Rothbury and Coquetdale History Society

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FLODDEN HISTORY: Clive Hallam-Baker gave members of Rothbury and Coquetdale History Society an excellent talk on the political background and an interesting map talk of the tactics and outcome of the battle of Flodden.

The young second generation Lancastrian King Henry VIII was insecure, due to the Yorkists still claiming legitimacy to the throne. Wishing to enlarge the English territory near Calais, he was conducting a siege, while the French queen urged King James IV of Scotland to attack England in order to draw Henry back home.

Henry remained in France.

However, on his marriage to Henry’s sister Margaret, James had signed a treaty for permanent peace but the old alliance proved stronger and France sent money, men and pike training for the invasion.

James was a popular king in Scotland and was able to raise an army from every region.

On August 22, 1513, Henry and his army crossed the Tweed at Coldstream on the pretext of avenging the murder of Robert Kerr, Warden of the Scottish East March by John ‘The Bastard’ Heron in 1508.

He sacked the castles of Wark, Norham, Etal and took Heron’s castle of Ford as his headquarters.

The English were prepared and under the command of the Earl of Surrey and his eldest son, Admiral of the Fleet, marched north and were joined by the Northumbrians.

While camped at Boldon, near Powburn, they arranged the date of the ensuing battle.

They camped on the Haugh at Wooler and at Barmoor, Lowick (both now caravan parks).

Heron offered to guide the Earl of Surrey’s army around behind the Scots, who had dug in their large guns to face south.

In the event, the lighter English guns proved to be more successful. A bog running between the two armies hampered the phalanx of long pikes.

James had to make a difficult and hurried change of direction of men and guns from the top of Flodden Hill to Branxton Hill (32 oxen required to move one gun), while the English crossed the Twizell bridge and at Crookham.

The battle started at 4pm and went on virtually all night.

Moss troopers and reivers from both sides of the border took advantage of the mayhem to steal from both sides while The Flower of Scotland were being decimated. King James, nine earls, 14 lords, 79 gentry and many thousands of men were killed.

Scotland never really recovered, but ironically Henry’s sister’s grandson inherited the English throne as James I.