A monument stands here in memory of Antoine D’Arces (d.1517), more commonly known as the White Knight or, round these parts, plain old ‘Bawtie’.

It is believed that the knight’s body was buried nearby, perhaps without his head, which had rotted away on a spike at Wedderburn Castle for 300 years.

His death was an international event in 1517 and the story is remembered in a traditional ballad ‘Death of de la Beaute’. The tale became popular again in the 19th century, when local writer JM Wilson, included it in his newspaper serial ‘Wilson’s Tales of the Borders’, published between 1834-40.

During the reign of King James V (born 1512 – died 1542), Scotland witnessed some rather turbulent times and it seems that murder and revenge killings between rival political families were commonplace. Antoine, or the White Knight, was a favourite of James V and had made his way up the political ladder, finally being appointed Lord of the Marches by the King. This position was traditionally held by members of the Home family of Wedderburn Castle and so they were not best pleased at the new appointment. Antoine believed the Homes to be guilty of the killing of one of his fellow Frenchmen, in revenge for the murder of one of their kin. Antoine chased down David Home, Laird of Wedderburn, and George Home. But during the ensuing chase Antoine fell into difficulties. He tried to cross the Whiteadder at Broomhouse but his horse fell and, now at a disadvantage, he was slain by other members of the Home clan. George Home is said to have chopped off Antoine’s head. In Wilson’s Tale, he relates: ‘let the Regent climb when he returns from France for the head of his favourite – it is thus that Home of Wedderburn revenges the murder of his kindred.’

It was acts of revenge all around. A 16th-century chronicler, Lindsay of Pitscottie, claims that David Home kept a plait of Antoine’s hair as a souvenir. The Homes took it one step further – the White Knight’s head was taken to Wedderburn Castle where it was put on a stake and remained there for 300 years, from 1517 to 1810. The old ballad ‘Death of de la Beaute’ remembers the story and this grisly detail:

'To Castle Hume they've ta'en the head 
And fixed it to the wall 
Where it remained mony a day 
Till it in pieces fell.'
De La Bastie Monument at Broomhouse, near Preston. Image by Walter Baxter.
Portrait of James V of Scotland, c1536, by Corneille de Lyon (1500/10-75). Public Domain.

You can read the traditional ballad 'Death of de la Beaute' on the Dunse History Society's website: http://www.dunsehistorysociety.co.uk/ballad.shtml
Call to action: We’d love to hear from any local singers or poets who could read this to us!

In 1832, JM Wilson, editor of the Berwick Advertiser, began publishing local stories. By 1834 he published the first collection as 'Wilson's Tales of the Borders, and of Scotland'. Read his full tale of the murder of the White Knight here: https://electricscotland.com/bordertales/vol1story19.htm

The Wilson's Tales Project celebrates the life and work of JM Wilson (d.1835) and brings some 400+ tales back to the public eye for a modern audience. Find out more here: http://www.wilsonstales.co.uk/

The project aims to popularise the work of this under-rated author and invites people to respond to and submit updated versions of Wilson's Tales. Like the original tales, these now feature regularly in the Berwickshire Advertiser. Call to action: perhaps you would like to write a version, perform or provide a creative response to this story?

This story appears in various sources with varying details and locations. It is mentioned in Arthur Granville Bradley’s book 'The Gateway of Scotland or East Lothian, Lammermoor and the Merse', published in 1912, the full publication can be viewed online here: https://www.electricscotland.com/history/gateway/index.htm

For more information about the Monument to Antoine de la Bastie visit Canmore, the online site of the National Record of the Historic Environment: https://canmore.org.uk/site/230878/monument-to-antoine-de-la-bastie

Wedderburn Castle dates from 1770-5, but was built on an earlier house. Discover more on Canmore, the online site of the National Record of the Historic Environment: https://canmore.org.uk/site/59748/wedderburn-castle

Today Wedderburn Castle is a hospitality venue: https://www.wedderburn-castle.co.uk

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