Auld Alliance

Auld Alliance
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v · Scots) (French: Vieille Alliance) was an alliance between the kingdoms of Scotland and France. It played a significant role in the relations between Scotland, France and England from its beginning in 1295 until the 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh. The alliance was renewed by all the French and Scottish monarchs of that period except for Louis XI.[1] By the late 14th century, the renewal occurred regardless of whether either kingdom was involved in a conflict with England.[2]

The alliance dates from the treaty signed by John Balliol and Philip IV of France in 1295 against Edward I of England. The terms of the treaty stipulated that if either country was attacked by England, the other country would invade English territory, as became evident at the Battle of Flodden Field, 1513. The alliance played an important role in conflicts between both countries and England, such as the Wars of Scottish Independence, the Hundred Years' War, the War of the League of Cambrai and the Rough Wooing.



Although during the Middle Ages various assertions were made that the Franco-Scottish relationship began in the reign of Charlemagne, the Auld Alliance is normally dated to 1295. However, historians such as J. D. Mackie have dated it to 1173, when embassies between William I of Scotland and Louis VII of France supported a rebellion against the English king Henry II.[3] Elizabeth Bonner has also referred to talks of "informal cooperation" between the two countries at this time.[2] An example of this was the invasion of England in 1215 led by Alexander II in support of Robert FitzWalter and the Dauphin Louis, during the First Barons' War.

In 1326, Robert the Bruce renewed the alliance, with the Treaty of Corbeil. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the treaty was invoked six times.

Between 1331 and 1356, Edward III of England defeated the kings of both countries. Bonner believes that the alliance meant that he did not succeed in subjugating them.[2]

In 1336, at the beginning of the Hundred Years' War, king Philip VI of France provided military support for David II, who fled to France after being deposed by Edward III of England.

In 1346, under the terms of the Auld Alliance, Scotland invaded England in the interests of France. However, they were defeated, and David II was taken prisoner at the Battle of Neville's Cross.

The alliance was renewed between the two kingdoms in 1371, with the embassy of the Bishop of Glasgow and the Lord of Galloway to France. The treaty was signed by Charles V at the Château de Vincennes on 30 June, and at Edinburgh Castle by Robert II on 28 October.[4]

French and Scottish forces together won against the English at the Battle of Baugé in 1421. As it marked the turning point of the Hundred Years War, the significance of this battle was great. However, their victory was a short-lived one: at Verneuil in 1424, the Scots army was defeated. Despite this defeat, the Scots had given France a valuable breathing space, effectively saving the country from English domination.

In addition, in 1429 Scots came to the aid of Joan of Arc in her famous relief of Orléans. Scottish soldiers also served in the Garde Écossaise, the loyal bodyguard of the French monarchy. Many Scottish mercenaries chose to settle in France. Some were granted lands and titles in France. [1] In the 15th and 16th centuries, they became naturalised French subjects.[1]

In 1558 the alliance between the two kingdoms was further strengthened by the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to the future Francis II of France.

However, in 1560, after more than 250 years, formal treaties between Scotland and France were officially ended by the Treaty of Edinburgh. With the height of the Scottish Reformation, Scotland was declared Protestant, and allied itself with Protestant England instead. 200 Scottish soldiers were sent to Normandy in 1562 to aid the French Huguenots in their struggle against royal authority during the French Wars of Religion.

Wider influence

Although principally a military and diplomatic agreement, the alliance also extended into the lives of the Scottish population in a number of ways: including architecture, law, the Scots language and cuisine, due in part to Scottish soldiery within the French army. Part of the influence on law was due to Scots often going to French universities, something which continued up until the Napoleonic Wars.[5] Other intellectual influences from France continued into the 18th century as well.[6] Examples of architectural influence include two Scottish castles built with French castle-building in mind: Bothwell and Kildrummy[7]

At the height of the alliance, French was widely spoken in Scotland and French still has an influence on the Scots language.

Despite all these exchanges of culture, the leading Scottish historian, J.B. Black, said of the alliance: "The Scot['s...] love for their 'auld' ally had never been a positive sentiment nourished by community of culture, but an artificially created affection based on the negative basis of hatred of England, and merely for the benefits brought by the philosophical theory that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"."[8]

After the Scottish Reformation

Certain provisions of the earlier treaty remained in force. In particular, under French law all Scots were still French citizens, until that right was revoked (but not retroactively) by the French government in 1906. [9]

The Garde Écossaise, however, continued until 1830 when Charles X of France abdicated.


"La plus vieille alliance du monde"

In a speech which he delivered in Edinburgh in June 1942, Charles de Gaulle described the alliance between Scotland and France as "the oldest alliance in the world". He also declared that:[10]

In every combat where for five centuries the destiny of France was at stake, there were always men of Scotland to fight side by side with men of France, and what Frenchmen feel is that no people has ever been more generous than yours with its friendship.

In 1995, celebrations were held in both countries for the 700th anniversary of the beginning of the alliance.[2]

In 2011 the acknowledged British historian Dr Siobhan Talbott published the result of her diligent research on this matter and concluded accordingly that the Auld Alliance is actually unrevoked after all. [11]

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Cjo - Abstract - French Naturalization Of The Scots In The Fifteenth And Sixteenth Centuries". Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bonner, Elizabeth (2002). "Scotland's `Auld Alliance' with France, 1295-1560". History 84 (273): 5–30. 
  3. ^ Mackie, J. D. (1947). "Henry VIII and Scotland". Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 29: 93–114. JSTOR 3678551. 
  4. ^ Michel, vol i, pp71-72
  5. ^
  6. ^ (page 2). 2006-06-16. doi:10.1080/00033798700200171. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ The Reign of Elizabeth 1558-1603, J. B. Black, Oxford, 1936, at p.34
  9. ^ "Franco-Scottish alliance against England one of longest in history". The University of Manchester. 12 August 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011. 
  10. ^ de Gaulle, Charles (1960). Mémoires de guerre: L'appel, 1940-1942. Université de l'État de Pennsylvanie: Plon. 
  11. ^ "In a paper to be published next year, Dr Siobhan Talbott argues the Franco-Scottish Auld Alliance of 1295 survived centuries of enmity and war between Britain and France – even after the Act of Union was signed in 1707". Retrieved 2011-11-14. 


  • Michel, F.X., Les Écossais en France, les Français en Écosse II vols. London 1862. (in French) [1] [2]

Further reading

External links

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