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Treaty of York

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Treaty of York

Treaty of York
Scriptum cirographatum inter Henricum Regem Anglie et Alexandrum Regem Scocie de comitatu Northumbrie Cumbrie et Westmerland factum coram Ottone Legato
Signed 25 September 1237 (1237-09-25)

The Treaty of York was an agreement between Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland, signed at York on 25 September 1237. It detailed the future status of several feudal properties and addressed other issues between the two kings, and indirectly marked the end of Scotland's attempts to extend its frontier southward, though it did not address any issues of the future determination of the Anglo-Scottish border.

The treaty was one of a number of agreements in the ongoing relationship between the two kings, but is not particularly notable otherwise. The Papal legate Otho was already in England at Henry's request to attend a Synod in London in November 1237, and had been informed by Henry of the September meeting at York, which he attended. This meeting became more notable due to the writing of the contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, who disparaged both Alexander and Otho. His untruthful allegations towards Alexander, portraying him as boorishly uncivil and aggressive, have been repeated uncritically in historical accounts.

The agreement

Steel engraving and enhancement of the Great Seal of Alexander II

Henry and Alexander had a history of making agreements to settle one matter or another, and related to this was their personal relationship. Alexander was married to Henry's sister Joan and Alexander's sister Margaret had married Hubert de Burgh, a former regent to Henry. On 13 August 1237 Henry advised Otho that he would meet Alexander at York to treat of peace. An agreement was reached on 25 September "respecting all claims, or competent to, the latter, up to Friday next before Michaelmas A.D. 1237".[1]

The title of the agreement is Scriptum cirographatum inter Henricum Regem Anglie et Alexandrum Regem Scocie de comitatu Northumbrie Cumbrie et Westmerland factum coram Ottone Legato[2] and the particulars of the agreement are:[3]

  • The King of Scotland: quitclaims to the King of England his hereditary rights to the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland; quitclaims 15,000 marks of silver paid by King William to King John for certain conventions not observed by the latter; and frees Henry from agreements regarding marriages between Henry and Richard, and Alexander's sisters Margaret, Isabella, and Marjory.
  • The King of England grants the King of Scotland certain lands within Northumberland and Cumberland, to be held by him and his successor kings of Scotland in feudal tenure with certain rights exempting them from obligations common in feudal relationships, and with the Scottish Steward sitting in Justice regarding certain issues that may arise, and these, too, are hereditary to the King of Scotland's heirs, and regarding these the King of Scotland shall not be answerable to an English court of law in any suit.
  • The King of Scotland makes his homage and fealty – de praedictis terris.
  • Both kings respect previous writings not in conflict with this agreement, and any charters found regarding said counties to be restored to the King of England.

Historians have shown little interest in the agreement, either mentioning it in passing or ignoring it altogether. Stubbs does not mention it in his Constitutional History of England,[4] nor does Hume in his History of England.[5] Skene's Celtic Scotland refers to it as an agreement in his background discussion for the reign of Alexander II's successor, Alexander III,[6] while Burton's History of Scotland mentions that claims of land were discussed in 1237 and briefly describes some of them, but makes no reference to an agreement or treaty.[7] James Hill Ramsay's Dawn of the Constitution gives a fuller discussion of the agreement, but does not give it any particular prominence.[8]

The account of Paris

Engraving of Henry's great seal

The treaty gained additional prominence due to the chronicler Matthew Paris (c. 1200–1259), who is known for his rhetorical passion and his invectives against those with whom he disagreed. Paris describes the Papal legate Otho in negative terms, as someone who was weak and timid in the face of strength but overbearing in his use of power over others, and as someone who avariciously accumulated a large amount of money.[9] He describes Alexander and Henry as having a mutual hatred in 1236, with Alexander threatening to invade England.[10] He describes the 1237 meeting at York as the result of Henry's and Otho's invitation to Alexander, and that when Otho expressed an interest in visiting Scotland, Alexander claimed no legate had ever visited Scotland and he would not allow it, and that if Otho does enter Scotland he should take care that harm does not befall him.[11] Paris goes on to say that in 1239 as Otho was leaving for Scotland, that when Alexander had previously met with Otho in 1237 he had become so excited in his hostility at the possibility of Otho's visit to Scotland that a written agreement had to be drawn up concerning Otho's visit.[12]

There is nothing to recommend Paris' account as having any validity, as it is contradicted by known facts regarding dates and correspondences, and by knowledge of previous visits to Scotland by legates. Legates had visited Scotland in the reigns of Alexander's father William I, his uncle Malcolm IV, and his grandfather David I,[2] and Alexander himself had seen a Papal legate hold a council at Perth for four days, making his alleged outrage and threats incongruous and highly improbable.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Wyckoff, Charles Truman (1897), "The Reign of Alexander II", Feudal Relations Between the Kings of England and Scotland Under the Early Plantagenets, Chicago: University of Chicago, p. 120 
  2. ^ a b Robertson, Joseph, ed. (1866). "Preface". Concilia Scotiae (1225–1559). 1866: The Bannatyne Club (published Edinburgh). p. lvi. 
  3. ^ Wyckoff, Charles Truman (1897). "The Reign of Alexander II". Feudal Relations Between the Kings of England and Scotland Under the Early Plantagenets. Chicago: University of Chicago. pp. 120–122.  (an English translation of the agreement)
  4. ^  
  5. ^  
  6. ^  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ Ramsay, James Hill (1907). "Henry III, A.D. 1237–1241". The Dawn of the Constitution or The Reigns of Henry III and Edward I (A.D. 1216 – 1307). London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. (published 1908). pp. 82–83. 
  9. ^   (page 36 and elsewhere throughout Otho's stay in England)
  10. ^  
  11. ^  
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Gordon, James Frederick Skinner (1867). "William Malvoisine". Scotichronicon I. Glasgow: John Tweed. p. 152. 
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