Tag Archives: Scot

‘But he’s Scottish’: an allegiance-based defence in the reign of Edward IV


With the Scots independence vote on the horizon and Linda Colley’s interesting series about ‘union and disunion’  on the radio, it is not surprising that a case with a Scots flavour caught my attention in today’s trawl through the plea rolls.

The case appears in the roll of the Common Pleas for Michaelmas term 1482, CP 40/882 m. 410d, AALT image 1970. It is a Lincolnshire case, brought by John Marcyell of Girsby against Thomas Hannfert and others, alleging trespass, removal of cattle and threats to John,  interrupting his business.

Thomas and his colleagues pleaded that they did not need to answer John, because he was an alien, in Scotland, in the allegiance of the king of Scots, the king’s enemy, and had entered England without safe conduct.

John argued, however, that he was not an alien, but a native of England, in King Edward’s allegiance, born at Black Heddon  in the parish of Stanford[ham], co. Northumberland.

The question of whether John was or was not from Northumberland was to be inquired of in that county.

Accusations of being a Scot are certainly not undocumented in this period – see CJ Neville’s work. Whether there was a trespass, and, if there was, whether it was connected to John’s supposed nationality and allegiance cannot, of course, now be known. Maybe this was a complete fiction, to delay or derail the case, but could it be that  there was confusion over who was a Scot. Other cases in the Year Books and Plea Rolls suggest confusion over the origins of ‘foreigners’ of one sort another.