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Archbishop Melton, hammered by the Scots

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posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:00 AM
The battle of Myton-upon-Swale, in 1319, was one of the celebrated victories of Scottish arms.
According to the patriotic poet John Barbour, a thousand Englishmen died in that battle, and at least three hundred of them were priests.
“Tharfor that bargane callit ware
‘The chapter of Mytoun’, for thare
Slayne sa mony priestis ware.”
But this invites the question; Why were there so many “priestis” on the scene, in the first place? And why were they being led into battle by the Archbishop of York, “the wise and wealthy Melton”, whose proficiency was in the field of running the royal finances?

The ruler of Scotland at the time was Robert Bruce, who had thrown out the English garrisons. The ruler of England was Edward II, son of the original “Hammer of the Scots”, who had already suffered a spectacular defeat at Bannockburn.

In the summer of 1319, in a brief interval between the frictions of internal politics, Edward mustered the armed strength of the nation at Newcastle. Then he took them to the frontier for a siege of Berwick, which was currently in Scottish hands. The chief nobility was there in force- the earls of Lancaster, Hereford, Pembroke, Arundel, and
“All the Earliss als that war
In Yngland worthy for to ficht,
And baronis als of mekill mycht.”
The Scottish commander in the town was Walter Stewart, the hereditary High Steward of Scotland (who had married Robert’s daughter, and thus became the ancestor of the Stewart kings).

Robert did not feel strong enough to tackle the “mekill mycht” of England head-on. He tried to distract them, instead, by sending a raiding party into their own country. They would be mounted infantry led by two of his most trusted commanders- Sir James Douglas, and Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray.
Armies moving between England and Scotland can travel east or west of the Pennines. The English army at Berwick was blocking the eastern route, which left the western route unguarded. The fast-moving Scottish force crossed the border near the Solway and pushed over the Pennines to the eastern counties, getting behind the the English besiegers. Then they pressed southwards into Yorkshire.

This is where we come to the un-military cleric, William de Melton.
He wasn’t a member of the aristocracy. In the English Latin of the Middle Ages, “de” simply meant “from”. He was born and bred in the Yorkshire village of Melton, one of the many villages of that name.
He spent his life in the church and in the royal service. Since the clergy were the literate class of the time, the two careers were necessarily intertwined.
At the beginning of the reign, he was Controller of the Wardrobe (a financial office) in the royal household, and in his spare time he was the Archdeacon of Barnstaple and the Provost of Beverley.
Before long, he was also Lord Privy Seal (that is, custodian of the king’s personal seal).
In 1314, the nobility forced the king to make changes in his government. William Melton, as “one of the very few officials who enjoyed the confidence of all parties”, became Keeper (or Treasurer) of the Wardrobe.
He was nominated as Archbishop of York in 1315, but there was much delay before the Pope was ready to give him the traditional “pallium”, as the symbol of his delegated authority. As a result, he spent about eighteen months residing at the papal court in Avignon, “without being corrupted”.

Devout and austere in his private life, the wise and wealthy Melton [SAPIENS AT ABUNDANS DIVITIIS] was a man of unbounded generosity throughout the diocese and beyond. The sum of his loans (on which he received little or no interest) to the king, to the northern barons and knights who found themselves in difficulties through the Scottish wars, to fellow-bishops and to religious houses, is said to have reached over £23,500; but Melton himself kept free from debt and opened the way for his nephew and namesake to found a knightly family.

“The Fourteenth Century” (Oxford History of England), May McKisack, p298.

As the Scottish raiders made their mark in Yorkshire, the rumour spread that they were intent on capturing the queen, who had been left behind in York.
The Archbishop of York, being in residence, was instructed to go out and fight them.
But how? Every available trained soldier was already in the camps outside Berwick. Even the local Yorkshire militia had been summoned up to the siege.
Melton could only obey the king’s command by improvising the semblance of an army out of whatever materials he could find.

There were the good citizens of York, tradesmen of all kinds- the “men of all misteris”, in Barbour’s phrase.
If they were male, they were pressed into service, all the way up to the mayor of York himself (who was listed among the later casualties).
There were the peasantry from the surrounding villages.
And of course the religious people were not exempt. York was full of them, like any cathedral city of the Middle Ages. There were priests in this army, canons and secular canons, monks and friars, and even the Abbot of Selby.
The king’s Chancellor, who happened to be the Bishop of Ely, had also been left in York. So his episcopal banner joined the Archbishop’s at the head of the marching body, and the chancery staff were conscripted along with everybody else.

In this way, Melton managed to gather together at least ten thousand men. Barbour says “twenty thousand and mair”. On the twelfth of September, he took this mass out of York and led them north to the river Swale. The Scots were reported on the other side, so he crossed the river by the bridge at Myton.
The Scots were arranged in two wings, using the “schiltron” formation which had become their standard. They had arms, armour, horses, and experience. The English party had none of these things, or at least not much of any of them.
The outcome was predictable, but we have different accounts of the way the rout was accomplished.
“Placing themselves between the bridge and the English, the Scots set fire to haystacks, and from behind this smokescreen attacked Melton’s force.” “The wars of the Bruces”, Colm McNamee, p94.
Another story gives credit to the “mighty shout” of the Scottish army at the start of the conflict.
According to Barbour;
“The Inglish men com on sadly [aggressively?]
With gud contenance and hardy,
Richt in a frount with a baner,
Quhill thai their fayis com so near
That thai thar visage well mycht se;”
They held this menacing appearance until the two lines were only three spear-lengths apart, when suddenly “sik abasing tuk thame” [such a panic seized them], that “thai gaf the bak all, and to-ga” [the whole body ran away]. Therefore without much difficulty the “Scottis men… slew and tuk a gret party”, while many others were drowned in the river as they fled.
And that is how “sa mony priestis” came to be slain.

The report of the battle was enough to break up the encampment at Berwick. The northern lords were not going to let their lands remain unprotected.

This was described by Melton in a later letter as a CONFLICTUM INFORTUNIUM with LAPSUM MAGNUM- an “unfortunate conflict” in which he suffered “great loss”. But the list of his losses begins with the fact that PERDIDIMUS GENTEM NOSTRAM- “We lost our people”.

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:02 AM
William Melton can still be found in the cathedral at York.
According to tradition, he is portrayed in the rather bland face above the West Door, which was rebuilt under his guidance.
Time has not been kind to his grave. The cathedral guides have never heard of it. Apparently the inscription wore off over the centuries, and then the Victorians re-laid the cathedral floor and shifted the tomb’s location.
There is now a solitary unmarked box-tomb which can be seen (if the tourist reception desk is not hiding it) built into the north wall close to the West Door entrance. That is the place to go, as far as I can tell, for anyone who wants to pay their respects to the loyal but misplaced commander of the English army at Myton-upon-Swale.

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:02 AM
Melton as a family name

“Melton” is a village name, in the first instance, meaning “middle farmstead”.
It’s a half-Scandinavian version of “Middleton”, so it can be found in many places right across the old Danelaw- from Great Melton in Suffolk and Melton Constable in Norfolk, to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire and other examples up into Yorkshire.
It would have become a surname when migrants left these villages and were nicknamed after their place of origin.
One such occasion, obviously, was the case of William de Melton and his nephew, but I’m sure this will have happened several times, to migrants from different villages. The Meltons of Lincolnshire may be derived from Melton Mowbray, but the many Meltons of Norfolk are probably descended from a man who left Melton Constable.
In other words, the Melton surname is not one family which can be traced back to a single origin, but a collection of family lines which may be unrelated.
American Meltons looking into their ancestry may need to bear that in mind.

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:25 AM
Post deleted and Corrected by Disreali, I was utterly wrong and had NOT read his post correctly, sorry Disreali and thank your for the correction.

Also an apology to the poor priests whom lost there lives though they are long passed over.

edit on 13-10-2018 by LABTECH767 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:31 AM

originally posted by: LABTECH767
perhaps they were assured of there victor to the point that they had sent there own priest hood with the intention of doing likewise to the Scot's but got there back side's handed to them on a platter instead.

I'm not sure you've read the paragraphs about the background of this battle. This priestly army wasn't being sent into Scotland, but gathered together to resist a Scottish force moving into England. And far from being "assured of victory", the gathering of this army was an emergency measure to cover the fact that no real soldiers were available.

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:44 AM

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:48 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Sorry you are correct, I ran with my thought's after only half reading (hate it when I put my foot into my proverbial mouth always makes my speech a bit slurred ha), so this was a massacre within England at York and not in Scotland committed by Scot's raiders but committed at a time when the English were also attacking the Scot's and arguably a very sound attack by the Scot's even though it was an undeniably merciless massacre of poorly armed men (whom were not even trained soldiers some would call it a cowardly attack even) to undermine the English strategy and force them to remove men from there main force to protect there own land's thus intended to divide the English (or rather Norman English) forces.

Re-reading it properly this time I think the idea they were after the queen is a sound one as well and the Archbishop sound's to have been a very decent fellow, perhaps really even a martyr of sort's though one slain in a war of politic's and regional power rather than a conflict of religious ideology's.

So Sorry for my utterly wrong and rather biased earlier post I shall delete it with a nod to your correction.

edit on 13-10-2018 by LABTECH767 because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:51 AM
a reply to: Parishna
And this is a mildly interesting segment of history, making it appropriate for the History forum.

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 08:58 AM
a reply to: LABTECH767
In the overall context of the war, the raid and the battle was a very successful piece of strategy, given that it ended the siege of Berwick. From the Scottish point of view, it was one of the necessities of war, so I won't blame them.

McNamee says the idea of a conspiracy to capture the queen is "not unrealistic". Apparently they tried to capture other individuals on later occasions, to apply diplomatic pressure. By the time the battle was won, the queen had been sent on to the comparative safety of Nottingham, so they would have lost their chance this time.

You may be glad to know that Melton survived the battle and lived on to write letters about the losses he and others had suffered.

edit on 13-10-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 09:11 AM
Incdentally, the link I placed at the bottom of the OP is the relevant page of Barbour.
I should have labelled it, but I'm not sure if another line would fit into the character limit.

posted on Oct, 13 2018 @ 09:36 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

I love the historical read......thank ya.....see YOU KNOW MUCH THAT IS HIDDEN we want to know...

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