IN LAST week’s first instalment of this two-parter on the Auld Alliance we showed how in 1295 a small nation and a much larger European country struck up the first mutual defence treaty between two sovereign countries anywhere in the world.

Scotland was then formally linked with a genuine European power, as a consequence of Scotland and France both having a common enemy in England.

The Treaty of Paris favoured the French, of course, and Scotland immediately paid a heavy price for what was effectively a declaration of war against King Edward I of England. In 1296, Longshanks marched his army north and destroyed Berwick, with every man, woman and child in the town butchered.

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Even back then the Scots feared that the French would not keep their side of the bargain, and it is a fact that to this day, a far greater proportion of the Scottish population have some knowledge of the existence of the Auld Alliance than can be found among the people of France. Thanks to James Parker of Stonehaven, however, we know that in some parts of France they take the Vielle Alliance very seriously indeed.

James wrote to tell me: “Regarding the Auld Alliance, it came as quite a surprise to us to discover the town of Aubigny-sur-Nère in the Cher department. Perhaps no other place in France, and none to my knowledge in Scotland, celebrates the Auld Alliance to the extent that Aubigny does.

“Here you’ll find the Chateau des Stuarts, the Centre d’études et de recherches sur l’Auld Alliance and buildings adorned with Scottish emblems and saltire flags.

“A commemorative plaque reads: ‘The Auld Alliance was not written on a ewe skin parchment but was engraved on the living flesh and skin of men, traced not in ink but in blood.’”

Thanks, James, and how true that last part is. We’ll learn how the Stuarts came to Aubigny, but first we must consider the effect of the Alliance on Scotland’s Wars of Independence.

In 1297, William Wallace and Sir Andrew de Moray won their great victory over the English forces at Stirling Bridge only for the latter to die of his wounds. After the disastrous battle of Falkirk the following year, Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland and we know that he travelled to France to plead the Scottish cause because King Philip IV, the original signatory of the Treaty of Paris, wrote a letter to his ambassadors in Rome to intercede with the Pope on Wallace’s behalf , saying: “We command you that you ask the Supreme Pontiff to consider with favor our beloved William le Wallace of Scotland, knight, with regard to those things which concern him that he has to expedite.”

Philip and Edward Longshanks signed peace treaties in both 1299 and 1303, so in effect the Auld Alliance was in abeyance in those years. There is some evidence that Robert the Bruce had meagre French assistance during his campaigns that culminated in Bannockburn but the existence of French Templar knights in his army has never been proven.

After Edward II refused to give up his ambitions regarding the conquest of Scotland, King Robert the Bruce decided to renew the Auld Alliance with the Treaty of Corbeil in 1326. The timing was brilliant – Edward’s own wife had returned to her native France and turned against him, allying herself with the exiled Roger Mortimer in what was also a passionate love match. The queen and Mortimer invaded England, and Edward II was deposed and later murdered in Berkeley Castle, allegedly by having a red hot poker inserted into his rectum.

The 1328 Treaty of Edinburgh-Nothampton guaranteeing Scottish independence was signed in the name of the hapless king’s son Edward III, but he revoked it and invaded Scotland after Bruce’s death in 1329.

Now the stage was set for the Auld Alliance to really take effect. Trying to keep and add to his possessions in France, Edward III won the Battle of Crécy in 1346. The Scots under King David II duly invaded the north of England to assist their French allies and promptly lost the Battle of Neville’s Cross with David captured by the English and many Scottish nobles killed. After 11 years in captivity, David II ended up a friend of the English but also died without leaving a child.

Thus came to the throne King Robert II, first of the Stuart line, who was no friend to the English and renewed the Auld Alliance, but despite an abortive plan for a joint invasion of England, nothing much happened until the following century and the reign of Henry V of England, when the Hundred Years War between France and England saw much Scottish involvement.

The French Dauphin, or Crown Prince, who later became King Charles VII, invoked the Auld Alliance after the horrendous defeat at Agincourt, and rather than attack England, the Scots rushed to serve in France. Though Henry was undoubtedly a great commander he was home in England when 6000 Scottish troops inflicted a devastating defeat on the English under Henry’s foolhardy brother, the Duke of Clarence, at the Battle of Baugé in 1421, as we recently saw in Back In The Day.

That battle turned the war in France’s favour and, among other things, gave time for France to regroup and though the Scottish force itself was almost wiped out at the Battle of Verneuil in 1424, a few more Scots went to join France – despite King James I’s misgivings – and served under Joan of Arc at Orléans in 1429.

By that time Scottish nobles had been awarded lands in France, including Sir John Stuart, Lord of Darnley, the hero of Baugé, who was given the title Seigneur of Aubigny and the lordship of that area. Sir John was killed at Orleans and his second son, also John, inherited the title which was later raised to a dukedom.

Charles VII also formed the Garde Écossaise which remained the French monarch’s bodyguard until 1830.

The 15th century saw the Auld Alliance renewed four times and Scots and French both did well out of their relationship during the internecine Wars of the Roses. The greatest sacrifice of all under the Auld Alliance came in 1513, when King James IV led his army south to Flodden as a “distraction” to Henry VIII’s war against Louis XII of France.

That catastrophe deserves a story all on its own and it will be told on these pages next week.

There was a strange postscript to the Auld Alliance being renewed in 1517 at the start of the reign of King Francis I of France. With Scots in his personal guard of archers, in February 1525 Francis heavily lost the Battle of Pavia to the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Some of his Scottish archers tried to make their way home but got trapped by blizzards in a village called Gurro high in the Italian Alps. The women there had lost many of their men in war so you can guess the rest – the Scots stayed and to this day the Scottish connection is strong with local people speaking a strange dialect with numerous Doric words and local names abounding in Scottish connections such as Gibi and Donaldi. History records that the supposed final phase of the Auld Alliance was brought about by the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Francis II of France while he was still Dauphin. Henry VIII of England was incensed as he thought he had negotiated a marriage between Mary and his own son, later King Edward IV.

The so-called Rough Wooing took place when Henry’s forces invaded Scotland and Mary’s regent and mother Mary of Guise sent for French help which in turn led to the long siege of Leith. Dauphin Francis’s father Henri II died in a jousting accident, ironically from a wound accidentally inflicted by Gabriel de Montgomery, the captain of the Garde Écossaise and a man whose life story is worth a column in itself.

For a brief period in 1559-60, the teenaged Mary was both Queen of Scots and Queen consort of France.

The Protestant Lords of the Congregation had also risen against the Catholic Mary of Guise, and the Reformation was under way when Francis II died and Mary returned to rule Scotland in 1560.

With “Marie R” on the throne there was talk of greater integration with France including dual citizenship for all, and part of Edinburgh near Craigmillar Castle became known as Little France, as so many French court followers settled there.

Earlier that year, however, the Treaty of Edinburgh had been signed between Elizabeth of England and Francis II following the death of Mary of Guise. The Siege of Leith ended but so, formally, did the Auld Alliance, to be replaced by a new agreement between England and Scotland.

That was seemingly that for the Auld Alliance, but modern historical research has shown how Scotland and France continued to have strong links, especially commercial ones – claret became our national drink – and James VI retained diplomatic links with French ambassadors such as Baron d’Esneval who was of Franco-Scottish ancestry.

Dr Siobhan Talbot, of Keele University, has argued convincingly that the Auld Alliance never really ended, and certainly some links continued well into the 18th century.

It was to France that James II looked for assistance when he was exiled after William of Orange and Mary took his throne in 1688, and France also supplied ships and support in the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite uprisings, but realpolitik decreed that the Act of Union made France a common enemy for England and Scotland by the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Entente Cordial of 1904 between the UK and France made us allies and by and large they have been linked together ever since, which is why there is massive disbelief in France over Brexit.

It is always risky for any historian to say that nowadays we should take lessons from history, but if anyone wants to know why Scotland feels more European than England – and Scotland’s 62-38 per cent Remain vote is very strong evidence of that – refer them to the Auld Alliance and a certain President Charles de Gaulle. In June 1942, on visiting Edinburgh to open the Scottish Free French House (there is a plaque commemorating the event at No 28 Regent Terrace) General Charles de Gaulle spoke of “la plus Vielle alliance du monde”, adding: “In every combat where for five centuries the destiny of France was at stake, there were always men of Scotland to fight side by side with men of France, and what Frenchmen feel is that no people has ever been more generous than yours with its friendship.”

De Gaulle continued: “We live at a time when every friendship counts, especially those which have lasted longest. That which you extend to us in the difficult task my comrades and I have undertaken affords comforting proof that, like your forefathers, you know where the real France stands and you have kept your faith in her future. We, like our forefathers, will know how to repay.

“And that is why, in thanking you for the truly touching reception which you have given me here, I close by quoting the old motto of the Compagnie Écossaise: Omni modo fidelis.”

That is usually translated “in all things faithful” or “faithful in every way” and perhaps once again, when an independent Scotland revives its ancient links with its oldest ally, that motto might serve as the watchword of an Auld Alliance renewed.