Month: June 2016

What’s legal and what’s not …

… the debate snarled on, with Scrope arguing Kinmont that was a notorious reiver, and trying to promote the idea that any opportunity to apprehend such an individual should be an opportunity taken: the Border Law, however, was not so flexible – after all, there had to be politic measure to ensure any cross-border negotiation and legal proceedings could take place on a local scale. Ralph Eure, experienced in Border affairs, explained the situation to Lord Burghley to clarify matters on 19th  June 1596 …

In answer to your inquiry–Whether at a day of truce, the peace endures from sunrise that day to sunrise of next day, or only till sunset of the day of truce, and whether a subject of either realm can enter the other to recover goods during the truce? It is usual for both wardens to agree at their meeting for a truce to begin and endure while the business in hand requires. By the words of the treaty in her Majesty’s time, they are not by custom to be limited “from sonne to sonne,” except specially agreed between them. Therefore usually when they remain but one day, they take assurance from sunrise of the one day till sunrise of the next, that every man may likely be returned safe to his dwelling as he came to the place of meeting.  Therefore this question between Lord Scrope’s deputies and the laird of Buccleuch’s will be decided according to their assurance. If “general”, it includes both safety of goods and men, and all actions tending to breach of peace. Therefore “me thinkes” it agrees with the law of treaty that in either of their governments, the wardens shall take general assurance “for all the March left att home as for the companie then in present, and if anie offence be committed to the breache thereof of eyther partie, it is commonlie tearmed  to be under assurance, and so held hateful and unlawfull.”  This question of Lord Scrope for Kinmonthe may arise with any other warden, and your lordship may now take occasion to prevent future “harmes”. Lord Scrope by his assurance, is “tyed in honor” to answer for his whole March – Buccleuch for his office only, an unequal assurance. If any, either of the west or east of his office, with whom Buccleuch is in kindness, do ride, his assurance is not broken, yet the warden in whose wardenry such acts are committed is justly moved to revenge. So if your lordship would hold that warden should answer warden only, not an officer, and for the like circuit, or else that the opposite warden should at least grant assurance for the whole March, for the time agreed by the officer.

Eure to Burghley June 19th 1596 (Calendar of Border Papers II: 138)

Buccleuch is referred to as an ‘officer’, as the Keeper of Liddesdale was not a Warden, and was not considered to have equal standing … something perhaps best never brought up directly in the presence of Buccleugh – or indeed that of other Keepers – given the relentlessly unruly nature of the place.

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A curious gift from abroad

In the summer, as people take trips here and there, it is common for gifts to be bought or acquired for friends and family. These may be symbolic or sentimental. They may be expensive purchases, or a beautifully wave-smoothed stone from a beach.  They may be welcomed or merely accepted  with civility. Few, however, may have received a gift as gruesomely splendid as that sent to Walter Scott by Lord Byron.

It consisted of an ornate silver urn. The contents, however, were rather more towards the gothic leanings than the romantic, for the urn contained human bones, which Byron was convinced were of Ancient Greeks – ‘Attic bones’. Scott, however, did not appear in any way repulsed, but received the gift with his usual grace and turn of phrase, recalling

I was to play the part of Diomed, in the Iliad, for Byron sent me, some time after, a large sepulchral vase of silver. It was full of dead men’s bones, and had inscriptions on two sides of the base. One ran thus:—‘The bones contained in this urn were found in certain ancient sepulchres within the land walls of Athens, in the month of February, 1811.’ The other face bears the lines of Juvenal:

Expende—quot libras in duce summo invenies. —Mors sola fatetur quantula hominum corpuscula.” Juv. x.39

To these I have added a third inscription, in these words—‘The gift of Lord Byron to Walter Scott.

 

We do not recommend that this is a suitable gift to recall travels, and the authors indicate that they will decline any similar presentations.