The Treaty of Salisbury was signed on the 6th of November, 1289.
When Alexander III, King of Scots, died in a fall from his horse at Kinghorn in March, 1286, he left no children and, therefore, no heir. However, he did have a three years old granddaughter, whose name was Margaret and who became known as the ‘Maid of Norway’. Margaret was a Norwegian Princess; the daughter of Eric II, King of Norway, and Margaret, daughter of Alexander III, King of Scots. Wee Maggie was born in 1283, most likely in early April, and it is also likely that her poor mother died at her birth, but the date of that death is uncertain. Maggie had been acknowledged as Alexander's heir in 1284 and on his death, became Margaret, Queen of Scots. By May of 1289, Maggie was still at home in Norway and there remained uncertainty and concern, at least in Norway, about her future and safety. Consequently, in May, 1289, Eric II sent a couple of his ambassadors to Edward I of England to ask him to provide a level of protection for his daughter, described as Edward’s neice.
In the meantime in Scotland, due to Queen Margaret’s continued absence, six Guardians had been appointed, in April, 1286, to rule in her name. Had she been in Scotland, a Regent would have been appointed to rule in her name until she reached her majority. In October, 1289, Edward I, in accordance with the request of Eric II, asked those Guardians to send representatives to join discussions over Margaret’s future at a “place of parley”. The text of the treaty indicates that “[the Guardians] at the request of the said King of England, sent, in the manner that they were requested, the honourable fathers the Bishop of St Andrews and the Bishop of Glasgow, and the noble men Sir Robert de Bruce, Lord of Annandale, and Sir John Comyn”. Those men arrived in Salisbury at Michaelmas on the 29th of September “…at the month of St Michael last passed” and they met with Edward I and his representatives, “…the honourable fathers” John of Pontoise, Bishop of Winchester, and Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, “…and the noble men” William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, and John de Warenne, Earl of Warenne. The messengers of the King of Norway, Sir Terri de Champs de Jeu, Piers Algod and Guthorn de Aseleye, were also in attendance.
The treaty, which was given at Salisbury on the 6th of November, 1289, the “Sunday in the feast of St Leonard” began thus: “Know us to have affirmed and established the thing treated and accorded not long ago at Salisbury concerning the arrangement of the standing of our dear Lady Madam Margaret Queen and Heiress of Scotland, and of her Kingdom, in the presence of the Noble Prince my Lord Edward, by the Grace of God King of England”.
The provisions of the Treaty of Salisbury ensured several things. It provided security for Margaret if she were to go to England until the ‘trouble’ within Scotland, which had given Eric II concern, had died down and it was safe for Margaret to move to Scotland and take up her position as Queen. It stated that “the aforesaid Lady, Queen and Heiress, come to the Kingdom of England or Scotland” before the 1st of November, 1290, being the “next All Saints’ Day” and “quit and free of all contract of marriage and espousal”. The treaty also stated, with additional references to Margaret being “free of all contract of marriage” that the King of England had “promised in good faith” that he would deliver her to Scotland “also quit and delivered of all contract of marriage” when it was safe so to do, namely when Scotland was “in good and secure peace”. Of course, the Scottish representatives were required to promise “in good faith for themselves and for the other people of Scotland” that they would “secure the land” and “make surety there” that Margaret “can come safely into her kingdom, and safely remain there, as the true Lady, Queen and Heiress”. It also included the proviso that the “good people of Scotland” would not marry Margaret without Edward’s “ordinance, desire and counsel, and by the assent of the King of Norway, her father”.
Despite all those references to Margaret being “quit and free of all contract of marriage and espousal” and unknown to the Scots, the sneaky Edward I had already applied to the Pope for dispensation for the marriage of his son Edward to marry Margaret. That dispensation was granted ten days after the signing of the treaty of Salisbury and before the treaty, without modification, was reaffirmed by the Scots at Birgham. That affirmation took place “on the first Tuesday after the feast of St Gregory, AD 1289” (the 14th of March, 1290) and was for “the greater surety and firmness of the things written above”, namely the terms of the Treaty of Salisbury as written.
An additional treaty was then drawn up at Birgham in Berwickshire, on the 18th of July, and ratified at Northampton, on the 28th of August, 1290. With that treaty, which provided for the marriage of Margaret to Edward of Caernarfon, the son of Edward I of England, ‘Longshanks’ plans for Scotland became clearer. The treaty guaranteed the “rights, laws and liberties of the Kingdom of Scotland” and, under the condition that Margaret would marry Edward’s son, Scotland was to remain “separate and divided from England according to its rightful boundaries, free in itself and without subjection”. Additionally, it seems the English negotiators had included enough reservations to render the ‘independence’ clauses useless. However, in any event, all talk of the six years old Queen Margaret marrying the four years old Prince Edward proved redundant as the poor wee lassie died in or en route to the Orkney Islands, in September or October, 1290.
Margaret’s death sparked off the disputed succession, which led to the first War of Scottish Independence. The question of who was then the rightful claimant to the Throne was a problem for Scotland as back in 1284, no one had looked beyond Margaret. Exce[t for the Bruces, that is. A couple of months after the death of Alexander III in 1286, they entered into the ‘Turnberry Bond’, which asserted their claim to the Throne. Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale, and grandfather of Robert I, asserted that Alexander II had recognised him as next in line to the Throne of Scotland even before the birth of Alexander III. Later, in 1291, Edward I ominously summoned the Scottish nobles to meet him at Norham-on-Tweed. There, he styled himself ‘Lord Paramount of Scotland’ and challenged the claimants to the Scottish Throne to recognise him as their feudal superior.