This Day in History: 1319-09-17

Whilst at Berwick, Edward II, around the 17th September 1319, aware of the Scots invading far south into England, summoned his council to decide whether to continue the siege or to turn south and confront them. Divisions were at once apparent. The southern magnates wanted to remain until town and castle fell, while the northerners, whose lands were in more immediate danger, advised the king to raise the siege and pursue the raiding Scots. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, who may well have known of the closeness of the Scots to his own estates around Pontefract, sided with the latter party. Because the King favoured the southerners’ view the Earl angrily gathered his forces and left the siege. Lancaster was almost certainly still at Berwick on 16th September, when he witnessed a royal charter, and he must have left on that day. Edward followed, afraid to stay without the Lancastrian contingent. There is no obvious hint of any open collaboration with the Scots, though the Earl’s behaviour obviously lent itself to rumour, and it was undeniable that his retreat led to the raising of the siege. The Vita Edwardi Secundi states that Edward’s reconciliation with Lancaster was only skin-deep, having Edward stating “When this wretched business is over, we will turn our hands to other matters. For I have not yet forgotten the wrong that was done to my brother Piers”  (Gaveston)