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The Battle of Flodden

Date - 9th September 1513
Combatants - James IV of Scotland .v. King Henry VIII of England
Setting - Flodden Moor, Northumberland, England
Description

As part of the "Auld Alliance" with France, King James IV of Scotland agreed to attack England to divert some of Henry VIII troops away from their French campaign. But the English army defeated the Scots on 9 September 1513 at Flodden in the last and most bloody battle to be fought in Northumberland. Not only was the Scots king slain but also were most of the Scottish nobility. It was thus one of the key turning points towards the ending of Scotland as a separate nation state. 

Flodden was a disastrous and unnecessary confrontation for Scotland. James IV of Scotland was married to the sister of England's King Henry VIII and a treaty of friendship existed between their countries. The "Auld Alliance"  between Scotland and France had been recently renewed also. There had been English attacks made upon Scottish's ships at the time when Henry VIII, on behalf of the papacy, invaded France. James IV declared war immediately, with nothing to gain and ties to both England and France that their war neutralized.

With the whole nation behind him, James amassed twenty thousand men with ease, both Highlanders and Lowlanders. His fleet set sail and his army crossed the border into Northumberland with the intention of drawing upon Englandís numbers in France. Norham Castle was among the places captured before confronting the English defenders, led by the Earl of Surrey and his son, west of the River Till, near Branxton, on 9 September. The Scots took the advantageous high ground. With slightly fewer numbers but superior equipment and artillery, the English moved around the Scots on their west and opened with cannon fire. They struck their target with great success, which the Scots could not match. James dropped strategic tactics and ordered all to attack. Initially giving the upper hand, the Scots were again thwarted by England's superior equipment, the long halberd with its axe, hook and spike bloodier than the spear in hand-to-hand conflict.

English losses were heavy but the dead Scots numbered between five and ten thousand. It is said that "the slaughter struck every farm and household throughout lowland Scotland" There was an unusually high number of aristocracy engaging in combat that day and among the slain were dozens of lords and lairds, at least ten Earls, some abbots, an archbishop and the body of the King himself.


Fletcher, Selkirk's sole survivor from
the Battle of Flodden returns.

The Departure and Return


Frae every cleuch and clan
The best o' the braid Border
Rose like a single man
To meet the royal order.
Our Burgh toun itsel'
Sent its seventy doon the glen;
Ask Fletcher how they fell,
Bravely fechting, ane to ten!
O Flodden Field!

Round about their gallant King,
For countrie and for croon,
Stude the dauntless Border ring
Till the last was hackit doon,
I blame na what has been -
They maun fa' that canna flee -
But oh! To see what I hae seen,
To see what now I see!
O Flodden Field!

 


Present day Flodden  battlefield