Why did the "Rough Wooing" Fail to break the Auld Alliance?
By Lindsay Webster.
the late thirteenth Century until 1560, Scotland had one primary ally in Europe,
the Kingdom of France. This alliance had been mutually beneficial to both sides,
providing military support and money in the fight against a common enemy,
England. However, in the 1540’s the ‘Auld’ Alliance as it has become known
would face one of its greatest challenges in the form of Henry VIII of England
who had decided that the young Mary, now queen of Scotland should marry his son,
Edward Prince of Wales (Later Edward VI). Had this marriage gone ahead, it would
have spelt the end of French alliance. However the wedding never took place and
for a short time the alliance was strengthened. Why did this happen? In order to
answer this it will be necessary to examine the history of the alliance, the
events of the ‘Rough Wooing’ and the reasons for its eventual outcome.
It is, however, imperative to first
define what exactly is meant by the term ‘Rough Wooing’. According to
Ties with France would become even closer in the post Flodden period as during the long minority of James V, the Duke of Albany was brought over from France as regent (Albany was heir apparent after James). The Treaty of Rouen in 1517 once again reaffirmed the alliance and paved the way for the marriage of James V to a daughter of the King of France. This marriage would go ahead in 1537 when James married Madeline de Valois. However Madeline didn’t adapt to the Scottish climate and was dead within the year. James, undaunted was remarried to Marie de Guise, a widow from one of the foremost French noble houses. It was Marie who would give birth to James’ eventual heir, Mary Queen of Scots. A few days after Mary’s birth, James died leaving Scotland facing a long minority and what would become known as the Rough Wooing.
The ‘Auld’ Alliance had survived more
or less intact for almost 250 years and this can be seen as a reason why the
Rough Wooing failed to destroy it; the French alliance was deeply ingrained into
the Scottish psyche, it had worked for all these years and as the old adage
says: ‘If it is not broken, do not fix it.’
At the news of the Scots defiance, Henry was
understandably furious and was determined to bring the Scottish upstarts to
heel. Thus began the Rough Wooing. Edward Seymour, Earl of Hereford led an army
into Scotland. Though they killed and burned throughout the south of Scotland,
they did not achieve an awful lot and by sacking Melrose abbey and desecrating
Douglas tombs, they caused the Douglas Earl of Angus to switch sides (previously
he had been supporting the English.) In 1545, Angus would lead a small Scottish
force to victory at the battle of Ancrum Moor near Jedburgh. This victory
although small was celebrated throughout Scotland and France and effectively
brought what Merriman describes as the first phase of the rough wooing to an
end. Angus’ change of heart was something Henry was warned about before the
invasion took place, as Sanderson says:
In 1546, Protestant reformers broke into
St Andrews Castle and murdered Cardinal Beaton. This deprived Scotland of one of
its most able and shrewd politicians and also left St Andrews Castle in the
hands of rebels with pro-English sympathies. In response to this, the French
sent their fleet to besiege the Castle which fell in July 1547. This
demonstrates the importance France placed on keeping the Scots Catholic and the
strength of their alliance.
The second phase began in September 1547, by this time, Henry VIII had died and Hereford (Now Duke of Somerset) was Protector of England. Hereford led a large English host of approximately 15,000 men into Scotland. The Scots raised a marginally larger army but it lacked artillery and cavalry and on September 10th they were routed at the battle of Pinkie near Mussleburgh. The English then garrisoned much of southern Scotland. Prior to the battle, the French had thought that Scotland would be able resist what Donaldson called England’s Action for breach of promise.
with the shattering of the Scots host at Pinkie, the French king decided that
greater attention needed to be paid to their northern ally.
One of the primary reasons was money.
Henry VIII had gained a massive cash windfall in the 1530s with the dissolution
of the monasteries. However, in the years since then he had been at war almost
constantly and had spent £3,500,000 keeping his armies in the field. This meant
that the royal coffers were virtually empty and the English could not afford to
pay large armies in France and Scotland. France on the other hand was far
wealthier and this would have made it a more attractive prospect for the
marriage of a Scottish queen.
Scotland was also quite heavily
fortified. The great Castles of Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton have been
described as amongst the strongest natural fortifications in Europe. The English
did not have the funds to conduct long sieges of these and it is unlikely that
they would have fallen even if they had been besieged. When combined with the
French built forts at Leith, Langholm, Dunbar and Eyemouth they made Scotland a
very secure place.
One of the most important reasons for the
failure of the Rough Wooing was that among the Scots nobility, there was very
little enthusiasm for an English alliance and eventual union of the crowns, as
it would have turned Scotland into another English shire. Although the French
union would do similar, Scotland still maintained its place in Europe as an
antidote to the English.
Religion also played a part in the
English failure. Scotland in the 1540s was still very much a Catholic nation
while England had turned Protestant. Being a ‘faithful’ nation on the back
door of a ‘heretic’ nation gave Scotland an elevated position in European
politics. This position would have been lost following an English union as
Scotland would almost certainly have been converted to Protestantism by the
English (as happened anyway in the 1560s).
The human nature element must also be
taken into consideration. Scotland was faced with a choice of two marriage
contracts. On the one had there was England. The English had troops rampaging
through the lowlands, killing and burning at will. On the other hand was France
who was willing to send large amounts of money to Scotland as well as military
aid. Faced with the option of an old friend or a violent bully, it is actually
little wonder that the Scots chose the French option.
TO THE 16th CENTURY
G. Scotland: James V – James VII
(1965 Mercat Press)
G.M The Steel Bonnets (1971 Harper
B. An Antidote to the English (2001
M. The Rough Wooings (2000 Tuckwell)
Sanderson M. Cardinal of Scotland (1986 Edinburgh)