drink withe ws the new fresche wyne
That grew apone the revar Ryne,
Fresche fragrant claretis out of France,
Off Angeo and of Orliance,
William Dunbar extolls the selections of wine
to be found in Edinburgh to King James IV.
Scotlands most famous connection with Europe was the Auld
Alliance with France. First agreed in 1295/6 the Auld Alliance was
built on Scotland and Frances shared need to curtail English
expansion. Primarily it was a military and diplomatic alliance but
for most of the population it brought tangible benefits through
pay as mercenaries in Frances armies and the pick of finest
Shakespeares Henry V rightly portrays the Battle
of Agincourt in 1415 as one of Englands greatest military
victories. For the French it was a disaster that led to the near
collapse of their kingdom. In their darkest hour the Dauphin turned
to the Scots, Englands enemy, for salvation. Between 1419
and 1424, 15,000 Scots left from the River Clyde to fight in France.
In 1421 at the Battle of Bauge the Scots dealt a crushing defeat
to the English and slew the Duke of Clarence.
rewards were heaped upon the Scots army by the French. The Earl
of Douglas was given the royal Dukedom of Touraine and the Scots
army lived well off the land, much to the chagrin of the French
peasantry. Their victory was short lived however; at Vernuil in
1424 a Scots army of 4,000 men was annihilated. As mercenaries
they could have expected no mercy and those who were captured
were dispatched on the spot. Despite their defeat, the Scots had
brought France valuable breathing space and effectively saved
the country from English domination.
continued to serve in France. They aided Joan of Arc in her famous
relief of Orleans and many went on to form the Garde Écossais,
the fiercely loyal bodyguard of the French Kings, where they were
at the very heart of French politics. Many Scots mercenaries settled
in France although they continued to think of themselves as Scots.
One such man was Beraud Stuart of Aubigny: a third-generation
Scot immigrant, Captain of the Garde Écossais from 1493-1508,
and hero of Frances Italian wars. To this day both he and
other Scots heroes of the Auld Alliance are celebrated in Berauds
home town of Aubigny-sur-Neve in an annual pageant.
The Auld Alliance wasnt simply a military alliance, it was
based on a long-established friendship founded on the Scots love
of French wine.
of the Auld Alliance in 1295 might have given the Scots French
support against England, but it also gave the Scottish merchants
the privilege of selecting the first choice of Bordeauxs
finest wines - a privilege which was eagerly protected for hundreds
of years, much to the annoyance of English wine drinkers who received
an inferior product.
wine was landed on Wine Quay of Leith and rolled up the streets
to the merchants cellars behind the water front. The wine
landed was mostly for the elite of Scottish society, with most
commoners drinking whisky or beer, but it seems to have been popular
with everyone for Hogmanay celebrations.
of wine, has a tendency to fly in the face of political changes
and alliances. After the Reformation, the Auld Alliance was no
longer feasible between Protestant Scotland and Catholic France,
but the trade in Claret continued. People simply kept drinking
of this process can be seen in the post-Reformation destiny of
St Anthonys fund: a charitable fund raised on the back of
the wine trade. The fund was simply converted to Protestantism
by King James VI and passed onto the Old Leith Parish Church.
As late as the 1670s, Scots merchants were still going to Bordeaux
to get their first choice of wine. Even after the Union of Parliaments
with England in 1707, Scots continued to smuggle Claret into Scotland
to avoid taxes. Scots of all persuasions, Jacobite or Hanoverian,
continued to drink Claret in preference to patriotic Port, but
especially when toasting the exiled Stuart kings as the
King over the water.