The Second Treaty of Berwick was signed on the 27th of February, 1560.
Three treaties were named after Berwick-upon-Tweed, currently in Northumberland, on the border between Scotland and England. The first, in October 1357, arranged for the release from captivity of David II of Scotland in return for a large ransom to be paid to Edward III of England, upon which the full payment was reneged. Cheap at half the price. This second treaty, in 1560, committed the English to send military aid to the Scottish Protestants. The third, in June 1639, effectively ended the
first Bishops' War between Charles I and the Scottish Covenanters.
The years between 1558 and 1560 were critical in Anglo-Scottish relations. The death of Mary Tudor, in 1558, had placed the Protestant Elizabeth on the English throne. A year later, in 1559, Lizzy's fifteen years old Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, became also Queen Consort of France. That event took place the year after the then fourteen years old Mary had married the then fifteen years old Dauphin, çois, on the 24thof April, 1558. Mary's Roman Catholic mother, Mary of Guise, became Regent, ruling Scotland behalf of her absent daughter. That Regent Mary was the widow of James V, who had only recently died, famously (allegedly; in truth it's a bit of a myth) exclaiming, “It kam wi’ a lass an’ it’ll gang wi’ a lass”.
One reason Elizabeth was so keen on the Berwick treaty was because she feared that France intended to rule Scotland, which would have threatened her realm. Those two countries had signed an accord. That agreement stipulated that the crowns of Scotland and France would be unified if there were children of the marriage, and the crown of Scotland would be given to France if there were not. , Elizabeth feared such greater unity between Scotland and France, and in particular, Mary Stewart’s claim to her throne.
Indeed, Mary had a strong claim to that throne, through her grandfather, James IV, who was married to Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. Catholic Mary was therefore a legitimate relative of Henry VIII, unlike Protestant Elizabeth, who was illegitimate, at least in Catholic eyes, because they saw her father’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, as being illegal. Ipso facto, she was not the true Queen of England. a French point of view, because Mary had legitimate claims, they wanted her to be the Queen of England, Scotland and France. Voilà!
Another factor concerning Elizabeth was the desire to further hasten the Reformation in Scotland, which is why the Protestant Scottish Lords of the Congregation (sounds like a great name for a rock group) were trying to get the Catholic French expelled. For Elizabeth, if Scotland were Protestant, that would make it an ally and help protect England. Regent Mary’s catholicising policy was opposed by the Lords of the Congregation, actually a group of noblemen, supported by the religious fervency of John Knox, whom the Regent didn't like very much and for which she can hardly be blamed.
In the absence of Queen Mary I, the Lords of the Congregation sought to act on Scotland’s behalf, ignoring the Regent to some large degree. More accurately, they sought to rule on their own behalf for their own benefit. Thus, a deal was proposed and negotiations began, between the representatives of Queen Elizabeth I of England and those traitorous, rebel Congregationalists, towards what would become the Treaty of Berwick. The result of the discussions was that an English fleet and an army came to Scotland to help expel the ten thousand French troops that were defending the Regency of the Catholic Mary of Guise. Armed conflict ensued and the French troops retreated. They fortified the port and town of Leith against the combined force of English and rebel Scots and so began the Siege of Leith, on the 17thof March, 1560.
The English Lieutenant General Norfolk was the man sent north by Elizabeth Ito support the rebellious Lords, whilst his compatriot, Admiral Winter, was in charge of the blockade and besieging of the Forth at Leith, occupied by the allies – the Scottish and French naval forces. For safety then, Marie of Guise had flitted to Edinburgh Castle, which event took place on the 1stof April.
Interestingly, an old Scottish prophecy had foretold great changes “when two winters were to be seen in Scotland in the same year.” And so it happened that whilst Admiral Winter was told to pick any quarrel he could with the French and prevent reinforcements or the Scots, eponymous winter storms coincidentally wrecked a second French convoy on its way to Leith. Thus two winters did indeed prove to have been a decisive factor in the expulsion of the French from Scotland. Spooky, or what?
Eventually, the Gordon Earl of Huntly, a Catholic, came to terms with the Congregation and by then, hardly a Scot of note remained on the French side, except Bothwell and the Bishops. Following this shift, on 27thFebruary, 1560, the Treaty was concluded between Norfolk and the Scottish Lords – both Protestant and Catholic.
The Treaty was “for the defence of the ancient rights and liberty of their country”, as the original words “for the maintenance of Christian religion” were left out of the final version. The Lords bound themselves to resist any closer of a union between Scotland and France than existed through Mary’s marriage and to assist England against France with all their forces if France invaded England north of York. In addition, they were to assist with 2000 foot and 1000 horse if France invaded elsewhere.
On the 11th of June, 1560, Mary of Guise died dropsy and figurehead of the Scottish Catholic resistance was removed. Later in the year, Mary, Queen of Scots, was widowed and returned to Scotland – but that’s another story. Another treaty, tTreaty of Edinburgh, was signed in July 1560, agreeing that French and English troops would withdraw from Scotland. Also included in that treaty was the agreement for Mary, Queen of Scots, and François, to give up Mary’s claim to the English crown and recognize Elizabeth I as rightful Queen of England.
It may be stretching a point to suggest we should hail the Second Treaty of Berwick as the turning-point towards a Protestant Scotland and future union with England, however, there is little doubt that it turned the scales in the struggle between the old and new religions.