Anna Groundwater of the University of Edinburgh will present ‘’Your brother in na termes’: James VI’s suppression of the Scott-Ker bloodfeud’

In the grand tradition of the borders, the Kers of Cessford and the Scotts of Branxholm, two important families in the Middle March, had been at feud for decades. Even though the principals of the families Robert Ker and Sir Walter Scott became brother-in-law in 1586 they continued fighting into the 1590s.

James often left his nobles to fight it out among themselves in the localities, but being on the border and with his ambitions for the English crown, the king could not afford to turn a blind eye, lest upset Elizabeth. James and his government tried a range of measures in to stem the bloodfeud and bring order to the marches, applying increasing pressure on Ker and Scott to settle. After Scott made a daring raid on Carlisle to release Kinmont Willie Armstrong, James was forced to intervene personally and have the two men warded. Eventually friends of the two enemies managed to reach a settlement behind closed doors and eventually the two were even ennobled.

This paper will explore how a combination of pressures, of intensifying government under James VI, increasing efforts to suppress the bloodfeud, and changing Anglo-Scottish relations, forced the settlement of an apparently endless spiral of violence between the Scott and Ker kindreds. It will consider the efficacy of James’s utilisation of the bonds of lordship and kinship in the reconciliation of bloodfeud, and how he was able to turn two major proponents of that ancient art into agents of its suppression.


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