Revolting Scots: Rebels or National Enemy? Crown Communications and Public Perceptions in Early Fourteenth-Century England
Paper by Andy King
Given one for the Institute of Historical Studies, on January 22, 2021
Introduction: On 14th June 1297 a writ was sent to the faithful subjects Edward the First, King of England, in his realm of Scotland. They were ordered to assist John, Earl Warren the keeper of the king’s land and realm of Scotland, who had been sent to those parts “to repress the rebellion and malice of certain rebels, malefactors and disturbers of our peace.” The order was occasioned by a growing conflict in Scotland following William Wallace’s killing of the Sheriff of Lanark early in May, and this appears to be the first time that Edward or his government referred to scots who had risen in arms against him as ‘rebels’.
From Edward’s point of view, this was a simple statement of fact. Acting as lawful overlord of the Kingdom of Scotland, he deposed John Balliol, King of Scots and taken upon himself the lordship of Scotland after Balliol had egregiously failed to fulfill his lawful obligations and made an alliance with Edward’s enemies. The scots were therefore now Edward’s immediate subjects and so their armed resistance to him was rebellion. Equally though, the description of Scots who opposed Edward’s rule as rebels was a deliberate attempt to influence political opinion, intended to shape perceptions of Edward’s military campaigns by framing them as a just war.
Top Image: The Siege of Berwick as depicted in the 1873 book British Battles on Land and Sea, volume 3.