Buccleuch

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.

Rescue and Release

On the night of 13th/14th April, in the “deade time”  William Armstrong of Kinmont was rescued from the apparently impregnable Carlisle Castle.

The weather that night was foul, many of the guard took shelter from “the violence of the wether”. Others, who had held office within the castle,  Thomas Carlton and his brother Lancelot, were in league with the rescuers.

Walter Scott of Buccleuch, the Bauld Buccleuch, seems to have been the mastermind, and the leader of the rescue.  Indeed, he was in the van – the fifth man in – , and was seen in the castle’s courtyard.

Thomas Scrope’s worst nightmares had been realised, and he had the unenviable task of reporting the audacious rescue to Elizabeth’s Court … it is not wonder, perhaps, that he seems to have exaggerated the numbers involved:

500 horsemen of Buclughes and Kinmontes frendes, did come armed and

appointed with gavlockes and crowes of iron, handpeckes, axes and skaillinge

lathers, unto an owtewarde corner of the base courtof this castell, and to

the posterne dore of the samewhich they undermyned speedily and

quietlye and made them selves possessores of the base courte, brake into the

chamber where Will of Kinmont was, carried him awaye, and in their discoverie

by the watch, lefte for deade two of the watchmen, hurt a servante of

myne one of Kynmontes keperes, and were issued againe onte of the posterne

before they were discried by the watche of the innerwarde, and ere resistance

could be made. The watch, as yt shoulde seeme, by reason of the stormiye

night, were either on sleepe or gotten under some covert to defende them

selves from the violence of the wether; by meanes wherof the Scottes

atcheived theire entreprise with lesse difficultie.

Scrope to the Privy Council

(Original image: Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.)

Plans are afoot, come wind, come weet

Looking out on a particularly dismal Easter Sunday this year, the occasional driving rain reminds me that some 420 years ago, similar weather was about to play an important part in one of the most audacious acts – and there are many to count – ever undertaken on the Scottish Borders.

But let the scene be set …

On the 17th March 1596, a day of truce was set between the English Middle March, which was under the Wardenship of Thomas Scrope and the Keeper of Liddesdale (Walter Scott of Buccleuch), to try to settle a matter of “redress and delivery” regarding an “offender” wanted by Buccleuch. Neither Scrope nor Buccleuch were present in person, it seems.

The matter had been delayed, according to Scrope because Buccleuch also wanted the “accessarie” handed over, but this was a man who whom Buccleuch “bore malice”, and so the process had been delayed and postponed. On the 17th March, however, the meeting was set, but Buccleuch refused to keep to the terms of truce. Buccleuch had good reason.

That was the day that William Armstrong of Kinmont also known as Will of Kynmonth, was taken and brought into Scrope’s jurisdiction. Scrope was at pains to explain his own men’s actions, knowing that the contentious matter of Border Truce could render the taking of a man, protected under laws of a Truce Day an illegal act. He stated that Armstrong had broken the truce himself, and therefore it was right that he should be punished; that he was an enemy of the Wardenship (something which should not be argued, but he was still under the laws of Truce); that his followers had committed recent raids; that Buccleuch’s jurisdiction and protection did not apply to Kinmont, as he lived outwith the bounds of Liddesdale; and where he was taken was ‘beyond the limits’ of Buccleuch’s ‘charge’ …  Scrope knew what had occurred was contentious:

 

How Kynmont was taken will appear by the copy of the attestation by his takers, which if true, it is held that Kynmont did thereby breake th’assurance that daye taken, and for his offences ought to be delivered to the officer against whom he had offended, to be punished according to discreation.” Another reason for detaining him is his notorious enmity to this office, and the many outrages lately done by his followers. He appertains not to Buccleuch, but dwells out of his office, and was also taken beyond the limits of his charge, so Buccleuch makes the matter a mere pretext to defer justice and do “further indignities.”
The above day for redress and delivery was the 17th of this month—which night Kynmont was taken and brought here, where I detain him, thinking it best to do so till good security be given for better behaviour of him and his in time coming, and recompense of damages lately done to the people here.

So wrote Scrope to Burghley, on the 18th March 1596. He could not have dreamt, during his most restless nights (of which we must suspect there were many), what was already being plotted against him.