Battle of Flodden

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The Battle of Flodden or Flodden Field, was a conflict between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. The battle was fought in the county of Northumberland in northern England on 9 September 1513, between an invading Scots army under King James IV and an English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey. It was an English victory. In terms of troop numbers, it was the largest battle fought between the two Kingdoms. James IV was killed in the battle, becoming the last monarch from the British Isles to suffer such a death.


This conflict began when James IV, King of Scots, declared war on England to honour the Auld Alliance with France by diverting Henry VIII's English troops from their campaign against the French king Louis XII. James had allied with the French in 1511, contrary to his previous treaty with Henry IIV of England, partly because of a grievance at the death of one of his admirals, Andrew Barton (d.1511) at the hands of the English. The French also promised assistance for James' proposed crusade against the Ottoman Empire. <ref>Ian Donnachie and George Hewitt, The Birlinn Companion to Scottish History, 109</ref>

Henry VIII had also opened old wounds by claiming to be the overlord of Scotland, which angered the Scots and the King. At this time England was involved in the War of the League of Cambrai—defending Italy and the Pope from the French (see Italian Wars) as a member of the "Catholic League".

Pope Leo X, already a signatory to the anti-French Treaty of Mechlin, sent a letter to James threatening him with ecclesiastical censure for breaking his peace treaties with England on 28 June 1513, and subsequently James was excommunicated by Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge. James also summoned sailors and sent the Scottish navy, including the Great Michael to join the ships of Louis XII of France.<ref>Hannay, Robert Kerr, ed., Letters of James IV, SHS (1953), 307-8</ref> Henry was in France with the Emperor Maximilian at the siege of Thérouanne. The Scottish Lyon King of Arms brought James IV's letter of 26 July to him. <ref>'Henry VIII: July 1513, 16-31', Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, vol. 1: 1509-1514 (1920), pp. 952-967. Date accessed: 26 July 2012</ref>

James asked him to desist from attacking France in breach of their treaty. Henry's exchange with the Islay Herald or the Lyon King at his tent at the siege of Thérouanne on 11 August was recorded. The Herald declared that Henry should abandon his efforts against the town and go home. Henry angrily replied that James had no right to summon him, and ought to be England's ally, as he was married to his sister Margaret, declaring;

"And now, for a conclusion, recommend me to your master and tell him if he be so hardy to invade my realm or cause to enter one foot of my ground I shall make him as weary of his part as ever was man that began any such business. And one thing I ensure him by the faith that I have to the Crown of England and by the word of a King, there shall never King nor Prince make peace with me that ever his part shall be in it. Moreover, fellow, I care for nothing but for mistreating of my sister, that would God she were in England on a condition she cost the Schottes King not a penny. <ref>Brewer, J. S., ed., Letters & Papers, Henry VIII, vol. 1, (1920), pp. 972 no. 2157, (Henry VIII refers to the issue of money possibly owed as a legacy to Margaret Tudor, see Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol. 1 (1920), p. 623 no. 1342)</ref>

Henry also replied by letter on 12 August that James was mistaken and resistance to any of his attempts on England would be in place. <ref>Foedera, vol.6 part 1 (1741), p.52: Foedera, vol.13, London (1712), p.382</ref> Using the pretext of revenge for the murder of Robert Kerr, a Warden of the Scottish East March who had been killed by John "The Bastard" Heron in 1508, James invaded England with an army of about 30,000 men in August 1513.<ref>Donnachie, Hewitt, Companion, 109</ref> They crossed the Border by the 4th of September.<ref>Donnachie, Hewitt, Companion, 110</ref>Meanwhile James' fleet attacked the English garrison at Carrickfergus on their way to support the French Fleet. <ref>Donnachie, Hewitt, Companion, 109</ref>


On 18 August, five cannon brought down from Edinburgh Castle to the Netherbow Gate at St Mary's Wynd for the invasion set off towards England dragged by borrowed oxen. On 19 August two 'gross culverins', four 'culverins pickmoyance' and six (mid-sized) 'culverins moyane' followed with the gunner Robert Borthwick and master carpenter John Drummond. The King himself set off that night with two hastily prepared standards of St Margaret and St Andrew. <ref> Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol.4, (1902), pp.515-522</ref>

Catherine of Aragon was Regent in England and, on 27 August she issued warrants for the property of all Scotsmen in England to be seized. On hearing of the invasion on 3 September she ordered Thomas Lovell to raise an army in the Midland counties. <ref>Rymer, Thomas, ed., Foedera, vol.6 part 1, Hague (1741), pp.49-50: Foedera, vol.13 (1712), pp. 375-6</ref> In keeping with his understanding of the medieval code of chivalry, King James sent notice to the English, one month in advance, of his intent to invade. This gave the English time to gather an army and, as importantly, to retrieve the banner of Saint Cuthbert from Durham Cathedral, a banner which had been carried by the English in victories against the Scots in 1138 and 1346.

After a muster on the Burgh Muir of Edinburgh, the Scottish host moved to Ellemford, to the north of Duns, and camped to wait for Angus and Home. The Scottish army then crossed the River Tweed near Coldstream and on 24 August James IV held a council or parliament at Twiselhaugh and made a proclamation for the benefit of the heirs of anyone killed during this invasion. <ref>Tytler, Patrick Fraser, History of Scotland, vol.5 (1841), p.57: Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol.2 (1814), p.278</ref> By 29 August Norham Castle was taken and partly demolished. The Scots moved south, capturing the castles of Etal and Ford. <ref>Macdougal, Norman, James IV, 272-3</ref>

A later Scottish chronicle writer, Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, tells the story that James wasted valuable time at Ford enjoying the company of Elizabeth, Lady Heron and her daughter. <ref>Lindsay of Pitscottie, Robert, History and Chronicle of Scotland, various editions.</ref> Edward Hall says that Lady Heron was a prisoner (in Scotland), and negotiated with James IV and the Earl of Surrey her own release and that Ford Castle would not be demolished for an exchange of prisoners. <ref>Hall, Edward, Chronicle: Union of the two noble and illustrious Houses, 1548, London (1809), pp. 558–9</ref>

Raphael Holinshed's story is that a part of the Scottish army returned to Scotland, and the rest stayed at Ford waiting for Norham to surrender and debating their next move. James IV wanted to fight and considered moving to assault Berwick-upon-Tweed, but the Earl of Angus spoke against this and said that Scotland had done enough for France. James sent Angus home and according to Holinshed, the Earl burst into tears and left leaving his two sons, the Master of Angus and Glenbervie, with most of the Douglas kindred to fight. <ref>Holinshed, Raphael, The Scottish chronicle or, a complete history and description of Scotland, vol.1, Arbroath (1805), pp. 142–144.</ref>


The battle actually took place near the village of Branxton, in the county of Northumberland, rather than at Flodden—hence the alternative name is Battle of Branxton. The Scots had previously been stationed at Flodden Edge, to the south of Branxton. The Earl of Surrey, writing at Wooler Haugh on Wednesday 7 September, compared this position to a fortress in his challenge sent to James IV by Thomas Hawley, the Rouge Croix Pursuivant. He complained that James had sent his Islay Herald agreeing that they would join in battle on Friday between 12.00 and 3.00 pm, and asked that James would face him on the plain at Milfield as appointed. <ref> Ellis, Henry, ed., Original Letters Illustrative of English History, 1st Series, vol.1, Richard Bentley, London (1825), 85-87.</ref>

Next, Surrey moved to block off the Scots' route north and so James was forced to move his army and artillery two miles to Branxton Hill. <ref> Macdougall, Norman, James IV, Tuckwell, (1997), 274.</ref>

The Scottish artillery, as described by an English source, included five great curtals, two great culverins, four sakers, and six great serpentines. <ref>Petrie, George, "An account of Floddon", Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, (1866–7), 146</ref>The King's secretary, Patrick Paniter was in charge of these cannon. <ref>Mackie & Spilman ed., Letters of James IV, Scottish History Society, (1953), p.xxxi</ref>

When the armies were within three miles of each other Surrey sent the Rouge Croix pursuivant to James, who answered that he would wait till noon. At 11 o'clock, Thomas, Lord Howard's vanguard and artillery crossed the Twizel Bridge. <ref>Twizel Bridge History". Retrieved 2013-09-04.</ref>The Scots army was in good order in five formations, after the Almain (German) manner. On Friday afternoon the Scots host descended without speaking any word to meet the English. <ref>State Papers Henry VIII, vol. iv part iv (1836), 1: Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol 1 (1920), no. 2246 modern spelling.</ref>

The English army had formed two "battles" each with two wings. Lord Howard combined his "vanguard" with the soldiers of his father's "rearward" to meet the Scots. <ref> English Heritage (1995), p.3, quoting PRO Articles of the Battail </ref> According to English report, the groups commanded by the Earls of Huntly and Crawford and Erroll, totalling 6000 men, engaged Lord Howard and were repulsed and mostly slain.

Then James IV himself leading a great force came on to Surrey and Lord Darcy's son who "bore all the brunt of the battle". Lennox and Argyll's commands were met by Sir Edward Stanley.<ref>State Papers Henry, vol. iv part iv, (1836), 1-2: Letters Papers Henry VIII, vol. 1 (1920), no. 2246.</ref>

After the artillery fire ended, according to the English chronicler Edward Hall, "the battle was cruel, none spared other, and the King himself fought valiantly".<ref>Hall, Chronicle, (1809), 562.</ref> The sources dispute how James IV was killed. Hall says the King was fatally wounded by an arrow and a bill. <ref> State Papers Henry, vol. iv part iv, (1836), 2: Ellis, Henry, ed., (1846), 164, has regem occisum fuisse non longius latitudine lanceae ab illo: Hall (1809), 564.</ref>

Meanwhile, Lord Howard's brother, Edmund Howard, commanding men from Cheshire and Lancashire, fought the section of the Scottish army commanded by the Chamberlain of Scotland, Alexander, Lord Home, and Thomas, Lord Dacre's force, who had been fighting Huntley, came to assist him. <ref>Letters and Papers Henry VIII, vol. 1 (1920), no. 2913 Dacre to Council 17 May 1514.</ref> The Earl of Surrey captured the Scottish guns, including a group of culverins made in Edinburgh by Robert Borthwick called the "seven sisters", which were dragged to Etal Castle. The Bishop of Durham thought them the finest ever seen. <ref>Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol. 1 (1920), no. 2283, 2284: Pitscottie, Robert Lindsay of, The History and Chronicles of Scotland, vol. 1, Edinburgh (1814), 266: Lord Herbert also calls the guns the seven sisters.</ref>


Lord Dacre discovered the body of James IV at the battlefield. He later wrote that the Scots "love me worst of any Inglisheman living, by reason that I fande the body of the King of Scotts." <ref> Mackie, R. L., King James IV. Oliver & Boyd (1958), p.269: Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol.1 (1920), no. 2193</ref>The chronicle writer John Stow gave a location for the King's death: 'Pipard's Hill'- now unknown, which may have been the small hill on Branxton Ridge overlooking Branxton church.<ref> Mackie, R. L., King James IV. Oliver & Boyd (1958), p.258-9, with map, the suggested hill is location of the 1910 monument: Stow, John, Chronicles, (1580), p. 901</ref>

Dacre took the body to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where according to Hall's Chronicle, it was viewed by the captured Scottish courtiers William Scott and John Forman who acknowledged it was the King's. (Forman, the King's sergeant-porter, had been captured by Richard Assheton of Middleton. <ref>Remains Historical and Literary connected with Lancaster and Chester: Visitation of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1533, vol.98, Chetham Society (1876), p.59</ref> The body was then embalmed and taken to Newcastle upon Tyne. <ref>Hall, (1809), 564</ref> From York, a city that James had promised to capture before Michaelmas, the body was brought to Sheen Priory near London. <ref>Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol.1 (1920), no. 2313: Ellis, Henry, ed., Original Letters Illustrative of English History, 1st series, vol. 1, London (1824), 88: Aikman, James, Buchanan's History of Scotland, vol. 2 (1827), 259 note, quoting Stow's Survey of London on St Michael, Cripplegate ward.</ref>

James's banner, sword and his cuisses, thigh-armour, were taken to the shrine of Saint Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral. Much of the armour of the Scottish casualties was sold on the field, and 350 suits of armour were taken to Nottingham Castle. A list of horses taken at the field runs to 24 pages. <ref>Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol.1 (1920), no. 2325, no. 2460.</ref>

Thomas Hawley, the Rouge Croix pursuivant, was first with news of the victory. He brought the "rent surcoat of the King of Scots stained with blood" to Catherine of Aragon at Woburn Abbey. She sent news of the victory to Henry VIII at Tournai with Hawley, and then sent John Glyn on 16 September with James's coat (and iron gauntlets) and a detailed account of the battle written by Lord Howard. Brian Tuke mentioned in his letter to Cardinal Bainbridge that the coat was lacerated and chequered with blood. Catherine suggested Henry should use the coat as his battle-banner, and wrote she had thought to send him the body too, as Henry had sent her the Duke of Longueville, his prisoner from Thérouanne, but "Englishmen's hearts would not suffer it'. <ref>Calendar State Papers Milan, vol. 1 (1912) p.408 no. 660 and CSP Venice, vol. 2, (1867) no. 316, Brian Tuke to Richard Pace, Bainbridge's secretary, 22 September 1513 </ref>

Flodden was a disaster for the Scots. In the short term it meant the problems that came with the regency of James IV's son, James V (1512-42). <ref>Donnachie, Hewitt, Companion, 110</ref> In the longer term it ensured many of the nobility had serious reservations about the benefit of the Scottish-French alliance. <ref>Donnachie, Hewitt, Companion, 110</ref>


Surrey's army lost 1,500 men. <ref>Paterson, Raymond Campbell (1997). My Wound is Deep: A History of the Later Anglo-Scottish Wars, 1380-1560, 147</ref>There were various conflicting accounts of the Scottish loss. A contemporary account produced in French for the Royal Postmaster of England, in the immediate aftermath of the battle, states that about 10,000 Scots were killed, a claim repeated by Henry VIII on 16 September while he was still uncertain of the death of James IV. William Knight sent the news from Lille to Rome on 20 September, claiming 12,000 Scots had died with less than 500 English casualties. <ref>Ellis, Henry, ed., (1846), p.164</ref>

Italian newsletters put the Scottish losses at 18 or 20 thousand and the English at 5000. Brian Tuke, the English Clerk of the Signet, sent a newsletter stating 10,000 Scots killed and 10,000 escaped the field. Tuke reckoned the total Scottish invasion force to have been 60,000 and the English army at 40,000. <ref>Calendar State Papers Milan, vol. 1 (1912), 397, 404, 406.</ref> George Buchanan wrote in his History of Scotland (published in 1582) that, according to the lists that were compiled throughout the counties of Scotland, there were about 5,000 killed.

Edward Hall, thirty years after, wrote in his Chronicle that "12,000 at the least of the best gentlemen and flower of Scotland" were slain.<ref> Hall (1809), p. 563, with 1500 English killed.</ref>As the nineteenth century antiquarian John Riddell supposed, nearly every noble family in Scotland would have lost a member at Flodden. <ref>A number of names collected from the manuscript Acts of the Lords of Council and other sources are printed in The Scottish Antiquary, or, Northern Notes and Queries, vol. 13 no. 51 (January 1899), pp. 101–111, quotes Riddell, and, vol. 13, no. 52 (April 1899), pp. 168–172.</ref>

The dead are remembered by the song (and pipe tune) the Flowers of the Forest.

References <references/>