The Treaty of Perpetual Peace was concluded by James IV and Henry VII on the 24th of January, 1502.
James IV was King of Scots from the 11th of June, 1488 until his death on the 9th of September, 1513. The fourth of six Jameses, he is generally regarded as the most successful of the Stewart Monarchs of Scotland. The reign of James IV ended with the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Flodden Field, otherwise known as the Battle of Branxton Moor, where he became the last Monarch from Great Britain to be killed in battle.
The Treaty of Perpetual Peace was signed by James IV of Scotland and Henry VII of England on the 24th of January, 1502. It agreed to end the warfare between Scotland and England, which had been waged intermittently, sometimes short and unsweet, sometimes prolonged and at times internecine, always fiercely, over the previous umpteen hundred years. It was intended to be binding, not only on the two Kings who had signed it, but also on their successors, in perpetuity, hence the name. As it states in part; “there [shall] be a true, sincere, whole and unbroken peace, friendship, league and amity, not only for the term of the life of each of our said princes … from this day forth in all times to come, between them and their heirs and lawful successors, heritable and lawfully succeeding …”. As part of the Treaty a marriage contract was agreed between James IV and Margaret Tudor, the daughter of Henry VII. After signing the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, James IV solemnised the Treaty by his marriage to Henry’s daughter, which took place at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh on the 8th of August, 1503.
Henry VII was the first Tudor King, vaguely related to the English Royal Line of Lancaster, of which he had declared himself heir, since most members of the House of Lancaster were dead. Henry’s motivation for signing the Treaty was due to his needing stability in his Kingdom. He feared an uprising by latent supporters of the Yorkist faction, for which he had good reason, and another invasion by the Scots in support of Perkin Warbeck. Henry had risen to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses, having established himself as the candidate, not only of the traditional Lancastrian supporters, but of discontented supporters of the rival House. Capitalising on the unpopularity of King Richard III, the last King of the House of York and the last Plantagenet King of England, Henry defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field, in 1485, and proclaimed himself King. Henry VII bolstered his disputed claim to the throne by marrying Richard’s niece, Elizabeth of York, and symbolically uniting the former warring factions under a new dynasty. The new dynasty was symbolized by the ‘Tudor Rose’, a fusion of the White Rose symbol of the House of York, and the Red Rose of the House of Lancaster.
Similarly, James IV had gained his throne by supporting a group of dissident nobles. Those had captured his father, James III, whilst an invading English army was approaching and had scurrilously tried to force him to abdicate. Then, in 1488, those same rebels fought the Battle of Sauchieburn against their King, James III, when both sides flew the Lion Rampant. James’ army was defeated and he was cut down and mercilessly killed. Young James was then crowned fourth of the name, but he was never comfortable with the manner of his usage by the rebels against his father. As a consequence of his guilt and regret, he did a very medieval thing. For the rest of his life, he did penance by wearing an iron chain around his waist. Maybe that’s what hampered him at Flodden?
James took advantage of the peace and successfully stabilised his realm, hence his being regarded as the most successful of the Stewart Monarchs. He subdued the upstart Lord of the Isles and gained full dominion over the Western Isles. He built a small but impressive navy, including the ‘Great Michael’, patronised literature, introduced compulsory education and founded King’s College, Aberdeen, now part of Aberdeen University, and the Edinburgh College of Surgeons, thirty-five years earlier than the equivalent in England. As Norman Macdougall records in his excellent biography of James IV, the Scottish King was more than a match for Henry, generally regarded as a subtle and highly effective diplomat. James IV invaded England again and again and suffered no retribution. He was clearly a man to be treated with caution and respect; a man whom Henry Tudor could see as a suitable suitor for his young daughter.
The treaty was broken in 1513, when James IV invaded England in support of the French, who had been attacked by the English, by that time ruled by their new King, Henry VIII. The invasion was effectively forced upon James by Scotland’s obligation to France under an older, mutual defence treaty, the Auld Alliance, signed by William the Lion of Justice, way back in the 13th Century. The 1513 invasion by the Scots met defeat, of course, at Flodden, where James was killed. Despite that effective abrogation of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, it had a long lasting effect, because it eventually led to the Union of the Crowns in 1606, when James VI & I succeeded the ‘Virgin Queen’ Elizabeth I.
Having invaded England, under the terms of the Treaty, James was excommunicated and could not be buried in consecrated ground. His body was removed to the Carthusian Monastery of Sheen in Surrey, where it lay for months. Henry sent a letter to the Pope, dated the 12th of October, 1513, in which he asked the Pontiff to allow the King of Scots to be carried to London and buried with royal honours at St. Paul’s. Pope Leo X replied on the 29th of November that it was to be presumed James had given some signs of repentance in his extremities and that he might be buried with funeral honours. However, before that could take place, Henry fell out with the Pope, dissolved the Monasteries and as a consequence, James’ body was forgotten and it vanished. The Treaty of Perpetual Peace was also forgotten and vanished on the wind like it’d been torn into pieces.