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12 Towers of Rule


In the 16th Century Henry VIII of England expended considerable resources trying to take Scotland under the control of the English Crown. In 1542 a Scottish army was defeated at Solway Moss, and James V died, leaving his daughter Mary, only a few days old, as Queen.

Henry tried to force the Scots lords to give the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, in marriage to his young son Edward. The Scots refused. In order to bend them to his will, between 1543 and 1551 Henry then undertook a series of campaigns against the Scots, known as "The Rough Wooing".

In February 1545 the Scots were victorious over an English army at the Battle of Ancrum Moor. In revenge, in September 1545 Henry dispatched his brother-in-law, the Earl of Hertford, north, with an army of 12,000 foot and 4000 horse. His instructions were to lay waste to the Merse.

In two weeks in September the Earl of Hertford devastated Tweeddale and Teviotdale, burning five abbeys and hundreds of farms, settlements and towers. Letters to Henry VIII from the Earl of Hertford carry long lists of names of the places that were destroyed. In just one afternoon he laid waste to the Valley of the Water of Rule, a tributary of the Teviot. Contemporary accounts list a dozen "places" burnt. After two weeks of raids Hertford and his army departed south again, leaving the Borderlands in a destroyed and weakened state, many slaughtered, buildings laid low, their gear, their food stores and stock stolen.

We have very few records of that event and its aftermath. It was many years before the area recovered. However we know that there were survivors and that many of the farms and towers were eventually rebuilt. In time it became a tranquil and prosperous area. Some descendants of the families which suffered in 1545 live there today.

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