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The Auld Alliance

Scotland's most famous connection with Europe was the Auld Alliance with France. First agreed in 1295/6 the Auld Alliance was built on Scotland and France's 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 France's armies.

When John Balliol became King of Scotland with the support of Edward I, to whom he had sworn allegiance, he soon realised that the support of the English King meant that he was now more in his power than before. The English intended that he would be a puppet king. In order to protect himself, Balliol made a pact with England's enemies, the French, which came to be known as the Auld Alliance.

The pact of mutual help was a deterrent to English ambitions and not, at first, a burden on the Scots. However, following the English victory at Poitiers by Edward II's son the Black Prince, the Scottish King David II was made a prisoner. He was asked for a £160,000 ransom, which, on the impossibility of raising such a sum, was traded by the Scottish King's right of succession. This agreement was rejected by the Scottish Parliament and led to another invasion by the English. The Alliance continued until 1560 and served its purpose in preventing the English kings' attention to their Scottish ambition while they were fighting the French in the Hundred Years War.

In the end, however, treaties made directly between England and France, and an alliance between Scotland's

James III and England in 1474, made the Auld Alliance unnecessary. Its existence, however, had laid a foundation of cultural interchange which has continued to the present day. This has taken the form of an interchange of scholars, scientist and artists which has given Scotland the lead in many fields of endeavour, though this was not always recognized in Scotland itself.

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