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.'