The Treaty of Northampton was signed and ratified on the 4th of May, 1328.
The Treaty of Northampton was the formal document that concluded the First Scottish War of Independence. However, one thing we can conclude about the Treaty of Northampton is that it’s easy to get confused about the Treaty of Northampton. On the one hand, it is sometimes referred to as the Treaty of Edinburgh, which unhelpfully risks confusion with another Treaty of Edinburgh; that of 1560. For another thing, it was concluded in one month, endorsed in a later month and then backdated to an even earlier date, just to add another level of confusion. To add one final confusing ingredient, it was made between the English and Scottish Kings, neither of whom were actively present at its ratification.
The Treaty of Northampton is sometimes referred to as the Treaty of Edinburgh, because it was concluded in Edinburgh, on the 17th of March, 1328. However, it wasn’t until later, in Northampton, that it was endorsed on behalf of Edward III, King of England, and his Council in Parliament. At its ratification in Northampton on the 4th of May, 1328, the treaty was formally backdated to the 1st of March, “in the Year of our Lord 1328.” The Treaty of Northampton was a treaty between Robert the Bruce, King of Scots and Edward III, the grandson of Edward I of England – the Longshanks of Braveheart infamy. Although the treaty was ostensibly made by England’s Edward III, it was ratified by Edward’s mother, Isabella of France, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, acting on behalf of the child King.
The Treaty takes the form of a proclamation by Edward III, which after an admission that the “dire conflicts of wars waged have afflicted for a long time the Kingdoms of England and Scotland”, contains two important provisions. Firstly, it formally recognises the independence of Scotland and, secondly, it renounces any claim by England for dominion over Scotland. The Treaty also recognised Robert I as King of Scots and put an end to demands for homage from him. This was a volte-face from the line that successive Edwards had adopted since Longshanks’ meddling in Scottish affairs, which began with the death of Alexander III, in 1286. It also signalled an end to similar claims of suzerainty, which had been made throughout past centuries, during the reigns of Malcolm Canmore, Alexander I, William the Lion and Malcolm the Maiden.
Of course, the Treaty revealed the weak position of the English in the wake of the deposition of Edward II. The ascendancy of the Scots at that time is illustrated by Edward II having narrowly avoided capture just a few years earlier, after the Battle of Scawton Moor, in 1322. The intensity of raids in succeeding campaigns by an invading Scottish Army forced the English into negotiation. Talks started in the autumn of 1327, after Edward II had been deposed and murdered. That was a dastardly deed, in which his mother and Mortimer were implicated.
The Scots were undoubtedly in a strong bargaining position and made six conditions for the Treaty. Those were: King Robert should possess the Kingdom of Scotland “free, quit and entire” for himself and his heirs for ever, without the render of any homage; Robert’s son and heir David should marry Edward’s younger sister, Joan of the Tower; that no subject of the King of Scots should claim lands in England and no subject of the King of England should claim lands in Scotland; that the King of Scots and his heirs would give military aid to England and his heirs, saving the alliance with France and that the King of England would give military aid to Scotland “as good allies”; that Robert the Bruce would pay twenty thousand pounds to the English, within three years of peace being concluded; and, finally, that King Edward would use his good offices to influence the Pope to release the King of Scots and his subjects from excommunication and interdict.
On the 12th of July, 1328, the seven year old Joan was married to the four year old David and, on the 15th of October, the Pope revoked the excommunication of King Robert and his subjects. Less than a year later, Robert the Bruce died. Peace and freedom had been hard fought for, but it would be short lived. Edward III subsequently determined to overturn this ‘turpis pax’, as the Meaux chronicler called it. Five years later, encouraged by the success of Edward Balliol against David II, he invaded Scotland, thus beginning the Second Scottish War of Independence.
The original Treaty of Northampton is kept by the National Archives of Scotland. The exchequer rolls of Scotland, also held by the National Archives of Scotland, record the contributions for the special peace levy paid from all over Scotland, in 1328, to cover the ‘war indemnity’ – for the destruction of northern England. Here is an extract from the Treaty, translated from the original French:
“Whereas, we and some of our predecessors, Kings of England, have endeavoured to establish rights of rule or dominion or superiority over the realm of Scotland, whence dire conflicts of wars waged have afflicted for a long time the Kingdoms of England and Scotland: we, having regard to the slaughter, disasters, crimes, destruction of churches and evils innumerable which, in the course of such wars, have repeatedly befallen the subjects of both realms, and to the wealth with which each realm, if united by the assurance of perpetual peace, might abound to their mutual advantage, thereby rendering them more secure against the hurtful efforts of those conspiring to rebel or to attack, whether from within or without:
We will and grant by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors whatsoever, with the common advice, assent and consent of the prelates, princes, earls, barons and the commons of our realm in our Parliament, that the Kingdom of Scotland, within its own proper marches as they were held and maintained in the time of King Alexander of Scotland, last deceased, of good memory, shall belong to our dearest ally and friend, the magnificent prince, Lord Robert, by God’s grace illustrious King of Scotland, and to his heirs and successors, separate in all things from the Kingdom of England, whole, free and undisturbed in perpetuity, without any kind of subjection, service claim or demand. And by these presents we denounce and demit to the King of Scotland, his heirs and successors, whatsoever right we or our predecessors have put forward in any way in bygone times to the aforesaid Kingdom of Scotland.”