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.

1320 The Declaration Of Arbroath Part Three


The assembly at Arbroath was framed in terms of others that had come to be a regular practice on the continent, parallel to, and seeking to have the status of other assemblies addressing similar questions.  The debate over similarities with earlier purely English charters or methods is misleading, and has distracted attention from the more important arenas of political and theological activity at that time.  The 1215 Magna Carta of King John of England may be a stylish document, but in essence was a set of property arrangements between a landless King and his obstreperous Barons.

Because of the role played by the Religious interests, their function, and the purpose of the Declaration, it could not be a purely ad hoc Scottish formula.  It had to be consistent with the established procedures with which the Pope was familiar and by which the regular business of the Curia was conducted in the period.  The events on the continent in the immediate preceding period created a many and varied precedents for an event and a plea of this kind, and therefore the Declaration that resulted.

The key question is what was realistic for the Scots at the time.  Did they believe that the Declaration of itself was enough to assure the French of a continued close association in terms of Scotland being a wholly independent entity?  But was that really possible in the European economic conditions of the period with much of Scotland being an impoverished upland grazing ground at the end of the Atlantic Archipelago, bereft of either bullion or an established merchant class of any size?

Then there was the difficult theological question, that no temporal ruler or principality, or even Empire, could be independent.  God ruled, through his Word, and the Church was the means of delivery. So did the Scots in real terms opt for the indirect status, effectively, of a Papal State via the Magistracy of the Papacy, itself then a satellite of France?

The Scots elite did not want to be as they were at the time, a small entity under permanent threat from its larger southern neighbour.  They were also vulnerable.  The Great Famine of 1315-1317 had left its mark across Northern Europe, more so in the poorer less fertile areas than the richer.  The failed attempt to extend authority in Ireland, 1316-1318, and defeat at Dundalk, had reduced their military capability.

The confusion of the period has several conflicting possibilities.  It may be that not one, but all could have been in play in the shifting politics and anxiety of the age.  And, there was still Norway to the north, and in possession of the Shetland Isles.  The ice was moving south as the climate deteriorated and forcing the sons of Vikings to look at their options.

The global cooling was having its effects across Europe, bringing hunger and storms and the loss of more than crops.  In the 1320’s, the sea took almost all the great port of Dunwich in Suffolk; where a local Scott family were leading merchants.  An isolated untroubled wholly independent status was not a realistic option.  Protection and moral authority had to come from somewhere and the King and main body of nobles did not want to associate with the flawed, unpredictable, violent monarchy of England, its magnates, and their hired mercenaries.

The potential problems in the continuing dispute between France and England were a witches brew, a maelstrom of ambition for territory, for revenues, for power, mingled with a hatred for The Other whether foe or family. There is little to be certain about.  Isabella, the daughter of King Philip IV The Fair, as an ambitious Queen of England and becoming distant from King Edward II, had her own furrow to plough, that was not parallel to that of her husband’s.  In 1314 it had been necessary for the King of England to attempt to secure Scotland before proceeding to take on France over the quarrels that concerned the Fief of Gascony, then held by the Kings of England under homage to the King of France.

By 1319 one serious possibility she had to consider was that her French brother with his urgent reforms was planning to intervene in Gascony or England itself if the situation deteriorated there to the point of chaos.  It would not be a new idea.  In 1215 during the crisis of the final years of the reign of King John of England, the Prince Louis of France, heir to the throne of France, had landed in England, established himself in Kent, and had been offered the throne of England by a number of Barons.

In the same year the Barons of Northumberland had offered to change their allegiance from King John to Alexander, King of Scots.  It was feasible that a similar venture could be undertaken with the Scots support and their price for the head of King Edward II being that they would retain their self governing status as a Quasi Papal State similar to others in Europe but in tutelage and under subsidy to the French.

In the French bracket of the equation of power is another element, the issue of the invocation of the Salic Law in France in 1317 when King Philip V, then without issue himself, took steps to set aside the claims of his infant niece, the only surviving child of King Louis X.  This applied not only to her prospective children, but also to his sister, Queen Isabella of England, and to her son the future King Edward III of England, incidentally protecting the claims of the then Comte de Valois, uncle to King Philip V.  Looking at their genealogies if the Salic Law were applied retrospectively then a great many further complications could arise.

For example, King Henry II of England, the founding King of the House of Anjou, the Plantagenets, had inherited through his mother, and so King Edward II arguably could be a false King.  In the later parts of the 14th Century the business and arguments over the Salic Law formed one of several casus belli in the Hundred Years War between the Norman-French in England and the French-Normans in Paris.

Also, the events of the three years to 1317 had changed the game and Queen Isabel could be just a heartbeat from the throne of France in her own right and so the right of her son.  If France fell to Isabel were she to overturn the new implementation of the Salic Law, then Scotland could be dealt with on her own terms and in her own time.  What would have been the options of the Valois claimants to the throne of France to deal with this continuing threat?  The Valois may have needed the Scots as much as King Philip V, a useful conjunction of interests in the debates over the Declaration.  The fog of politics leads to the fog of war.

It is impossible to be clear about which great matter might have been the key to policy, nor should one assume consistency or rationality in policy making or responses.  If there seem to be conflicting issues, this would have been the way of the times.  In the 21st Century, even with modern communications and systems, governments are still prone to incoherence in their business.  In 1320 there was clearly a complete lack of coherence of any sort in England, but one should not assume that this implies the opposite in Avignon, Paris, or Arbroath.

For France links and alliances with Scotland were necessary to the curbing of the Kings of England and their ambitions to recreate the Empire of the Angevins, and to assert their claim to France.  But it was a separate Scotland they wanted, within their influence and control, although perhaps augmented by the lands of the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria.  What they did not want was a King of Scots to take control of England, and then assume the ambitions and policies of its Norman Kings.

If a militarily capable entity such as the King of Scots was able to persuade those magnates of England who were locked in dispute with their King to support him, then England could be taken in a single campaign, especially if the Merchants in London backed them.

A forgotten factor is that, as well as the descent from King Henry I through his bastard son Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and being Kin of the Conqueror through the De Clare connections, King Robert de Brus had a claim by a series of legitimate births to the Throne of England by his descent from St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland and wife of King Malcolm III, Caennmor.

But the ambitions of King Robert de Brus and his supporting nobles may have been more limited than to attempt the eventual takeover of England.  An attempt to dismantle the existing structure in England (the Scottish Stuarts and their cronies tried to do this in the 17th Century with disastrous results for the political structure and the economy of both Scotland and England) to impose the Scottish vision of Liberty; the absolute rule of the territorial baron, would have been beyond them.

Man for man, the Norman magnates in England could field many more mercenaries and men than the Scots and any takeover in England would have to be on their terms.  They were not men who were easily controlled.  But there was still opportunity within the lands of the King of England.  The Declaration states that once England was enough for several Kingdoms.  King Robert de Brus, among others, had a claim to the Earldom of Northumberland, then in abeyance, through his descent from Henry, a previous Earl and a son of King David I of Scotland.

After 1066 William The Conqueror had pursued his claims to the North of England and Northumbria with a singular ruthlessness, a vicious, destructive, devastating, depopulating campaign that is amongst the worst known in the gruesome history of Medieval Britain, and exceeded the vileness of the later atrocities by others on both sides.  As a Baron in the Borders my Liberty meant your serfdom or slavery for the taken peoples.

A later French invader might have been content to stop at the line of the Humber and the Ribble, keep the richer and productive part, and leave the scattered uplands and shattered ancient Kingdom of Northumbria as a buffer state or Scottish fiefdom.

So is the Declaration, among other things, a Scottish offer to the French of the dismemberment of England under the authority of a Pope to take advantage of the continuing weakness of King Edward II?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Scratching For Results Plus Part Two

If heavy duty history related to the Scottish matter is too much here is today's alternative gleaned from E Science News.

It might have you itching for more and make you wonder if diversity is always a good thing.

Fungus is often less than fun.

1320 The Declaration Of Arbroath Part Two


The ramifications of the politics, the disputes, and the complexity of relations between the various religious entities in Scotland in the High Middle Ages is worth several theses at least.  It is necessary to keep to the obvious.  By 1320 the Templars had gone, but whether a hidden remnant remained is a mystery.  Their replacements, the Knights’ of St. John were recent.

There were a number of Orders with their own interests and polities.  The presence of the Order of The Most Holy Trinity for The Redemption of Captives in  (The Trinitarians) in Ayr raises some delicate and difficult questions, particularly in relation to the imbalances in Scottish customs revenues, not accounted in terms of ordinary trading.

There were Franciscans, Augustinians, differing groups of the Orders of the Benedictines, and the Premonstratensiens.  Nevertheless, in 1320 in Scotland the three Orders that mattered when it came to State business and who were crucial to the Declaration of Arbroath were the Tyronensian Benedictines, the Dominican Blackfriars, later the Inquisitors of the Church, and the Cistercians with their parallel interests to the south.

The Abbeys of Arbroath and Kilwinning were both of the Tyronensian foundation of the Order of the Benedictines, and Bernard de Linton had been the Abbot of the latter before preferment to the former.  In the Borders, the Abbey of Kelso, a foundation of King David I was another.  They were all establishments with large holdings of lands and substantial incomes.

In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council had recommended that the 37,000 houses of the Orders of the Benedictines instead of being grouped administratively in a variety of linked groups be brought together in Congregations of the various principalities and kingdoms.  By the time of Pope John XXII in 1316 little progress had been made except, significantly, in England, where Cantuar, the Archbishopric of Canterbury, with Royal support, had forced the issue.

Were Scotland to become a fief of the King of England, the large Tyronensian Houses of Arbroath, Kilwinning and Kelso would be subsumed into the Benedictine Congregation of England.  Almost certainly this would have had implications for prestige, influence, standing in the Church, hopes for a Cardinal’s hat, and not least, finances.  The direct line to the Pope would go, as would a fair part of the revenues, to England and to Canterbury.

It was known that Pope John XXII was determined to deal with the problems of the administration and the structure of the Order of the Benedictines during his papacy, and he had a preference for having large number of small political elements to deal with rather than a small number of large, powerful, richer, ones.  Abbot Bernard de Linton, a Scots prelate of a Scots landed family, an ambitious man with a strong political role in Scotland would have seen only one option open to him, and that was separation from Canterbury.

There were eight Houses of the Order of St. Dominic in Scotland one of which was a major presence in the Royal Burgh of Ayr.  Ayrshire and the South West of Scotland was the power base of the de Brus family and there is evidence of his interest in and favour to the Dominicans in Ayr.  In the time of his exile, they had come to his support at a critical juncture.  In 1328 they were given the right to have their meal ground free at the Burgh mills of Ayr.  At this time the Royal Burghs were under the direct rule of the King of Scots, administered by the Sheriff and his agents, the Bailiffs or Praepositors, and they did not have the elected and representative assemblies of later centuries.  In 1320 the Royal Burghs were properties for the development and promotion of trade and commerce, providing cash flows in a Scotland starved of silver and serving both God and Mammon.

In the Royal Burgh of Ayr the Dominicans stood for God, and their role is of critical importance, given the Pope’s background.  In 1318 the Dominican Abbey of St. Andrew’s had been newly consecrated in the presence of King Robert.  Like the Order of Benedictines it is very probable that the Scottish Houses wanted to maintain their distinct role as a defined separate foundation in the Order of Dominic, directly answering to their own Master and allotted Visitor, as opposed to being a backwater of the English organisation, subject probably to London, with all the disadvantages of such subordination.

The Cistercians were an austere Order who had gained a major political grip on the affairs of the Church since the time of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.  They were a trading order with interests across Europe and this was an important part of their revenue.   Their perspective was not the narrow confines of a poor scattered set of tribal communities attempting to create a polity, but the needs of a Church militant engaged across Europe with a mission to the Holy Land.

They were the power within the Curia, the Pope’s bureaucracy and means of authority.  In Scotland they were at Newbattle, founded from the powerful Melrose that was linked by the memory of St. Cuthbert to Lindisfarne and to Durham.  They were in continuing contact with the great Cistercian Houses of the North of England, of Fountains, Jervaulx, the Byland of the Mowbrays, Furness and others.

Because of their locations and wealth they had suffered both from the incessant and rapacious Scots raiding in the North of England, and the military strikes and reprisal raids into Southern Scotland.  The Houses in Scotland may not have wished to be drawn into a general English grouping that might have meant governance from London.  They might have been attracted by the economic and political potential of an eventual territorial settlement and arrangements that led to them operating jointly with their brother Houses in the Earldom of Northumberland, or the old Kingdom of Northumbria, under a King of Scots.

One question that might be dealt with, and that would indicate that the overall position was not quite as simple as it appeared is why the meeting for the Declaration was held at Arbroath, and not at Dunfermline, the great Benedictine Abbey, and burial place of the revered St. Margaret of Scotland.  Dunfermline was linked to Canterbury.

It was St. Margaret who brought from Hungary as her escort Magyar horseman descended from the Huns of old to give a cutting edge to the army of Malcolm Caennmor.  The Huns are said to be the founders of the family of Drummond.  If so, then through many Scottish hearts flows the DNA of Attila the Hun.  Given the purpose of the Declaration, the inconsistencies would have been evident to a learned Scholar.  A Pope displaced from Rome would not wish to be reminded of Attila.

More subtly, not only was the Abbey of Arbroath a foundation of King William The Lion, over whose grave the terms of the document were agreed, but it was dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, cut down in 1170 by liege men of King Henry II of the House of Anjou, ruler of the then Angevin Empire which included the conquered realm of England.

The Norman men had over reacted to personal losses of money and land, and humiliation suffered at the hands of the predatory and litigious Thomas. The consequences were disastrous, causing an upheaval across Christian Europe and affecting the nature of relationships between the Church and States for long after, as the justification of a firmer attitude of the Church to temporal power.  On a scale of Papal authority, Pope John XXII rated as high as any, and it was the quality of Papal firmness to which the Declaration was addressed.

The issue is what line of reasoning would be the most acceptable to the Pope, would gain his support and sympathy, and just as important, bring the Curia into action on the side of the King of Scots?  It would not be an appeal based on the views of the Order of the Franciscans.  It was at the Franciscan Abbey of Dumfries that King Robert I had earned his excommunication by the murder of John Comyn.

For the Pope the standing of the Franciscans had been damaged by the disputes and the taint of heresies, and the divisions and uncertainty in its ranks.  It had been compounded by the vigorous action he had been obliged to take against elements within the Franciscan Order in the immediate period previous to 1320.

It is said that no man is a prophet in his own country.  John Duns Scotus the Franciscan, who died in 1308, had a following at the time and his conceptual structure as it applied to politics and states certainly has had substantial influence and the benefit of posterity.  He may have been a respected Scholar with a following across Christendom, but that does not mean that the men who produced the Declaration were disposed to follow his thinking, or indeed take much notice of him at all.

In any case his concept of free will was to do primarily with Man’s immortal soul and his relationship to Christ, and only secondarily having a political meaning in the temporal world that became of more interest to a later world.  The order of loyalty in the Medieval Church world was first to God, then the Church and its Vicar the Pope, then your Order, and then to your House.  In practice this often suffered a reversal.

The reality of life was more intricate, and some accommodation with the local temporal elites often had to be made. But to assume that because John Duns Scotus may have had his personal origins in Scotland (a matter of debate, he could have been a Scott from Dunwich) that necessarily his thinking is at the root of the Declaration is to engage in a circular argument.  The matters to which he gave his mind were under profound study by others, also Schoolmen in the highest ranks.

That the work of John Duns Scotus has been looked on as seminal in later centuries does not mean that the Churchmen engaged in the cut and thrust of the politics of the early years of the 14th Century would have been dependent on his theories.  The Dominicans, their allies the Premonstratensians, the Cistercians and the Benedictines had their own perspectives on the operative doctrines of the Church to promote.

Similarly to assume that Declaration was only really a political business and of major interest to the landed elites, because that is of more interest in later centuries, than the intricate theology of the Medieval Church and the interests of the major Orders of Churchmen at the time is to impose the present on the past. 

For the Declaration of Arbroath, with a Dominican centralising Pope, a Curia dominated by Cistercians, the Augustinians still being a major Order, and a need to gain support within the Benedictine Order, followers of the St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo; because of the needs of the time, you do not submit a document redolent of the philosophy of a disputed and possibly heretical Scholar some of whose more devoted adherents are still visible only by the smoked remnants of their mortal flesh left on public view as a visual aid to practical theology whilst others are being excommunicated or hunted down as heretics.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

1320 Declaration Of Arbroath Part One

In the debate on the Scottish Referendum there are references to the past as if what was there so long ago has much to do with the now.  One source is to select small parts of the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 and to say little or nothing about the more inconvenient parts or aspects of the time which are at sharp variance with the present.

A while back I did a analysis of the Declaration.  It runs to near 14,000 words, so it is divided into seven parts to be posted over the new few days.  As a declaration of interest, in my ancestry there are King Robert I and King Edward II along with the members of their respective magnate classes.

One significant issue is that in 1320 it was as much a religious matter as a political one and this may be hard to understand or believe.



The “Declaration of Arbroath” is an elegant, and deceptively simple document.  Given the time and the circumstances, it betrays a masterly hand, and an ability to convey a complex of ideas in direct form, succinct prose and without redundancies.  We know little other than the Latin text of the document.  We have no agendas for the meeting or meetings that led to its final form, no supporting papers, no minutes, no record of debates or proceedings, no files, and no correspondence.

We do have the signatory names listed in the document, and that the Abbey of Arbroath was the place of its promulgation.  The Abbot of the Abbey of Arbroath at the time was Bernard de Linton, and the assumption; too easily made; is that he was the author, and by implication was responsible.  Certainly, it would have to bear his imprimatur and would need his support; it would be his due as the Abbot of Arbroath, a leading cleric of Scotland at the time, and with the ear of The King.

The date of the Declaration is 6th April 1320.  It was not only the beginning of the New Year at that time, but it was the Sunday following the Day of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday.  It assumes that the major Clergy and their retinues, the nobles and followers, and the Court and all their servants had assembled by Psalm Sunday for their deliberations.  Much of the time would have been occupied by the observance of the rites of Easter and the formalities of State, and then by the celebrations following Easter Day.

The dating of the document implies that those involved had been shriven of their sins and were in full communion with the Church.  Consequently, the meeting at Arbroath probably was in essence a formality to agree a final draft recommended by the Church in Scotland and the King.  That a previous meeting at Newbattle Abbey; a Cistercian House, had been the place for some initial discussions and drafting of the Declaration would be consistent with the pattern of Church politics of the time.

They would have been in a hurry, because previous assemblies of the Scottish Parliament had met in Berwick, but the troops of King Edward II had returned and were building walls.  The threat of another incursion looked imminent, whatever the problems in England at the time.  It was important to regain control of Berwick, it was one of the two major ports of Scotland for trade to the continent, and its potential loss had major revenue, monetary, and economic consequences, compounding the problems that existed already after the Scottish adventure in Ireland had failed.

There are basic questions to be asked about the Declaration.  Who was the Pope to whom it was addressed?  What considerations could have been known or assumed to be at the forefront of his mind?  What was the immediate political context of the document?  Who were the men listed, and what were their interests?  What exactly was the document saying both in the context of the language in which it was written and in the theological and philosophical context of the period?  What kind of document is it and what was it trying to achieve?


In 1320 the Pope was John XXII, whose papacy lasted until 1334.  After the death of Pope Clement V in 1314 the Holy See was vacant for over two years because of disputes between the French and Italian Cardinals.  Eventually, after his coronation, King Philip V of France was able to bring a Conclave together at the Dominican Monastery at Lyon, a city recently added to the realm of France.  Jacques D’Euse, then Cardinal-Bishop of Porto, was chosen, took the name John XXII, and fixed his residence at Avignon, to which the Papacy had been moved only a few years before after troubles in Italy.  Aged 66 then, he may have been seen as a stopgap choice, but he lived into his 85th year and made his mark on the Church.

Pope John was a man was born in Cahors, a city within the Province of Gascony, now the South West of France.  The city had created a near independent role for itself, but the Lords of Gascony were the Kings of England, who owed homage to the King of France for this fief as a result of the complicated political events of the previous century.

These were accompanied by violence and military campaigns. Educated by the Dominicans, John became learned in Law at Montpelier and Paris, and taught at Toulouse and Cahors.  His academic studies would have embraced the writing and teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Albertus Magnus, who had sought to embody and reconcile the rediscovered philosophy of the Ancient World within the compass of the doctrines and teaching of the Church, and the theology of the Bible and the Divine Fathers.  They had been great Scholars and leaders within the Dominican Order.

In 1300 John was Bishop of Frejus, then within a Papal State, with the support of King Charles II of Naples.  In 1310 he became Bishop of Avignon, the city on the Rhone at the edge of the Papal State that then existed in what is now the Var region of south eastern France, and where the papacy of Pope Clement V had established its Curia.  He moved to Porto in 1312 with the grant of the red hat of a Cardinal.  Possibly, this elevation marked a reward for the critical work he had undertaken in the suppression of the Order of the Knight’s Templar, and the shift of the key banking role in Western Christendom to the more malleable Lombards.

Pope John followed closely the political and religious movements in all the known countries, and sought on all occasions the advancement of ecclesiastical interests.  He believed in the supreme influence of the papacy in political matters, and was at the centre of many of the upheavals and bitter disputes of the period.  This is not the place to rehearse all the complex and difficult issues involving the Church of the period.

The salient points are that the disputes within the Church had to be addressed and dealt with, dissent and indiscipline put down; that Pope John wished to reform the administration of the Orders of Benedictines; that he regarded the Papacy as the heir to Imperial Rome and resisted the imperial ambitions of European monarchs and that he was deeply involved in trying to control and discipline the developing theology and philosophy of the Church.  The Pope was a Dominican of his time, an inquisitor in the sense of theological enquiry, who worked with the Cistercians who dominated the Curia.

The critical internal issue in the first years of his Papacy within the Church was to deal with the destructive division and turmoil within the Order of the Franciscans that threatened to imperil the peace of the Church and its influence.  The “Spirituals” had rebelled in the South of France and in Italy and refused to submit to the Pope’s decisions.  Many of the rebels were under the influence of the new teaching of the followers of John Duns Scotus and his successor William of Ockham of England.  Those who refused to yield and accept the authority of the Pope in 1317 were hunted down and burnt at the stake.

The theological and philosophical dispute continued however, it would be several centuries later before the Doctrine of Infallibility was proclaimed.  The culmination later was when Michael of Cessna, William of Ockham, and Bonagratia di Bergamo retreated and sought the protection of King Louis of Bavaria.    That John’s view was unchanged by 1327 is shown by his excommunications at that time, which included Marsiglio of Padua.  Marsiglio’s work the “Defensor Pacis” of 1324 is clearly influenced by the Franciscan Scholar movement, which should include Roger Bacon, the early proponent of scientific method as well as John Duns Scotus and his proteges.

The Pope was also financially embarrassed by the loss of Rome by his predecessor, by the need to set up shop in Avignon and maintain his State, and the expense of maintaining an expert capable centralised Curia system of Church governance.  All roads did not lead to Rome, they led to Avignon, and money was needed to grease the wheels, or rather, feed the mules.  This was a costly business, and by the early 14th Century two developments had occurred.  The rapid growth of the European economy in the previous century had been based largely on increasing production of silver.  This had slowed by the end, and by then one of the main producers was the Kingdom of Bavaria. 

The growth of wealth however had increased the demand for consumer goods from the East, and that meant a significant outflow.  This could be reclaimed only by trade with the Muslim countries; notably exporting iron, timber, textiles, slaves, and grain that served as materials for peace or war according to the needs of the Muslim buyers.  Pope John had a running dispute with King Louis of Bavaria over his ambitions to be the King of All Germany and to take on the role of Holy Roman Emperor that had been the title of Charlemagne.  A key element in all Pope John’s diplomacy was to contain the authority and power of Kings wherever possible and to assert his role as the Vicar of Christ.

As well as all these considerations, Pope John addressed the question of Papal income from benefices and the right of spoils attached to the death of Bishops.  Pope John often asked for special subsidies in addition.  In 1319 he reserved to himself all the minor benefices falling vacant in the Western Church in the next three years.  It is difficult to see the terms relating to the Pontiff in the Declaration of Arbroath as other than an implied promise to pay on request; keeping the promise may have been another matter.  In contrast the Kings of England were attempting to hinder the increasing drain of money and lands to the Church and Pope.

There were other events; by 1320 another major persecution of the Jews was under way, always a reliable indicator of general economic and financial problems. King Philip V had expelled the Jews from the territories under his immediate control in 1318, and now the Crusade of the Shepherds was under way in southern France and the surrounding areas with its expulsions, massacres, and all the rituals of medieval ferocity, both in Gascony and the areas around Avignon.

The slaving interests that were active preyed on these unfortunates and others.  There was some confusion about who was Jewish, so in 1326 Pope John ordered the wearing of a yellow patch by Jews to prevent misunderstandings.

To add to the fears and troubles, the Cathars with their heresy still kept their beliefs alive, and there were other heresies and groups to be identified and extirpated.  If you were able to choose the right doctrine then Theological correctness defined Political correctness.