British History/Medieval Britain
QUESTION: Hi, this is really embarrassing, but I have to ask someone. I'm writing a story and have come to serious continuity problems.
Was there any time, from 800 AD to 1500 AD, that a Scotsman would ever be enlisted to fight alongside Englishmen in national wars? Even if sneaked in? I have it temporarily set up in the 1200s (French & English against Scotland?) until finding a better era..... Must be an era without modern conveniences: no electricity (fireplaces), no phones (mail), no cars (horses), no planes (ships), no guns (swords), and where most commoners could not afford glass window panes.
I'm also sorely in need of a proper title for a royal member who has some power but little responsibility to privately extort inhabitants. It would be helpful if his title necessitated him to fight occasionally in small skirmishes, might have a troop of men or aides to follow him wherever he wants to go, but isn't directly in line for the throne.
I've managed to locate the cost of household items and wages for 1200s-1400s, but for the above I really need a historian.
ANSWER: Hello Kat.
Scots frequently fought for the English, especially if they lived in the borderlands where the boundaries were undefined; they chose whichever King, English or Scots, they thought would guarantee their safe future. Also in the Middle Ages many Scottish Lords had lands in England, either inherited or brought with a marriage to an English heiress, so they were pretty much obliged to fight for whichever King called upon their services as their feudal Lord.
You mentioned mail services, there was no mail service in the British Isles until the mid 17th century. Before that you either carried a message yourself or found someone who was going that way to take it for you; if you were wealthy you could send someone with it, but for ordinary folk that was not an option.
The 1200s isn't perhaps the best time to set such a story. For most of the century the Scots and the English enjoyed their closest relations for years; the only strife came in the years up to 1216 and at the end from 1296 onwards when things got really bad and when we see a Franco-Scottish Alliance in force.
If you want to involve the French then the Anglo-Scottish Wars which went on, with periods of uneasy peace, from 1296 to 1346 would be best.
There were always border skirmishes between English and Scottish landowners, the actual border was not clearly defined and small bodies of men would frequently raid their neighbours' lands for cattle etc.
I'll get back to you with a suitable character who fits the bill. In the meantime I recommend the novels of Nigel Tranter, he wrote extensively about Scotland and has many novels set over a timeframe of more than 1000 years of Scottish history. Wikipedia has a full list so you can see which one covers the period you're thinking of and see which characters he uses.
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QUESTION: Hello Mark, thank you for your thoughtful reply.
I think I might have given the wrong impression. This is fiction story with fictional characters in a fictional place on the border between Scotland and England, though which side of the border I've evaded so far. I guess the best I can do is compare it to Thomas Hardy.
I don't want too much suspension of disbelief by placing the story in an era where anyone with even a modest knowledge of British history would be too offended to even laugh. I'm not quite at Timex watch in the Middle Ages, but changes need to be made.
My character will be a (fictional-not trying to insult anyone) English royal member who will be manipulating and abusing ignorant, poor commoners. This goes unnoticed for years until, well, everything blows up in his face. (It's a bit complicated.)
The story was placed 1220-1240, temporarily, with the royal member being referred to as Lord *****, temporarily. Earl, duke? I should probably read at least one history book on Scotland as to not cheat. I might have missed something anyway. Would "The Story of Scotland" by Nigel Tranter be good? These aside, is there anything else that you can recommend?
I see what you mean, sorry. Nigel Tranter's "The Story of Scotland" would be too general to give a detailed appreciation of the mid 13th century; I'd recommend his novel "Sword of State" which is set in Scotland between 1214 and 1249.
One solution that no-one could argue with would be to make the English Lord an illegitimate son of King John (who died in 1216) and therefore half-brother of the young King Henry III. King John was known for his fondness for his illegitimate offspring marrying his daughters off to wealthy noblemen and granting his sons lands and titles. He would carry the surname Fitzroy (meaning son of the King) and have any first name common at that time; John, Richard, Henry, Edward, Geoffrey etc. All of his illegitimate children were born around 1185 to 1200, so would be adults at the time you're writing about. A suitable title would be Baron or Earl (Earl being the higher title for an especially favoured son) then choose any place name in northern England where he could have been granted lands and limited authority. Baron Allendale or Earl of Allendale sounds good.