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Border Reivers - Thomas Lord Scrope

Thomas Lord Scrope

THOMAS LORD SCROPE. Born 1567, died 1609.

Thomas Lord Scrope was West March Warden of England from 1st May 1593 to 1603, to the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, united under James V1 of Scotland and 1st of England. Although succeeded by the Earl of Cumberland in 1603, he was effectively, the last Warden of the English West March in terms of administering the Border Law and being in place to defend the March against Scotland, should the need arise. After the union of the crowns the role was no longer required.

At the time of Kinmont's capture on his way home from a Day of Truce at the Dayholme of Kershope, Scrope was at his ancestral home of Bolton castle in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire. One notable member of the family, William le Scrope, had been knighted at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. This was the battle that saw a reversal in the fortunes of the Guardian of Scotland, William Wallace, better known to us now as ‘Braveheart.’

Sir William Scrope had two sons who were both, in the course of their lives, Chief Justice to the King's Bench as well as notable lawyers, soldiers and diplomats. One of the sons died in 1336.

Thomas Lord Scrope

His youngest son, Richard, became the 1st Lord Scrope of Bolton. He was appointed Chancellor of England and knighted at the battle of Neville's Cross in 1346. Thomas Lord Scrope was the 10th Lord Scrope of Bolton.

His father, Henry, 9th Baronet of Bolton, was married to Margaret Howard, daughter of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Scrope’s wife was Philadelphia Carey, whose grandmother was one, Mary Boleyn. Mary was the sister of that Anne who married Henry V111of England.

In 1520 Mary Boleyn married William Carey. Shortly afterwards she became the mistress of Henry V111.

It is at this point that the fortunes of William Carey and the father of Mary, Thomas Boleyn, took a turn for the better; the implication being that they were both paid to turn a blind eye to Henry's amorous activities.

Both amassed great fortunes, and, in the case of Thomas Boleyn, great privilege and rank. When a son was born to Mary in 1525 it was said, by some, that the father was Henry V111. Whether this is true would seem to be a matter of opinion as there are facts that seem to prove it, others that refute it. The debate still goes on today.

The name of the child was Henry. He became the 1st Baron Hunsdon. One of his eleven children was Philadelphia Carey.

Thus Scrope certainly had the pedigree. He lived and moved in exalted circles very close to the English monarchy, and, maybe because of this, his mishandling of the Kinmont affair had little effect on a career that should have been over following the breaking of Carlisle castle and the freeing of Kinmont.

Whilst Elizabeth 1 was alive he appears to have prospered.

When she died in 1603 and James V1 of Scotland assumed the throne of England as James 1, Scrope's fortunes took a downturn. He was replaced as English West March Warden by the Earl of Cumberland. The role, at the time, was a mere sinecure.

It would seem that James had not forgiven Scrope for the setbacks and embarrassment that the Kinmont incident had created in his relationship with Elizabeth; He blamed Scrope for a situation that could have led to a permanent breakdown in his alliance with Elizabeth.

Neither could he forgive the trouble that followed for one of his favourites, Walter Scott of Buccleuch.

James was to declare, it would seem in some alarm, in defence of Buccleuch, that it was less of an evil to break into a castle and rescue a man who was unlawfully imprisoned, than it was to capture him illegally in the first place.

Like many a March Warden before him there is no doubt that Scrope was a brave man. When warned that he was plotted against by English assassins it was said of him that he would ‘be careless of himself.’ In other words he would ignore the threats.

It seems, however, for all his bloodline, his undoubted bravery, and endeavour in the role of Warden, that Scrope made enemies easily, and not just on the Scottish side of the Border. Scrope often despaired that he could no longer cope with the job and offered his resignation. He swore that he would ‘ leave this office, choosing rather to die honourably, or leave my country, than to live in a place where I must be subjected under the malice of those whom once her majesty helde me worthie to governe.’

His earnest petition that he might resign fell on deaf ears, and he continued in the position.

But this despair and depression was not prevalent until after the Kinmont's rescue when Scrope found he could not live with the duplicity, lies, and scheming of the English who had a part in the rescue.

He was at his wit's ends, scorned and humiliated.

He quarrelled with everyone, including the Privy Council, that illustrious band of Lords who endeavoured to run the country. He fell out with his brother-in-law, Robert Carey, and, within two years, appointed another deputy who only lasted eighteen months. His third deputy was sacked on the orders of Elizabeth 1.

When Henry Lord Scrope died in 1592, his deputy warden was Richard Lowther, a man from a family that was to become prominent in Cumbria. He had been Deputy Warden since 1560.

He was knighted in 1565 and made Sheriff of Cumberland.

Lowther was appointed Warden of the West March in 1592. He was the first commoner to hold the post since 1327.

Traditionally the Lord Warden of the Western March was also made Captain of Carlisle castle and was thus paid two salaries, one for warden, and one for captain. It was decided, in the case of Lowther, that he should be Warden only, and paid only for this post.

The man who was appointed Captain of the castle of Carlisle when Lowther was made Lord Warden was.... the 25 year old Thomas Lord Scrope.

If the decision to create a post for Scrope rankled with Lowther, then one can appreciate and understand his reasons. It was, however, the lack of the salary that went with the post that concerned him most.

Within a short time he was complaining that he foresaw nothing but disorder in the Wardenry, especially from the most formidable of the English Border Reivers, the Grahams, and, writing to Lord Burghley, he ‘prays your Lordship that some nobleman be appointed Warden with all expedition.’

Richard Lowther, being a commoner, did not have such an exalted position in society which, in the minds of many, was an absolute necessity in order to impose authority on the people. As well as this, he did not have the means at his disposal to maintain a paid military force. In his weekly letters to Burghley, he complains more than once of the expense of maintaining his position as Warden.

Lowther's earnest petitions to Burghley to appoint a nobleman as Warden might seem to indicate that, once a decision was made, he would willingly, and with some relief, accept it, and stand down. He was, however, furious when Thomas Lord Scrope was appointed. He could not get on with Scrope because, from the onset, he detested the fact that Scrope, with little knowledge of the manoeuvrings and intrigue of Border society, had commanded the salary and benefits that went with the role of Captain of the Castle of Carlisle. In the eyes of Lowther the decision to appoint Scrope had been humiliating and unjustified given his own long and faithful service. The job needed a strong personality, a man with charisma and leadership skills, not an untried yet arrogant being whose self-importance had already alienated many who should have been helping him bring law and order to a troubled region. He would not, could not work with such a man. There is no evidence that Lowther did a bad or ineffective job as Warden. He was well liked and respected by his Scottish counterparts, the March Wardens of the Scots west, and, generally, had achieved a trust and understanding with them that led to a harmonious and efficient relationship.

The truth is, irrespective of his ability to work in faith and justice with the Scots and even the English Lords, he was from a rung too low in the ladder of society. As such his was always only going to be a stop-gap appointment as Warden.

Whatever his merits he was not going to hold on to the position.

He knew all this, was resigned to the fact that he would one day be replaced as Warden. He could not accept that it would be Scrope who filled the role.

On 25th March 1593 the 26 year old Scrope was appointed Lord Warden of the English West March. He arrived in Carlisle on 1st May, and much to further Lowther’s chagrin and wrath, he chose his brother-in-law, Sir Robert Carey, as his deputy.

Richard Lowther was without a job that had any meaning in Border society.

Thus we arrive at the real reason why Scrope would become obsessed with the whole Lowther family and his well-founded conclusions that they were bent on undermining his position. ‘The Lowthers are my great adversaries,’ he would often complain. In his own quiet way Lowther did all he could to undermine the effectiveness of Scrope’s wardenry and to sully his reputation as leader of the English West March. It is probable that he knew of the intended raid on the castle yet took great satisfaction in not warning Scrope.

Thomas Lord Scrope did not fare too badly following the Kinmont affair.

On St. George's Day (23rd April) 1599, three years after he had presided over the most infamous event in the English history of the Border, he was knighted. The illegal capture, followed by, what was to him the humiliation of the release of Armstrong of Kinmont from Carlisle castle, supposedly the second strongest fortress on the Border, did not seem to have any effect on his fortunes.

No ordinary knighthood for this man.

He became a member of that exclusive club known as the Knights of the Garter. At any one time only twenty-four people are allowed to bear this honour if one excludes the Sovereign and the Prince of Wales.

Although she was silent on the matter as the events of the spring of 1596 unfolded, it is clear that Elizabeth 1 of England silently condoned the capture and the imprisonment of Kinmont. Why?

Was it because the affair gave pleasure to a Queen who was now in the final years of her reign? A Queen who would relish the discomfort and embarrassment that James V1, her acknowledged successor, would experience as he was mentally dragged this way and that between allegiance to his Scottish subjects, baying for the release of Kinmont, and the thoughts, should he demand that release, of offending his great benefactress; his ticket to untold wealth and status.

Once Kinmont had been rescued Elizabeth soon found her tongue. The throne of England must have seemed a hopeless cause as, time and again, he suffered the humiliation of Elizabeth’s tirades of abuse over the affair.

And all because of the devious scheming of a self-serving Border official!

Thomas Lord Scrope is buried in the village church of Langar in Nottinghamshire. The effigy surmounting his tomb is that of him and his wife, Philadelphia, lying together. In between them kneels an effigy of their son, Emmanuel, first Earl of Sunderland.