Before I begin this month’s extended Angevin Writ, I would like to welcome to our Angevin ranks Sir Gerald de Fengge, knight of the shire of York. Sir Gerald is a well-known scholar and writer of sagas.
It is exactly seven weeks since my last blog entry, on 1st April, and I hope you Angevin loyalists out there have not become too frustrated at this interlude. There are two possible Angevin anniversaries in May for me to discuss. The first is the 859th anniversary of Henry II’s marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, which took place on the 18th May, 1152. The second is the knighting of Henry (then 16 years old) by King David of Scotland, which took place at Carlisle, on 22nd May, 1149, exactly 862 years ago today. It did not take me much time to opt for the latter date for my May Blog entry. Not only have I already analysed Eleanor’s role in the Angevin Empire in my previous blog entry; but I obviously do not wish to detract from another famous royal wedding, celebrated only a few weeks ago……..
Another important event in May (this time in 2011), was the elections to the Scottish Parliament, held on 5th May. As is well known, this election resulted in a sweeping victory for the SNP, which gained 69 out of a grand total of 129 parliamentary seats, thereby giving the SNP an outright majority. However, at second sight, this apparently stunning electoral performance by the SNP in Scotland masked two geographical anomalies. The SNP conspicuously failed to get any electoral support in the north and south ‘border areas’ of Scotland: Orkney & Shetland in the North, and the Scottish Border Counties in the South (Ettrick, Roxburgh, Berwickshire, Galloway and Dumfries). Both these border regions of Scotland returned MSP’s favourable to the continued Scottish union with the rest of the UK. It is my contention that this political peculiarity can only be explained by analysing the medieval dimension.
When Henry was knighted by his great-uncle, King David of Scotland, at Carlisle on 22nd May 1149, he was very much aware that his great-uncle had seized the opportunity, created by the political weakness of King Stephen of England, to annexe to Scotland the northern English counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland. Henry was pleased to be knighted by a king, as it strengthened his own claims to the English Crown; but for the same reason, Henry could never accept the permanent loss of the northern English counties. The death of King David, almost exactly four years after Henry’s investiture, on 24th May 1153, gave Henry his chance. David was succeeded by his grandson, King Malcolm IV, and King Henry II (as he then was) was able to force the young Scots King in 1157 to surrender the three northern counties to his growing Angevin Empire. It was a shrewd move. In 1174, King William I of Scotland (‘The Lion’), brother of Malcolm IV (who had died unmarried in 1165), invaded Northern England. The Scots invasion was part of the ‘Great Rebellion’ against Henry. William I’s invasion was a complete failure. Northumberland remained loyal to Henry, and the Northern English Army, led by Roger of Estouteville, significantly Sheriff of Northumberland, routed the Scots Army at Alnwick on 13th July 1174, capturing King William in the process. Henry II made peace with William, but seemingly on harsh terms. King William had to surrender to Henry his castles at Edinburgh and Stirling (in central Scotland), and Roxburgh, Berwick and Jedburgh (in the Scottish borders). In practice, the Treaty was not so harsh. Henry never garrisoned Stirling, in the heart of Scotland, and actually returned Edinburgh to William in 1186. In contrast, Henry significantly retained possession of the border castles until his death in 1189. Henry went further, in 1185, he returned the Earldom of Huntingdon to the Scots. It was granted to King William’s younger brother, David.
So how are these Angevin events over 800 hundred years ago of relevance to the current political situation today, in 2011? Firstly, they indicate how inter-twined were the kingdoms of Scotland and England, which suggests that the SNP would have a difficult task today in trying to disentangle such a relationship. Maybe even more importantly, they indicate that the Anglo/Scots border region of Roxburgh, Berwick and Jedburgh (directly part of Henry’s Angevin Empire) will probably always want to remain loyal to the UK ‘Angevin Empire’.
Perhaps on an even lighter note, should a SNP dominated Scotland ever decide to leave the UK, then perhaps it should do so minus both its southern Border Regions and Orkney & Shetland. Who knows, perhaps a UK nation excluding such a truncated Scottish State might then even re-unite with Normandy and Brittany to resurrect Henry’s Angevin Empire? This is not so fanciful as it sounds. My loyal Angevins will have been heartened by the creation of the ‘Arc Manche’ Assembly in 2005. The Assembly’s purpose is to integrate Southern England and Northern France into a Cross-Channel State, funded by the EU’s Community Initiative. Just think of it, the Angevin Empire re-born!
As often happens, I would like to leave my Angevin followers with a brainteaser. Orkney & Shetland do not identify with the SNP. Perhaps this is because these islands only became part of Scotland in the later medieval period, in 1468.To which nation did they previously belong?