and Islesmen had alike rallied round his banner; once again we find the "true Scots leagued", not "with", but against "the Saxons farther off". The Scots took Norham Castle and some neighbouring strongholds to prevent their affording protection to the English, and then occupied a strong position on Flodden Edge. The Earl of Surrey, who was in command of the English army, challenged James to a pitched battle, and James accepted the challenge. Meanwhile, Surrey completely outmanoeuvred the King of Scots, crossing the Till and marching northwards so as to get between James and Scotland. James seems to have been quite unsuspicious of this movement, which was protected by some rising ground. The Scots had failed to learn the necessity of scouting. Surrey, when he had gained his end, recrossed the Till, and made a march directly southwards upon Flodden. James cannot have been afraid of losing his communications, for his force was well-provisioned, and Surrey was bound by the terms of his own challenge to fight immediately; but he decided to abandon Flodden Edge for the lower ridge of Brankston, and in a cloud of smoke, which not only rendered the Scots invisible to the enemy but likewise concealed the enemy from the Scots, King James and his army rushed upon the English. The battle began with artillery, the superiority of the English in which forced the Scots to come to close quarters. Then

  "Far on the left, unseen the while,
   Stanley broke Lennox and Argyle";

on the English right, Sir Edmund Howard fell back before the charge of the Scottish borderers, who, forthwith, devoted themselves to plunder. The centre was fiercely contested; the Lord High Admiral of England, a son of Surrey, defeated Crawford and Montrose, and attacked the division with which James himself was encountering Surrey, while the archers on the left of the English centre rendered unavailing the brave charge of the Highlanders. With artillery and with archery the English had drawn the Scottish attack, and the battle of Flodden was but a variation on every fight since Dupplin Moor. Finally the Scots formed themselves into a ring of spearmen, and the English, with their arrows and their long bills, kept up a continuous attack. The story has been told once for all:

  "But yet, though thick the shafts as snow,
   Though charging knights as whirlwinds go,
   Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,
     Unbroken was the ring;
   The stubborn spearmen still made good
   Their dark impenetrable wood,
   Each stepping where their comrade stood
     The instant that he fell.
   No thought was there of dastard flight;
   Link'd in the serried phalanx tight
   Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
     As fearlessly and well;
   Till utter darkness closed her wing
   O'er their thin host and wounded king."

No defeat had ever less in it of disgrace. The victory of the English was hard won, and the valour displayed on the stricken field saved Scotland from any further results of Surrey's triumph. The results were severe enough. Although the Scots could boast of their dead king that

  "No one failed him; he is keeping
   Royal state and semblance still",

they had lost the best and bravest of the land. Scarcely a family record but tells of an ancestor slain at Flodden, and many laments have comedown to us for "The Flowers of the Forest". But, although the disaster was overwhelming, and the loss seemed irreparable at the time, though the defeat at Flodden was not less decisive than the victory of Bannockburn, the name of Flodden, notwithstanding all this, recalls but an incident in our annals. Bannockburn is an incident in English history, but it is the great turning-point in the story of Scotland; the historian cannot regard Flodden as more than incidental to both.

When James V succeeded his father he was but one year old, and his guardian, in accordance with the desire of James IV, was the queen-mother, Margaret Tudor. Her subsequent career is one long tale of intrigue, too elaborate and intricate to require a full recapitulation here. The war lingered on, in a desultory fashion, till May, 1515. Lord Dacre ravaged the borders, and the Scots replied by a raid into England; but there is nothing of any interest to relate. From the accession of Francis I, in 1515, the condition of politics in Scotland, as of all Europe, was influenced and at times dominated by his rivalry with the Emperor. The unwonted desire of France for peace and alliance with England placed the Scots in a position of considerable difficulty, and the difficulty was accentuated by the more than usually distracted state of the country during the minority of the king. In August, 1514, Margaret (who had in the preceding April given birth to a posthumous child to James IV) was married to the Earl of Angus, the grandson of Archibald Bell-the-Cat. It was felt that the sister of Henry VIII and the wife of a Douglas could scarcely prove a suitable guardian of a Stewart throne, and the Scots invited the Duke of Albany, son of the traitor duke, and cousin of the late king, to come over to Scotland and undertake the government. Despite some efforts of Henry to prevent him, Albany came to Scotland in May, 1515. He was a French nobleman, possessed large estates in France, and, although he was, ere long, heir-presumptive to the Scottish throne, could speak no language but French. When he arrived in Scotland he found against him the party of Margaret and Angus, while the Earls of Lennox and Arran were his ardent supporters. The latter nobleman was the grandson of James II, being the son of the Princess Mary and James, Lord Hamilton, and he was, therefore, the next heir to the throne after Albany. The interests of both might be endangered should Margaret and Angus become all-powerful, and so we find them acting together for some time. Albany was immediately made regent of Scotland, and the care of the young king and his brother, the baby Duke of Ross, was entrusted to him. It required force to obtain possession of the children, but the regent succeeded in doing so in August, in time to defeat a scheme of Henry VIII for kidnapping the princes. The queen-mother fled to England, where, in October, she bore to Angus a daughter, Margaret, afterwards Countess of Lennox and mother of the unfortunate Darnley. She then proceeded to pay a visit to Henry VIII. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Albany was finding many difficulties. Arran was now in rebellion against him, and now in alliance with him. In May, 1516, Angus himself, leaving his imperious wife in England, made terms with the regent. The infant Duke of Ross had died in the end of 1515, and only the boy king stood between Albany and the throne. In 1517 Albany returned to France to cement more closely the old alliance, and remained in France till 1521. Margaret immediately returned to Scotland, and, had she behaved with any degree of wisdom, might have greatly strengthened her brother's tortuous Scottish policy. But a Tudor and a Douglas could not be other than an ill-matched pair, and Margaret was already tired of her husband. In 1518, she informed her brother that she desired to divorce Angus. Henry, whose own matrimonial adventures were still in the future, and to whom Angus was useful, scolded his sister in true Tudor fashion, and told her that, alike by the laws of God and man, she must stick to her husband. A formal reconciliation took place, but, henceforth, Margaret's one desire was to be free, and to this she subordinated all other considerations. In 1519, she came to an understanding with Arran, her husband's bitterest foe, and in the summer of the same year we find Henry marvelling much at the "tender letters" she sent to France, in which she urged the return of Albany, whose absence from Scotland had been the main aim of English policy since Flodden. While Francis I and Henry VIII were on good terms, Albany was detained in France; but when, in 1521, their relations became strained, he returned to Scotland to find Angus in power. Scotland rallied round him, and in February, 1522, Angus, in turn, retired to France, while Henry VIII devoted his energies to the prevention of a marriage between his amorous sister and the handsome Albany. The regent led an army to the borders and began to organize an invasion, for which the north of England was ill-prepared, but was outwitted by Henry's agent, Lord Dacre, who arranged an armistice which he had no authority to conclude. Albany then returned to France, and the Scots, refusing Henry's offer of peace, had to suffer an invasion by Surrey, which was encouraged by Margaret, who was again on the English side. When Albany came back in September, 1523, he easily won over the fickle queen; but, after an unsuccessful attack on Wark, he left Scotland for ever in May, 1524.

No sooner had Albany disappeared from the scene than Margaret entered into a new intrigue with the Earl of Arran; it had one important result, the "erection" of the young king, who now, at the age of twelve years, became the nominal ruler of the country. This manoeuvre was executed with the connivance of the English, to whose side Margaret had again deserted. For some time Arran and Margaret remained at the head of affairs, but the return of the Earl of Angus at once drove the queen-mother into the opposite camp, and she became reconciled to the leader of the French party, Archbishop Beaton, whom she had imprisoned shortly before. Angus, who had been the paid servant of England throughout all changes since 1517, assumed the government. The alliance between England and France, which followed the disaster to Francis I at Pavia, seriously weakened the supporters of French influence in Scotland, and Angus made a three years' truce in 1525. In the next year, Arran transferred his support to Angus, who held the reins of power till the summer of 1528. The chief event of this period is the divorce of Queen Margaret, who immediately married a youth, Henry Stewart, son of Lord Evandale, and afterwards known as Lord Methven.

The fall of Angus was brought about by the conduct of the young king himself, who, tired of the tyranny in which he was held, and escaping from Edinburgh to Stirling, regained his freedom. Angus had to flee to England, and James passed under the influence of his mother and her youthful husband. In 1528 he made a truce with England for five years. During these years James showed leanings towards the French alliance, while Henry was engaged in treasonable intrigues with Scottish nobles, and in fomenting border troubles. But the truce was renewed in 1533, and a more definite peace was made in 1534. Henry now attempted to enlist James as an ally against Rome, and, by the irony of fate, offered him, as a temptation to become a Protestant, the hand of the Princess Mary. James refused to break with the pope, and negotiations for a meeting between the two kings fell through--fortunately, for Henry was prepared to kidnap James. The King of Scots arranged in 1536 to marry a daughter of the Duc de Vendome, but, on seeing her, behaved much as Henry VIII was to do in the case of Anne of Cleves, except that he definitely declined to wed her at all. Being in France, he made a proposal for the Princess Madeleine, daughter of Francis I, and was married to her in January, 1536-37. This step naturally annoyed Henry, who refused James a passport through England, on the ground that "no Scottish king had ever entered England peacefully except as a vassal". So James returned by sea with his dying bride, and reached Scotland to find numerous troubles in store for him--among them, intrigues brought about by his mother's wish to obtain a divorce from her third husband. Madeleine died in July, 1537, and the relations between James and Henry VIII (now a widower by the death of Jane Seymour) were further strained by the fact that nephew and uncle alike desired the hand of Mary of Guise, widow of the Duke de Longueville, who preferred her younger suitor and married him in the following summer. These two French marriages are important as marking James's final rejection of the path marked out for him by Henry VIII. The husband of a Guise could scarcely remain on good terms with the heretic King of England; but Henry, with true Tudor persistency, did not give up hope of bending his nephew to his will, and spent the next few years in negotiating with James, in trying to alienate him from Cardinal Beaton--the great supporter of the French alliance,--and in urging the King of Scots to enrich himself at the expense of the Church. As late as 1541, a meeting was arranged at York, whither Henry went, to find that his nephew did not appear. James was probably wise, for we know that Henry would not have scrupled to seize his person. Border troubles arose; Henry reasserted the old claim of homage and devised a scheme to kidnap James. Finally he sent the Earl of Angus, who had been living in England, with a force to invade Scotland, and this without the formality of declaring war. Henry, in fact, was acting as a suzerain punishing a vassal who had refused to appear when he was summoned. The English ravaged the county of Roxburgh in 1542; the Scottish nobles declined to cross the border in what they asserted to be a French quarrel; and in November a small Scottish force was enclosed between Solway Moss and the river Esk, and completely routed. The ignominy of this fresh disaster broke the king's heart. On December 8th was born the hapless princess who is known as _the_ Queen of Scots. The news brought small comfort to the dying king, who was still mourning the sons he had lost in the preceding year. "'Adieu,' he said, 'farewell; it came with a lass and it will pass with a lass.' And so", adds Pitscottie, "he recommended himself to the mercy of Almighty God, and spake little from that time forth, but turned his back unto his lords, and his face unto the wall." Six days later the end came. With "a little smile of laughter", and kissing his hand to the nobles who stood round, he breathed his last.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 60: Gregory Smith, p. 123.]


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