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Cleanse the Causeway

 

 

The skirmish known as Cleanse the Causeway, or Clear the Causeway, took place in the High Street of Edinburgh, Scotland, on April 30, 1520, between rivals James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran, chief of Clan Hamilton, and Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, chief of Clan Douglas.

The skirmish was the result of enmity between the House of Hamilton and the "Red" Angus line of the House of Clan Douglas, both powerful noble families jealous of each other's influence over King James V. The Hamiltons, led by Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil, half-brother of the Earl of Arran, and Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, the earl's bastard son, attempted to apprehend the Earl of Angus, and prompted a street fight.

The Earl of Arran had become Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1517 and head of the King’s Council. In a dispute over the sale of a cargo of timber from a Dutch ship, he had sided with Leith merchants over the Edinburgh burgesses. The Leithers, supported by Robert Barton, had ignored any of the rights of the burgesses, but Arran still gave them his support, enraging the Edinburgh traders. During the skirmish, the burgesses of Edinburgh saw the opportunity for revenge, and took the side of Angus.

The fight went badly for the Hamiltons, and Sir Patrick Hamilton and about 70 others were killed in the incident. The Earl of Arran and Sir James fought their way out, and escaped along a narrow close. Stealing a nearby pack-horse that had come into the city with coals, they fled through the shallows of the Nor Loch marshes.

 

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Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017