Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch

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Sir Walter Scott, 1st of Branxholme, 3rd of Buccleuch (c. 1495 – killed 4 October 1552), known as "Wicked Wat",[1] was a nobleman of the Scottish Borders and the chief of Clan Scott who briefly served as Warden of the Middle March. He was an "inveterate English hater"[2] active in the wars known as The Rough Wooing and a noted Border reiver. He was killed on Edinburgh High Street in a feud with Clan Kerr in 1552.[3] His great-grandson was Sir Walter Scott, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch, the "Bold Buccleuch" (1565–1611), a border reiver famed for his role in the rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong.[4]

Early life

Walter Scott was the son of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, 2nd of Buccleuch, and Elizabeth Kerr, daughter of Walter Kerr of Cessford. The elder Sir Walter succeeded his grandfather, David Scott, 1st of Buccleuch, as baron of Branxholme in 1492 and died before 15 April 1504.[5]

The younger Walter was knighted on the field[6] at the battle of Flodden on 9 September 1513, where he lost many of his kinsmen. He was named heir to his father 27 October 1517, and was appointed Baillie of the lands of the Melrose Abbey in 1519, a position that was soon after made hereditary and confirmed in Rome in 1525.[5]

He was warded in Edinburgh in 1524 following a dispute with Margaret Tudor, the Queen Dowager of James IV, regarding her dower lands in Ettrick Forest, but he escaped the same year and associated himself with the opposing party of her husband Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox. He received letters of pardon under the Privy Seal, 9 May 1526, for an attempt to capture the Earl of Arran.

Later that year the young king James V enlisted Scott's help to free himself from the tutelage of the Douglas faction led by Angus. Scott led 600 lances to intercept the king and his train, which included Kerrs of Ferniehurst and Cessford, but was defeated by Angus's forces at the Battle of Melrose, near Darnick on 25 July. The Scotts lost 100 men and were driven off, hotly pursued by the Kerrs. In the pursuit, a rider in Scott's service killed Kerr of Cessford, an action that led to a bloody feud between the Kerrs and Scotts that would culminate 26 years later in Scott's murder.[5][7] Scott was exiled for his role in the affair under a penalty of £10,000 Scots, but he was pardoned under the Great Seal on 10 February 1528, and by Act of Parliament on 5 September 1528.[5]

In October 1532 the Earl of Northumberland burned Branxholme Tower, and Buccleuch retaliated by leading 3000 lances on a formidable raid into England.[2][5] In 1535 he was accused of assisting the English Warden Lord Dacre, and warded in Edinburgh, 19 April 1535, at the King's will, but was released before 13 May 1536, though again imprisoned in 1540.[5]

Marriages and children

Scott married, first, before 4 September 1523, Elizabeth Carmichael who died before 1530. They had two sons:[5]

  • David, to whom his father conveyed the lands and baronies of Branxholme, Rankilburn, Eckford, and Kinkurd, 20 October 1528. He died before 1544, unmarried.
  • Sir William Scott of Kincurd (died May 1552), who married Grisel, second daughter of John Beaton of Creich, sister of his father's third wife.[8] Father of Sir Walter Scott, 4th of Buccleuch (c. 1549 – 17 April 1574). Grandfather of Walter Scott, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch

In a short-lived attempt to resolve the Scott-Kerr feud,[7] in 1530 the widowed Sir Walter married as his second wife Janet Kerr, daughter of Andrew Kerr of Fernihirst, widow of George Turnbull of Bedrule. They had no children. They were divorced, and she was still living in 1555.[5]

Sometime before June 1544, he married his third wife, Janet Beaton or Betoun (1519–1569), daughter of John Beaton of Creich, widow of Sir James Crichton of Cranston Riddelm and divorced wife of Simon Preston of Craigmillar. Their children were:[5]

  • Walter
  • David
  • Janet
  • Grisel
  • Margaret

Later, Dame Janet favoured the alliance of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and Mary, Queen of Scots, and was said to have infiuenced them by witchcraft.[5]

Rough Wooing

After the death of James V in 1542, Scott was among those who opposed the proposed marriage of the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, to Henry VIII's son Prince Edward, and became active in the wars with England later known as The Rough Wooing. He was made Keeper of Newark Castle for nineteen years in 1543. In 1545, Scott joined the unlikely alliance of Arran and Angus against the invading English at the Battle of Ancrum Moor, leading a contingent of borderers in the ambush and rout of the English forces.[9]

Scott also fought in the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh on 10 September 1547. Following the Scottish defeat, Scott submitted to Edward VI, now king of England, with the consent of the Regent, Governor Arran, but in 1548 the English took and burned Newark. Scott's mother, Elizabeth Kerr, was burned to death when the tower of Catslack was fired by the English on 19 October 1548.[5]

In 1550 Scott was made Warden of the Middle Marches, and in 1551 Warden and Justiciar of Liddesdale.[5]


Scott was walking in the High Street of Edinburgh on 4 October 1552 when a band of Kerrs and their retainers attacked him. John Hume of Coldenknowes ran Scott through with his sword, "shouting to one of the Kerrs 'Strike! Ain strike for they [sic] father's sake!'",[7] and when the wounded Scott was found to be alive his body was repeatedly stabbed until he died.[5][7] He was succeeded by his grandson, also called Sir Walter Scott (d. 1574), son of William Scott of Kincurd and father of Sir Walter Scott, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch, the "Bold Buccleuch" (1565–1611).

Representation in fiction

Scott plays a significant role in the historical fiction series the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. He appears in the first novel of the series, The Game of Kings and his death is a key plot point in the third novel of the series, The Disorderly Knights.


  1. Paul 1905, pp. 228
  2. 2.0 2.1 MacDonald Fraser, p. 92
  3. Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 314 - 315.
  4. Fraser 1972, p. 52, names the Bold Buccleuch as Scott's grandson, but he was the grandson of Scott's son William of Kinkurd who died a few months before his father; see Paul, pp. 231-232.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Paul 1905, pp. 228-230
  6. The
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 MacDonald Fraser 1972, p. 180
  8. Paul 1905, p. 231
  9. Phillips 1999, pp. 170-171


  • MacDonald Fraser, George (1972). The Steel Bonnets. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-47049-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • "". Retrieved 21 March 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Phillips, Gervase (1999). The Anglo-Scots Wars 1513-1550. Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-746-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>