Page 2, 16th February 1951

16th February 1951
Page 2
Page 2, 16th February 1951 — A History Lesson

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Organisations: Union of the Crowns
Locations: York


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A History Lesson

Sia,-The best answer to Miss Reid is some accurate information.

1. It is essential to bear in mind that part of the difference between England and Scotland in the Middle Ages lay in the difference between Norman and Celtic views of kingship. There was never a King of Scotland. He was King of Scots, the head of his people,

never the owner of the soil, The land belonged to the people, and it was their right. not his. to say who should rule it,

2. When the Normans conquered England, they started the theory that It ought to count that they had conquered Scotland as well, and they went to work with typical Norman trickery. As the King of Scots was usually a feudal noble holding land in England, several occasions arose in which he was tricked into doing homage for Scotland as well-which he sometimes did fairly cheerfully, knowing that the land was not his to swear away, and that the people of Scotland would refuse to acknowledge the homage-as was their right. Let me remind your readers that this same difference as to land has led to untold misery in Ireland, and for that matter in Scotland right down to the Highland Clearances of the 19th century; indeed it is causing much misery in the Highlands today through the high-handed actions of

new English purchasers of properties. 3. The Normans also went to work through the Church, pressing the claim of York to jurisdiction in Strathclyde. Here the critical moment came at an assembly of Churchmen where a certain Canon Gilbert put the Scottish case with great spirit, to be told "Thou art but a vapeuring and fiery Scot." But the Archbishop of York silenced them, saying " Let him alone, for the spirit that speaks in him is more than he," and Scotland did ultimately rebut the claim to jurisdiction.

4. The early Middle Ages were for Scotland a period of steady progress, until under Alexander III in the 13th century she was a well knit and prosperous little country, abreast of the general civilisation of Europe. Edward the First's invasion destroyed in 20 years the stow Rains of five centuries, recovery was further set back by Edward III's invasion, of which one never hears in the school histories, but which was in fact even more cruet, inflicting such devastation that in many places the people were reduced to cannibalism.

5. The worst piece of Norman treachery was of course Edward l's betrayal of trust when invited to act as arbiter to the rival claimants after the death of Alexander III. He once again tried to impose a feudal conclusion upon a non-feudal country. The Scottish Commons protested. but their protest was disallowed, though they+ were in fact the people entitled to say whose was the land and who should rule it.

6. Many Normans had been granted land in Scotland where their administrative abilities made them useful to the Kings. They usually married into a native noble house. as the Bruces for instance did -Robert the Bruce's mother tongue, by the way. was Gaelic, though he usually spoke Norman French on

official occasions. The Douglases, by contrast, were a wholly native noble house. These Normans as a rule also held land in England, sometimes in Normandy as well; they were imbued with the ideas of an international aristocracy; and it was not from them that resistance to Edward the First could be expected to come. Hence the first resistance came from the native knight and leader William Wallace. whom the English executed for treason on grounds as good as those on which they later executed Edmund Campion 7. It took Bruce lime. understandably, to work his way out of the ideas of the international aristocracy to which he belonged. and to adop: the new national ideal. To call this treachery to Edward the First, betrays an entire lack of historic sense, even of human psychology.

h. After Bannockburn, the English made a treaty with Robert the Bruce svhich like' the Irish treaty of our own century, was beautifully calculated to keep the wound from healing over, and to insure further intervention by making sure that there would be further trouble.

g. Scotland. with her resources destroyed by the English invasions, entered upon a downgrade period-the historians now speak of it as the Three Hundred Years War, and reckon that it included Henry VIII's "rough wooing," in which 217 towns and villages were burnt, while the invaders distributed Bibles in English to the starving people. One is happy to add that the North of England. still suffering from the Pilgrimage of Grace, refused to have anything to do with this expedition. with the result that Hen s used the abominable foreign mercenaries alreads employed to dragoon his own subjects.

10. During the whole period from Robert the Bruce to the Union of the Crowns. English policy was directed to making stable government in Scotland pretty nearly impossible. This task was facilitated by the constant treachery of the Norman element in the Scottish nobility which has supplied Scotland with her long line of traitors. No native Scot has a place in the list, save the betrayer of Montrose.

11 The loss of Berwick was a terrible blow to Scotland's trade. Her wool industry. deflected to the inconvient port of Leith, might however have held its own, had not the English East coast ports combined to drive Scottish trade off the seas. It was the South. centre of the wool industry which had been a source of prosperity before Edward the First's attack which suffered most. As a result a starving people had little choice but to take to piracy at sea and to the Border raids ashore. What else was left for them to do e May I very earnestly remind your readers of the enormous harm that has accrued from the general English ignorance of Irish history ? ii is hardly less about Scottish history.

and quite as dangerous. All this business about the Stone shows chiefly how completely in the dark the English are about Scottish feeling, both as to their past and their

present. Anyone who wishes to improve the situation runs up, first. against a blank wall of ignorance, and then egainst an almost equally blank refusal to acquire information or to accept any responsibility for the situation that has arisen.

And may I also remind Catholics that when the Popes investigated the issues between England and Scotland in the 14th century, they found

for Scotland. granted the Kings of Scots anointing, which they had not enjoyed before, and in fact took Scotland specially under their wing. The Scots threw away this advantage by following the French into schism; but it remains that the one impartial investigation, made at the time. held that the Scots had proved their case. The English claim was sheer usurpation.

Anyone who really wants to know some Scottish history had better read Agnes Muse Mackenzie, though Andrew Lang is fairly good. But Miss Mackenzie's is the first historical work on Scotland which is thoroughly modern in its methods.


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