Flodden

If you are interested in the battle that led to the union of the crowns and the formation of the United Kingdom, then there are two websites which are important. These are:-

 www.1513club.co.uk

www.Flodden1513.com

THE BATTLEFIELD AT BRANXTON IS WELL WORTH A VISIT - interpretation boards, monument, Branxton church door dedicated to Flodden, 1. 5 mile walk of the battlefield trail and panoramic views from the top, The monument is very much disabled compliant. 

 But here is a short account of the battle....

 (Research and Copyright with Flodden 1513 Club and Coldstream and District Local History Society)

Causes of the Conflict – The Battle of Flodden – The Flodden Heritage (Coldstream Civic Week and other Border Festivals, Branxton, Berwickshire Naturalists, Tweed Green Monument and Parish Church Stained Glass Window, Other Flodden Sites and Flodden 500).

Causes of the Conflict

In August 1503, King Henry VII’s daughter Margaret married King James IV ofScotland, sealing a peace agreement between the two kingdoms, known as the Treaty of Perpetual Peace.  All future monarchs were to sign the Treaty within six months of their coronation. As well as this, the Pope inRomeendorsed the Treaty and declared that the first to break it would be ex-communicated. During the following six years, until the death of King Henry, the peace was observed by both nations. King Henry VIII succeeded his father and signed the Treaty within the stipulated six months. During these years King James, who loved what today we would call ‘boys' toys’, built up his navy. So much so that there is no doubt that England might have felt threatened by its smaller neighbour. The pride of James’s navy was The Great Michael, which was launched in 1511. She had a crew of 300 and was armed with 27 guns. With a displacement of 1000 tons, compared to the 600 tons of Henry’s flagship The Mary Rose this magnificent ship was potentially a great threat.

 The first sign of distrust between the two monarchs was when Queen Margaret wrote to her brother King Henry asking for him to send her inheritance from their father’s estate.  An ambassador was eventually sent from the English court telling James that the inheritance would be sent, but only if he made a solemn promise to keep the Peace treaty.  If he refused, Henry would take the best towns inScotland. In 1511, two Scots ships were attacked and captured by the English. King James’s favourite captain, Andrew Barton, was killed. King James wrote to the Pope inRomedemanding King Henry be ex-communicated and that he, James, be absolved from his oath and free to retaliate. The Pope did not reply! A major dispute that had been simmering for some time erupted in Europe. The Pope and the King of Spain formed a Holy league against the King of France. King Henry and the Emperor of Austria also joined the alliance. King James tried to act as peace broker between the factions, but failed and he found himself in a very difficult position, with his brother-in-law on one hand, andScotland’s old friend France on the other. King Henry solved this problem when he revived the English claim of over-lordship ofScotland.

 This pushed King James to renew the Auld Alliance with Franceand the King of France sent money and arms, 18ft pikes, also 50 Captains to train the Scots in their use. The French Queen also sent King James a ring, and a message to march three steps on English soil and break a lance for her. In June 1513 the English sailed for France. King Henry left his old and trusty commander, the Earl of Surrey, to watch the northern frontier. King James sent an ambassador to France asking King Henry to withdraw and make peace, or else face the consequences. King Henry flew into a rage and hurled a volley of insults at the Scots. This refusal from King Henry led to King James declaring war on England. So it was that King James issued summonses to the whole of Scotlandfor all men aged between 16 and 60 to assemble in Edinburgh, between the 13th and 20th of August.

 The Earl of Surrey was also making preparations for war. He was travelling north and gathering his army, made up mostly of men from the northern shires. On the 22 of August 1513, the Scots crossed the River Tweed near Coldstream and invaded England. Some say the Scots had 100,000 men, though this is doubtful. They embarked on taking the Castles of Norham, Wark, Etal and Ford and attacking, pillaging and destroying the hamlets and farms on the Border. The Scots set up a defensive camp on Flodden Hill, whilst King James lived the ‘high life’ inFordCastle, reputedly having an affair with Lady Heron. By crossing the Border, King James had broken the Perpetual Peace Treaty and was now effectively ex-communicated. The night before the battle, the English army of about 24,000 men had skirted round the Scots and camped at Barmoor, near Lowick.

 The Scots army of around 30,000 slept well, having good rations as well as shelter from the inclement weather.  Early on the 9 September, the English advanced towards the Border to cut off the Scots and force them to fight.  About midday, the Scots’ scouts would have seen glimpses of the English advancing towards them amid the rolling hills of North Northumberland. King James ordered the camp to be broken and the Scots moved from Flodden Hill to the top of Branxton Hill. At around 3.30pm, the English took the field.

The Battle of Flodden

The battle was a series of smaller fights spread over a large area. On the left of the Scots army were the Borderers commanded by Lord Home, the Lord Chamberlain ofScotland, along with the Earl of Huntly and his men from Aberdeenshire. Facing them, with about half the number of men, was the Earl of Surrey’s youngest son, Sir Edmund Howard. The Earls of Errol, Crawford and Montrose led the left centre of James’s force. Waiting for them was the Earl of Surrey’s other son, the Lord Admiral. Here also, close to where theFloddenmonument now stands, was the Bishop of Durham.  Both these forces were evenly matched in numbers. King James himself commanded the right centre. With him was almost every nobleman who did not have a command elsewhere. It was like a ‘who’s who’ of Scottish aristocracy. Below King James, near to where Branxton stands, was the Earl of Surrey. Here, the Scots outnumbered the English. On the right of King James were the Highlanders commanded by the Earls of Lennox and Argyll.

 At the time the battle started, there were no English troops facing them, though the English left, commanded by Sir Edward Stanley, would annihilate the Highlanders.Stanleyhad led his men out of sight of the Scots up Pate Hill in Crookham Dene, to the west of Mardon Farm. These two forces were evenly matched. The Scots reserve, behind the King’s battalion, were led by the Earl of Bothwell, while the English reserve were about two thousand mounted English Borderers, led by Lord Dacre. The battle started with a short exchange of cannon fire, the heavier Scots guns proving largely ineffective, while the English guns, firing smaller balls, found their targets regularly. The first to advance was the Lord Home. His men made steady progress down the lesser slopes of Branxton Hill.  Many of Edmund Howard’s troops fled in the face of the Scots superior numbers. What was left of the English right wing fought on bravely, but was almost overwhelmed by the Scots Borderers. Only the timely intervention of the mounted English Borderers halted the Scots advance. Home took no further part in the battle.  

 The three Earls on the left centre did not fare so well. The steep slopes of Branxton Hill, the wet ground and the English cannon fire, all contributed to the Scots ranks breaking up and, when they arrived at the bottom of the hill, they found boggy ground which slowed them down even more. So, instead of one massed formation, they found themselves facing the English in tens, rather than thousands. The English, under the Lord Admiral cut them to pieces. There was terrible slaughter here. The Highlanders on the Scots left wing were taken completely by surprise when Stanley ambushed them on top of Branxton Hill.

 The English managed to get behind the Scots unseen, firing volley after volley of arrows into the backs of the Highlanders. Such was the slaughter that it was said rivers of blood flowed down Branxton Hill. Confused and broken, what was left of the Highlanders fled down the hill, chased byStanley. The King’s battalion faced the same obstacles as the three Earls’ men, but with superior numbers, the English were forced back by the Scots. The English eventually managed to hold their ground, the English billhook causing much damage to the Scots with their pikes. King James was said to have almost reached the Earl of Surrey before he was struck down with an arrow through his throat.  Thousands died round their King. What compounded the conclusion of the fight was that the English, under the Lord Admiral and also Stanley, joined in the fight almost surrounding the Scots. By nightfall Surrey called off his troops and it is said that such was the ferocity of the fighting, he did not know the outcome of the battle. With dawn came the reality of a resounding victory. The field was covered with the naked bodies of the pillaged Scots and is considered that ten thousand Scots were slain.  More than a third of such a proud army that had crossed the River Tweed intoEnglandwas gone and such was the scale of the defeat thatScotlandwould never really recover. Within one hundred years,Scotlandand England would be united and Flodden, like the dead at Branxton, would be buried in history.

The Flodden Heritage

Coldstream Civic Week and other Border Festivals

If you are passing through Coldstream at 12 noon on the Thursday of Civic Week during the first full week in August, a cavalcade of around 300 horses will halt your journey. The town will be decorated with bunting and the streets lined with hundreds of cheering folk. This is Flodden Day when Coldstreamers and Borderers, along with visitors, commemorate the worst military defeat Scotland ever suffered in hundreds of years of conflict with its auld enemy, England. Coldstream Civic Week is the last Border Festival event of the year but it can count itself lucky as it has a gem (Flodden) as its central theme. Other Border towns have directFloddenconnections in their festival weeks, with Selkirk being the main one. However, Coldstream has by far the most importantFloddenheritage event of all the Border Common Ridings. 

Branxton

Driving from Coldstream, along the A697 road over the River Tweed and into England, after approximately two and a half miles you will arrive at a signpost for the village of Branxton. This is a small, quaint Northumbrian village, very pretty and quiet. If the visitor was not aware of the battle, they may never know the carnage that took place in the fields around the village were it not for the large granite cross standing atop a small hill. Following the path up to the monument, the whole battlefield unfolds, to the left, right and in front, in fact on the very ground beneath the feet. Every year during Coldstream Civic Week, the Coldstreamer acts as the town’s representative in paying homage to the Brave of Both Nations who fell on that fateful day. 

 Berwickshire Naturalists

 This association became responsible in 1910 for the wonderful monument at Piper’s Hill, Branxton. A meeting of the general committee of the Flodden Memorial Fund was held inBerwickTown Hallin May 1910. It was chaired by Sir George Douglas Bart and at that meeting the committee accepted a tender from Messrs Bower andFlorence, Spitall Granite Works,Aberdeen. This was to erect a Celtic cross of rough grey Scotch granite springing from a cairn of the same material. The sixteen square yards of ground at Piper’s Hill was donated by the owner, James C. Collingwood, of Cornhill. The monument measured 18 feet 6 inches in height, cost £340 and much of which was raised by public subscription. By September 1910, the monument had been delivered to Cornhill where it was mounted onto a wagon belonging to Messrs Carr and drawn to Branxton by traction engine. The opening ceremony was marred by the death of a Selkirk millwright and Flodden enthusiast who, when cycling over Coldstream Bridge, hit the kerb at the Marriage House and plummeted over the parapet of the bridge, falling some forty feet and meeting an untimely end. The poor chap had maps of the battlefield etc in his pocket, with the hint that he was representing a newspaper, and was obviously looking forward to seeing the new memorial.  He never ever did.

 Tweed Green Monument and Parish Church Flodden Stained Glass Window

 In Coldstream on the Tweed Green near to the town’s museum, stands a monument to the Scots who fell at Flodden. This was erected in 2007 by the local Flodden1513 Club. The club also arranged for a beautiful stained glass window in Coldstream Parish Church, commemorating the battle. This was officially ‘opened’ on 22 March 2009 by Professor John Hume of the Church of Scotland. TheFlodden1513 Club, which was formed in 1997, erected these memorials with the help of Lottery Funding and private donations. The club meets each year on the anniversary of the battle to remember the Scots who perished on Branxton Moor. At the time of writing, the Club has 54 local members, and 8 associate members as far afield as Adelaide and Queensland in Australia.

 Other Flodden sites

 There are several Flodden sites that make up a grand tour. These include Ladykirk Church (and a tone sculpture of James1V) ,DuddoTower,Etal Castle (where there is interpretation boards),Ford Castle,Howtel Tower and Swinton Church (the Flodden Bell. Further afield there is the Flodden Wall in Edinburgh built shortly after the battle to protect the city.

 Flodden 500 - Flodden Ecomuseum Limited

 This is an ambitious project, spearheaded by Lord Joicey of Etal Manor, to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the battle in 2013. Some 35 stakeholders have attended consultation meetings during 2009 and a Steering Group, representing both sides of the Border, has been set up. A central theme will be a Flodden EcoMuseum, which is essentially a museum without any buildings! In fact, this will be a sophisticated computer network, linking all theFlodden sites and projects and is likely to follow the eco-museum concept. There will be other important strands to the project. 2013 promises to be a year to remember.

 Below you will see images of the Flodden stained glass window in the Parish Church and the Flodden Monument at Coldstream's Tweed Green, some 200 yards from the Coldstream Museum.

 

Flodden Monument at river Tweed