Scotland, France, and the auld alliance

(fol. 37v-41)

When the archbishop had finished his prepared purpose, Ralph Earl of Westmorland, a man of no less gravity than experience and of no more experience than stomach, which was then high warden of the marches toward Scotland, and therefore thinking that if the king should pass over into France with his whole puissance that his power should be too weak to withstand the strength of Scotland if they should invade during the king's absence. Wherefore he rose up, and making his obeisance to the king, said: "Surely, sir, as my lord of Canterbury hath clerkly declared, the conquest of France is very honorable, and when it is gotten and obtained, very profitable and pleasant. But saving your grace's reformation, I say and affirm that to conquer Scotland is more necessary, more apparent easy, and more profitable to this realm than is the gain of France. For although I am not so well learned as my lord archbishop is, nor have not proceeded to degree in the university, yet I have read, and heard great clerks say, that strength knit and combined together is of more force and efficacy than when it is severed and dispersed. As for an example, sprinkle a vessel of water and it moisteth not, but cast it out wholly together and it both washeth and nourisheth. This notable saying before this time hath encouraged emperors, animated kings, and allured princes to conquer realms to them adjoining, to vanquish nations to their dominions adjacent, to subdue people either necessary for their purpose or being to them daily enemies or continual adversaries. For proof whereof, behold what was the chief cause and occasion why rulers and governors so sore labored, thirsted, and coveted to bring all regions to them adjoining into one rule or monarchy? Was it not done to this intent: that the conquerors might have the only power and entire gubernation of all the lands and people within their climate, and govern them in time of peace and also have their aid in time of war? Which monarchy was of that majesty and estimation in the world that no other foreign prince or exterior potentate either had audacity or was able to attempt any thing within the territory or region of the monarchial prince and adjourned king?

"Let the kingdom of the Assyrians be your example, and if that suffice not, then look on the Persians, after on the Greeks, and lastly on the Romans, which ever desired and coveted more to have the little isle of Sicily, the territory of the Numidians and the mean city of the Samnites (being daily within their kenning and smell), rather than to obtain populous Gaul, plenteous Pannony, or manly Macedony (lying far from sight and out of their circle or compass). This desire seemeth to rise of a great prudent and vigilant policy, for as a prince is of more puissance when his countries join, so is he of more strength when his power is at hand. And as men lacking comfort be more relieved by friends which be present than by kinsfolk dwelling in foreign and regions far off, so princes have commonly coveted and ever desired to see and behold their dominions lying near about them, rather than to hear by report from the countries far distant from them.

"If this hath been the policy of conquerors, the appetite of purchasers, and the study of governors, why doth your grace desire France before Scotland, or covet a country far from your sight before a realm under your nose? Do you not remember how the whole isle of Britain was one entire monarchy in the time of your noble ancestor King Brute, first king and ruler of your famous empire and glorious region? Which dividing his realm to his three sons gave to Locrine his eldest son that part of Britain that your highness now enjoyeth; and to Albanact his second son he gave the country of Albany, now called Scotland; and to Camber his third son he gave the country of Cambria, now called Wales; reserving always to him and his heirs homage, liege, and fealty loyal for the same countries and dominions. By this division, the glory of the monarchy of Britain was clearly defaced; by this separation the strength of the British kings was sore diminished; by this dispersion intestine war began and civil rebellion sprang first within this region. For while all was under one, no nation durst either once invade or attempt war against the Britons; but when the land was once divided and the monarchy undone, outward enmity or foreign hostility not half so much infested, grieved, or troubled the valiant Britons as their own neighbors descended of one parent, and come of one progeny.

15"For the Albanacts, otherwise called the false fraudulent Scots, and the Cambers, otherwise called the unstable Welshmen, did not alonely withdraw their fealty, deny their homage, and refuse their allegiance due to the kings of this realm, but also made continual war and destroyed their towns and slew the people of their neighbors and Britons. For which cause, divers of your noble progenitors have not only made war and subdued the Scots for the denying of their homage and stirring of rebellion, but also have deposed their kings and princes and erected and set up other in their estates and dignities. Scater king of Scots, for his rebellion, was by Dunwallo Molmutius, your noble predecessor, slain and extincted. King Arthur also, the glory of the Britons, erected Angosile to the scepter of Scotland and received of him homage and fealty. If I should rehearse how many kings of Scotland have done homage to your ancient predecessors, or rehearse how many Scottish kings they have corrected and punished for their disobedience and denying of homage, or declare what kings they, as superior lords and high emperors over the underkings of Scotland, have elected and made rulers -- to the intent that all people might manifestly perceive that it was more glorious, more honorable, and more famous to a king to make a king than to be a king by natural descent -- I assure you your ears would be more weary of hearing than my tongue would be fatigate with open truth-telling.

"Your noble progenitor King Edward the First, coveting to be superior and to surmount in honor, or at the least to be equivalent in fame with his noble ancestors and famous progenitors, daily studied and hourly compassed how to bring the whole isle of Britain, which by Brute was divided into three parts, into one monarchy and one dominion. After long study and great consultation had, he subdued Wales and tamed the wild people and brought that unruly part to his old home and ancient degree, which thing done, he likewise invaded Scotland and conquered the country to the town of Perth, called Saint John's town, standing on the river of Tay, which he walled, ditched and fortified, ruling that part with English laws, English customs, and by English judges, and was almost at a point thereof to have made a perfect conquest and a complete monarchy. But O Lord, hasty death, which maketh an end of all mortal creatures, suddenly bereft him of his life and took away his spirit, and so all things which he had devised, which he had imagined and seriously pretended, the small moment of an hour turned upside down and suddenly subverted. Since whose death, your great-grandfather, ye, and your noble father have attempted to bring that renegade region into his ancient course and former line -- as a thing both necessary, convenient, and meet -- to be joined and united to this realm, and so not only to revive the old empire and famous monarchy, but also to unite and combine that virtue and strength, which from the time of Brute was dispersed and severed, in one body, in one head, and one corporation.

"Wherefore, if to your high wisdom it seemeth not necessary -- taking this term necessary for needful -- to conquer the realm of Scotland, as a thing that needs must be done, yet will I not fly from my first saying, but prove it necessary, as the logical paraphrasian and philosophical interpreters do, by a distinction expound this term necessary to signify a thing convenient: that the conquest in Scotland before the invading of France is most expedient, for experience teacheth, and reason agreeth, that every person intending a purposed enterprise or a determinate voyage should [not] only provide and make preparation for all things requisite and needful for his purpose or exploit, but also ought vigilantly to foresee with lynx's eyes, and prevent and study with the serpentine policy how to avoid and refel all things which might either be an impediment to his progression and setting forward or occasion of his return and loss of his enterprise, lest he, leaving behind him an evil neighbor, a continual adversary, and a secret enemy, may as soon lese his own proper realm as conquer and gain the dominion of another; wherefore the trite and common adage saith, 'Leave not the certain for the uncertain.'

"Wherefore it is necessary that I enucleate and open to you certain articles contained in the old league and amity between the realms of France and Scotland, whereof the words be these:

  1. The war or injury moved or done by the Englishmen to one of the said nations to be as a common wrong to both.
  2. Ifthe Englishmen make war on the French nation, then the Scots, at the costs and charges of the French king, shall minister to their succors.
  3. Likewise,if the Scots be molested by the English wars, the French nation, having their costs allowed, shall be to them aiders and assisters.
  4. Andthat none of both the nations shall either contract or make peace with the realm of England without the consent and agreement of the other.

And to the intent that this league and amity should be kept unviolate, Robert le Bruce, the usurper of Scotland, willed by his testament two things in especial to be observed: the one, never to break the treaty concluded with France; the second, never to keep peace or promise with Englishmen longer than the keeping thereof were to them either profitable or necessary. Yet John Mayer and other Scottish writers color this cause, saying that he would have no peace concluded with England above three years. But whatsoever writers write or talkers say, they be to him most faithful executors and have never yet broken his testament, but daily keep his precept and commandment.

20"And for the performance of this will and keeping of this league, none of your ancestors ever invaded France but incontinent the Scots troubled and vexed England. None of your progenitors ever passed the sea in just quarrel against the French nation but the Scottish people in their absence entered your realm, spoiled your houses, slew your people and took great preys innumerable, only to provoke your ancestors for to return from the invading of France. If I should declare to you their common breaking of leagues, their crafty and subtle dissimulation, their false fair promises often sworn and never kept, I doubt not but you would ten times more abhor their doing than I would be ashamed of the telling. Therefore I say still, and affirm it necessary and convenient to forsee that you leave no enemies behind at your back when you go to conquer adversaries before your face.

"Beside this, if you consider the daily charges, the inconstant chances that may happen, I think, yea, and little doubt but Scotland shall be tamed before France shall be framed. For if you will invade France, account what number of ships must transport your army, reckon what charge of anchors, what a multitude of cables, and what innumerable things appertain to a navy. When you be there, if your men decay by sickness or by sword, if victual fail, or if money wax scant, if the wind turn contrary or an hideous tempest arise, you shall be destitute of aid, provision and treasure, which in a strange region are the confusion and defacing of an army. On the other side, if you invade Scotland, your men be at hand, your victual is near, your aid is ever at your back, so that in that voyage you shall have abundance in all things, and of nothing you shall have want. See what an occasion fortune hath offered unto you: is not their king your captive and prisoner? Is not the realm in great division for the cruelty of the Duke of Albany, rather desiring to have a foreign governor than a natural tyrant? Wherefore my counsel is first to invade Scotland, and by God's grace to conquer and join that region to your empire, and to restore the renowned monarchy of Britain to her old estate and preeminence; and so beautified with realms, and furnished with people, to enter into France for the recovering of your righteous title and true inheritance, in observing the old ancient proverb used by our forefathers, which sayeth, 'He that will France win must with Scotland first begin.'"

"No!" quoth the Duke of Exeter, uncle to the king (which was well learned, and sent into Italy by his father, intending to have been a priest). "He that will Scotland win, let him with France first begin. For if you call to remembrance the common saying of the wise and expert physicians, which both write and teach that if you will heal a malady you must first remove the cause; if you will cure a lore, you must first take away the humor that feedeth the place; if you will destroy a plant, pluck away his sap which is his nourishing and life. Then if France be the nourisher or Scotland, if the French pensions be the sustainers of the Scottish nobility, if the education of Scots in France be the cause of practice and policy in Scotland, then pluck away France, and the courage of the nobles of Scotland shall be soon daunted and appalled. Take away France, and the hearts of the common people will soon decay and wax faint. Pluck away France, and never look that Scotland will resist or withstand your power. For when the head is gone, the body soon falleth, and when the sap faileth the tree soon withereth.

"Let men read the chronicles and peruse our English chronographers, and you shall soon find that the Scots have seldom of their own notion invaded or vexed England, but only for the observing of the league in the which they be bound to France: For the Scots are the shaft and dart of the Frenchmen to shoot and cast at their pleasure against the English nation. And where they have invaded, as I cannot deny but they have done, what glory or what profit succeeded of their enterprise I report me to their peculiar histories. King Malcolm invaded England when king William the Second was making war in Normandy. David le Bruce also entered England, your great-grandfather King Edward the Third lying at the siege of Calais. Was not Malcolm slain beside Tynemouth and King David taken beside Durham? Let the governors of Scotland (for the king is sure enough) enter into England on that price and see what he shall gain thereby. What notable act were Scots ever able to do out of their own country and proper climate? Or when were they able to convey an army over the sea at their own costs and expenses? Read their own histories and you shall find few or none.

"Their nature and condition is to tarry at home in idleness, ready to defend their country like brute beasts, thinking their rustical fashion to be high honesty and their beggarly living to be a welfare. Beside this, what ancient writer or authentic historiographer either writ of them honor, or once nameth them? -- except Saint Jerome, which sayeth that when he was young, he saw in France certain Scots of the isle of Britain eat the flesh of men, and when they came into the woods finding there great herds of beasts and flocks of sheep, left the beasts and cut of the buttocks of the herdmen and the paps and breasts of the shepherds' women, esteeming this meat to be the greatest dainties. And Sabellicus sayeth that Scots much delight and rejoice in lying.

25"You may now apparently perceive what puissance Scotland is of itself, little able to defend and less able to invade like a noun adjective that cannot stand without a substantive. If France be taken from them, of whom shall they seek aide? Denmark will them refuse because the king is your brother-in-law. Portugal and Castile will not them regard, both the kings being your cousins germane and aunts’ sons. Italy is too far; Germany and Hungary be with you in league. So that of necessity they, in conclusion, destitute of all aid, deprived of all succor, berefted of all friendship (if France be conquered) must without war or dint of sword come under your subjection and due obeisance.

"And yet I would not in this your conquest France should be so much minded that Scotland should be forgotten, nor that your entire power should be sent into France and no defense left against the invasions of Scotland. For of that might ensue this mischief: that if your whole power were vanquished in France, the Scots, being elated by the victory of their friends, might do more displeasure to your realm in one year than you should recover again in five. But sith God hath sent you people, riches, munitions of war, and all things necessary either to invade both or to defend the one and penetrate the other, pass the sea yourself with an army royal, and leave my lord of Westmorland and other grave captains of the North with a convenient number to defend the Marches, if the subtle Scots, encouraged by the Frenchmen will any thing attempt during your voyage and absence.

"And this is to be remembered: if you get Scotland, you have a country barren almost of all pleasure and goodness; you gain people savage, wavering, and [in]constant; of riches you shall have little and of poverty much. But if you get France, you shall have a country fertile, pleasant, and plentiful; you shall have people civil, witty, and of good order. You shall have rich cities, beautiful towns, innumerable castles, twenty-four puissant duchies, eighty and odd populous countries, and an hundred and three famous bishoprics, a thousand and more fat monasteries, and parish churches (as the French writers affirm) ninety thousand and moe. This conquest is honorable, this gain is profitable, this journey is pleasant, and therefore neither to be left nor forslowed. Victual you shall have sufficient from Flanders; aid of men you may have daily out of England, or else to leave a competent crew in the marches of Calais to refresh your army and to furnish still your number. Although the cost in transporting your men be great, yet your gain shall be greater, and therefore according to the trite adage, 'He must liberally spend that will plentifully gain.'

"And because my lord of Westmorland hath alleged that the Romans desired the dominion of such as were under flight of their own eagle, or whose possessions were a mote to their eye, as the Numidians and other which he hath wisely rehearsed, behold the conditions of the counselors and the desire of the movers: what persons were they which coveted their poor neighbors rather than rich foreigns? Men effeminate, more meet for a carpet than a camp, men of a weak stomach desiring rather to walk in a pleasant garden than pass the seas in a tempestuous storm. What should I say? Men that would have somewhat and yet take little pain, men that coveted things nothing honorable nor yet greatly profitable. But I remember that the noble Cato the Censor, which, when it was alleged in the senate at Rome that Afric was far off, and the sea broad, and the journey perilous, caused certain new figs to be brought into the senate, which grew in the territory of Carthage, and demanded of the senators how they liked the figs? Some said they were new, some said they were sweet, and some said they were pleasant. 'Oh,' quoth Cato, 'If they be new gathered, then is not the region far off where they grew -- scant three days' sailing -- and if it be of no longer distance, then so near to us be our enemies. If the figs be sweet, then is the soil delicious and fertile. If the figs be pleasant, then is the country profitable. If you gain the Sicilians, you shall be rich men in corn. If you get the Samnites you shall have plenty of oil. If you vanquish the Numidians, you shall have copy of beasts. But subdue Carthage and conquer Afric, you shall have not only corn, oil, and beasts, but gold, purple, precious stones, elephants, and all things both necessary and pleasant. Therefore my counsel is rather to seek riches being far distant than poverty lying at hand, for pain is forgotten ever where gain foloweth.' This noble saying of sage Cato so encouraged and inflamed the haut hearts and lusty courages of the manly Romans that they never desisted to persecute the people of Afric till Carthage was utterly destroyed and the whole country subdued and brought under the Roman empire.

"Julius Caesar also desired rather to conquer the Britons, divided from the continent, yea, and inhabiting almost in the end of the world, rather than to gain the Pannonians adjoining to Italy, saying 'Break the stronger and the weaker will bow; subdue the rich and the poor will yield; be lord of the lords and the vassals must needs be subject.' Vanquish the Frenchmen and the Scots be tamed. This counsel of Cato, and this saying of Caesar maketh me both to speak and think that if you get France, ye get two, and if you get Scotland you get but one."

30When the duke had said and sat down, his opinion was much noted and well digested with the king, but in especial with his three brethren and divers other lords, being young and lusty, desirous to win honor and profit in the realm of France, ensuing the courageous acts of their noble progenitors, which gat in that region both honor and renown. So that now all men cried "War, war! France, France!" and the bill put into the parliament for dissolving of religious houses was clearly forgotten and buried, and nothing thought on but only the recovering of France, according to the title by the archbishop declared and set forth. . . .