A murder at Duns caused an international incident – in 1517

The de la Bastie monument at Broomhouse, near Duns.
The de la Bastie monument at Broomhouse, near Duns.

Five hundred years ago, a little-known incident that caused international outrage at the time took place in Berwickshire.

The only permanent reminder of the death of a French knight at the hands of the Borders Home clan, is the de la Bastie monument at Broomhouse Farm, near Duns. It was erected in the 19th century and re-erected in 1975 by Berwickshire Civic Society.

Sir Anthony Darcy, commonly named Anthony de le Bastie or Antoine d’Arcy, was a French knight who came to Scotland immediately after the Battle of Flodden to help the Duke of Albany form a Government. As a French ambassador, his role was to investigate the circumstances of King James IV’s death at Flodden and help reinstate the Duke of Albany as Regent of Scotland.

In return for his support Albany appointed de le Bastie Warden of the Marches, and captain of Dunbar Castle.

While the Duke of Albany was in France, de le Bastie was murdered and while historical accounts differ in some of the detail they all reach the same conclusion – that David Home, Laird of Wedderburn, killed de le Bastie, cut off his head and carried it in triumph through Duns before fixing it on the battlements of Home Castle.

The reason for de le Bastie taking on the Home clan? One version is that they blamed him for Lord Home being put to death in Edinburgh while the Duke of Albany was abroad. Another version is that de le Bastie went to break Wedderburn’s siege of Langton Castle. Whatever, the reason for the clash the outcome was “a significant international incident”.

Francis I of France wrote to the Parliament of Scotland in November 1517 urging punishment and in March 1528 he was informed that the Earl of Arran had captured the Home family strongholds, one Home had been hung, drawn and quartered, and the others had escaped into England.

The chronicler Lindsay of Pitscottie writing in the 1570s said: “fearing ane conspiracie, he spurred his hors, and fled towardis the castle of Dunbar; thinking to have wone away, because he was weill horsed. But being ane stranger, and not knawing the ground weill, he laired his hors in ane mos, and thair his enemies cam upoun him, and slew and murthered him verrie unhonestlie, and cutted aff his head and carried with thame. And it was said that he had long hair plett in his neck quhilk David Home of Wedderburne knitt to his saidle bow and keipt it.”

The monument to Bastie, close to where he was buried, was erected by General James Home in the 19th century.