Most Scottish people will have heard of the “Auld Alliance” and understand the reasoning for the union. I think, however, that it would be safe to say that not so many French people would be aware of the reasons behind the treaty that existed for hundreds of years between Scotland and France . The people of these two great nations however do seem to have a natural affinity for one another.

The very first recorded mention of this ancient treaty is in the City of Paris , on the twenty-third of October in the year 1295. At its outset the treaty was on a Military, and Diplomatic basis against the common enemy of both countries, which was England .

John Bailloil & Edward John Baliol was King of Scotland during the preamble to the treaty. Many people may not be aware that Baliol had extensive lands in France . Indeed, Baliol's family had arrived at the time of the Normans in the eleventh century, so it made sense for the two to be allies against the common foe. John Baliol has had much bad press by the media over the years, and he was always over-shadowed by the mighty Robert the Bruce. John Baliol may have appeared to be a weak King for Scotland , but he was a patriot and wanted the best for his country, which is why he was so keen on getting the treaty up and running as soon as possible. He is sometimes portrayed as a coward, but this is not in fact the case with him at all. If we have a look at how Baliol was treated by the English King Edward I, perhaps he had more fire in him than he was given credit for.

Baliol was crowned at Scone , after having being chosen by Edward the first over Robert the Bruce, as King of Scotland. This had come about because of Alexander III's death in 1286. The only actual successor was Margaret ‘ the Maid of Norway' but she had died on her trip back home to take over the Scottish crown. Edward I of England had been appointed as adjudicator for the vacant throne by the Bishop of Glasgow. It suited Edward to have John Baliol as King because Baliol's wife was directly related to Edward and because he thought that Bruce would be too much for him to handle. John Baliol was told in no uncertain terms why Edward had chosen him, and so that he might not forget his dependency, Edward recalled him into England , immediately after his coronation, and made him renew his homage and fealty at the City of Newcastle . He was soon loaded with fresh indignities. In the course of a year he received no fewer than six citations to appear before Edward I, in the English parliament, to answer private, unimportant and often trivial complaints which were preferred against him by his subjects. Although led by an insidious policy and his own ambition into the most humiliating and demeaning concessions, John Baliol seems not to have been without spirit, or to have received without resentment the indignities laid upon him. In one of the causes before the parliament of England, being asked for his defence, John Baliol in a loud voice declared— "I am king of Scotland," he said, "I dare not make answer here without the advice of my people."

"What means this refusal," said Edward, "you are my liegeman; you have done homage to me; you are here in consequence of my summons!"

John Baliol replied with firmness, "In matters which respect my kingdom, I neither dare nor shall answer in this place, without the advice of my people."

Edward requested that he would ask a delay for the consideration of the question; but Baliol, perceiving that his so doing would be construed into an acknowledgment of the jurisdiction of the English parliament, refused. So John Baliol was maybe not the way he is often portrayed in history. Scotland has much to thank Baliol for the treaty which became known as the ‘Auld Alliance' and helped Scotland in many ways over the years. John Baliol was eventually deposed from his throne by Edward, and spent the remaining years of his life in France where he had formed his famous treaty. The great Scottish freedom fighter Sir William Wallace, who the English murdered in 1305, spent many years in France and was fluent in their language. When on the run for offences against the English crown Wallace was welcomed to France and helped in many ways by the kings of France .

So the treaty was like an ancient form of N.A.T.O. without the expense of tanks, guns, and army exercises all over the world, but of course the English wouldn't be invited to join.

The Alliance made sense to the French for the reason being that if they were to help defend Scotland , then Scotsmen would be available to fight for the French Army, and as the Scots were renowned fighters, the French were getting a great bargain. Scotland 's soldiers were to play a huge part in French history over the years to come, up to and including the First and Second World Wars of the twentieth century. The chant could be heard whispering on the winds of time; VIVE I' ECOSSE, ALLIEZ FRANCE, VIVE LE VIELLE ALLIANCE.

Scots Guard 1463 & 1498 We will now move on the famous conflict between England and France , which was to become known as ‘The Hundred Year War'. The war itself actually broke out in the year of 1340 and was centred round the area known as Flanders . The background to all this was as follows. Flanders had grown to be the industrial centre of Northern Europe and had become extremely wealthy through its huge production capabilities to manufacturing cloth. The problem Flanders had was that it could not produce enough wool to satisfy its market and imported fine fleece from England . This was good trade and England depended upon this for its foreign exchange. During the 1200's, the upper-class English nobility had adopted Norman fashions and switched from beer to wine, as had many of the Scottish people. The problem was that England could not grow grapes to produce the wine that many of the English now favoured and had to import it from France . A triangular trade arose in which English fleece was exchanged for Flemish cloth, which was then taken to southern France and exchanged for wine, which was then shipped into England and Ireland, mainly through the ports of Bristol, Dublin, and London. But the Counts who were the ruling class in Flanders had been vassals of the king of France , and the French tried to regain control of the region in order to control its wealth, which they were determined would not be taken by England of all people. The English could not permit this, since it would mean that the French monarch would control their main source of foreign exchange, and they could never accept that state of affairs.
A civil war soon broke out in Flanders , with the English supporting the manufacturing middle class and the French supporting the land-owning nobility. This is when the ‘Auld Alliance came to the fore. The French called it their “Nut-Cracker” The English had the Scottish army to the North of them and the French to the South. Things were so desperate for the French that they thought about invading England. The French nutcracker would only work if the French could invade across the English Channel. Besides, England could only support their Flemish allies only if they could send aid across the North Sea, and, moreover, English trade was dependent upon the free flow of naval traffic through the English Channel, or ‘La Manche' as the French would call it. Consequently, the French continually tried to gain the upper hand at sea, and the English constantly resisted them. Both sides commissioned what would have been legal pirates if they had not been operating with royal permission to prey upon each other's shipping, and there were frequent naval clashes in those constricted waters. Although France was the most populous country in Western Europe, with about twenty million subjects against the much smaller England who could muster between four and five million people, it was also the wealthiest, England had a strong central government, many veterans of hard fighting on England's Welsh and Scottish borders, and also from their many battles in Ireland.

England had a thriving economy and a popular king, Edward III, who was disposed to fight France, and his subjects were more than ready to support their young eighteen year old king. Edward invaded northern France in 1345. He marched at the head of his army as they moved deeper into French territory. A major problem, however, awaited Edward during his campaigning against the French. The Black Death had arrived and his army was weakened by sickness. At a place named Crecy, Edward decided to turn for home. As the English force tried to make its way safely to a fortified Channel port, the French, when they realised how weak the English army was, attempted to force them into a battle. The battle started and ended disastrously for the French. Their cavalry, bogged down in heavy ground, were decimated by the bowmen of England. The French force was forced to break off and withdraw and allow the English army to escape.

Nevertheless, facing much the same battlefield situation some ten years later, the French employed the same tactics they had used at Crecy, with the same dismal result, at the battle of Poiters in the year 1356, The French king and many nobles were captured, and many, many others were killed or incapacitated. Old fashioned feudal warfare, in which knights fought for glory, was ended. The first phase of the war ended with a treaty in the year of 1360, but France continued to suffer.

Scots Guard 1463 & 1498
The first phase of the war ended with a treaty in the year of 1360, but France continued to suffer. The English had employed mercenaries who, once they were no longer paid, lived off the country by theft and plunder. This was a horrific time for the ordinary members of the public and it caused the French peasantry plenty of problems. They would have found it difficult to distinguish between war and this sort of peace. As the war dragged on, the English were slowly forced back. They had less French land to support their war effort as they did so, and the war became more expensive for them. This caused conflicts at home, such as the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and the beginning of civil wars on their own door-step.
Mounted Scots Archer The alliance was still going strong as many Scottish soldiers had been fighting against the English in every French campaign. The courage and faithfulness of Scottish soldiers had French Kings choose among them the men who formed the special guard of their persons. The life-guard of the Kings of France; the famous Garde Ecossaise was formed by Charles VII in the early part of the 15th century after the Battle of Verneuil in 1424. It was strengthened by Louis XI who made the Corps his bodyguard and it remained in being till the reign of Charles X, the last Bourbon King. In return for services rendered, Scottish soldiers were often given seignories in France and some of them were appointed to honourable positions in the French military hierarchy. Scots Archer

Referring to this military policy, William Shakespeare put it this way:

"If that you will France win then with Scotland first begin."

Shakespeare's ‘Henry V' rightly portrays the famous Battle of Agincourt in the year of 1415, as one of England's greatest military victories (what school child did not have that date drummed into their heads during history lessons?). For the French it was a major disaster that very nearly led to the collapse of their kingdom. In their darkest hour the Dauphin of France turned to the Scots, England's historical enemy, for salvation. Between the years 1419 and 1424, 15,000 Scots left from the world famous River Clyde to fight in France. In 1421 at the Battle of Bauge the Scots dealt a crushing defeat to the numerically superior English army and slew the Duke of Clarence. Honours and rewards were heaped upon the Victorious Scots army by the French Royalty. The Earl of Douglas was given the Royal Dukedom of Touraine and the Scots army lived very well off the land. Their victory, however, was short lived when, at Vernuil in the year 1424, a Scots army of 4,000 men was annihilated. As mercenaries they could have expected no mercy and those who were captured were dispatched on the spot, as that was how the English normally dealt with prisoners anyway. Despite their defeat, the Scots had brought France valuable breathing space and effectively saved the country from the horror of English domination.
Philip IV  of France
Many Scots continued to serve in France. They aided Joan of Arc in her famous relief of Orleans and many went on to form the Garde Ecossaise, the fiercely loyal bodyguard of the French Kings, where they were at the very heart of French politics. Joan of Arc carried with her a very famous flag which she named “Jhesus Maria”, the banner depicting God with two angels was ordered by Joan of Arc and made by a Scottish person called Hamish Power aka. (Hauves Poulnoir)
Ecossais Many Scots mercenaries settled in France although they continued to think of themselves as loyal Scots, who did not stay in Scotland. One such man was Beraud Stuart of Aubigny: a third-generation Scot immigrant, He was a famous Captain of the Garde Écossaise from the year of 1493-1508, and hero of France's savage Italian wars. To this day both he and other Scots heroes of the ‘Auld Alliance' are celebrated in Beraud's home town of Aubigny-sur-Neve in an annual pageant. This is a very grand affair and is eagerly looked forward to all year. The town has a very Scottish feel to it and there is most definitely a spiritual link to Scotland. The Auld Alliance wasn't simply a military alliance; it was based on a long-established friendship founded on the Scots love of French wine. There is even more to it than that. The Scots and the French are the same type of people, they are not like the English, and that is not meant in any derogatory manner. It is a fact that we are different in our approach to life and to how other people in the world look upon us. The Scots and French are Celts and Gaelic, this does have a huge influence on who you are as a people.

The signing of the Auld Alliance in 1295 might have given the Scots French support against England, but it also gave the Scottish merchants the privilege of selecting the first choice of Bordeaux's finest wines – this in it self was a privilege which was eagerly protected for hundreds of years, much to the annoyance of English wine drinkers who received an inferior product.

French wine was landed on Wine Quay of Leith docks and rolled up the cobbled (sometimes not) streets to the merchants' cellars behind the water front. The wine landed was mostly for the elite of Scottish society, with most commoners drinking whisky or beer, but it seems to have been popular with everyone for Hogmanay celebrations. Wine played a major part of the food intake in those days. Food was not of the same quality then, and so the poor drank beer which gave them their vitamins for the day and the rich did the same with wine.

Trade, especially of wine, has a tendency to fly in the face of political changes and any alliances. After the Reformation, the Auld Alliance was no longer feasible between Protestant Scotland and Catholic France, but the trade in Claret continued. People simply kept drinking it because it had become part of Scottish culture.

A prime example of this process can be seen in the post-Reformation destiny of St Anthony's fund: a charitable fund which was raised on the back of the wine trade. The fund was simply converted to Protestantism by King James VI and passed onto the Old Leith Parish Church. As late as the 1670s, Scots merchants were still going to Bordeaux to get their first choice of wine. Even after the Union of Parliaments with England in the year 1707, (when Scotland was betrayed by her Nobles who sold their soul's for a handful of English Gold,) Scots continued to smuggle Claret into Scotland to avoid taxes. Scots of all persuasions, Jacobite or Hanoverian, continued to drink Claret in preference to patriotic Port, but especially when toasting the exiled Stuart kings as ‘the King over the water'

Scotland and France had much in common too on an educational front. Both had an education system which was second to none, fine universities which produced great academics and military leaders, politicians, and teachers. These two countries were the backbone of world culture and refinement for many years. Their universities were far more advanced at that time than anything England could offer and this was another thorn in the side for any English monarch. The two universities mentioned were known as “Capitals of Enlightenment”. Scotland also set up a Scots College in Paris and Edinburgh, today, can boast to host an official French Institute.

Ogilvy Regiments And who has not heard of Mary, Queen of Scots, in France. Most Scots are aware of the sad story relating to Mary Queen of Scots and her exile to France, She had been born at Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian on the eighth of December in the year 1542, Mary became Queen of Scots when she was six days old. (As Henry VII of England's great-granddaughter, Mary was also next in line to the English throne, after Henry VIII's children.) In this crisis, the Scottish nobility decided that they must make peace with England, and they agreed that she should marry Henry VIII's son, the future Edward VI.

No sooner had the treaty been arranged, however, than Catholics opposed to the plan took the young Mary to Stirling Castle and, to Henry's fury, they broke the match, preferring to return to Scotland's traditional alliance with France. Henry thereupon ordered the savage series of raids into Scotland known as 'The Rough Wooing'. His army set fire to the Abbey of Holyroodhouse where James V was buried, burned crops in the Tweed Valley and set ablaze the Border abbeys of Melrose, Jedburgh and Dryburgh.

Undeterred, the Scots in 1548 betrothed Mary to the French King Henri II's heir, the Dauphin Francis, and sent her to be brought up at the French Court. It is said that the spelling of the royal family name of Stewart changed to Stuart at that time, to suit French conventional spelling.

Tall, graceful and quick-witted, Mary married the Dauphin in Paris on 24 April 1558. He succeeded to his father's throne in 1559, making Mary Queen of France as well as Scotland, but his reign was brief for he died of an ear infection in 1560. The rest of Mary's story can be found in our section on the Scottish Monarchy. Sadly to say, Mary was finally executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on 8 February 1587, at the age of 44. She was buried in Peterborough Cathedral, but in 1612 her son James VI and I had her body exhumed and placed in the vault of King Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Ogilvy & Albany Regiments

James VII, grandson of King James VI, was born in St. James Palace, London; James was the second son of King Charles I, succeeding his older brother King Charles II to the throne in the year of 1685. Although born an Anglican, he had converted to Roman Catholicism in the year 1668, and married the devoutly Catholic Mary of Modena in 1683. These acts, together made him very unpopular with the Church of England. However, he had allowed his daughter Mary to marry the Protestant William of Orange and the couple were assumed to be James' heirs presumptive. When a son was born to the King (James Francis Edward Stuart), he became heir apparent ahead of Mary. Events came to a head during an Anglican plot and James was deposed and exiled in the year of 1689. William III and Mary usurped the throne and went about the business of making themselves impregnable. They set in motion things which would destroy the way of life for many Scottish families. William III never once bothered to visit Scotland as he thought ‘it was a cold dismal place filled with uneducated heathens' He played a cruel ruse on Scotland with his Darien Scheme (see famous Scots section) which almost bankrupted the country. James tried to restore his reign by landing in Ireland, but this ended unsuccessfully at the Battle of the Boyne in the year of 1690, an event still prominent in Northern Ireland and Scottish politics today. Attempts at restoration continued as the Jacobite Cause , personified by James' son the ‘ Old Pretender' , and his grandson ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie'. France and the “Auld Alliance” were now to play a major part in the Jacobite Struggle for Truth and Justice.

Charles Edward Stuart was staying in France; in fact he had been born in Rome on the thirty-first of December 1720and died there sixty-eight years later. He was no “Prima Donna” but a young man with fire in his blood that could fight and drink with the best of them. Often when writing about ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie' there is this certain romantic feeling attached to the words. “Charlie Is My Darlin', Over the Sea to Skye, Will Yea No' Come Back Again?” All great songs but nowhere near the truth. The truth is that the Prince was a man who went for what he wanted and could be ruthless until he had achieved his goal. He was just the type of person Scotland needed at that time. He endured the hardships of the men he led and would not take anything his men could not have. In 1744, after his father had obtained the support of the French government for a projected major invasion of England, Charles Edward went to France to assume command of the French expeditionary forces. Unfavourable weather and the mobilization of a powerful British fleet to oppose the invasion led to cancellation of the plan by the French government. Charles Edward, however, persisted in his determination to drive the usurper George II from the British throne and in the year of 1745, he arrived in his exiled homeland. A number of Highland clans came to his assistance and he raised the Jacobite Standard at Glenfinnan on the West coast of Scotland. He took Edinburgh, defeated a British force at Prestonpans, and advanced as far south as Derby, England, before being forced to retreat.

In April 1746, however, his forces were utterly routed at Culloden Moor. He was hunted as a fugitive for more than five months, but the Highlanders never betrayed him, and he escaped to France in September in the year of 1746. Two years later he was expelled from that country in accordance with one of the provisions of the second Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748), which stipulated that all members of the house of Stuart were to be driven from France. For a number of years Charles Edward wandered about Europe. Secretly visiting Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as London in 1750 (when he converted to the Church of England) and in 1754, he attempted without success on both occasions to win support for his cause. In 1766, on his father's death, Charles Edward returned to Italy, where he spent his last years. He died in Rome on January 31, 1788. The English propaganda at the time stated that when Charles then his Brother Henry died that was the end of the Stuart Dynasty, but this is merely good old propaganda. (See Prince Michael of Albany Section)

The Auld Alliance may have been formally signed in the year 1295 but the Union between Scotland and France goes much deeper than that. There have been marriages between the Royal Blood of both Monarchies and the mingling of the bloodline has ensured the perpetuation of the Alliance. The “Auld Alliance” was officially declared closed in the year 1906, but it may well be on the verge of a grand reopening, who knows what the future will bring for these two old friends. An interesting last relevant fact: Did you know that if you were a French Citizen born before 1906 that you had dual nationality with Scotland, and that Scots born before this time had the same privilege with French Nationality?


“Could this be the Antidote to Britishness!”


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© Crann Tara 2006