Wednesday 10 September 2014

Pinkie Cleugh

I got all political in the run up to the European and Local elections in May and wrote a series of more or less facetious posts (I - II - IIIIV) about the pretensions and hypocrisies of politics in peace-time. The Irish news has been ignoring the imminent dismemberment of our nearest neighbour in the belief that a) it wasn't going to happen b) it didn't matter-a-damn c) the hurling scores were of more pressing interest.The upcoming referendum on independence is a little like the relatively pain-free separation of Czecho and Slovakia in 1993 except that those Central European states had only been directly associated as a single entity since 1918.  Scotland and England&Wales have, on the other hand, been part of a political union since 1707: together more than four times as long. For a century before that, they had been two separate nations which happened to share the same monarchs, starting with James VI / I.

Before that the two parts of the island had a complex relationship and the English monarch Henry VIII (he of the multiple wives divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived) decided that his son Edward would marry the heir to the Scots throne who is known to history as Mary Queen of Scots. She became Queen at the age of six days and so was a bit of a prize in the days of hereditary monarchs. Her father, James V had died of it's-not-clear-what a few days after the disastrous battle Solway Moss and his father James IV had been killed in 1513 in the disastrous battle of Flodden Field leaving another infant heir. Scottish history of the 1500s is fairly easy, all the kings have the same name and all start in the family firm very young.  Part of the problem was that Scotland was still trying to hold onto medieval values of chivalry, gonfalons, heralds and challenges to single combat while the English had learned and were developing the more modern view of combined operations, working commissariat, effective weaponry and tactical brutality.  Well that's the seven tweet length (count 'em) view of history.

The plain people of Scotland, however, didn't want their girl to marry the young chap from the South. Actually, of course, the plain people of Scotland had no say (or much interest) in the matter, it was the Scots magnates and land-owners who were calling the shots according to what they believed to be their own best interests.  Thwarted in his obvious-to-all-thinking-people solution to the dynastic future of North Britain, Henry VIII launched an invasion which has been likened to the Nazi blitzkriegs of later times but which was poetically dubbed The Rough Wooing by Sir Walter Scott three centuries after the event.

The culmination of this petulant assault on the sovereignty of a neighbour was the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh [10 mins including a clue about how to pronounce Cleugh] just outside of Edinburgh.  This was the last pitched battle fought between the two nations and happened on this day 10th September 1547.  It was a bloody disaster for the Scots army, with between 6,000 and 15,000 casualties compared to English losses of a few hundred.  Ultimately, however, the battle was inconclusive in its effect because the Scots neglected to capitulate or agree to the marriage of their Queen.  Indeed, she was smuggled out of Scotland and eventually married the heir to the throne of France and was in due course Mary Queen of France for a few months before her new husband pegged out.

It is perhaps salutary to remember the events of the Rough Wooing and 10th September as Scots of all hues and all political parties trudge to polling stations on 18th September next week. However the democratic desires of the people are expressed, you may be sure that if it doesn't suit The Man as the tool and lap-dog of The Money in London, then it will be subverted.  Not necessarily by an armed intervention - so yesterday don't you think? - but by the power of capital from the Capital.

And as an indication of just how unprepared people are north of the borrrrder, there is no two letter top level internet domain for Scotland !!!  SC (Seychelles), SD (Sudan) and ST (São Tomé and Príncipe) have all gone. They have a lumpy .scot as a sort of courtesy title and this was only launched in July of this year.  I suspect that there will be a Rough Wooing of the Seychelles, so when that country disappears beneath the waves in the next generation, Scotland can achieve full two-letter parity of esteem with her larger neighbour.

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