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Timeline. Fire and blood: key events in Border history

1286: The “golden age” of the borders ended. Scots king Alexander III fell of a cliff to his death. England began its attempts to dominate Scotland.

1296: the Berwick Massacre – Edward (of England) captured Berwick, killed up to 17,000 people, and captured the Stone of Destiny.

1314: after the Battle of Bannockburn, Guerilla warfare develops around the borders.

1406-1437: James I ended a period of anarchy

September 14 1402 Scots led by 4th Earl of Douglas defeated at the Battle of Homildon Hill by English army led by Percy ‘Hotspur’.

March 30 1406 Scottish King James I captured by English near Flamborough Head on his way to France.

April 4 1406 King Robert III died and James I ascended the throne of Scotland (but was not crowned until 1424).

July 24 1411 Battle of Harlaw near Inverurie in which Donald, Lord of the Isles fought an indecisive but bloody battle against the Earl of Mar. At the time, both sides thought they had lost, their descendants both thought they had won.

March 22 1421 A Scots army in France defeated an English force at Baugé.

December 4 1423 Treaty of London, releasing James I Scotland from his 18 years captivity in England.

February 13 1424 King James I married Joan Beaufort.

May 2 1424 King James I crowned at Scone.

October 16 1430 King James II born.

February 21 1437 King James I murdered in Perth by a group led by Sir Robert Graham.

March 25 1437 Coronation of King James II at Kelso Abbey.

November 29 1440 6th Earl of Douglas and his brother David murdered at the “Black Dinner” in Edinburgh Castle in front of the 10-year-old King James II.

October 23 1448 Battle of Sark in which an invading English force under the Earl of Northumberland was repulsed by the Scots led by Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, near Gretna.

December 31 1448 Franco-Scottish alliance renewed at Tours.

August 27 1450 St Salvator’s College, St Andrew’s University, founded.

January 7 1451 Glasgow University founded at the request of James II and Bishop Turnbull.

July 10 1451 King James III born at Stirling.

February 22 1452 King James II killed William Douglas at Stirling.

August 3 1460 King James II killed by an exploding cannon at the seige of Roxburgh Castle.

August 10 1460 King James III crowned at Kelso Abbey, 1460.

February 13 1462 Treaty of Westminster-Ardtornish between the Lord of the Isles and Edward IV, the King of England.

February 20 1472 Orkney and Shetland annexed from Norway.

March 17 1473 King James IV born.

August 24 1482 Berwick on Tweed finally ceded to England (Edward IV) after changing hands 12 times.

June 11 1488 Battle of Sauchieburn during which King James III died attempting to subdue a group of rebel barons.

June 26 1488 James IV crowned king at the age of 15 at Scone. He reigned until 1513 when he fell with the flower of Scotland’s nobility at the Battle of Flodden Field.

November 29 1489 Margaret, Queen of Scotland, born.

August 8 1503 King James IV married Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England.

1503 Margaret, daughter of Henry VII marries James, King of Scotland.

Armstrongs admit no rule. Nixons, Crosiers and Elliots engaged in raiding.

1509 Death of Henry VII, succeeded by Henry VIII.

April 15 1512 King James V born.

1513: “The Ill Raid”: The English raided Scotland, and the Scottish did the same in return. But they were so laden down with booty that they were caught! James responded with the biggest Scottish army in history – 60,000 to 100,000 men. At Flodden, Scotland suffered her worst defeat in history (and James IV was killed).

September 9 1513 Howard, Earl of Surrey, defeats the Scots James IV killed in battle at Flodden Field, near Branxton, in the English county of Northumberland.

September 21 1513 King James V crowned at Stirling Castle 1513.

1517 Elliots plus Fingerless Will and his kin burn many villages and towns e.g. Hexham and Haltwhistle. Uneasy truce between England and Scotland.

1523 English forces commanded by Albany devastate the Marches.

1525 Angus (who replaced Albany) captures Simon ‘Sim the Laird’ Armstrong and his brother, Davy the Lady.

Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, famously curses all reivers.

Robert, 5th Lord Maxwell – Scottish West March Warden – employs Armstrongs in personal feud against Johnstones.

‘Black Jock’ Johnnie Armstrong and his son Christie sign bond with Maxwell: Johnnie to get land in return for agreeing to serve Maxwell.

July 25 1526 Battle of Melrose in which Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch attempted to rescue King James V from the clutches of Douglas, Earl of Angus.

1527 Sir William Lisle – a Scot – leads a conspiracy of reivers – much burning and pillaging.

Percy, Earl of Northumberland, appointed English Warden General.

1528 Percy breaks up a Lisle raid – hangs fourteen reivers at Alnwick then captures and hangs an Armstrong and a Dodd.

Sir William Lisle hanged and quartered.

William, Lord Dacre, new Warden of the English West March, moves against the Armstrongs in the Debatable Lands – trying to apprehend Johnnie Armstrong and Sim the Laird. English Storey family give the game away and they avoid capture.
Armstrongs and Irvines involved in much raiding.

Young James V of Scotland assumes kingly power and decides to tackle the reivers.

Lord Dacre tricked into ambush by mixed force of reivers.

In December Sim the Laird Armstrong confers with the English Warden General and says there will be no peace until an English king rules Scotland.

1530 James V Scotland moves against the reivers – many leaders are imprisoned, Alan Scott of Tushilaw, ‘King of the Thieves’, is executed.

1531 Bothwell – a Scot – offers to help Henry VIII England seize the crown of Scotland from James V Scotland.

1536 Beginning of Dissolution of Monasteries in England.

Catholic rebellion in northern England- the Pilgrimage of Grace – is suppressed.

Wardens are dismissed by Henry VIII England – replaced by three deputies, including Sir William Eure and Thomas Wharton.

James V Scotland dismisses the Wardens of the Scottish East and Middle Marches – replaced by David Kerr of Ferniehough while Robert Maxwell continues in the West.

January 1 1537 King James V Scotland married Magdalene of France.

1541 Anton Armstrong of Liddesdale ravages Bewcastle – Jack Musgrave’s house burnt and seven Fenwicks killed.

Increasing reiver activity: Armstrongs, Elliots and Crosiers storm Haughton Castle, Redesdale and Tynedale men incited by Henry VIII to attack Teviotdale, Kerrs retaliate, Archie Elliot of Thirleshope forays against William Carnaby’s land . . .

1542 English East March Warden Robert Bowes leads raids against Teviotdale but is ambushed by Scots under George Gordon, Earl of Huntley, at Hadden Rig.

Henry VIII England decides on war against Scotland – army crosses border burning and looting but then retreats back to Berwick.

November 24 1542 James V Scotland retaliates and a force of 10,000 into England under Maxwell advances on Carlisle against Sir Thomas Wharton.
As the Scots cross the River Esk, the Battle of Solway Moss, Wharton’s riders attack. The Scots, although the much larger force (perhaps ten times as many men), are put into disarray. Trapped against the Esk and the Moss the Scottish army is completely routed – surrendering or killed.

December 14 1542 Dismayed by the defeat at Solway Moss, King James V Scotland sickens and dies at Falkland Palace. Shortly after his daughter Mary is born.

1543 Wharton gains more power over reivers – sets family against family – more burning and looting on a small scale but causing widespread terror.

July 1 1543 Treaty of Greenwich, between Henry VIII and Earl of Arran, Regent of Scotland, agreeing betrothal of Mary Queen of Scots (aged 6 months) and Edward Prince of Wales (aged 6 years). The treaty was rejected by the Scots Parliament.

September 9 1543 Mary Queen of Scots (aged 8 months) crowned at Stirling Castle.

The ‘Rough Wooing‘ begins – an attempt to subdue the Scots. Leith destroyed, Edinburgh attacked, some 190 other towns Sir Ralph Eure burns Jedburgh. Scottish Nixons, Crosiers, Olivers and Rutherfords fight on the English side.

February 17 1545 Destruction and terror continues in Scotland.  Battle of Ancrum Moor in which Scottish forces, led by Earl of Douglas, defeated Ralph Eure and an English army twice their size.

1546 A respite in the fighting – but Scotland still not subdued.

1547 Death of Henry VIII. Succeeded by Edward VI, aged nine years.

Johnny Maxwell controls Scottish castles in the west.
English (i.e. Wharton) try to wrest control of them by intrigue, bribery, threat etc

French support for Scotland growing. French forces take garrison of St. Andrew’s.

Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford is made Duke of Somerset and Protector when he rules the realm in place of the young- and ill -English King Edward VI.

1547 April 7 Boulogne three Scottish ships have taken 15 English vessels laden with wine, and that two of the largest French ships at Homflete are being rigged forth to the wars.  22 lighters at Abbeville with provisions ;700 men at arms are on the frontiers; the French King has enrolled 50,000 footmen to be in readiness.  A large Scottish ship with much ammunition and eighty men and a lord” had arrived at Lubeck on board a newly invented preparation, a sort of Greek fire, intended for destroying the English ships.

1547 September: Duke of Somerset invades Scotland on the East with 18,000 men plus an English fleet.

September 10 1547
In response Arran summons 30,000 Scots who are defeated at the Battle of Pinkie. English defeated Scots at Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, near Edinburgh. The battle was sparked by English demands that Edward VI of England (aged 10) should marry Mary Queen of Scots (aged 5) – an event known as the “Rough Wooing“. It is estimated that 15,000 Scots were killed, 1500 captured and English losses amounted to only 500.

Lowland Scotland secured for England.

1548 Wharton attacks the Douglases in Nithsdale.
Douglases – led by Angus – beat back Wharton’s forces as ‘assured’ Scots (i.e. fighting for the English) change sides.

French still supporting Scots to help drive out English – much fighting and cruelty.

July 7 1548 Treaty of Haddington, between France and Scotland, confirming the betrothal of Mary Queen of Scots and Dauphin of France.

1549 English retire and war is over – officially.

1550 English propose to take control of the Debateable LandScots want it divided.

1551 Lord Maxwell, the Scottish Warden, lays waste to the Debateable Land to discourage resistance.

1552 Debateable Land divided: Scot’s Dike‘ ditch and bank dug to mark the divide – still in place today.

Attempts now made to strengthen the border – castles, garrisons, administration. Wharton leads the English side. Much family feuding amongst the Scots. Many disaffected men in the region, particularly in the Debateable Land.

October 4 1552 Members of the Kerr family from the Scottish Borders and enemies of the neighbouring Scott family, attacked and killed Sir Walter Scott (an ancestor of the writer) in the High Street of Edinburgh.

1553 Reiving continues unabated.  French ambitions to take over Scotland.

Death of Edward VI – succeeded by Catholic Queen Mary.

1554 Mary marries King Philip of Spain
Thus England allies with Spain against France and hence is against Scotland.

May 3 1557 John Knox began the Reformation in Scotland.

Following increasing border skirmishing a Scots force marches into the East March but is repelled by Percy’s forces.
Percy retaliates – much burning and looting.
A week later the Scots are back – but retreat with plunder before it comes to a battle.

1558 Cross-border raiding continues.

April 24 1558 Mary, Queen of Scots (aged 15), married French Dauphin, Francis Valois (aged 14) at Notre Dame in Paris.

‘Bloody’ Queen Mary of England dies – succeeded by her sister Elizabeth.

July 10 1559 King Henri of France died. Mary Queen of Scots’ husband, Francis, becomes King of France.

1560 English and Scottish forces unite to expel French from Scotland.
England continues to fortify the border – to be ready to provide support for Scotland if need be – but also to oppose the unruly Borderers.

February 27 1560 Second Treaty of Berwick between England and Scotland, providing English assistance to remove French forces of Mary of Guise from Scotland.

June 6 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh between France and England, recognising sovereignty of Mary Queen of Scots and her first husband Francis II.

August 11 1560 Latin Mass prohibited in Scotland by Parliament as Protestant faith gained the ascendancy.

December 5 1560 King Francis II of France, husband of Mary Queen of Scots, died.

December 20 1560 First General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

July 6 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh between Scotland and England.

August 19 1561 Mary Queen of Scots lands at Leith on her return from France, after the death of her husband, King Francis II .
Sets about subduing the Scottish Borders – her half-brother James Stewart leads raid into Middle March, hanging or imprisoning the leaders.

1561-3  Mary subdues the borders, pleasing Elizabeth (Queen of England). Years later this causes her to miscalculate and assume that Elizabeth is a friend…

1562 More attempts by Scottish forces to control their side of the border.

October 28 1562 Battle of Corrichie, Earl of Moray defeated Catholic Gordons of Huntly who were attacking Aberdeen.

1563 Henry, Lord Scrope of Bolton, is new English Warden of West March.

1564 Feuding between Elliot and Scott families breaks out.

1565 Further feuding between Scotts and Elliots – who are supported by Crosiers and Nixons plus wild men from the Debateable Land: burning, death, stolen cattle. Scrope unofficially assisting the Elliots, giving them shelter and money. Control of the border breaking down on both sides – more raiding and looting.

February 14 1565  Mary Queen of Scots meets Lord Darnley for the first time in February 1565. They married in July 1565.

March 9 1566  Mary’s husband, Darnley, jealous of Mary’s favourite courtier, has him killed. David Rizzio murdered by Ruthven in the Palace of Holyrood.

June 19 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gives birth to the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England. Lord Darnley is the father of Mary QoS’ child.

1567  Mary now hates Darnley, and looks elsewhere. Bothwell, a powerful border official, has Darnley killed . Bothwell’s Border riders ensure he is found innocent of the crime. Mary marries Bothwell at 4am on May 15th 1567. But many Borderers hate Bothwell – he is too powerful, clever and a Catholic. Humes, Kerrs and Scotts force Mary to abdicate and Bothwell to flee.

June 15 1567  Mary Queen of Scots’ last night in Edinburgh, at the house of Sir Simon Preston, the Lord Provost, on the Royal Mile, prior to her imprisonment at Loch Leven castle.  May 2 1568  Mary Queen of Scots escaped from Loch Leven castle. Moray becomes Regent.

July 29 1567 James VI crowned at Stirling (but aged just over one year).

May 13 1568  Mary escapes, raises an army which is beaten by Moray’s forces at Langside (Hampden Park). Borderers fight on both sides.

Mary escapes to England – and eventual execution. (The result? Some historians say (though others disagree) that Mary’s death is the last straw that prompts the Spanish (already at war with England) to send their armada. This defeat helps turn the tide of history in favour of England and Protestantism)

Queen Elizabeth appoints Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, as Warden of East March and Captain of Berwick – a hard man, sets about the reivers.

1569  Moray leads military raids into Scottish West March: border brought under control – with the exception of Liddesdale.

October: Moray rides against Liddesdale again. Eventually Armstrongs, Johnstones, Elliots and Grahams give pledges to refrain from warlike activity.

Rebellion led by the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland and Leonard Dacre in support of imprisoned Queen Mary. The riders of Redesdale and Tynedale and others support it. They move south attacking Alnwick, Warkworth and Barnard Castle.

Rebellion lacks support as rebels are attacked by Harry Percy and Warden John Forster.

Earl of Northumberland and his countess Anne and Earl of Westmorland escape to Scotland. Take refuge in Liddesdale with the notorious Black Ormiston and Jock o’ the Side. Northumberland betrayed to Moray by Hector Armstrong of Harlaw – later handed over to Hunsdon and executed.

Countess Anne rescued in raid by Ferniehurst Kerrs.

Reprisals – hangings, looting and confiscation of land – by the English for the rebellion.

January 23 1570
The Regent Moray assassinated in Linlithgow, triggering civil war. – Scottish border lords now more free to pursue their own ends: raids into England by Buccleuch, Westmorland and Kerr of Ferniehurst. Other raids follow to provoke war between Scotland and England.

July 12 1570 Earl of Lennox appointed Regent of Scotland.

September 4 1570 Earl of Lennox, Regent of Scotland, murdered.

City of Carlisle threatened by the rebellion. Scottish forces led by Dacre beaten by Hunsdon and Forster at the river Gelt near Brampton. This is the last battle of the borderland.

Fighting and violence continue, however, with many Scots supporting Queen Mary, civil insurrection, outlawry and thieving.

Earl of Sussex appointed to bring border under control, capture the English rebels hiding in Scotland and tame the reivers. Attacks the Scottish borders from the east with Hunsdon whilst Forster attacks from Middle March and Scrope in the west.  Much destruction and burning of over three hundred towns and homesteads plus fifty towers and castles.  The raids finally end the support for Mary by the southern Scots and the English rebels

1575 Fighting breaks out between English and Scots at a truce day at Reidswire.

1580 still considerable tension along the border.

June 2 1581 James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, beheaded in Edinburgh Grassmarket, accused of the murder of Lord Darnley.

1585 England and Scotland reach a permanent alliance.

Lord Russell shot at a Warden meeting between himself, his father-in-law John Forster and the Scottish Warden Sir Thomas Kerr of Ferniehurst.

June 16 1586 Mary, Queen of Scots recognised Philip II of Spain as her heir.

February 8 1587 Mary Queen of Scots beheaded at Fotheringay Castle.

February 7 1592 Earl of Moray murdered at Donibristle.

1595 Old John Forster dismissed as Warden of Middle March and replaced by third Lord Eure – not a good choice as powers of the wardenship diminish and lawlessness returns.

Robert Carey, son of Hunsdon, made Warden of West March.

1596 Old Hunsdon dies and Robert Carey takes over English East March.

Robert Kerr of Cessford is Scottish Warden of Middle March. He is much involved in theft, murders, feuds.

Raiding increases – Carey hangs some reivers including Geordie Burn, a friend of Kerrs. Great animosity between the men.

March 17 1596 The affair of Kinmont Willie. A ‘truce day’ at Kershopefoot between deputy Warden of English West March and Deputy Keeper of Liddesdale and Kinmont Willie (William Armstrong of Kinmont) a notorious reiver.  After the meeting Kinmont Willie sets off on north bank of Liddel Water and the English party on the south – both sides protected from each other that day by the law. English chase and capture Kinmont Willie and take him across the border to imprisonment in Carlisle Castle.  Scott of Buccleuch (Keeper of Liddesdale) writes to Lord Scrope demanding Willie’s release. Scrope declines. Neither side inclined to back down and defuse situation.  Buccleuch writes to Robert Bowes, the English Ambassador, but to no avail. Buccleuch determines to rescue Kinmont Willie – but Carlisle castle is strong and cannot be taken by force. A cunning plan is needed.

April 13 1596 A group including Grahams of Erske and Thomas and Lancelot Carleton (actually English West March officers but corrupt) advance on Carlisle. Inside the castle they have allies in their pay. In atrocious weather and great secrecy they approach the castle undetected, the guards probably sheltering from the rain. They gain access to the castle and take Willie – who is not secured within the castle – and make their escape. Lord Scrope has to admit his incompetence to Queen Elizabeth and vows revenge on Buccleuch.

Border turbulence increases as Scrope carries out reprisal raids in the Scottish West March pursuing Buccleuch, the Carleton brothers and other implicated in the raid on Carlisle Castle. Buccleuch in return raids the English.

1597 Commissioners meet to sort out the border affairs. Buccleuch gives himself up to the English and giving no trouble is eventually allowed home to Scotland. He leaves his ten year old son as hostage. Later Buccleuch travels to London and meets Queen Elizabeth. Kerr gives himself as a pledge (hostage) to Carey.

1598 Carey becomes Warden of the notorious Middle March – takes a hard line, hanging sixteen or so of the worst raiders and holding in check cross-border incursions by the Scots.

1603 Robert Carey rides from London to Edinburgh to bring King James the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth.

The ‘Ill Week‘ – following news of Elizabeth’s death Scottish reivers all along the border rise up and there is much looting, burning and reiving.

James is proclaimed King of Great Britain. He sets about disarming the borders and breaking the power of the reiving families. This he achieves through ruthless pursuit of reivers and miscreants, banishing, imprisoning and hanging large numbers of them.

February 25, 1605. The King creates a Commission for the speedy suppressing of offenders in the counties of Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland, and in the shires and parishes of Norham, the Holy Island, and Bedlington, parcel of the county palatine of Durham, and in the shiredoms and towns of Berwick, Roxburgh, Selkirk, Peebles, Dumfries, and in the stewardries of Kircudbright and Annerdale.

March 21 1613 Lord Maxwell executed for the murder of the head of the Johnstone family (the son of the Johnstone involved in the Battle of Dryfe Sands in December 6, 1593 above).

The aftermath

So, what happened to the Reivers? Put simply, when England and Scotland became a united kingdom in 1603, there was no place for border bandits. How could outlaws escape across a border that practically did not exist? And James was ruthless. By 1610, almost every Reiver was either hanged or in exile.

Local officials saw the chance to confiscate valuable lands, and went at the task with enthusiasm. Any excuse was found to hunt and arrest suspected Reivers. “..doubtful cases, in which there might be room for clemency, were officially reported, but invariably the instruction came back to hang.”

Iron gates on towers were banned, expensive horses were forbidden, informers were recruited, and the whole system of local government was changed. A few villages tried to fight back, but were no match for the army. “…in the face of an authority whose policy was one of wholesale hanging there was no great amount of armed resistance.”
– George MacDonald Fraser – “The Steel Bonnets” p.364-5

A system that had lasted for three hundred years was over in seven.

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