The Auld Alliance
Today we talk of the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK. The special relationship which once existed between Scotland and France is just such a relationship. Today the Scottish Nationalist Party refer to it as the helpful bond with France which has held strong with the European Union. Hubert Fenwick wrote, when Britain was considering joining the Common Market, that the spirit of the Auld Alliance would be kept alive by such a process.
I have been reading this excellent book by historian Hubert Fenwick, published 1971. It is the first attempt ever to trace the story of ‘The Auld Alliance’ in its entirety. I have dipped into it and quoted from it to illustrate the relevance to the 17th Century life of Adam Smith. The fact that the dual nationality afforded to French and Scots people lasted for centuries, is quite remarkable in itself. I have transcribed some paragraphs from the book here.
The origins of the Auld Alliance are lost in the mists of time…….(p.xii) the first documentary evidence of a formal alliance is actually contained in the Treaty concluded between King John Baliol and Philippe le Bel, in 1295, which was ratified by King Robert the Bruce in 1326, and renewed by David II in 1359.
Succeeding monarchs of the Royal Stewart line renewed the Auld Alliance as each came to the throne, and in 1512, the year before Flodden, it was formally strengthened still further. James V added a French marriage to the political union, espousing Madeleine de Valois, daughter of François Premier; and when she died he wed Mary of Guise, whose work own daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, subsequently became Dauphine and Queen of France. However, the Reformation soon put paid to the ever-increasing ovement towards a unitary state in Scotland and France, in in 1560, under the aegis of John Knox and his patroness, Queen Elizabeth, whose ships entered the Firth of Forth in a show of force, the official Alliance was dissolved. Yet Marie Stewart and François II remained as joint Sovereigns off France and Scotland and the purely cultural and commercial aspects of the association continued unabated.
(p.xiii) In 1513 Louis XII granted French nationality to the whole Scottish nation, ‘Pour route la nation d’Ecosse,’ as a document on display in the French Institute in Edinburgh in 1953 stated; and because of this and other generous gestures from France a visit to that country has special attractions for Scots. It not only emphasises sentimental attachments that linger on long after the severing of political ties, but also reminds one of artistic and intellectual gifts, not to mention gastronomic novelties, received from our oldest allies. We shared and won battles together too. In the Cathedral of Orléans, for example, may be seen a plaque upon which is recorded the service of an officer of the historic Garde Écossaise; while at Buzancy, near Soissons, the 1914-1918 village War Memorial is inscribed as follows:
‘Ici fleurira lr glorieux Chardon d’Écosse
Parmi les Roses de France.’
A gap of nearly six centuries divides these two tributes, but the bottle of friendship have clearly bridged the years undiminished.
(p.xiv) Throughout the seventeenth century adventurers and scholars, as well as professors and religious men kept up the two-way traffic between Scotland and France. Rabelais was first translated into English by a Scotsman, and John Law of Lauriston founded the first Banque Nationale de France (italics). Later, when the Stewart’s went into exile in St. Germain, there arose yet a third phase of collaboration in which French and Scots intellectuals participated. Hume and Rousseau were closely associated, and as the eighteenth century progressed scores of Scots who were neither supporters of the Stewart’s nor mere tourists went to Ferney to pay their respects to the author of Candide and to demonstrate their superior learning!
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