Monday, 1 September 2014

1320 The Declaration Of Arbroath Part Seven And Last

Clauses Five and Six
Theories of Kingship

A great deal of ink has been spilt on the matter of how different elite’s dealt with the question of Kingship.  Whatever the theory, the historical practice suggests that it would have been more honoured in the breach than the observance.

Many of the Tsars and Tsarinas of Russia considered themselves to be elected, although the circumstances of many of the acquisitions of the throne are open to all sorts of questions.  The feudal Kingship of England does not have a history of seamless transition by right of descent.

The wise noble, knight, or leading churchman in 1320 would have made their bets each way.  One of the interesting aspects of the Declaration is the names that are missing from the roll.  Taking these together with a proportion of trimmers from the signatories does not alter the majority support for King Robert de Brus but is only an admission of the realities rather than the romance of politics.

Within the Declaration divine providence in the succession of Robert is praised and then is balanced with the bald threat of his displacement if he rats on the deal.  Who were the men that wanted such a statement built into the document?

It is an opinion, but my instinct would point to the men of the far north who had not forgotten their Norse and Viking links and connections.  Thane Thorfinn Skullsplitter was gone but not forgotten.

It is suggested that the theory of election is owed to a particular device of the ancient world, that of the tanistry employed by the earliest known chiefs.  The theory of election, however, applied just as much in many parts of Europe in the period.  Not only was the Pope elected, many principalities had Electors, and other arrangements were common.

The difficulty is the absolute requirement at the time for any statement of rights and procedures to be given credence by the claim of ancient history, learning, or that most elastic of commodities, custom.  This was so until the 18th Century when the push for pure reason and empiricism began to make headway.

But a great deal of political philosophy referred to ancient times, although the truth was unknown and a matter of guesswork and myth.  The Divines were obliged in their disputations to refer to the ancient fathers of their Churches, and even the 19th Century Temperance Movement was wracked by the debate over the Biblical evidence about the alcohol content of wine.

It was fortunate that the history of man has been such a varied and confused business that a precedent may be found for almost anything that is expedient at the moment.

So what exactly does “libertatem” mean in the context of the Declaration and its time?  It does not presage 18th Century enlightenment ideas about freedom and the Rights of Man, it is about the ability of the nobles to run their own affairs as they wish.

It is a theory of devolved absolutism that took time to dislodge.  Even into the 18th Century Scots coal miners under the Stuarts and their successor Hanoverians were employed on a basis of family contract that amounted to quasi-slavery for them and their families.

Clause Seven
Little Scotland And Making England Little

Essentially, stripped of the verbiage, this clause asks for the King of England and therefore his realm to be excommunicated.  Also, the Declaration flags the breakup of the Kingdom of England on the grounds that this would enable the Scots to live in peace.

Most probably, it is a bid for the Scots to take over the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria.  The action instigated by the Kings’ Edward was to protect their interests in the North of England and to curb the persistent Scots raiding by asserting an overlordship and control, in short, dog eat dog.

The Declaration refers to the Pope as the Vice Regent of God on earth, accepting Pope John’s own perception of the relationship between the Church and State.  This alone indicates the great influence wielded by the Church in Scotland.  The western mind today has difficulties in comprehending the nature of Islam and the meshing of religion and politics in its affairs, and, note, I put religion first.

So do modern generations have difficulty understanding the Medieval World and its constructs of mind.  Because for us politics is all we seriously underestimate the weight that the great churchmen of the time brought to bear on the secular elites.  In Britain, the Dissolution of the Monasteries meant the end of a Church, and the scattering of libraries.

Critically, it entailed the loss of the archives and consequently an understanding of the reality of the politics of the earlier age.  We can only be dimly aware of where the real balance of power lay and the age in which we live assumes secularity because of our own preoccupations.

Clauses Eight to Twelve
Oh Ye Of Little Faith

At this stage the voice of the Churches and the religious of Scotland is in full flow.  Quite whether all the Scots signatories would have sold their estates and marched off to the Holy Land to do their Christian Duty if the Pope had dished the King of England and broken up his realm is an interesting question.

I have doubts, and a suspicion, which is ignoble and cynical, crosses my mind that the Churchmen would have been the ones to benefit in that they would have been able to augment their growing possessions.

All this is wholly consistent with the Papal, and Dominican, world view.  One of the potent symbols of the Papacy is the Keys, those that gave admission to the Kingdom of Christ the All Powerful and Knowing.

Similarly the Province of York, the Archbishopric, also uses the Cross Keys as its heraldic device.  The Princes of the Church were the gatekeepers to the Gates of God, and the Kings and Princes of the Earth were subordinate in matters of belief, morals, ethics, laws and learning.

The remaining clauses are a Friar Preacher’s reiteration of the basis of the Declaration as a text about authority, submission, and overlordship.  The “libertas” is about the freedom of a few to be local autocrats and not remotely to do with any ideal of personal freedom and rights for all men, or women.

The “Liberties” in that age were defined areas and peculiars with separate arrangements, very often allotted to the Church, as a patch of ground free from the general law applicable in the vicinity.


Clearly it is a submission to the Pope, those are the rules of engagement.  As a submission to the Pope for his guidance, support, and authority it has to be to be on the basis of his vision of Christendom and his political philosophy and perceptions of power.  If that is the case it is not a Declaration of Independence, it is an homage, in the full sense of the understanding of the period.

In essence the Scots Church and magnates were asking for “poor little Scotland” to be a papal State, albeit under the indirect rule of the acknowledged King as the subordinate agent of the Pope, to act as the hereditary Guardians of the Holy Places of early Christianity in the Atlantic Archipelago.  The submission is wholly consistent with the Thomist theology of the Dominican order, and refers back to the thinking on the structure of Heaven and Earth as set down by St.Augustine, one of the major influences on the Benedictines.

Even in the 14th Century, a document of this importance would not have been created simply by the local Abbot writing a document at the behest of his King, them then calling in the rest of the team to sign it and then sending it off, hoping for a favourable reply by return of post; preferably with a cheque.

If in the hands of the Religious, especially the Dominicans, the genesis would have been a more complicated matter, not to say tortuous.  I would expect that the origins of the document would have been some months previously.

What event or circumstance in 1318-1319 may have triggered the accession to the Pope about the status of Scotland?  From the Scottish side the breakdown in negotiations with England in 1318 and the sheer confusion in England would have been enough, let alone the other imperatives facing them.

My personal judgement is that the Declaration shows the hallmarks of a document that has been cleared with whoever is due to receive it before it is put in place.  In short it is not a simple submission to the Pope, but the Pope and the Curia at least would have been aware of what was happening and so the Declaration had to fit their own particular vision of the needs of the time.

The Pope had not long beaten off the claim of the ambitious King Louis of Bavaria, aspirant to the title of King of Germany, and the richest monarch in Europe, to determine who should appoint the Imperial Vicar of Italy.  The successful assertion of the City of God over the City of Earth in the matter of worldly jurisdictions would have been enough to persuade the King of Scots and most of his nobles to sign the Declaration.

Structurally the Declaration is interesting and in many respects is a sermon from the mind of Friars Preacher.  It is in the form of a Dialogue with the questions absent, but implicit in the layout and thrust of the text.  For most of the passages, the hand of the Dominicans can be detected, although clearly there are additions and embellishments.

As men of the religious orders occupied almost all the senior administrative positions in the Courts of Kings and Princes it is expected that their mark will lie on most documents.  But the Declaration is clearly not a legal plea over points of law; it is a supplication to God, for His Blessing and Mercy, through the agency of his Vicar and Vice Regent on Earth.

It is understandable that the Scots magnates and landowners would be wary of any English system, with self-governing boroughs, Parish administration, and the common law.  Equally, if the intention of the Kings of England, in contrast, was to impose direct rule through appointed Sheriffs and Bailiffs, that would be less welcome.

The feudal law and the King’s courts would seriously limit and impede their local powers.  Certainly there would be a substantial risk of a King of England wanting to adopt the practice of the dispersion of holdings, used elsewhere, as policy to reduce the large coherent territories of the Scots nobility.

They would see this as an emasculation of their power and authority.  They wished to retain the personal absolutism and administration of law in their districts; that is to continue as local autocratic war lords instead of becoming managers of property and incomes under an obligation to bear arms for the King.

Given all the factors involved the Declaration is a document of its time, if not of its place, that being the context of the major centres of power in continental Europe.  Essentially, it is about religious as much as temporal power in the uncertain world of the early 14th Century.

The Ascendancy Of The Northmen and their Norman cousins in Scotland wanted a clear break from those of England, and the opportunity had arisen for it to be done for sound reasons for both the religious and secular power groups in Scotland.
Contemporary commerce and finance played its part, although not a great deal is known about the complex of Scotland’s trading at the time.

It is unlikely that the Scots would have seen themselves benefiting from coming under the sway of the rising dominance of the polyglot London of the early 14th Century that already had most of England in its commercial grasp.

Even allowing for the economics, which King ruled and how, then it was still largely a matter of faith and the Will Of God, that most changeable of minds.

The picture above is the Papal Palace at Avignon across the river from the camp site we visited so many times on our travels.  It was a cross roads of Europe at the time.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

1320 Declaration Of Arbroath Part Six

Clauses Two and Three
Special Pleading

The Crusades that had been a central issue in the minds of the elites of Western Christendom were fought for a number of reasons that often changed between the beginning and end of a Crusade.  The casus belli, however, was the question of the guardianship of the Holy Places after the Muslim’s had swept over the lands of Palestine.

This was not a simple matter, for the Holy Places also had come to be in other Christian hands, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Coptics, the Aramaic Christians, and others, who did not owe allegiance to the Pope.  This issue was still alive in the 19th Century when the disputes leading to the Crimean War irrupted in 1853 and went on until 1856, sparked by a squabble between denominations in Jerusalem over who should hold what keys to which Holy Place.

The linking of the travails of a legendary migrating tribe of Scotti to their ultimate destination with the wandering of the Biblical Jews in exile is not calculated simply to bring a tear to the Papal eye.  It has to be taken as a bid by the King and nobles in Scotland to be given the Blessing of being the bringers and saviours of Christianity in the North and almost the first Christians.  It means that those who lay claim to be Scots are the only possible guardians of the Holy Places in the North, Iona and the rest.

The past is littered with racial claims, alleged histories and tales whose appeal owes much to human inventiveness and imagination.  In our own age films are often economic with the truth if it gets in the way of the story.  A brave and resourceful Scottish officer on the “Titanic”; honoured by a statue in his home town; is traduced in film as a stock English villain.  We need to preserve our critical faculties in dealing with claims about past.

The ancient Scotti were not confined to Scotland at the end of any migrations.  By place name and by name analysis they were littered across England as well.  The past is another country, recent scientific archaeological research is showing that very many long held assumptions and theories are untenable.

All others, the British (does this mean Celts?) who have been driven out, the destroyed Picts, and the recent troublesome neighbours are tainted with recent paganism and questionable attitudes.  The calculated vagueness of much of this is of interest.  The boundaries of the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland were not settled until after 1320, both sides having broader claims.

The implication of the Scots claim to be the true Christian Guardians might entail that the Holy Places of Lindisfarne with its links to Melrose, Durham, Jarrow, Whitby, Furness, Calder, Lansercost and others in the ancient territory of the Kingdom of Northumbria properly should be in the care of the King of Scots.

There are other questions, although one must very careful indeed of exporting the moral values of the present into the past.  For someone who has lived for most of the twentieth century some of the remarks cause acute discomfort.  For the essence of a new found nationality to be based not on a gathering or community of Christian souls but on the driving out (ethnic cleansing?) of the old British (Celts?) and the destruction (genocide?) of the Picts.  The Declaration then complains bitterly of the troubles with Norse, Danes, and English.

Even in 1320 it must have been evident that communities of Scandinavian origin still existed in Scotland, as well as other groups connected to communities in England.  Indeed, the document creates an English race where none existed as a provenance of a defined ethnic race of Scots.  If the Declaration is unique in any way it is as one of the earliest examples in Europe of attempting to create a national identity on a foundation of notional ethnic purity and hatred.

Clause Four
A Plea From The Heart

Perhaps it is in this clause that the voice of Abbot Bernard de Linton might be heard, backed by a Cistercian choir.  The hill country of the centre of the North might enable small groups of raiding parties, but any larger forces would have either the East Coast route to take or the West Coast depending on the tactics adopted.  For the Scots raiding South the East offered better booty, whereas the West was better only if the main attack had to be directed against the Northern Lords of the West.

For the Kings of England the West was better suited to a smaller Army that could draw mainly on the Northern Lords for its substance, and act as a rapid strike force.  The East was a better route for larger complex Armies from England because of the logistics, and tended to be most used.  This meant that when an Army from England moved into the Central Lowlands the lands of East Linton and Newbattle lay directly in their path, and any with a motive would take advantage of this vulnerability.

A number of the incursions from England were a response to the raiding and captive taking of the Scots.  Revenge was a motive and the ordinary Norman preference for taking manors intact to be realised as future assets might well be put aside in favour of applying the destructive tactics of the Scots to the Scots in reprisal.

Additionally, the use of numbers of continental mercenaries by the Kings of England would have contributed to the damage.  The mercenaries did not take the long term view of capital appreciation.  The family lands of de Linton lying directly in their path would have suffered more than most.

In the Old Testament The Books of Samuel and Kings deal with King David, his many wars and all the smiting of hips and thighs of the Philistines, Syrians, and Amalekites.  King Robert de Brus owed his throne to the descent from St. David, King of Scotland, and could call his House that of David.

This point of reference does not need to go the extent of describing the Kings Edward and their subjects as the creatures of Satan and the bringers of heresy.  To a Pope who was a party to allegations against the Templars and had entertained the persecution of the Spiritual Franciscans the line of argument was almost standard procedure for the more bitter disputes of the period.

It was a well-worn tactic to try to have your enemy excommunicated or to have an anathema preached against him.  It was a superior tactic to show them as unfit to rule a Christian Kingdom.  King Robert de Brus had been on the wrong end of the former under Pope Clement V at the bidding of the King of England and in the situation of 1320 a tit for tat complaint was only to be expected.

The notion of Scotland being a land at peace with itself before King Edward I arrived is in conflict with the historical evidence, even of the period, and does not sit easily with the claims of the second paragraph, but diplomatic submissions are rarely troubled by a quest for historical truth.  For Cistercians such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux in his 1146 Call to Crusade the Work of God should not be impeded by inconvenient facts.

The essence of the clause is the matter of the Good and the Bad.  If I am good, then you have to be bad.  In the way of the world at the time there were no shades of grey.  If my appeal to the Pope against you is to gain sway then I, my kin, and my servants, have to be good, indeed especially good, and you and yours have to be bad, really bad.  To misquote “1066 And All That”, then I am romantic and right whilst you are revolting and wrong.  As well as Good and Bad it is a matter of In and Out.

In 1320 the bid was for King Robert to be the King that was In and Good, and for King Edward II to be the King to be Out and Bad.  For seven years it remained, then Edward was murdered, perhaps by means of a hot poker pushed per rectum through his entrails at Berkeley Castle while his minder was at a meeting.  His Despencer favourite was dismembered on a hill outside Warwick and his remains nailed to the doors of Parish Churches as a Medieval form of instant communication.

Out of it all The King of Scots got his recognition, and the hand of a daughter of King Edward II for his son and heir, but little else.  Berwick became an English Borough, the Earldom of Northumberland remained with the boy King Edward III until 1377 when the Percy’s won it, and soon the round of raiding and counter raiding over the Borders, the dance of death, would begin again as the cash ran out, the weather worsened, and the plague arrived.

And the Mowbray’s moved closer to the throne of England.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Return Of Flashman Plus Part Five

In a cursory scan of some well trodden sites, there was one item that brought a warm glow to the thirst of the memory.

It was a tribute to Sir Harry Flashman, see Wikpedia, hero of George Fraser Macdonald's tales of derring do of the British Empire at its most active.

Of all places to look it is the Mises Institute that sings his praises, normally a sober, more or less, body that deals in economics and all that.  Sir Harry did not have much time for the dismal science only living life to the full.

It is a little time since I read the books in the spirit of historical inquiry and saw him as someone recognisable, if not quite up, or down, to Harry's standards.

Now the worlds of politics, finance government and the media mostly follow his models of behaviour and beliefs.  But not with the same success or drive.

Sir Harry, where are you when we need you?

1320 Declaration Of Arbroath Part Five


The document is divided into twelve clauses, a number with an inherent Christian meaning and the last two embody the normal courtesies, leaving ten active clauses.  The first opens with the formal courtesy necessary to such an address, and then continues to list the signatories.

It is a pity that commentaries on the Declaration do not list the names of others that are missing  In State papers what and who is left out, sometimes, can be of as much interest than the actual content.

Clause One
The Signatories

The trouble with genealogy is that it has several dimensions of time, space (location), family, marriage, community, and migration.  A great deal of reliable information is needed to begin to understand who connects to who and how, and the perceptions and beliefs of the Medieval mind are a world away from ours.  A great deal of the family information alone is lost to us from the early 1300’s even amongst the great men of their time.

The Declaration is a major document, and it is a pity there is limited direct information available on which to base a full-scale analysis of the signatories.  In the formula, Who, What, When, Where, Why, we are left with a number of questions about the background and connections of the Who.

Any analysis has to be tentative and proceed on the basis of what is known, rather than being conjectured from the deeper past.  Looking at the known families of the men listed it is hard to come to a conclusion other than the main thrust of their ancestry was the Northmen of old, not so much the domineering Norman French, but their close and distant kin from the several parts of Scandinavia, and notably the Viking Earls.

So behind a good many of the Scots nobles lie the figures of Hrolf The Ganger, the Norse and Swedish Kings, and the names of the Icelandic Saga’s, men who had carved out territories for themselves, their kin, and their friends.  Who they had sired their children from, and what sexual associations they had made amongst the women of other tribal groups, and to what effect can only be guessed at, let alone what the full extent and implications of the traffic in human flesh that were part of their life’s game and sources of wealth.

There is a mix of connections from the old Lords of the Isles, the early Kings of Scotland, the Normans and the Kin of The Conqueror, the Norse, Northumbrians, and the consequences of marriages to the chiefs, princes, thanes, earls, and rest of the many and various groups that had exercised governance over one part or another of the lands that came to be Scotland from the mid sixth century forward.

If the scientists are correct and there were major population reductions in the earlier part of the sixth century due to geo-physical events and then epidemics and longer periods of crop failure at times, then what remnants may have remained of the previous populations in what would have been a cold wet tundra and how far any of these were able to remain as a major tribal chiefdom is an open question.

By the 1320’s their memory would have been a collection of traces in the DNA, with nothing written and much lost in translation, whatever the minstrels might have sung in the spin of their propaganda.  The Scottish nobles were not a distinct ethnic group, still less the genetic inheritors of a single ancient tribe.  They were armed, organised, war lords with their personal war bands who had asserted personal control over whatever land could be taken and whoever could be coerced into their service or serfdom.

They may have assumed the role of tribal leaders, but they may have had little familial connection with those over whom they came to rule.  The consent of the ruled amounted to an agreement within the war band that the lord was the man to deliver on his promises and only if he delivered.

As far the rest of the population, one can only speculate what groups from all the demographic events were able to hang on in the scattered valleys and communities of a much disputed stretch of land and waters.  Then there were the effects of centuries of slaving transactions by tribal chiefs and others operating in and around the Atlantic Archipelago.  In Iceland much of the male DNA is Viking but a lot of the female Irish.

One name does catch the eye, that of Roger Mowbray.  Like the family history of most of the nobles this is a complicated tale, and one of the usual bath of blood.  There were two Houses of Mowbray.  The first ended with Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, in 1125 who died without issue, and his wife, Matilda, heiress of Richer de L’Aigle (de Aquila) remarried to Nigel D’Albini, founder of the Second House of Mowbray.

His son, Roger had two sons, Nigel, his heir, and Robert.  Nigel was on the point of taking seisin to become Earl of Northumberland when he died, and the title, in abeyance, remained in the hands of the King of England.

Nigel had four sons, the first of which, William, inherited as Baron, Lord Mowbray.  The third son, Philip de Mowbray went north to Scotland and took the lands of Barnbougle in Lothian.  Between the Second House and the First House there was a discrepancy of 280 Manors, so Philip may have taken some of the Scottish manors from the First House as well as the lands of his wife, Galiena, the daughter of Waldeve, Earl of Dunbar.

Philip’s grandson Galfrid, the 3rd of Barnbougle, married a sister of Black John Comyn, and the daughter of the Red John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Lochaber, murdered at Grey Friars, the Franciscan House at Dumfries in 1306, the event that led to King Robert de Brus being excommunicated, wrongly or rightly.

The Comyns’ had a claim to the Throne of Scotland, and were candidates when King Edward I chose John Baliol.  When King Robert de Brus acted against the family many of the Comyn lands were given to the Douglas’s.

Galfrid Mowbray had five sons, the two eldest dying young.  The third was the Roger Mowbray of the Declaration of 1320.  Later in the year he was arraigned for conspiracy, and executed, his land going mostly to the Douglas’s.  The fourth son, Sir Philip Mowbray fell at Dundalk earlier during the Irish venture serving Edward Bruce.  The remaining son was Galfried, who had issue.

Meanwhile in England the Mowbrays continued as one of the major magnate families.   They were involved in the Magna Carta revolt against King John; they rebelled against King Henry III, and the in period after Bannockburn they were prime opponents of and movers against the Despencer favourites of King Edward II. 

One of these opponents was Roger Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore and after 1328 Earl of March, and the partner of Queen Isabel.  It was in 1318 that Roger commanded the forces in Ireland in the campaign in Ireland in which Edward de Brus was killed.  His head was brought to England, and to quote Leland “unexpectedly laid, with other heads, on a table before King Edward II while seated at a banquet, with ambassadors from Scotland."

The Scotch ambassadors, rising from the table, hurried horror-stricken from the apartment.  The King of England received the head with great delight, and was “right blithe of the present, glad to be delivered of a felon foe.”  This occasion might be the point at which negotiations between England and Scotland broke down, and that King Robert I felt that it was time to review his options.

In 1318 at this point  Roger Mortimer was a member of the Middle party still seeking an agreement with King Edward, as opposed to the more extreme Ordainers, led by the Lancaster’s and the Mowbray’s who were anxious to bring the King and the Despecencers under close control.  In that year the Treaty of Leake was agreed between the various parties, but it proved only an interim measure.

Partly, this was because Roger Mortimer had returned to Ireland in 1319 and from that point relationships between the Crown and Court and the Lancaster’s and the Mowbray’s deteriorated steadily due to the King’s mishandling of the territorial ambitions of the rising Despencers.  By the middle of 1320 it was clear that armed conflict was impending and this broke out at the beginning of 1321.  The rebel Lords lost, but one effect was to bring Roger over to the opposition to the King and his favourites.

It was in March 1322 that John, the Baron de Mowbray was drawn by horses and left to hang in chains at York by Hugh Despencer under the warrant of King Edward II.  His son, John, was betrothed to and married Joan, the youngest daughter of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster.  Henry’s elder brother, Thomas the 2nd Earl, was beheaded outside Pontefract Castle in the same week in 1322.

They were grandsons of King Henry III by Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster.  By their mother, Blanche of Artois, of the French Royal House; widow of Henry, King of Navarre before marriage to Edmund; they were the great grandsons of King Louis VIII of France, the Prince Louis who in 1215 had been offered the throne of England by some of its leading barons and the opportunity to supplant King John.

There are a number of possibilities.  John de Mowbray, based in the Royal Honour of Pontefract, then a large part of mid Yorkshire was kin to most of the major families in England.  Given the extent, nature, and influence of their family connections, were some of the Northern Earls of England and their affiliates were willing to make an alliance with King Robert de Brus, however temporary, as a security in the pursuit of their own disputes with King Edward II and his Despencer favourites?

The Earldom of Northumberland was a major prize, despite the wreckage of the territories it encompassed, irrespective whether it came from the hands of the King of England or the King of Scots.  The boundaries between Scotland and England were still then open to dispute, would any of the Mowbray family receive it as his fief and as his price?

Friday, 29 August 2014

Carswell Clouts Cameron and Part Four

Clacton on Sea is a place where the air is notoriously fresh and there is a lot of it, especially when there is a winter wind whipping off the North Sea.  It may well be one reason why their local Tory Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell, has decided that enough is enough and he is off join UKIP.

If, as distinguished scientists say, those nasty particles in the air in London do affect the brain thanks to all the diesel fuel being used now in the name of carbon control, think the workings of the mind of Boris Johnson, then he may well be more in tune with reality than most of Westminster.

As for the implications and what may happen is just a guessing game at the moment, there is not much to say, just to claim that my view that the confusions will get worse and not much, if anything, can be predicted may be right.

The major issue in this case is whether I played rugger against his father.  If he turned out for his hospital team when a medical student then there is a good chance.  Stranger things have happened.

But does concussion run in the family?

1320 The Declaration Of Arbroath Part Four


According to William Shakespeare no great political event should be without its ghosts, malignant or benign.  The practice of monarchs and many others down the ages to conduct gatherings of high state at or close to the tombs of the deceased of noble memory suggests that he did not exaggerate.

In the case of the Declaration of Arbroath some of the ghosts were King Philip IV The Fair, died 1314, the father of Queen Isabel, wife of King Edward II; his eldest son King Louis X, The Quarrelsome, died 1316; the second son King Philip V The Long, was alive at the time and reigned 1316 to 1328.

The matter of France was an integral part of the pattern of war and peace between the King of England and the Scots, and could no more be ignored than the intricacies of the family links and their implications.  Certainly, the problems of the relationship between Scotland and England may have been the main event for the Scots, but for the King of England there were other priorities.

There are two interesting tests of those of the Kings of England, one is marriages that they made, and the other is their image.  A simple answer for England would have been for a King or his heir to marry a daughter or potential heiress of the King of Scots.  After King Henry I none did, and it is arguable that although his wife Matilda (Eadgith) was the daughter of King Malcolm III, Caennmor, it was her claim to the throne of England through her mother, St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, and the Princess Heiress of England, that was more significant in the year 1100.

The Kings of England married French and other Princesses from Europe, to bolster their claim to the throne of France on the one hand and for size of the dowries on the other.  Some daughters married into Scotland and in the genealogies of the major English families there are some references to marriages to the daughters of Scots Kings, none reliable, but they occur in families of lesser nobility and knights, for example, the Hoo.

In the marriage market of the Middle Ages, Scotland did not do well.  It was when the kin of the Kings of England had engaged in their mutual destruction of the Wars of the Roses followed by the paranoia of the Tudors that the market improved for the Scots Stuarts, King James IV was given the hand of Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII.

The arrogant military pretensions of King Henry VIII in his wars against France and Scotland, led to closer Scots links to France, the marriage of a De Guise to King James V and that of Mary, their daughter, first to the Francis II of France then and later a widow to Darnley and a claimant to the Throne of England and left them positioned to gain the Throne of England in 1603 and the levers of full power.

As for the image, until the beginning of the 18th Century, the Arms of the King of England had the Fleur-de-Lis of France in the first and fourth, the major quarters, and of Anjou (the three lions) in the minor second and third.  So the statement was to insist on the principle that the King of England was de jure the King of France, and that England was the secondary fief by virtue of the descent from the House of Anjou.  If this seems strange to the modern mind, it would not be to the medieval.

The modern estimates of population for the lands of the King of France at the turn of the 13th and 14th Centuries in the time of King Philip IV vary between ten and twenty million.  It was a rich, fertile, cultured political entity whose elite was long standing origins, and with a system of Roman and Feudal Law that had developed its own characteristics.

In comparison, England was populated by only about three million souls; was poorer, less cultured, plagued by brigandage, and suffered persistent instability amongst the magnate families.  It was a land where an intruded and small minority elite caste had held sway for eight generations over a rabble of surly burghers and peasants who had maintained adherence to their pre Conquest Common Law, Parish administration, and the concept of the Hundreds and Wapentakes.

Eventually this was to compromise the type of Feudal Law fastened on after 1066.  The Norman Ascendancy needed the revenues, manpower, and organisation that the old system could deliver.  It did not have the numbers to man twelve thousand parishes with its own men, only to dominate the larger entities, the centres of power, and key areas.

To a Norman-French King of England in the early 1300’s, the Robert de Brus, who had become King of Scots, was a dangerous potential rival and had to be put in his place as a vassal or eliminated, like several others.  The Brus began as liege men to the Montgomery kin of the Conqueror, all being members of the Norman Ascendancy and then in fief to the King of England.  Some of the turbulent Montgomerys’ and their liege men, including the Brus had been sent north to remove them from the Welsh Marches.

Since then the de Brus family had gained ground, and had made marriages of crucial importance, putting them within the networks of some of the great magnate families of England and France.  Not only did the de Brus connection to the De Clare family bring potential allies, but blood kin as well, King Robert  I was directly descended from King Henry I of England; son of King William The Conqueror; through his bastard son by an unknown mistress, Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester.

In England the magnate families, De Clare, Mortimer, Mowbray, FitzAlan, and others were still close to cousins across the Channel.  The disasters of the reign of King John had lost them their feudal rights in the Duchy of Normandy.  The French upstart Kings, entrenched by the early 1300’s could be dislodged only by a substantial campaign.  To make such an effort meant the back door, Scotland, had to be secured, and the miserable failure of King Edward II in 1314 meant that the brief period of opportunity offered by the death of King Philip IV was lost.

For the Scots, they were faced by a real dilemma.  In theory one might expect Normans to remain close to Normans, and Angles with Angles, and there were plenty of both in the Scottish Lowlands; as well as Norse in the north and in Cumberland to the south.

Moreover, there was a scattering of other groups down both the western and eastern coasts of Britain, for example old Scotti located in East Anglia as well as elsewhere.  Also there were the forgotten simple migrants of the Middle Ages, the descendants of those driven North by William the Conqueror when he devastated much of Yorkshire and beyond.  Then were added the smugglers, the slavers and peripatetic traders who did not concern themselves much about the finer points of nationality.  But the immediate political picture was much more complex.

Close association with an England at war would affect Scottish trade with France and the Low Countries badly and disproportionately.  Also, as a fief of the King of England they would be expected to provide men and treasure for the continuing conflict with France.  With the very fine margins of the Scottish economy at the time, again Scotland could suffer disproportionately if the wars went on.  Given that most Scots trade goods were in competition with those of England, the advantage lay in direct trade with the continent to reap the full added value of their produce, and France was a prime market.

If the simple question were asked, where were the major sources of wealth and power in the Europe of 1320, the answer was France, the Low Countries and Burgundy, Saxony and Bavaria, the Hanseatic League, the city states of Northern Italy, and inevitably, the Papacy.  The commercial logic was to demerge from England and look for the best deal available on the market.

In 1320 this had to be one that would benefit both the leading religious and the secular interests in Scotland, and meet the political needs of Scotland at the time.  The logic of applying to a Papacy linked to the Kings of France appeared to the small Scots oligarchy to be inexorable.

Any address to the Pope was indirectly for the consumption and sympathetic ear of the French through the major intermediary available in Christendom.  If the Scots were to maintain their separation from and discourage immediate incursions by the King of England then Papal approval allied to the support of the French was critical.  The haplessness of the reign of King Edward II and the existing confusion and turmoil in England would not last forever so long as it remained a single political entity under one king.

The reign of King Philip IV The Fair is said by some to represent the apogee of the France of the Medieval Age, before the emergence of France the nation state.  It had grown by taking in, and sometimes grabbing, overlordships within its grasp.  Navarre had been included, with failed attempts to expand in Spain.

The difficulty for a potential client principality was that the King of France could be as arbitrary and unpredictable in taxation and trade matters as any King of England.  Additionally any direct approach to the French by the Scots seeking an arms length overlordship might have the effect of enabling a truce between the King of England and some of his Northern Lords, who had their own ambitions, to resume warfare.

In 1302 Flanders had risen against the King of France, and King Philip IV moved to deal with it.  The Army of the King of France at that time was the most formidable force in Europe, having a mass of heavy horse to deploy in the charge as well as trained bands of other troops in support.  The Flemings had militia on foot, in effect infantry with few heavy and other horse.   At Courtrai when these armies faced each other, it was assumed that the French would overwhelm the rebels.

However, the tactics the Flemish militia’s adopted, massing groups of long pikes protected with trenching and other obstacles, perhaps advised by Captains from parts of what is now Germany, broke up the French cavalry charge and led to a massacre of the French chivalry, five times greater than the losses of King Edward II in 1314.

King Robert de Brus learned the lesson, but King Edward II did not, perhaps under the influence of his Queen and her friends, and the result was the famous victory at Bannockburn of 1314.  Later, King Edward III of England did learn the lesson, and added massed longbow men to his battle plans.  The French, however, proudly carried on charging with massed heavy horse, and losing, until after Agincourt in 1415.

The effect of the settlement in Flanders after 1302 was to stimulate a series of large-scale consultation meetings in France, together with the issue of Charters and Liberties.  These formed a critical part of the settlement in Flanders, addressed problems with the Barons of France, and dealt with the sensitivities of newly acquired overlordships, to maintain the impetus of French expansion under King Philip IV and his successors.

Between what was happening in France and in the Church in dealing with its subordinate agencies in the period 1300-1320 in Europe there was a continuing blizzard of vellum documents representing political and religious settlements and organisational arrangements of one sort or another.

Another relevant European set of events occurred in what is now Switzerland.  In 1291 three of the mountain cantons under the rule of the Habsburgs formed the Eternal Bond Of Brothers.  In 1315 they went on to defeat a Habsburg attempt to exercise direct control and the Pact of Brunnen allowed them a quasi-independent status as a part of the Germanic confederation.

This arrangement suited both the French, anxious to curb the Habsburg ambitions, and the Pope, by creating a buffer state between the Papal States in Italy and southern Savoy and the lands of Louis of Bavaria in the north.

The Swiss, possibly linked to the early types of the Landsknecht pike men of the southern territories in what is now Germany, proved impossible to defeat by the use of horsed troops and the conventional mobbed foot levies of the time.

In that period the Declaration was not unique, it was one part of a complicated and connected set of events in a Europe where conflict and change were endemic over a long period.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Rotherham Plus Part Three

The report and media coverage on Rotherham and child and youngsters welfare  already has a flood of attention.  But this is not the first time.

Around forty years ago and more there was another report about matters in an area close by in what became South Yorkshire, but then within the West Riding County Council and local district council's authority.

It was called the Auckland Report, after the peer who conducted the inquiry, which was both damning and alarming at the time.  Unluckily, the information has not been found on the web, so exactly where, what and when is not known.

There is the larger question, however, of how many forms of crime are now no longer policed beyond giving out crime numbers for insurance purposes.