There Will Be War: Treaty of York

This is the second partitioning of England, but perhaps the fourth major reshuffle of powers within it. Notice that the de Lusignans, played by Emperor Ike, are not signatories to the treaty although most of the land in question was owned by them up to a few years ago.

Treaty of York

Their Most Highborn and Gracious Majesties :

Folke I, King of Norway and Sweden, the Wends and the Goths, High Jarl of Finland, and Protector of the Norse-Law,

Ludwig Billung, King of Prussia and Lithuania, Tyrant of Denmark, Claimant of England,

and Amaury I of France and Flanders,

being desirous of order in the anarchy of England, and wishing to agree to such borders as are likely to contribute to a lasting peace, have this day consented to the following treaty:

1. For the maintenance of the house de Lusignan, that they may do no further mischief to the peaceful affairs of the lands bordering the North Sea, the lands of Scotland north of the Forth and the island of Ireland shall be set aside. Their Most Gracious Majesties earnestly enjoin the de Lusignan kings to be satisfied with this generous portion, and to seek no wider territory, as the Celtic kingdoms are plainly well suited to the scope of their gifts.

2. For the restoration of the Norse Law as in previous times, the rule of the Kings of Norway shall hold sway in this city of York, and also in its hinterland, the northern border of which shall run along Hadrian’s wall, and the southern border in a line starting from a point halfway between Lincoln and York, running south of Derby, and north to exclude Chester, as shown in the attached map. In addition, the islands of Orkney, Iceland, Man, and the Færøyar are to come again under Norwegian sovereignty.

3. For the pride of the Kings of Prussia, and to crown them in full dignity as sovereign Kings of England, the lands south of the Norse-Law down to the Thames, with the southern border to run from the bend of the Thames west to a point five miles north of Bristol.

4. For the wealth of the Kings of France, and to strengthen their armies, the lands south of the Thames to the coast, stretching as far west as Dorset and Somerset.

5. For the dynasty of de Hauteville, in recognition of their historic claim to Welsh lands, the Cornish peninsula west of Dorset.


In addition to its obvious power-political implications, the treaty of York is notable for being the first known to make use of a reasonably accurate map to show areas of control. It is something of a mystery where this map came from; the Mercator projection was not to be formally described for another two centuries, making the York Addendum a fascinating anomaly. Numerous theories have been proposed. Leonard Taylor suggests a lost genius in the Norwegian Chancellery, a mute inglorious Euler born out of his time. His student Reinert varies this by theorising an early Norwegian science of mapmaking, kept secret for the obvious strategic advantages, and accidentally or deliberately let slip for this important treaty – if it can be called a slip; it is clear that neither the Prussians nor the French made use of the map to learn new techniques. Hidden in plain sight, perhaps? Another hypothesis is that the Addendum is a later forgery, replacing an earlier, cruder map, but this runs into the difficulty that the parchment can be reliably carbon-dated to the thirteenth century. It seems unlikely that a forger of any period before the twentieth would go to the trouble of procuring centuries-old parchment, especially since X-ray analysis shows that no previous text has been rubbed off the scroll. Diedrich Schmidt of the Hamburg Institute has stated that the map shows too small an area for a Mercator projection to be reliably told from earlier methods, but he is alone among serious scholars in holding this view, and a recent paper by Haldor Johanson gives convincing evidence that even naked-eye inspection can easily tell the various methods apart over the area of the map.

We may never know the answer to this fascinating question. Short of some miraculous document explaining early Norwegian mapmaking techniques surfacing from a musty chancellery archive, the crackpots who enjoy postulating aliens, time travellers, or sixth-dimensional beings intervening for their own mysterious reasons in our history, are likely to keep the York Addendum in their arsenal. One would think that your average time traveller would have better things to do than teach minor northern kingdoms how to make good maps – steam engines come to mind, or the germ theory of disease – but common sense, of course, rarely has much of an impact on such minds.

From the mysterious to the mundane, we turn now to the impact of the Treaty on land distribution in southern Yorkshire…

Journal d’Societe Histoire, Number 2 Volume 31 (1931), Universite de Valencia; English translation by Everard Hopby-Smythe.


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