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

The English and the Scottish have always enjoyed a lively relationship. The recent referendum on independence for Scotland was testament to that. So, it’s all the more surprising that the border between these two proud nations is one of the oldest still in existence – more or less.

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, pinched for the final time by the English in 1482. The tug of war between England and Scotland saw the border town change sides 13 times.

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

Just one year before the signing of the treaty in 1236, an 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.

Also on this day

25 September 1996: the Taliban reach Kabul

Following the withdrawal of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, the Taliban reached the suburbs of the capital, Kabul, on this day in 1996. Read more here.