During the medieval period Scotland's story was defined by centuries of feuding between the most powerful families in the land and the constant threat of aggression and occupation from its larger southern neighbour. The people of the south-west suffered as armies advanced and retreated leaving devastation in their wake. They also bred extraordinary heroes who devoted their lives to the struggle which ultimately united the people of Scotland and won their Independence.
The lands of Annandale, Eskdale and Strathnith were brought into the emerging kingdom of Scotland in the early 1100s.Galloway followed when it was invaded three times in 1160 by Malcom IV. The Lords of Galloway continued for another century as semi-independent rulers, actively engaged with politics and warfare in the Isle of Man andUlster, with help from both English and Scottish kings.
The careless death of Alexander III in 1296 led to the eventual crowning of John Balliol as king ofScotlandin 1292. Balliol was descended from the line of the Lords of Galloway, and his supporters, the Comyns, held the castle at Dalswinton, near Dumfries. Balliol's rivals were the Bruces, who were Lords of Annandale.
Robert Bruce murdered Comyn at Greyfriars in Dumfries in 1306, and declared himself king of Scotland. The Wars of Independence continued for another 50 years, and the period became one of the defining moments in the nation's history. At the end of both wars, Scotlandretained its status as an independent nation. The English held on to Annandale until 1383, when they were driven out by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway and 3rd Earl of Douglas.
One of the results of the wars had been the rise of the Douglas family, who were granted the Balliol lands, and who went on to become one of the dominant families in Scottish politics for the next century, with Threave Castle as one of their main strongholds. Their power grew so great that in 1440 the young 6th Earl and his brother were invited to Edinburgh Castle -the so-called 'Black Dinner' which followed saw the two boys beheaded on trumped-up charges, in the presence of the young King James II.
James II went on to murder the 8th Earl Douglas in 1452, and his forces defeated those of the rebellious 9th Earl at the Battle of Arkinholm, near Langholm, in 1455. The king's forces were led by local families, such as the Maxwells and Johnstones, who were trying to shake offDouglas domination. Threave, the last Douglas stronghold was beseiged for two months, and only fell when the garrison were bribed and promised safe conduct. Douglas fled toEngland, and was finally captured at theBattle of Lochmaben Fair when he tried to invade again in 1484.
The Treaty of Perpetual Peace was signed betweenScotlandandEnglandin 1502, in an attempt to end the border warfare between them which had been going on for two hundred years. It lasted barely ten years before the Scots broke it, only to be defeated at Flodden, where the king and most of the leading Scots nobles were killed or captured. A raid by Lord Dacre in response laid waste all of lower Eskdale and Annandale.
In Dumfriesshire the Maxwells were the leading family. They were fierce rivals with the Chrichtons of Sanquhar, who they defeated in battle at Dumfries in 1508, and also had a longstanding feud with the Johnstones of Lockwood, which came to a head at the Battle of Dryfe Sands, near Lockerbie, in 1593 where the Maxwells were beaten and Lord Maxwell killed. Border warfare and reiving only declined after James VI of Scotland became James I of England, with the Union of the Crowns in 1603.