tom moss border reivers
Border Reivers
Rose Cottage Publications

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Border Reivers - Walter Scott

WALTER SCOTT OF BRANXHOLME AND BUCCLEUCH. Born 1565, died 1611.

His mother was Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of the 7th earl of Angus.

His father died at the age of only 25, leaving the nine year old Walter, 11th Laird of Buccleuch, heir to the estates of Branxholme and Buccleuch.

Buccleuch's mother married again to the infamous Francis Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Buccleuch soon became implicated in his lawless acts and, as a consequence, was exiled to France for three years. Showing repentance for his previous actions, and just as ominously, that charisma that was to dominate and beguile all who came into contact with him, he was allowed back to Scotland within two years.

Bothwell's lands were forfeited after rebellion against the Scottish crown and Buccleuch profited from this, receiving a charter under the Great Seal, of the lands and barony of Hailes, Liddesdale and others.

Like his father, an adherent of the cause of Mary, Queen of Scots, Buccleuch made a raid into England in the winter of 1587, spurred, no doubt, by her execution. She was beheaded at Fotheringhay castle in the February of that year.

For his audacity in openly espousing Mary’s cause, he was warded in Edinburgh castle yet James V1 knighted him, only three years later, at the coronation of Anne, his wife, in 1590. Before the ‘springing,’ the release of Kinmont from Carlisle castle in 1596, Buccleuch had taken an active part in the murder of Northumberland Border Reivers. He had a particular hatred of the Charltons of Tynedale, his family having been at feud with them since his grandfather's time.

Thomas Lord Scrope was to say of him, ‘Twenty murders and not yet thirty’ in the aftermath of the Kinmont affair.

It is apparent that Buccleuch was a great Border Reiver, yet he had the foresight and intellect to see and understand that the reiver's way of life would come to an end with the union of the crowns of Scotland and England.

After James V1 of Scotland also became James 1 of England on Elizabeth's death, Buccleuch was very active in subduing the Border clans whom he had previously encouraged to cause havoc, confusion, death and deprivation, south of the Border. In fact he had already embarked on the subjugation of the Liddesdale clans within two years of Kinmont’s release from Carlisle.

After twenty years of Border Reiving and killing, Buccleuch suddenly became the peacemaker and law-enforcer. He put as much energy, verve and enthusiasm into his new role, as he did into the old one.

In 1606 he was made Lord Scott of Buccleuch by James 1. The king granted him complete indemnity for his deeds whilst engaged in the work of the peacemaker.

James said, ‘Lord Buccleuch was necessitated to use fire-raising, to cast down, demolish and destroy castles, houses and buildings, to use hostile feud in hostile manner against the malefactors, as well as in taking their lives and killing and slaying of them, as putting them to exile and banishing them from the bounds.’

Scott of Satchells in his ‘True History of the Right Honourable name of Scott’, in 1688, defends the actions of his illustrious antecedent, Buccleuch, by reasoning that although Buccleuch like himself, was a valiant defender of the Border Reivers and their way of life whilst the crowns of England and Scotland were separate, once they were joined it became a case of:-

‘But since King James to England went,
There has been no cause of grief,
And he that hath transgressed since then,
Is no freebooter, but a thief.’

For ‘freebooter’ read reiver, for ‘malefactors’ in King James' speech read Buccleuch's erstwhile friends.

Buccleuch died in 1611 and was buried at St. Mary’s church in Hawick in the family vault.