25 September 1237: The English-Scottish border is set in law

The border between England and Scotland – having been fluid for many years – was legally defined on this day in 1237 (barring the odd skirmish over Berwick).

The English and the Scottish have always enjoyed a lively relationship. So, it's all the more surprising that the border between these two nations is one of the oldest still in existence.

Alexander II, King of Scotland, laid claim to territory in northern England. When England's King John upset his barons and they rebelled against him in 1215, Alexander saw his chance. Allied with the barons and (of course) the French, he dispatched a Scottish army and besieged Dover.

Victory seemed assured for the Scottish king, but then King John pulled off a stunning game changer – he died. The fickle barons declared their grievances resolved and sent the Scots and the French packing. The young King Henry III was crowned at Westminster.

King Alexander returned to Scotland with little to show for his efforts. He didn't get the territory he wanted – instead, he got Henry's sister, Joan, as a consolation prize. On 25 September 1237, the two kings fixed the border with the Treaty of York.

The border more or less stands to this day, with the obvious exception of Berwick-upon-Tweed, retaken for the final time by the English in 1482. The tug of war between England and Scotland has seen the border town change sides 13 times.

But the diplomatic niceties weren't appreciated by everyone. The border reivers – the families who lived in the area either side of the border – carried on their centuries-old custom of pillaging. These people were a thorn in the side of both kingdoms. One of the biggest and fiercest families was the Armstrongs, hailing from what is today Cumbria.

Just one year before the signing of the treaty in 1236, one Adam Armstrong ended up in the dock in Carlisle, charged with killing a man. The clan was held in such fear that he was eventually pardoned.

Recommended

27 January 1606: the trial of Guy Fawkes begins
This day in history

27 January 1606: the trial of Guy Fawkes begins

On this day in 1606, the trial of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators began, accused of high treason by trying to blow up the king and parliament.
27 Jan 2021
25 January 1947: the world’s first video game is patented
This day in history

25 January 1947: the world’s first video game is patented

On this day in 1947, Thomas T Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann submitted a patent application for their “Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device” – the world's …
25 Jan 2021
23 January 1967: Milton Keynes founded
This day in history

23 January 1967: Milton Keynes founded

The most famous of Britain's garden cities, Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, was founded on this day in 1967.
23 Jan 2021
22 January 1924: Ramsay MacDonald becomes prime minister
This day in history

22 January 1924: Ramsay MacDonald becomes prime minister

Ramsay MacDonald was one of the founder members of the Labour party, which he took to power on this day in 1924.
22 Jan 2021

Most Popular

The FTSE 100 is set for a makeover with an influx of new tech stocks
UK stockmarkets

The FTSE 100 is set for a makeover with an influx of new tech stocks

The FTSE 100 – the dullest index in the world – is about to reinvent itself as a host of new firms list on the market. The change is long overdue, say…
24 Jan 2021
Think Tesla is a bubble? This might be the best way to bet on it bursting
Oil

Think Tesla is a bubble? This might be the best way to bet on it bursting

The huge rise in Tesla’s share price means that, by market value, it’s now the sixth-largest company in the US and and the world’s biggest car-maker. …
25 Jan 2021
Why we won’t see a house-price crash in 2021
House prices

Why we won’t see a house-price crash in 2021

Lockdown sent house prices berserk as cooped up home-workers fled for bigger properties in the country. And while they won’t rise quite as much this y…
18 Jan 2021