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Scotland’s Great Tragedy: The Bloody Battle of Flodden

Scotland’s Great Tragedy: The Bloody Battle of Flodden

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Throughout history, grand battles were often deemed necessary when ambitious nations were forming. They served as a crucible on which an identity of a people was forged and preserved. The history of both England and Scotland is filled with countless battles, standing as a testament to their tenacity and will for independence. The grandiose Battle of Flodden, fought in 1513, pitted these two nations against one another, and was one of their principal engagements, especially due to the fact that it claimed the life of a king.

Centuries of Rivalry: Prelude to the Battle of Flodden

Let’s face it: England and Scotland have shared a pretty rancorous history. No use dawdling or trying to evade that fact. Their saga has been filled with rivalry, war, battles for independence , and attempts at conquest. But, hey - such is history! Both nations suffered greatly over several centuries of almost constant conflicts and warfare with one another. Borders didn’t change very much over this time and tempers flared up easily. But it was the people that suffered the most, as is always the case with two nations at war. A solution to this situation was in desperate need.

Centuries of conflict were brought to an end in 1502, when the so-called Treaty of Perpetual Peace was signed. Henry VII of England and James IV of Scotland were eager to sign the treaty, as their kingdoms had been in a state of war for the past two centuries and beyond. Alas, signing the treaty didn’t make these problems disappear and intermittent conflicts continued afterwards and raids across the Scottish Borders continued in earnest. Naval competition between the two nations persisted causing the death of a noted Scottish sailor, Sir Andrew Barton.

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What is more, a new English king came to the throne in 1509, Henry VIII, who espoused a highly hostile rhetoric, continuing to claim that he was the overlord of Scotland. Thus far, the treaty had been of no use whatsoever. In this vitriolic environment, finding a justification for war wasn’t hard and James IV, King of the Scots, declared war on England under the pretense of helping France. By doing this, he was honoring a very old alliance between Scotland and France, dating to 1295 and known as the Auld Alliance. James IV’s aim was to divert England’s efforts from their campaigns against the French.

At the time, Europe was embroiled in a difficult and widespread conflict known as the War of the Holy League, which ran from 1508 to 1516, and was just a facet of the larger Italian Wars that lasted from 1494 to 1559, a conflict that involved the major European powers. England was on the side of the Catholic League, fighting to protect the Pope from the French. Scottish involvement as an ally of the French, while many other Papal nations were on the opposing side, generating the wrath of the Pope. Due to his alliance with the French, James IV was excommunicated on 28 June 1513.

Before all out war, there was a heated exchange of letters between Henry VIII (left) and James IV of Scotland (right). ( / )

Scotland v’s England: The Heated Conflict Begins

By that point, the conflict was once more in full swing. James IV roused up his Scottish navy, sending a host of ships, some 22 vessels, to join up with the massive French fleet. The Scottish fleet was under the command of James Hamilton, the 1st Earl of Arran, but was sadly much delayed. Its intention was to ultimately cut off the English line of communications across the English Channel. In the end, after severe delays, the Scottish fleet played no part in the ensuing conflict. However, James IV made the mistake of placing his seasoned artillery veterans on these ships, essentially hampering his own war efforts on the land.

A heated exchange of letters between the two kings followed. Henry VIII was enraged by the simple fact that Scotland had allied itself with the French, and claimed that James ought to be an English ally, especially considering the fact that Henry’s sister, Margaret Tudor , was married to him. James, on the other hand, maintained the position that Henry should at once abandon his efforts in France. Needless to say, neither King was willing to back down. War was imminent.

James IV was the first to make a move. Finding a pretext - chiefly the murder of a Scottish Warden named Robert Kerr - James crossed over into England at the head of a vast army of 30,000 men. Of course, this invasion was expected by the English. Henry VIII had made great efforts to fortify the northern part of his realm, positioning troops and artillery along the northern border, and the Earl of Surrey, Thomas Howard, had been appointed as the Lieutenant-General of the Army of the North. The English were ready - come one, come all!

Print showing border reivers, who crossed the border to pillage those on the other side.

The Ill-Fated Raiding Party

Border raiding has a long history in Scotland. Border reivers crossed over - both on the Scottish and English side - and pillaged the local folk. In times of war, border reivers were a handy asset, and James IV sought to utilize them to their fullest extent in 1513. On August 5th, he sent a force of roughly 7,000 border reivers, under the command of Lord Alexander Home, into Northumberland, where they began to pillage everything in sight. Such a raid was a simple and efficient way of gaining precious war booty - if done properly.

However, the Scottish raid of 1513 was an ill-fated endeavor. The English managed to respond rapidly, due to the diligence of the Earl of Surrey, sending a force of roughly 1,000 men as a countermeasure. Of these, around 600 were experienced mounted archers. The English force lay in a perfectly arranged ambush and surprised the Scottish raiding party with a devastating volley attack. What ensued was a chaotic slaughter. The Scots fled in panic, leaving 600 of their men dead on the ground. All the war booty they captured was also left behind, rendering the entire raid useless. Ever since, it has been called the “Ill Raid”.

In the end, both armies had plenty of time and advance notice to prepare for a battle that was surely looming on the horizon. In the classic spirit of medieval chivalry , James IV announced his intent to invade directly to the English, one month in advance. This gave his enemy plenty of time to prepare. These chivalrous practices can be seen as a major flaw of warfare during this period. By late August, James crossed over the River Tweed and into England, at the head of a sizable army of 42,000 men.

In the initial days of his campaign, James managed to capture several castles with relative ease: castles Ford, Etal, Wark on Tweed, and Norham all fell to the Scots. By early September, with the English hastily assembling their forces to counter the Scots, the English had sent a herald to James IV to appoint a place for the battle. At the time, Henry VIII was away in France, and his wife Catherine of Aragon had been left as Governor of the Realm and Captain-General to manage the crisis. While she was on her way north for battle, the clash, which was by now a forgone conclusion, took place without her.

Preparing for the Clash: Battle at Flodden Hill

James IV was no fool. He nestled his army in a specifically chosen position where they would certainly have an upper hand. He selected Flodden Hill - near Branxton - and arranged his men and cannons there. The hill was a commanding feature of the surrounding landscape. It gave him a clear advantage, since the enemy had to advance uphill. He also utilized the remnants of an ancient hill fort , and reinforced it with additional ramparts as well. All in all, the Scots were positioned ideally and they had the advantage they needed.

On the opposite side of the conflict, the Earl of Surrey, Thomas Howard, was in a difficult position. Due to their favorable position, to attack the Scots would be suicide. His army numbered around 26,000 men, nearly half the size of the Scottish army, and was in dire need of supplies. Then again, if he chose not to attack, he risked shame and the inevitable anger of King Henry VIII. What was he to do in such a difficult situation?

Howard attempted to challenge James’ choice of strategic location. He sent his herald to James and asked that they meet at the Milfield Plain as originally agreed. However, this site was ideal for an ambush, apart from being the setting for the preceding Scottish Ill Raid. Knowing this, James IV had no intention to fight at that location, and was not willing to leave his superb and fortified position at Flodden Hill. To the challenge that Howard had sent him, he simply replied that it was “not fitting for an Earl to seek to command a King.”

The Battle of Flodden has gone down in history due to England’s defeat of the Scots.

Dirty Tricks of the Border Reivers Turn the Tables

Thomas Howard was now in a terrible position. He had to face the Scots. To wait in position was out of the question, as maintaining his army was highly costly. What is more, the convoy with food that was arriving to supply them was looted on the way, by Englishmen nonetheless! Nevertheless, even when facing such difficult odds, a solution always appears. The Earl of Surrey found a way out from this situation thanks to the ingenious advice of one John “the Bastard” Heron.

John Heron was a notorious member of the Clan Heron, a clan of border reivers remembered in both English and Scottish history. The family owned many castles over the centuries and enjoyed considerable power. Even so, they were noted as a “hot tempered race, regularly in trouble with the authorities,” and they made their fortune by rustling cattle and raiding. But playing dirty tricks was a sure way for the English to evade the sure failure of this difficult situation, so the Earl of Surrey was quick to listen to the mischievous plan.

Instead of facing the Scots directly on Flodden Hill - and risking complete destruction - the English instead took an eastern winding route, following the old Roman causeway. By winding their way, the English aimed to outflank the Scottish army, or to hopefully attack them from the rear by reaching Branxton Hill, just 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Scottish positions. The maneuver was successful, and the English were reaching a favorable position to flank. Of course, their movements were noticed by the Scottish scouts, and James IV was quick to respond, moving his army to Branxton Hill in order to remedy the situation. While this hill was still a favorable position for the Scots, they hadn’t explored the layout sufficiently.

Unexpected Wetland Creates a Decisive Turning Point During Battle

The time for battle finally arrived. Newly positioned on the light slopes of Branxton Hill, James IV and his Scottish army faced the English. Lord Home advanced with the Scottish left flank and opened the battle with the first clash, managing to win against the English detachment commanded by Edmund Howard. Seeing this initial success by his heavy troops, James ordered the next battle formation - this time the central one - to move forward down the Branxton Hill and to engage the enemy.

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However, here is where the Scots ran into trouble. Confident and well-arranged, they now encountered a major obstacle. At the foot of the hill was an area of somewhat concealed marshy ground, an underground seepage zone that was now swelling after days of heavy rain. Looking across the horizon, one can easily miss this feature. But now the Scots were struggling to cross it, losing cohesion and breaking rank. The heavy pikemen needed the momentum of rapid downhill advance in order to inflict high damage, but now it was lost as they struggled with the boggy, mushy land.

The English in the meantime advanced in response and were now engaging in savage hand to hand combat with the confused Scottish pikemen. Seeing the clash developing, James IV himself rode out with a detachment to enter the fray - it is unknown whether he knew of the marshland obstacle at the foot of the hill. The battle that ensued was fierce, bloody, and downright savage. The English followed a policy of “no prisoners”, which caused a high rate of casualties amongst their opponents. The Englishmen won a decisive victory after a quick and ruthless engagement.

Monument to the Battle of Flodden Field at Branxton ( joe888 / Adobe Stock)

The King Lay Dead Amongst the Flowers of the Forest

The Scottish King James IV was killed in the final stages of the battle, which took place on 9 September 1513. He always took risks, and the Battle of Flodden was no exception. After the battle, his body was discovered amongst the dead, surrounded by the corpses of his personal bodyguard, the so-called Flowers of the Forest. The King suffered two arrow wounds, one of them in the jaw, and sword wounds to the neck and wrist. He was the last monarch to die in battle in the British Isles.

The Battle of Flodden was a terrible defeat for the Scots. A huge number of Scottish nobles and aristocrats died in the battle alongside their King, who was criticized posthumously for moving downhill to attack. For Catherine of Aragon, Flodden was an astounding victory. Along with the bloody coat of the dead Scottish king, she sent a letter to Henry VIII, stating: “I thought to send himself unto you, but our Englishmen’s hearts would not suffer it.” In any case, this conflict serves as a good reminder that numerical superiority is not always the most consequential aspect for achieving victory. Sometimes you have to search for alternative strategies, looking for new paths in order to secure victory. And that is exactly what the Earl of Surrey, Thomas Howard, did.

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Scotland’s Great Tragedy: The Bloody Battle of Flodden - History

Rampant Scotland
Historic Scottish Battles

For centuries, the direction of Scotland's development was influenced by the outcome of the many battles which took place on her soil - or over the Border in England. There were glorious victories and terrible defeats. Many, but not all battles, were fought against the English. And, it has to be said, it was not unknown for the Scots to initiate the contest by invading their larger neighbour!

This extensive list of 40 conflicts gives an outline of many of these battles and in all cases there are links to other Websites where you can find out more.

Battle of Aldearn - 1645
While encamped at Auldearn, two miles from Nairn, the Duke of Montrose was surprised by a large force of Covenanters but fought back and defeated them. The Covenanter army lost 2,000 men that day.

Battle of Ancrum Moor - 1545
During the "Rough Wooing" as King Henry VIII of England tried to persuade Mary Queen of Scots to marry his son, an English force marched into the Scottish Borders, destroying Melrose Abbey. The invaders were defeated at Ancrum Moor by a force only half their size consisting of Douglases, Leslies, Lindsays and Scotts.

Battle of Bannockburn - 1314
An English army, led by Edward II, marching to relieve Stirling Castle, were met by King Robert the Bruce at Bannock Burn, near Stirling. The over-confident English army was soundly defeated, losing 3/4,000 men, Scottish casualties were light. King Edward II escaped back to England.

Battle of Flodden - 1513
When King James V had married Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, in 1503, he had signed a "Treaty of Everlasting Peace" between Scotland and England. But James had renewed the "Auld Alliance" with France when King Henry VIII of England had invaded France. James did not need to take action but nevertheless advanced into England, in part because Henry VIII had opened old wounds by claiming to be the overlord of Scotland which angered the Scots and the King. The Pope threatened James with ecclesiastical censure for breaking his peace treaties with England and subsequently James was excommunicated. After some minor successes he met an English army at Flodden on September 9 1513. The battle was the heaviest defeat ever experienced by a Scottish army, with the slaughter of the King and the flower of Scottish nobility - at least ten earls, countless lords and an estimated death toll of 10,000 Scots from the Highlands and the Lowlands.

Battle of Bothwell Bridge - 1679
A force of 10,000 government forces, led by the Duke of Monmouth and Graham of Claverhouse, dispersed 6,000 Covenanters who had gathered at Hamilton.

Battle of the Boyne - 1690
Using finance and troops supplied by Louis XIV of France, James VII made a final attempt to regain his throne. He landed in Ireland where he had a large number of supporters amongst the Catholic community. King William (of Orange) personally led an army of 30,000 men, outnumbering the Jacobites. As James advanced towards Dublin, the armies met west of Drogheda, at the river Boyne. James was defeated and fled back to France.

Battle of the Braes - 1882
While perhaps not in the same league as many other battles on Scottish soil, the Battle of the Braes got a lot of publicity at the time. It arose as part of the Highland "Clearances" when a group of crofters at Braes, near Portree, refused to allow the Sheriff's Officer deliver a summons. 50 Glasgow policemen were sent to put down the "uprising" and a battle took place at Braes when 100 crofters attacked them. The ensuing court cases received a lot of publicity and helped to highlight the problems being faced by the crofting communities.

Battle of Carberry Hill - 1567
A confrontation between Mary Queen of Scots and an army of lords, led by James Douglas, Earl of Morton. The lords wanted to arrest Lord Bothwell, Mary's husband, because they believed that Bothwell had been involved in the murder of Mary's second husband, Lord Darnley. After long negotiations (there was no actual fighting) Mary agreed but Bothwell fled to Orkney. A few days later, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle.

Battle of Carham - 1018
An army from Northumberland, seeking to recover Lothian which had been captured by King Malcolm II of Scotland, clashed with Malcolm at Carham on the river Tweed. The Scots were victorious and henceforth the river Tweed became accepted as the border between Scotland and England.

Battle of the Clans - 1396
To resolve a dispute between the clans Chattan and Kaye, King Robert III arranged for representatives of the two clans to meet in combat on the North Inch in Perth. Watched by the king, his courtiers and a large crowd, clan Kaye was routed - supposedly only one survived, by swimming across the nearby river Tay.

Battle of Culloden - 1746
The final battle of the Jacobite Uprising of 1745/46. The army of Prince Charles Edward Stewart, consisting mainly of Highlanders, was soundly defeated by the Duke of Cumberland, bringing to an end the ambitions of the "Young Pretender" to recover the throne for the Stewart dynasty.

Battle of Dunbar, 1296
When King Edward I of England ordered his puppet, King John (Balliol) to supply Scots troops to fight in France, Parliament refused to allow it and forced Balliol to renounce his allegiance. Edward immediately invaded Scotland, captured Berwick and, a few weeks later, crushed the Scottish army at a battle outside Dunbar. Many of the Scottish nobles who were captured were sent south to act as hostages.

Battle of Dunbar - 1650
Oliver Cromwell advanced into Scotland, initially with 16,000 men, supported by ships along the east coast, in pursuit of King Charles I. The Scots army, led by David Leslie, thwarted his attempts to take the port of Leith and Cromwell retired to Dunbar. The pursuing Scottish army was badly organised for the battle and Cromwell won not only won the battle but was able to hold sway over most of Lowland Scotland.

Battle of Dunkeld - 1689
After the death of the brilliant James Graham, Viscount Dundee, at Killiecrankie, the Jacobite army had no leader of quality. In August, 5,000 clansmen attacked Dunkeld which was held by a much smaller Government force of Cameronians. They fought a determined rear-guard action through the town, killing many of the attacking Jacobites in the process. Eventually, the Jacobites withdrew and, with the onset of winter, the Highlanders dispersed. With the defeat of King James VII at the Battle of the Boyne in Northern Ireland the following year, Dunkeld was the last battle in Scotland in the 17th century to restore the Stewarts to the throne.

Battle of Dunnichen - 685
It has been argued that if the King Bruide of the Picts had not defeated an invasion by Ecgfrith, King of Northumbria on May 20, 685, Scotland as a separate nation would not have come into being. The Northumbrians had already advanced as far as Lothian, south of the river Forth and defeated the Gododdin and had subjugated the southern lands of the Picts. The Picts had suffered a serious defeat on the plain of "Manau" (near Grangemouth) and 12 years later a huge force of Northumbrians advanced into the land of the Picts. But using local knowledge of the area around Dunnichen (known as Nechtansmere to the later southern historians), the Picts won an overwhelming victory, bringing to an end the northern advance of the Northumbrians.

Battle of Dupplin Moor - 1332
The defeat of Bannockburn in 1314 rankled with Edward III and he encouraged a group of exiled Scottish nobles, (the so-called "Disinherited") led by Edward Balliol (son of John Balliol) to invade Scotland using ships supplied by the English king. A landing was made at Kinghorn but they were confronted by a Scottish force led by Donald, the earl of Mar, Regent of Scotland during the minority of King David II. Balliol was successful, slew the earls of Mar, Menteith and Moray and 2,000 of the defenders. Balliol went on to claim the throne only to be overthrown later the same year by a new Regent, the earl of Moray.

Battle of Falkirk - 1298
Wallace's victory at Stirling Bridge in September 1297 was short lived. King Edward marched north and met Wallace's army at Falkirk in July, 1298. The English (and Welsh) bowmen depleted the Scottish ranks, many of whom were untrained conscripts. Wallace was to continue the fight but in a guerilla a war and was betreayed and captured in 1305.

Battle Of Falkirk - 1746
The retreating Jacobite army of Prince Charles Edward Stewart, pursued by the Duke of Cumberland, marched from Glasgow on 3 January 1746 towards Stirling. Units of the two armies clashed, the MacDonald regiments in particular gave a good account of themselves and the Jacobites were victorious. Nevertheless, they headed north again - to the final battle at Culloden three months later.

Battle of Flodden - 1513
Once again the "Auld Alliance" between Scotland and France came into play and King James IV responded to a request from Louis XII of France who was being attacked by King Henry VIII of England. Despite treaties which had been signed between Scotland and England in 1502, James IV advanced into England with an army said to number 30,000. After some early successes, a number of castles fell to the Scottish cannon. But an English army, led by the earl of Surrey, met the Scots on Flodden Field in Northumberland. After a bloody battle, in which King James and the flower of Scottish nobility fell, the English commander estimated that 10,000 Scottish soldiers had been killed.

Battle of Glenfruin - 1603
400 MacGregors ambushed a larger number of Colquhouns in the glen. They took no prisoners and 140 Colquhouns were killed. A large number of sheep and cattle were stolen. Two days before he journied to London to assume the title of King of England as well as Scotland, King James VI held a judicial review of the incident. The MacGregor name was banned

Battle of Glenshiel - 1719
After the abortive Jacobite Uprising of 1715, the "Old Pretender" returned to France and then Italy. However, in 1719 he became involved in an armada from Spain which was to invade England. The main fleet was wrecked by storms and only a small force arrived at Eilean Donan Castle at Loch Duich on the west coast of Scotland. The mixed force of Spaniards and clansmen marched to Glenshiel and were met by government forces and defeated.

Battle of Halidon Hill - 1333
Despite being driven out of Scotland, Edward Balliol made another attempt to gain the throne of Scotland. This time the English King Edward III marched north himself and laid siege to Berwick. A relief force, under Archibald, lord of Douglas, was confronted by the English army on the slopes of Halidon Hill. Douglas had a numerically superior army but the English longbow men decimated them. Berwick fell soon after.

Battle of Harlaw - 1411
When Donald, Lord of the Isles, marched with possibly as many as 10,000 clansmen eastwards from his stronghold, sacking Inverness and headed for Aberdeen. Alexander, earl of Mar gathered together a force of volunteers and marched with his smaller force to meet the invaders. Despite numerous charges by the clansmen, they were unable to break through the earl of Mar's lines and eventually withdrew, back to Inverness and the west. Casualties at "Bloody Harlaw" were high on both sides.

Battle of Homildon Hill - 1402
Archibald, the 4th Earl of Douglas, was defeated by the English rebel Percy "Hotspur". Following this, by way of ransom, Douglas agreed to fight for Hotspur against King Henry IV - but lost again and was captured by the English king.

Battle of Inverlochy - 1645
The Marquis of Montrose, after his success at the Battle of Tippermuir (see below), was being pursued by a Covenanting force led by the Marquis of Argyll and his Campbell clan (though a General Baillie also though he was in command and the two men could not stand the sight of one another!). Argyll's forces amounted to 3,000 experienced Highland fighters Montrose had about half that but they were also well trained - and included a contingent of MacDonalds who had scores to settle with the Campbells. Montrose showed his skill as a general and confused Covenanters who were subsequently routed - it is said that 1,500 Campbells and their allies were killed that day.

Battle of Killiecrankie - 1689
The Jacobites, led by James Graham, Viscount Dundee, gathered at Killiecrankie. Many of the Highland clans assembled there in support of James VII, including Cameron of Lochiel, MacLean of Duart, MacDonald, Stewart, McNeil, MacLeods and Fraser. The government forces of King William, under Hugh Mackay of Scourie, advanced through the Pass of Killiecrankie and joined battle. After a fierce conflict, the government forces were forced to retreat. But the cost to the Jacobites was high - their commander, Viscount Dundee,, was killed by a musket shot. Just at this moment of victory, the Jacobite cause was lost as there was no-one of his stature to lead them.

Battle of Kilsyth - 1645
The Marquis of Montrose led his royalist force of Highlanders and Irish to another victory at Kilsyth, leaving him in control of much of Scotland. In England, King Charles I was not faring so well against Cromwell, having been defeated at the Battle of Naseby.

Battle of Langside - 1568
Having escaped from Loch Leven Castle in Fife, Mary Queen of Scots attempted to reach Dumbarton Castle in the west. The earl of Moray quickly assembled an army and attempted to cut her off as she travelled to the south of Glasgow. Moray held the high ground at Langside and after an exchange of cannon fire, this became an advantage in the ensuing hand to hand fighting. Mary's army was routed and she fled to England where, after 19 years of imprisonment, she was beheaded at Fotheringay Castle by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Battle of Largs - 1263
In the middle of the 13th century, King Hakon of Norway ruled not only in Scandinavia but also over the Western Isles of Scotland, the Isle of Man and Iceland. In 1263 he set sail with the largest fleet ever assembled and set sail for Scotland. Hampered by bad weather, Hakon eventually arrived in the estuary of the river Clyde. They pillaged around Loch Long but on 30 September strong winds forced them ashore. The Scots plundered the ships and Hakon sent a force of 700-800 warriors ashore to reclaim his vessels. The Scots attacked again and the Vikings withdrew. While not a great battle, it marked the start of their decline in the west of Scotland.

Battle of Mons Graupius - AD84
The precise place where the Caledonian leader, Calgacus, met the Roman advance led by Agricola is not known but it was probably in north-east Scotland in what is now Aberdeenshire. There were said to be 30,000 Caledonii who were defeated by the disciplined Roman legions in the only known set piece battle in the north. 1,300 years later, a transcription error led to the name becoming "Grampian" which is the name now given to the Cairngorm mountains, east and south of the river Spey.

Battle of Neville's Cross - 1346
Responding to a request for assistance by King Philip of France, King David II led an army into the north of England, advancing as far as Durham. The northern English barons, Neville and Percy, assembled an army to meet the invading Scots, who were numerically superior. Again the English longbows and better tactics won the day and not only were the Scots defeated, King David was captured. He remained a prisoner in the Tower of London for eleven years.

Battle of Otterburn - 1388
A successful foray by James, second earl Douglas, into northern England, swept as far as Durham and then fell back destroying and pillaging as it went. Henry Percy, better known as "Hotspur" assembled an army and set off in pursuit. Douglas was leading a force of around 3,000 men and Hotspur had twice that number. The two forces met south of Otterburn late in the evening of 19 August. The battle continued into the night - the darkness meant that the English bowmen were ineffective. By morning, the wounded Hotspur had been captured and 1,000 English had been killed. However, Douglas himself, leading a charge into the enemy, was fatally wounded.

Battle of Pinkie - 1547
King Henry VIII of England tried to persuade Mary Queen of Scots to marry his son, and undertook a series of incursions into Scotland known as the "Rough Wooing". The Duke of Somerset assembled an English army in Newcastle in 1547 and marched into the Borders of Scotland with 16,000 men. The Regent of Scotland at that time was the Earl of Arran and he allowed the English to advance as far as the river Esk in Lothian. The Scots army of 25,000 men looked formidable but the greater fire power of English cannon (both on land and from a fleet off the coast) and better tactics crushed the Scottish army. It is estimated that 10,000 Scots fell that day and English losses were said to be only 250.

Battle of Prestonpans - 1745
After raising his standard at Glenfinnan on August 19, Prince Charles Edward Stewart marched south to Edinburgh, reaching there by September 14. The Hanoverian army under Sir John Cope gathered near the hamlet of Prestonpans to the east of the city. A local force of Jacobite sympathisers surprised the Government forces by picking their way across a marsh during the night and attacking at dawn. They soon put the redcoats to flight. Casualties on both side were relatively light but 1600 government soldiers and their supplies were captured.

Battle of Rullion Green - 1666
After the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, the king attempted to impose his Episcopalian ideas on the Church of Scotland, replacing clergy who would not co-operate. The new ministers were not popular and in November 1666 and there was a rebellion, starting in Galloway but spreading throughout the south-west. As the Covenanters advanced towards Edinburgh they were pursued by Sir Thomas (Tam) Dalyell who caught up with around 1,000 of them in the Pentland Hills at Rullion Green. The rebels made a brave stand but were overwhelmed. Some were hung, many others were transported abroad.

Battle of Sauchieburn - 1488
James III alienated a number of his nobles, and a number of barons he had dispossessed rebelled, supported by the king's son. James III led his forces, mainly from the north, to confront the rebels and they met at Sauchieburn (not far from Bannockburn). King James was killed (he escaped the battle but was murdered shortly afterwards). His son, now James IV, wore an iron chain round his waist for the rest of his life to atone for his part in his father's death.

Battle of Sherrifmuir - 1715
The Earl of Mar, leading the Jacobite forces in support of James Francis Edward Stewart (the "Old Pretender"), had taken control of most of Scotland north of Perth. The government forces led by the Duke of Argyll advanced from the south and the two armies met on the hills of Sherrifmuir, east of Dunblane in November 1715. The battle was inconclusive but afterwards the Jacobites withdrew. The Old Pretender arrived in Scotland (much later than expected) in December 1715 but stayed only six weeks before being persuaded to return to France.

Battle of Solway Moss - 1542
After a raid into Scotland by the Earl of Norfolk, King James V sent a force of 10,000 into England in retaliation. Led by Lord Maxwell, the Scots were met short of Solway Moss by an English force led by Sir Thomas Wharton. Badly led, the Scots army disintegrated. A few weeks later King James V died at Falkland Palace, leaving the infant Mary Queen of Scots to inherit the throne.

Battle of Stirling Bridge - 1297
William Wallace fought a guerrilla war for a number of years against the English who were effectively in occupation with the English king's puppet, John Balliol on the throne. The Earl of Surrey led an punitive force to confront Wallace and they met at Stirling Bridge. The overconfident English army advanced across a narrow bridge across the Forth. At the right moment, Wallace ordered the attack and the English foot soldiers were swept into the river.

Battle of the Standard - 1138
Taking advantage of the precarious hold King Stephen of England had on the throne, King David I of Scotland made a number of successful incursions into northern England. In 1138, in another push into Northumberland, his mixed force of Lowlanders, Highlanders and Galloway men were confronted by an army of Northern nobles recruited by the Archbishop of York. Their flying banners gave the battle, beyond Northallerton in Northumberland. A number of charges were beaten back by English bowmen and King David decided to make an orderly withdrawal back across the border.

Battle of Tippermuir - 1644
Marching towards Perth, the Duke of Montrose found his way blocked by a force of Covenanters led by Lord Elcho who commanded the garrison at Perth. Montrose was victorious and marched into Perth, much to the discomfort of the local clergy.

Battle of Worcester - 1651
After the Royalists had been defeated by Cromwell at Dunbar in September 1650, Charles II was nevertheless crowned at Scone in January 1651. Harried by Cromwell, the King decided to march south into England, hoping for a popular rising in his favour. He was disappointed and Cromwell cornered him and his army at Worcester in September. The 16,000 Royalist forces were overwhelmed by the 28,000 "New Model Army" of Cromwell.

Timeline. Fire and blood: key events in Border history

1286: The “golden age” of the borders ended. Scots king Alexander III fell of a cliff to his death. England began its attempts to dominate Scotland.

1296: the Berwick Massacre – Edward (of England) captured Berwick, killed up to 17,000 people, and captured the Stone of Destiny.

1314: after the Battle of Bannockburn, Guerilla warfare develops around the borders.

1406-1437: James I ended a period of anarchy

September 14 1402 Scots led by 4th Earl of Douglas defeated at the Battle of Homildon Hill by English army led by Percy ‘Hotspur’.

March 30 1406 Scottish King James I captured by English near Flamborough Head on his way to France.

April 4 1406 King Robert III died and James I ascended the throne of Scotland (but was not crowned until 1424).

July 24 1411 Battle of Harlaw near Inverurie in which Donald, Lord of the Isles fought an indecisive but bloody battle against the Earl of Mar. At the time, both sides thought they had lost, their descendants both thought they had won.

March 22 1421 A Scots army in France defeated an English force at Baugé.

December 4 1423 Treaty of London, releasing James I Scotland from his 18 years captivity in England.

February 13 1424 King James I married Joan Beaufort.

May 2 1424 King James I crowned at Scone.

October 16 1430 King James II born.

February 21 1437 King James I murdered in Perth by a group led by Sir Robert Graham.

March 25 1437 Coronation of King James II at Kelso Abbey.

November 29 1440 6th Earl of Douglas and his brother David murdered at the “Black Dinner” in Edinburgh Castle in front of the 10-year-old King James II.

October 23 1448 Battle of Sark in which an invading English force under the Earl of Northumberland was repulsed by the Scots led by Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, near Gretna.

December 31 1448 Franco-Scottish alliance renewed at Tours.

August 27 1450 St Salvator’s College, St Andrew’s University, founded.

January 7 1451 Glasgow University founded at the request of James II and Bishop Turnbull.

July 10 1451 King James III born at Stirling.

February 22 1452 King James II killed William Douglas at Stirling.

August 3 1460 King James II killed by an exploding cannon at the seige of Roxburgh Castle.

August 10 1460 King James III crowned at Kelso Abbey, 1460.

February 13 1462 Treaty of Westminster-Ardtornish between the Lord of the Isles and Edward IV, the King of England.

February 20 1472 Orkney and Shetland annexed from Norway.

March 17 1473 King James IV born.

August 24 1482 Berwick on Tweed finally ceded to England (Edward IV) after changing hands 12 times.

June 11 1488 Battle of Sauchieburn during which King James III died attempting to subdue a group of rebel barons.

June 26 1488 James IV crowned king at the age of 15 at Scone. He reigned until 1513 when he fell with the flower of Scotland’s nobility at the Battle of Flodden Field.

November 29 1489 Margaret, Queen of Scotland, born.

August 8 1503 King James IV married Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England.

1503 Margaret, daughter of Henry VII marries James, King of Scotland.

Armstrongs admit no rule. Nixons, Crosiers and Elliots engaged in raiding.

1509 Death of Henry VII, succeeded by Henry VIII.

April 15 1512 King James V born.

1513: “The Ill Raid”: The English raided Scotland, and the Scottish did the same in return. But they were so laden down with booty that they were caught! James responded with the biggest Scottish army in history – 60,000 to 100,000 men. At Flodden, Scotland suffered her worst defeat in history (and James IV was killed).

September 9 1513 Howard, Earl of Surrey, defeats the Scots James IV killed in battle at Flodden Field, near Branxton, in the English county of Northumberland.

September 21 1513 King James V crowned at Stirling Castle 1513.

1517 Elliots plus Fingerless Will and his kin burn many villages and towns e.g. Hexham and Haltwhistle. Uneasy truce between England and Scotland.

1523 English forces commanded by Albany devastate the Marches.

1525 Angus (who replaced Albany) captures Simon ‘Sim the Laird’ Armstrong and his brother, Davy the Lady.

Dunbar, Archbishop of Glasgow, famously curses all reivers.

Robert, 5th Lord Maxwell – Scottish West March Warden – employs Armstrongs in personal feud against Johnstones.

‘Black Jock’ Johnnie Armstrong and his son Christie sign bond with Maxwell: Johnnie to get land in return for agreeing to serve Maxwell.

July 25 1526 Battle of Melrose in which Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch attempted to rescue King James V from the clutches of Douglas, Earl of Angus.

1527 Sir William Lisle – a Scot – leads a conspiracy of reivers – much burning and pillaging.

Percy, Earl of Northumberland, appointed English Warden General.

1528 Percy breaks up a Lisle raid – hangs fourteen reivers at Alnwick then captures and hangs an Armstrong and a Dodd.

Sir William Lisle hanged and quartered.

William, Lord Dacre, new Warden of the English West March, moves against the Armstrongs in the Debatable Lands – trying to apprehend Johnnie Armstrong and Sim the Laird. English Storey family give the game away and they avoid capture.
Armstrongs and Irvines involved in much raiding.

Young James V of Scotland assumes kingly power and decides to tackle the reivers.

Lord Dacre tricked into ambush by mixed force of reivers.

In December Sim the Laird Armstrong confers with the English Warden General and says there will be no peace until an English king rules Scotland.

1530 James V Scotland moves against the reivers – many leaders are imprisoned, Alan Scott of Tushilaw, ‘King of the Thieves’, is executed.

1531 Bothwell – a Scot – offers to help Henry VIII England seize the crown of Scotland from James V Scotland.

1536 Beginning of Dissolution of Monasteries in England.

Catholic rebellion in northern England- the Pilgrimage of Grace – is suppressed.

Wardens are dismissed by Henry VIII England – replaced by three deputies, including Sir William Eure and Thomas Wharton.

James V Scotland dismisses the Wardens of the Scottish East and Middle Marches – replaced by David Kerr of Ferniehough while Robert Maxwell continues in the West.

January 1 1537 King James V Scotland married Magdalene of France.

1541 Anton Armstrong of Liddesdale ravages Bewcastle – Jack Musgrave’s house burnt and seven Fenwicks killed.

Increasing reiver activity: Armstrongs, Elliots and Crosiers storm Haughton Castle, Redesdale and Tynedale men incited by Henry VIII to attack Teviotdale, Kerrs retaliate, Archie Elliot of Thirleshope forays against William Carnaby’s land . . .

1542 English East March Warden Robert Bowes leads raids against Teviotdale but is ambushed by Scots under George Gordon, Earl of Huntley, at Hadden Rig.

Henry VIII England decides on war against Scotland – army crosses border burning and looting but then retreats back to Berwick.

November 24 1542 James V Scotland retaliates and a force of 10,000 into England under Maxwell advances on Carlisle against Sir Thomas Wharton.
As the Scots cross the River Esk, the Battle of Solway Moss, Wharton’s riders attack. The Scots, although the much larger force (perhaps ten times as many men), are put into disarray. Trapped against the Esk and the Moss the Scottish army is completely routed – surrendering or killed.

December 14 1542 Dismayed by the defeat at Solway Moss, King James V Scotland sickens and dies at Falkland Palace. Shortly after his daughter Mary is born.

1543 Wharton gains more power over reivers – sets family against family – more burning and looting on a small scale but causing widespread terror.

July 1 1543 Treaty of Greenwich, between Henry VIII and Earl of Arran, Regent of Scotland, agreeing betrothal of Mary Queen of Scots (aged 6 months) and Edward Prince of Wales (aged 6 years). The treaty was rejected by the Scots Parliament.

September 9 1543 Mary Queen of Scots (aged 8 months) crowned at Stirling Castle.

The ‘Rough Wooing‘ begins – an attempt to subdue the Scots. Leith destroyed, Edinburgh attacked, some 190 other towns Sir Ralph Eure burns Jedburgh. Scottish Nixons, Crosiers, Olivers and Rutherfords fight on the English side.

February 17 1545 Destruction and terror continues in Scotland. Battle of Ancrum Moor in which Scottish forces, led by Earl of Douglas, defeated Ralph Eure and an English army twice their size.

1546 A respite in the fighting – but Scotland still not subdued.

1547 Death of Henry VIII. Succeeded by Edward VI, aged nine years.

Johnny Maxwell controls Scottish castles in the west.
English (i.e. Wharton) try to wrest control of them by intrigue, bribery, threat etc

French support for Scotland growing. French forces take garrison of St. Andrew’s.

Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford is made Duke of Somerset and Protector when he rules the realm in place of the young- and ill -English King Edward VI.

1547 April 7 Boulogne three Scottish ships have taken 15 English vessels laden with wine, and that two of the largest French ships at Homflete are being rigged forth to the wars. 22 lighters at Abbeville with provisions 700 men at arms are on the frontiers the French King has enrolled 50,000 footmen to be in readiness. A large Scottish ship with much ammunition and eighty men and a lord” had arrived at Lubeck on board a newly invented preparation, a sort of Greek fire, intended for destroying the English ships.

1547 September: Duke of Somerset invades Scotland on the East with 18,000 men plus an English fleet.

September 10 1547
In response Arran summons 30,000 Scots who are defeated at the Battle of Pinkie. English defeated Scots at Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, near Edinburgh. The battle was sparked by English demands that Edward VI of England (aged 10) should marry Mary Queen of Scots (aged 5) – an event known as the “Rough Wooing“. It is estimated that 15,000 Scots were killed, 1500 captured and English losses amounted to only 500.

Lowland Scotland secured for England.

1548 Wharton attacks the Douglases in Nithsdale.
Douglases – led by Angus – beat back Wharton’s forces as ‘assured’ Scots (i.e. fighting for the English) change sides.

French still supporting Scots to help drive out English – much fighting and cruelty.

July 7 1548 Treaty of Haddington, between France and Scotland, confirming the betrothal of Mary Queen of Scots and Dauphin of France.

1549 English retire and war is over – officially.

1550 English propose to take control of the Debateable LandScots want it divided.

1551 Lord Maxwell, the Scottish Warden, lays waste to the Debateable Land to discourage resistance.

1552 Debateable Land divided: ‘Scot’s Dike‘ ditch and bank dug to mark the divide – still in place today.

Attempts now made to strengthen the border – castles, garrisons, administration. Wharton leads the English side. Much family feuding amongst the Scots. Many disaffected men in the region, particularly in the Debateable Land.

October 4 1552 Members of the Kerr family from the Scottish Borders and enemies of the neighbouring Scott family, attacked and killed Sir Walter Scott (an ancestor of the writer) in the High Street of Edinburgh.

1553 Reiving continues unabated. French ambitions to take over Scotland.

Death of Edward VI – succeeded by Catholic Queen Mary.

1554 Mary marries King Philip of Spain
Thus England allies with Spain against France and hence is against Scotland.

May 3 1557 John Knox began the Reformation in Scotland.

Following increasing border skirmishing a Scots force marches into the East March but is repelled by Percy’s forces.
Percy retaliates – much burning and looting.
A week later the Scots are back – but retreat with plunder before it comes to a battle.

1558 Cross-border raiding continues.

April 24 1558 Mary, Queen of Scots (aged 15), married French Dauphin, Francis Valois (aged 14) at Notre Dame in Paris.

‘Bloody’ Queen Mary of England dies – succeeded by her sister Elizabeth.

July 10 1559 King Henri of France died. Mary Queen of Scots’ husband, Francis, becomes King of France.

1560 English and Scottish forces unite to expel French from Scotland.
England continues to fortify the border – to be ready to provide support for Scotland if need be – but also to oppose the unruly Borderers.

February 27 1560 Second Treaty of Berwick between England and Scotland, providing English assistance to remove French forces of Mary of Guise from Scotland.

June 6 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh between France and England, recognising sovereignty of Mary Queen of Scots and her first husband Francis II.

August 11 1560 Latin Mass prohibited in Scotland by Parliament as Protestant faith gained the ascendancy.

December 5 1560 King Francis II of France, husband of Mary Queen of Scots, died.

December 20 1560 First General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

July 6 1560 Treaty of Edinburgh between Scotland and England.

August 19 1561 Mary Queen of Scots lands at Leith on her return from France, after the death of her husband, King Francis II .
Sets about subduing the Scottish Borders – her half-brother James Stewart leads raid into Middle March, hanging or imprisoning the leaders.

1561-3 Mary subdues the borders, pleasing Elizabeth (Queen of England). Years later this causes her to miscalculate and assume that Elizabeth is a friend…

1562 More attempts by Scottish forces to control their side of the border.

October 28 1562 Battle of Corrichie, Earl of Moray defeated Catholic Gordons of Huntly who were attacking Aberdeen.

1563 Henry, Lord Scrope of Bolton, is new English Warden of West March.

1564 Feuding between Elliot and Scott families breaks out.

1565 Further feuding between Scotts and Elliots – who are supported by Crosiers and Nixons plus wild men from the Debateable Land: burning, death, stolen cattle. Scrope unofficially assisting the Elliots, giving them shelter and money. Control of the border breaking down on both sides – more raiding and looting.

February 14 1565 Mary Queen of Scots meets Lord Darnley for the first time in February 1565. They married in July 1565.

March 9 1566 Mary’s husband, Darnley, jealous of Mary’s favourite courtier, has him killed. David Rizzio murdered by Ruthven in the Palace of Holyrood.

June 19 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gives birth to the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England. Lord Darnley is the father of Mary QoS’ child.

1567 Mary now hates Darnley, and looks elsewhere. Bothwell, a powerful border official, has Darnley killed . Bothwell’s Border riders ensure he is found innocent of the crime. Mary marries Bothwell at 4am on May 15th 1567. But many Borderers hate Bothwell – he is too powerful, clever and a Catholic. Humes, Kerrs and Scotts force Mary to abdicate and Bothwell to flee.

June 15 1567 Mary Queen of Scots’ last night in Edinburgh, at the house of Sir Simon Preston, the Lord Provost, on the Royal Mile, prior to her imprisonment at Loch Leven castle. May 2 1568 Mary Queen of Scots escaped from Loch Leven castle. Moray becomes Regent.

July 29 1567 James VI crowned at Stirling (but aged just over one year).

May 13 1568 Mary escapes, raises an army which is beaten by Moray’s forces at Langside (Hampden Park). Borderers fight on both sides.

Mary escapes to England – and eventual execution. (The result? Some historians say (though others disagree) that Mary’s death is the last straw that prompts the Spanish (already at war with England) to send their armada. This defeat helps turn the tide of history in favour of England and Protestantism)

Queen Elizabeth appoints Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, as Warden of East March and Captain of Berwick – a hard man, sets about the reivers.

1569 Moray leads military raids into Scottish West March: border brought under control – with the exception of Liddesdale.

October: Moray rides against Liddesdale again. Eventually Armstrongs, Johnstones, Elliots and Grahams give pledges to refrain from warlike activity.

Rebellion led by the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland and Leonard Dacre in support of imprisoned Queen Mary. The riders of Redesdale and Tynedale and others support it. They move south attacking Alnwick, Warkworth and Barnard Castle.

Rebellion lacks support as rebels are attacked by Harry Percy and Warden John Forster.

Earl of Northumberland and his countess Anne and Earl of Westmorland escape to Scotland. Take refuge in Liddesdale with the notorious Black Ormiston and Jock o’ the Side. Northumberland betrayed to Moray by Hector Armstrong of Harlaw – later handed over to Hunsdon and executed.

Countess Anne rescued in raid by Ferniehurst Kerrs.

Reprisals – hangings, looting and confiscation of land – by the English for the rebellion.

January 23 1570
The Regent Moray assassinated in Linlithgow, triggering civil war. – Scottish border lords now more free to pursue their own ends: raids into England by Buccleuch, Westmorland and Kerr of Ferniehurst. Other raids follow to provoke war between Scotland and England.

July 12 1570 Earl of Lennox appointed Regent of Scotland.

September 4 1570 Earl of Lennox, Regent of Scotland, murdered.

City of Carlisle threatened by the rebellion. Scottish forces led by Dacre beaten by Hunsdon and Forster at the river Gelt near Brampton. This is the last battle of the borderland.

Fighting and violence continue, however, with many Scots supporting Queen Mary, civil insurrection, outlawry and thieving.

Earl of Sussex appointed to bring border under control, capture the English rebels hiding in Scotland and tame the reivers. Attacks the Scottish borders from the east with Hunsdon whilst Forster attacks from Middle March and Scrope in the west. Much destruction and burning of over three hundred towns and homesteads plus fifty towers and castles. The raids finally end the support for Mary by the southern Scots and the English rebels

1575 Fighting breaks out between English and Scots at a truce day at Reidswire.

1580 still considerable tension along the border.

June 2 1581 James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, beheaded in Edinburgh Grassmarket, accused of the murder of Lord Darnley.

1585 England and Scotland reach a permanent alliance.

Lord Russell shot at a Warden meeting between himself, his father-in-law John Forster and the Scottish Warden Sir Thomas Kerr of Ferniehurst.

June 16 1586 Mary, Queen of Scots recognised Philip II of Spain as her heir.

February 8 1587 Mary Queen of Scots beheaded at Fotheringay Castle.

February 7 1592 Earl of Moray murdered at Donibristle.

1595 Old John Forster dismissed as Warden of Middle March and replaced by third Lord Eure – not a good choice as powers of the wardenship diminish and lawlessness returns.

Robert Carey, son of Hunsdon, made Warden of West March.

1596 Old Hunsdon dies and Robert Carey takes over English East March.

Robert Kerr of Cessford is Scottish Warden of Middle March. He is much involved in theft, murders, feuds.

Raiding increases – Carey hangs some reivers including Geordie Burn, a friend of Kerrs. Great animosity between the men.

March 17 1596 The affair of Kinmont Willie. A ‘truce day’ at Kershopefoot between deputy Warden of English West March and Deputy Keeper of Liddesdale and Kinmont Willie (William Armstrong of Kinmont) a notorious reiver. After the meeting Kinmont Willie sets off on north bank of Liddel Water and the English party on the south – both sides protected from each other that day by the law. English chase and capture Kinmont Willie and take him across the border to imprisonment in Carlisle Castle. Scott of Buccleuch (Keeper of Liddesdale) writes to Lord Scrope demanding Willie’s release. Scrope declines. Neither side inclined to back down and defuse situation. Buccleuch writes to Robert Bowes, the English Ambassador, but to no avail. Buccleuch determines to rescue Kinmont Willie – but Carlisle castle is strong and cannot be taken by force. A cunning plan is needed.

April 13 1596 A group including Grahams of Erske and Thomas and Lancelot Carleton (actually English West March officers but corrupt) advance on Carlisle. Inside the castle they have allies in their pay. In atrocious weather and great secrecy they approach the castle undetected, the guards probably sheltering from the rain. They gain access to the castle and take Willie – who is not secured within the castle – and make their escape. Lord Scrope has to admit his incompetence to Queen Elizabeth and vows revenge on Buccleuch.

Border turbulence increases as Scrope carries out reprisal raids in the Scottish West March pursuing Buccleuch, the Carleton brothers and other implicated in the raid on Carlisle Castle. Buccleuch in return raids the English.

1597 Commissioners meet to sort out the border affairs. Buccleuch gives himself up to the English and giving no trouble is eventually allowed home to Scotland. He leaves his ten year old son as hostage. Later Buccleuch travels to London and meets Queen Elizabeth. Kerr gives himself as a pledge (hostage) to Carey.

1598 Carey becomes Warden of the notorious Middle March – takes a hard line, hanging sixteen or so of the worst raiders and holding in check cross-border incursions by the Scots.

1603 Robert Carey rides from London to Edinburgh to bring King James the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth.

The ‘Ill Week‘ – following news of Elizabeth’s death Scottish reivers all along the border rise up and there is much looting, burning and reiving.

James is proclaimed King of Great Britain. He sets about disarming the borders and breaking the power of the reiving families. This he achieves through ruthless pursuit of reivers and miscreants, banishing, imprisoning and hanging large numbers of them.

February 25, 1605. The King creates a Commission for the speedy suppressing of offenders in the counties of Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland, and in the shires and parishes of Norham, the Holy Island, and Bedlington, parcel of the county palatine of Durham, and in the shiredoms and towns of Berwick, Roxburgh, Selkirk, Peebles, Dumfries, and in the stewardries of Kircudbright and Annerdale.

March 21 1613 Lord Maxwell executed for the murder of the head of the Johnstone family (the son of the Johnstone involved in the Battle of Dryfe Sands in December 6, 1593 above).

The aftermath

So, what happened to the Reivers? Put simply, when England and Scotland became a united kingdom in 1603, there was no place for border bandits. How could outlaws escape across a border that practically did not exist? And James was ruthless. By 1610, almost every Reiver was either hanged or in exile.

Local officials saw the chance to confiscate valuable lands, and went at the task with enthusiasm. Any excuse was found to hunt and arrest suspected Reivers. “..doubtful cases, in which there might be room for clemency, were officially reported, but invariably the instruction came back to hang.”

Iron gates on towers were banned, expensive horses were forbidden, informers were recruited, and the whole system of local government was changed. A few villages tried to fight back, but were no match for the army. “…in the face of an authority whose policy was one of wholesale hanging there was no great amount of armed resistance.”
– George MacDonald Fraser – “The Steel Bonnets” p.364-5

Scotland’s Great Tragedy: The Bloody Battle of Flodden - History

Posted by in Galerija on 16. Maj 2021.

Scotland’s Great Tragedy: The Bloody Battle of Flodden. Tags: Battle of Flodden, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, James IV. She was regent and was to manage the kingdom, with the help of a council, while Henry was fighting France with the help of Imperial forces. Catherine of Aragon appears dramatically different in the trailer for the upcoming second season of the Starz limited series, The Spanish Princess: … Last episode, Meg's sister-in-law, Catherine of Aragon, donned armor and commanded English troops that ultimately killed Meg's husband, King James IV of Scotland, in the Battle of Flodden. Letter from Katharine of Aragon to her husband, King Henry VIII 16 September 1513 . Background. Among the many Scot nobles and clerics, was their King, James IV. The recipient of this gory package was Catherine of Aragon… Henry VIII was busy at war in France, along with most of his great nobles and councilors. The second episode of The Spanish Princess Season 2 showed viewers a little known but truly impressive aspect of Catherine of Aragon's reign: The moment she commanded an army.. With King Henry VIII off to fight the French, his wife Catherine is officially left as Regent of England. The battle was won at a terrible cost. Before leaving for France, Henry VIII had left his wife, Catherine of Aragon in charge of England as governor of the realm and captain general of the forces. As many as ten thousand Scots were killed in contrast with nearly four thousand Englishmen. Flodden was a victory for Catherine. Physical Description. The Battle of Flodden, Flodden Field, or occasionally Branxton (Brainston Moor ) . Catherine of Aragon was Regent in England. Catherine of Aragon served as regent for her husband, Henry VIII, for six months when he was in France in 1513. This letter concerns the great English victory against the Scots at Flodden Field. Throughout history, grand battles were often deemed necessary when ambitious nations were forming. In this time she played a large role in the defeat of the Scots at the Battle of Flodden, and was Queen Regent for several months. Catherine of Aragon is a badass and other 'The Spanish Princess' historical observations. Queen Catherine Parr (1544), while Henry VIII was in France. They served as a crucible on which an identity of a people was forged and preserved. Scotland's King James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden 500 years ago. He decided to make a long advance towards the Scots’ position and crossed the River Till some distance north of Flodden Hill. Margaret's marriage to 30-year-old James IV at the age of 14 was meant to broker peace between England and Scotland. Catherine of Aragon ordered Thomas Howard to attack the Scottish army, but before doing so he wanted to entice the Scots off Flodden Hill. Queen Catherine of Aragon (1513) while Henry VIII was in France. 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Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke, 1578, Isle of Skye, Macleods and Macdonalds

The deep feud between the Macleods of Waternish and the Macdonalds of Uist came to a cruel head in a church on Skye in 1578.

The Macleods were assembled for a service at Trumpan when the Macdonalds, who had earlier landed in a fleet of eight ships at Ardmore Bay, surrounded the church and set it on fire.

All the worshippers were burned alive apart from one young woman, who reportedly managed to escape by a window. Macleods, alerted by the smoke and the fire, flocked to the church.

“Before the Macdonalds could regain their boats, which by the receding of the tide, were high and dry upon the rocks at Ardmore, they were attacked by the Macleods,” wrote Alexander Cameron in his 1892 text The History and Traditions of Skye.

“A desperate struggle ensued in which all the Macdonalds were slain. Their bodies were range in line alongside a turf dyke. and the dyke was tumbled over on the top of them - a quick but unfeeling form of burial.”

The Eigg Massacre, Isle of Eigg, 1577, Macleods and Macdonalds

The entire population of Eigg was wiped out the year before after the Macleods suffocated to death more than 350 Macdonalds in a cave after lighting a fire at its narrow mouth. It was another bleak slaughter amid the feud of these two clans,

The Eigg Massacre was triggered after three young Macleod men were banished from the island, bound by hand and foot and cast adrift in their boat, after insulting a number of young Eigg women, according to accounts.

After the boat washed up at Dunvegan, the enraged Macleod chief set sail for Eigg with a number of his men to avenge the ill treatment of his kin.

The Macdonalds, aware of the approaching Macleods, hid in a large cave, the Cave of Frances, in the south of the island for some time.

A watchman was spotted by the Macleods as their boat was preparing to depart following a fruitless search of the island. His footprints were traced back to the cave.

The Macdonalds refused to surrender in belief the narrow entrance would be enough to protect them from their enemy.

Macleod then lit a large fire of turf and ferns at the entrance of the cave with the smoke suffocating all those inside.

Battle of Glenfruin, Argyll, 1603, MacGregors and Colquhouns

Sir Alexander Colquhoun of Luss was granted permission by the Privy Council in 1602 for his clan to bear offensive arms and defend its territories.

The MacGregors, who had a reputation for looting and raiding, were the key target of this wealthy Argyll clan,

In February the following year, Sir Alexander, who ruled over swathes of fertile land near Loch Lomond, marched into Glen Fruin to meet their adversaries.

But around 400 MacGregors and their allies, led by Alastair of Glenstrae, were already waiting.

The Colquhouns were quickly trapped and outflanked by the waiting clansmen with the MacGregors showing no mercy to their neighbours.

Around 140 Colquhouns were killed in cold blood, many after being taken prisoner. Eighty horses, 600 sheep and 600 cows were seized from land with houses and corn yards burned, according to accounts.

Around a year later, Alastair of Glenstrae and 11 leading clan figures were hung at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh, with the leader hoisted above his men before being drawn and quartered.

King James V1 held a judicial review of the incident and banned the name MacGregor. The battle site and a memorial are a short drive up from Arden, north east of Helensburgh.

Battle of the Clans, Perth. 1396, Macphersons and Davidsons

Perhaps one of the most bizarre clan battles, this rout was staged in a gladiatorial style with Robert II taking the best seats for the spectacle outside Perth.

Some have recorded the battle as a fight between Clan Chattan and Clan Kay but later versions have claimed it was held to settle internal warfare of Clan Chattan, a conglomerate of clans which included Macphersons, Davidsons, Keith and Macintoshes, among others.

The clans were at war over which group got to take the right flank, the position of the highest honour in clan warfare.

Robert II called a staged battle to settle the differences once and for all.

Thirty men from each clan were selected to represent their side and fight it out to the death.

Swords, axes and maces were used in battle with the Davidson numbers quickly diminishing in the face of around 20 Macphersons.

The last Davidson jumped in the River Tay and the victory was claimed by the Macphersons

Battle of Harlaw, near Inverurie, 1411, Lord of the Isles and the Earl of Mar

The high count of noble blood shed at the Battle of Harlaw is a key aspect of this brutal rout fought outside Inverurie as Donald, Lord of the Isles, clashed with the Earl of Mar and his fellow supporters of the Duke of Albany.

The battle has been dubbed a crucial conflict between Highlanders and Lowlanders with some claiming it blocked the expansion of Gaelic, although this has been debated.

It was fought as Donald sought to secure the Earldom of Ross following some successful expansion into the mainland from his Hebridean power base.

The Earl of Mar had been planning to fight for the earldom for more than a year when Donald and his troops - said to represent the biggest Highland force ever mustered - marched through Moray and into Aberdeenshire “crushing and pillaging and turning everything to waste” as they advanced.

It has been suggested that 900 men of Donald’s forces were slain and many more injured whilst Mar’s lost 600, and again with heavy casualties.

John Major, a 16th Century historian, wrote of Harlaw: “The whole plateau is red with blood from the higher points to the lower blood flows in streams…”

The fatality list of the Earl of Mar’s included several high ranking figures of the day, including Provost of Aberdeen, Sir Robert Davidson Sir James Scrymegour, and William de Abernethy, the heir of the Lord of Saltoun.

Some believe it to have been an indecisive battle with others have viewed the Battle of Harlaw as a strategic win for the Earl of Mar.

Battle of Bloody Bay, off Tobermory, Mull, sometime between 1480 and 1483. Macdonald and Macdonald

Described as the greatest sea battle that Scotland - or even Western Europe - has ever seen, the Battle of Bloody Bay was fought off Mull as John Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, faced down a rebellion by his own son, Angus Og.

Angus sought to remove his father from the Lordship after he agreed to assist King Edward IV of England in his plan to invade mainland Scotland.

While some believe John Macdonald was preserving his own independent state from Edinburgh, Angus is said to have been so furious with his father that he dragged him out of his home at Duart Castle and made him sleep under an old rotten boat.

This fierce battle was fought just north of Tobermory with John Macdonald, head of Clan Donald, seizing support from Clan MacLean, Clan MacLeod, and Clan MacNeil.


Scotland and England were frequently at war during the late Middle Ages. During these wars, the livelihood of the people on the Borders was devastated by the contending armies. Even when the countries were not formally at war, tension remained high, and royal authority in either or both kingdoms was often weak, particularly in remote locations. The difficulty and uncertainties of basic human survival meant that communities and/or people kindred to each other would seek security through group strength and cunning. They would attempt to improve their livelihoods at their nominal enemies' expense, enemies who were frequently also just trying to survive. Loyalty to a feeble or distant monarch and reliance on the effectiveness of the law usually made people a target for depredations rather than conferring any security.

There were other factors which may have promoted a predatory mode of living in parts of the Borders. A system of partible inheritance is evident in some parts of the English side of the Borders in the sixteenth century. By contrast to primogeniture, this meant that land was divided equally among all sons following a father's death it could mean that the inheriting generation held insufficient land on which to survive. [1] Also, much of the Border region is mountainous or open moorland, unsuitable for arable farming but good for grazing. Livestock was easily rustled and driven by mounted reivers who knew the country well. The raiders might also remove easily portable household goods or valuables, and take prisoners for ransom.

The attitudes of the English and Scottish governments towards the border families alternated from indulgence and even encouragement, as these fierce families served as the first line of defence against invasion across the border, to draconian and indiscriminate punishment when their lawlessness became intolerable to the authorities.

Reive, a noun meaning raid, comes from the Middle English (Scots) reifen. The verb reave meaning "plunder, rob", a closely related word, comes from the Middle English reven. There also exists a Northumbrian and Scots verb reifen. All three derive from Old English rēafian which means "to rob, plunder, pillage". [2] Variants of these words were used in the Borders in the later Middle Ages. [3] The corresponding verb in Dutch is "(be)roven", and "(be)rauben" in German.

The earliest use of the combined term 'border reiver' appears to be by Sir Walter Scott (Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border). [4] George Ridpath (1716?–1772), the author of posthumously-published The Border-History of England and Scotland, deduced from the earliest times to the union of the two crowns (London, 1776), referred not to 'border reivers' but only to banditti. [5]

The reivers were both English and Scottish and raided both sides of the border impartially, so long as the people they raided had no powerful protectors and no connection to their own kin. Their activities, although usually within a day's ride of the border, extended both north and south of their main haunts. English raiders were reported to have hit the outskirts of Edinburgh, and Scottish raids were known as far south as Yorkshire. The largest of these was The Great Raid of 1322, during the Scottish Wars of Independence, where it reached as far south as Chorley. The main raiding season ran through the early winter months, when the nights were longest and the cattle and horses fat from having spent the summer grazing. The numbers involved in a raid might range from a few dozen to organised campaigns involving up to three thousand riders. [6]

When raiding, or riding, as it was termed, the reivers rode light on hardy nags or ponies renowned for the ability to pick their way over the boggy moss lands (see: Galloway pony, Hobelar). The original dress of a shepherd's plaid was later replaced by light armour such as brigandines or jacks of plate (a type of sleeveless doublet into which small plates of steel were stitched), and metal helmets such as burgonets or morions hence their nickname of the "steel bonnets". They were armed with light lances and small shields, and sometimes also with longbows, or light crossbows, known as "latches", or later on in their history with one or more pistols. They invariably also carried swords and dirks.

Border reivers were sometimes in demand as mercenary soldiers, owing to their recognized skills as light cavalry. Reivers sometimes served in English or Scottish armies in the Low Countries and in Ireland, often to avoid having harsher penalties enacted upon themselves and their families. Reivers fighting as levied soldiers played important roles in the battles at Flodden and Solway Moss. After meeting one reiver (the Bold Buccleugh), Queen Elizabeth I is quoted as having said that "with ten thousand such men, James VI could shake any throne in Europe."

These borderers proved difficult to control, however, within larger national armies. They were already in the habit of claiming any nationality or none, depending on who was asking and where they perceived the individual advantage to be. Many had relatives on both sides of Scottish-English conflicts despite prevailing laws against international marriage. They could be badly behaved in camp, seeing fellow soldiers as sources of plunder. As warriors more loyal to clans than to nations, their commitment to the work was always in doubt. At battles such as Ancrum Moor in Scotland in 1545, borderers changed sides in mid-combat to curry favour with the likely victors. At the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547, an observer (William Patten) noticed Scottish and English borderers chatting with each other, then putting on a spirited show of combat once they knew they had been spotted. [7]

The inhabitants of the Borders had to live in a state of constant alert, and for self-protection, they built fortified tower houses.

In the very worst periods of warfare, people were unable to construct more than crude turf cabins, the destruction of which would be little loss. When times allowed however, they built houses designed as much for defence as shelter. The bastle house was a stout two-storeyed building. The lower floor was used to keep the most valuable livestock and horses. The upper storey housed the people, and often could be reached only by an external ladder which was pulled up at night or if danger threatened. The stone walls were up to 3 feet (0.9 m) thick, and the roof was of slate or stone tiles. Only narrow arrow slits provided light and ventilation. [8] Such dwellings could not be set on fire, and while they could be captured, for example by smoking out the defenders with fires of damp straw or using scaling ladders to reach the roof, they were usually not worth the time and effort.

Peel towers (also spelled pele towers) were usually three-storeyed buildings, constructed specifically for defensive purposes by the authorities, or for prestigious individuals such as the heads of clans. Smailholm Tower is one of many surviving peel towers. Like bastle houses, they were very strongly constructed for defence. If necessary, they could be temporarily abandoned and stuffed full of smouldering turf to prevent an enemy (such as a government army) destroying them with gunpowder. [9]

Peel towers and bastle houses were often surrounded by a stone wall known as a barmkin, inside which cattle and other livestock were kept overnight.

A special body of law, known as March law or Border law, developed in the region. [10] Under border law, a person who had been raided had the right to mount a counter-raid within six days, even across the border, to recover his goods. This "hot trod" had to proceed with "hound and horne, hew and cry", [11] making a racket and carrying a piece of burning turf on a spear point to openly announce their purpose, to distinguish themselves from unlawful raiders proceeding covertly. They might use a sleuth hound (also known as a "slew dogge") to follow raiders' tracks. These dogs were valuable, and part of the established forces (on the English side of the border, at least). [12] Any person meeting this counter-raid was required to ride along and offer such help as he could, on pain of being considered complicit with the raiders. The "cold trod" mounted after six days required official sanction. Officers such as the Deputy Warden of the English West March had the specific duty of "following the trod". [13]

Both sides of the border were divided into Marches, each under a march warden. The march wardens' various duties included the maintenance of patrols, watches and garrisons to deter raiding from the other kingdom. On occasion, march wardens could make warden roades to recover loot, and to make a point to raiders and officials.

The march wardens also had the duty of maintaining such justice and equity as was possible. The respective kingdoms' march wardens would meet at appointed times along the border itself to settle claims against people on their side of the border by people from the other kingdom. These occasions, known as "Days of Truce", were much like fairs, with entertainment and much socialising. For reivers it was an opportunity to meet (lawfully) with relatives or friends normally separated by the border. It was not unknown for violence to break out even at such truce days.

March wardens (and the lesser officers such as keepers of fortified places) were rarely effective at maintaining the law. The Scottish wardens were usually borderers themselves, and were complicit in raiding. They almost invariably showed favour to their own kindred, which caused jealousy and even hatred among other Scottish border families. Many English officers were from southern counties in England and often could not command the loyalty or respect of their locally recruited subordinates or the local population. Local officers such as Sir John Forster, who was Warden of the Middle March for almost 35 years, became quite as well known for venality as his most notorious Scottish counterparts. [14]

By the death of Elizabeth I of England, things had come to such a pitch along the border that the English government considered re-fortifying and rebuilding Hadrian's Wall. [15] When Elizabeth died, there was an especially violent outbreak of raiding known as "Ill Week", resulting from the convenient belief that the laws of a kingdom were suspended between the death of a sovereign and the proclamation of the successor. [16] Upon his accession to the English throne, James VI of Scotland (who became James I of England) moved hard against the reivers, abolishing border law and the very term "Borders" in favour of "Middle Shires", and dealing out stern justice to reivers.

Legislation Edit

In 1606 an act (4 Jas. 1. c. 1) to assist the recent Union of the Crowns was enacted it was long titled An act for the utter abolition of all memory of hostility, and the dependence thereof, between England and Scotland, and for repressing of occasions of disorders, and disorders in time to come. The act repealed nine English laws enacted over the previous centuries and considered hostile to Scotland the repeal became effective when 13 Scottish laws considered hostile to England had been repealed. [17] Three years later an act (7 Jas. 1 c. 1) dealing with criminal law in the border region was enacted it was long titled An act for the better execution of justice, and suppressing of criminal offenders, in the north parts of the kingdom of England. To deal with cross-border flight, the act allowed the trial of an Englishman in Scotland if the felony was committed there, and he was later arrested in England it became effective after a similar act had been passed in Scotland. [18]

Following the Restoration and long-running lawlessness by Moss troopers nearly six decades later, parliament passed the Moss Troopers Act 1662 (13 & 14 Cha. 2. c. 22) for the border area it was long titled An Act for preventing of Theft and Rapine upon the Northern Borders of England. Section seven of the act revives both previous acts passed under James I. [19] With the 1662 act about to expire, the sixth session of Cavalier Parliament passed the Moss Troopers Act 1666 (18 Cha. 2 c. 3), long titled An Act to continue a former Act for preventing of Thefte and Rapine upon the Northerne Borders of England. Under section two of the act, the benefit of clergy was taken away from those convicted (generally meaning a death sentence), or otherwise, the notorious thieves and spoil-takers in Northumberland or Cumberland were to be transported to America, "there to remaine and not to returne". [20] [21]

Generally associated with several historic events of the period, as well as continuing lawlessness, or the consideration of insufficient government control to prevent "theft and rapine upon the northern borders of England", these acts were repeatedly continued over the next 80 years. The initial acts include the Moss Trooper Acts of 1677 (29 & 30 Cha. 2 c. 2), [22] 1685 (1 Jas. 2 c. 14), [23] 1695 (7 & 8 Will. 3 c. 17), [24] 1700 (12 & 13 Will. 3 c. 6), [25] and 1712 (12 Ann. c. 10). [26] Starting in 1732, although the 'Moss trooper' short title was dropped, the enforcement acts were continued by other variously named acts, most of which continued the established descriptive phrase "for preventing theft and rapine upon the northern borders of England", as the first item included. These later acts include the Perpetuation of Various Laws Act 1732 (6 Geo. 2 c. 37), [27] the Universities (Wine Licences) Act 1743 (17 Geo. 2 c. 40), [28] and the Continuance of Acts, 1750 (24 Geo. 2 c. 57), [29] which continued previous acts until 1 September 1757 "and from thence to the end of the then next session of parliament".

A variety of terms describe the Border families, such as the "Riding Surnames" and the "Graynes" thereof. [30] This can be equated to the system of the Highland Clans and their septs. e.g. Clan Donald and Clan MacDonald of Sleat, can be compared with the Scotts of Buccleuch and the Scotts of Harden and elsewhere. Both Border Graynes and Highland septs however, had the essential feature of patriarchal leadership by the chief of the name, and had territories in which most of their kindred lived. Border families did practice customs similar to those of the Gaels, such as tutorship when an heir who was a minor succeeded to the chiefship, and giving bonds of manrent.

In an Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1587 there is the description of the " Chiftanis and chieffis of all clannis . duelland in the hielands or bordouris " – thus using the words 'clan' and 'chief' to describe both Highland and Lowland families. The act goes on to list the various Border clans. Later, Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh, the Lord Advocate (Attorney General), writing in 1680 said "By the term 'chief' we call the representative of the family from the word chef or head and in the Irish (Gaelic) with us the chief of the family is called the head of the clan". Thus, the words chief or head, and clan or family, are interchangeable. It is therefore possible to talk of the MacDonald family or the Maxwell clan. The idea that Highlanders should be listed as clans while the Lowlanders are listed as families originated as a 19th-century convention. [31]

Surnames in the Marches of Scotland (1587) Edit

In 1587 the Parliament of Scotland passed a statute: "For the quieting and keping in obiedince of the disorderit subjectis inhabitantis of the borders hielands and Ilis." [32] Attached to the statute was a Roll of surnames from both the Borders and Highlands. The Borders portion listed 17 ' clannis ' with a Chief and their associated Marches:

Of the Border Clans or Graynes listed on this roll, Elliot, Carruthers, Scott, Irvine, Graham, Johnstone, Jardine and Moffat are registered with the Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh as Scottish Clans (with a Chief), others such as Armstrong, Little and Bell are armigerous clans with no Chief, while such as Clan Blackadder, also an armigerous clan in the Middle Ages, later died out or lost their lands, and are unregistered with the Lyon Court.

The historic riding surnames recorded by George MacDonald Fraser in The Steel Bonnets (London: Harvill, 1989) [33] are:

  • Scotland: Burns, Kerr, Young, Pringle, Davison, Gilchrist, Tait of East Teviotdale. Scott, Oliver, Turnbull, Rutherford of West Teviotdale. Armstrong, Croser, Elliot, Nixon, Douglas, Laidlaw, Routledge, Turner, Henderson of Liddesdale.
  • England: Anderson, Potts, Reed, Hall, Hedley of Redesdale. Charlton, Robson, Dodd, Dodds, Milburn, Yarrow, Stapleton of Tynedale. Also Fenwick, Ogle, Heron, Witherington, Medford (later Mitford), Collingwood, Carnaby, Shaftoe, Ridley, Stokoe, Stamper, Wilkinson, Hunter, Huntley, Thomson, Jamieson.
  • Scotland: Bell, Irvine, Johnstone, Maxwell, Carlisle, Beattie, Little, Carruthers, Glendenning, Routledge, Moffat.
  • England: Graham, Hetherington, Musgrave, Storey, Lowther, Curwen, Salkeld, Dacre, Harden, Hodgson, Routledge, Tailor, Noble.

Relationships between the Border clans varied from uneasy alliance to open, deadly feud. It took little to start a feud a chance quarrel or misuse of office was sufficient. Feuds might continue for years until patched up in the face of invasion from the other kingdoms or when the outbreak of other feuds caused alliances to shift. The border was easily destabilised if Graynes from opposite sides of the border were at feud. Feuds also provided ready excuse for particularly murderous raids or pursuits.

Riders did not wear identifying tartans. The tradition of family tartans dates from the Victorian era and was inspired by the novels of Sir Walter Scott. The typical dress of reivers included trews, Jack of plate, steel bonnets (helmets), and riding boots.

The reivers were romanticised by writers such as Sir Walter Scott (Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border), although he also used the term Moss-trooper, which refers to seventeenth-century borderland brigands. Scott was himself a native of the borders, writing down histories which had been passed on in folk tradition or ballad.

English poet William Wordsworth's verse play The Borderers features border reivers (but does not use this term). [34]

The stories of legendary border reivers like Kinmont Willie Armstrong were often retold in folk-song as Border ballads. There are also local legends, such as the "Dish of Spurs" which would be served to a border chieftain of the Charltons to remind him that the larder was empty and it was time to raid again. Scottish author Nigel Tranter revisited these themes in his historical and contemporary novels. Scottish Border poet, and Australian bush balladeer, Will H. Ogilvie (1869–1963) wrote several poems about the reivers, including "The reiver's heart" (1903), "The raiders" (1904), "Whaup o' the rede: a ballad of the border raiders" (1909), "Kirkhope Tower" (1913), and "Ho! for the blades of Harden". The Steel Bonnets (1971) by George MacDonald Fraser (1925-2008) describes life in the Anglo-Scottish border marches in the heyday of the border reivers.

The names of the Reiver families are still very much apparent amongst the inhabitants of the Scottish Borders, Northumberland and Cumbria today. Reiving families (particularly those large or brutal enough to carry significant influence) have left the local population passionate about their territory on both sides of the Border. Newspapers have described the local cross-border rugby fixtures as 'annual re-runs of the bloody Battle of Otterburn'. [ citation needed ] Despite this there has been much cross-border migration since the Pacification of the Borders, and families that were once Scots now identify themselves as English and vice versa.

Hawick in Scotland holds an annual Reivers' festival as do the Schomberg Society in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland (the two often co-operate). The summer festival in the Borders town of Duns is headed by the "Reiver" and "Reiver's Lass", a young man and young woman elected from the inhabitants of the town and surrounding area. The Ulster-Scots Agency's first two leaflets from the 'Scots Legacy' series feature the story of the historic Ulster tartan and the origins of the kilt and the Border Reivers.

Borderers (particularly those banished by James VI of Scotland) took part in the plantation of Ulster becoming the people known as Ulster-Scots (Scotch-Irish in America). Reiver descendants can be found throughout Ulster with names such as Elliot, Armstrong, Beattie, Bell, Carruthers, Hume and Heron, Rutledge, and Turnbulls amongst others.

Border surnames can also be found throughout the major areas of Scotch-Irish settlement in the United States, and particularly in the Appalachian region. The historian David Hackett Fischer (1989) has shown in detail how the Anglo-Scottish border culture became rooted in parts of the United States, especially the Upland South. Author George MacDonald Fraser wryly observed or imagined Border traits and names among controversial people in modern American history: Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, among others. It is also noted that, in 1969, a descendant of the Borderers, Neil Armstrong, was the first person to set foot on the moon. In 1972 Armstrong was made a freeman of the town of Langholm in Scotland, the home of his ancestors.

The artist Gordon Young created a public art work in Carlisle: Cursing Stone and Reiver Pavement, a nod to Gavin Dunbar, the Archbishop of Glasgow's 1525 Monition of Cursing. Names of Reiver families are set into the paving of a walkway which connects Tullie House Museum to Carlisle Castle under a main road, and part of the bishop's curse is displayed on a 14-ton granite boulder. [35]


During the mid-15th century there were many conflicts on the border of England and Scotland, most notably the Battle of Sark in 1448. These battles were the result of England's ongoing military campaigning in France and Scottish attempts to support the House of Valois.

England under Henry VIII declared war on France in 1512 (as part of the larger conflict known as the War of the League of Cambrai). James IV of Scotland invaded England in fulfillment of his alliance with France (even though married to Henry's sister Margaret). In 1513, after preliminary raids by borderers came to grief, James's main army invaded England. His artillery quickly subdued English castles such as Norham and Wark. However, James issued a formal challenge for an open field battle to the English army under the Earl of Surrey and then fortified his position this perceived lack of chivalry led Surrey to warn James that no quarter would be given or accepted. Surrey's army manoeuvred around the Scottish army, which launched an attack to open a route north to Scotland. In the resulting disastrous Battle of Flodden, James IV was killed, along with many of his nobles and gentry, the "Flowers of the Forest". [1]

James V of Scotland was an infant barely a year old at his father's death. Various factions among the Scottish nobles contended for power, and custody of the young king. While Henry VIII secretly encouraged some of them, English armies and some families of English and nominally Scottish Border Reivers repeatedly forayed and looted in southwest Scotland, to maintain pressure on the Scottish authorities.

Eventually, after the faction of the Earl of Angus gained control, peaceful relations were restored between England and Scotland. (Part of the reason for Henry's mellowing was that the disorders he had provoked in Scotland threatened to spill south of the border.)

When James V came of age and assumed control, he overthrew the Angus faction, and renewed Scotland's Auld Alliance with France. He married first Madeleine of Valois, a daughter of Francis I of France, and when she died a few months later of tuberculosis, he married Mary of Guise. Tension between England and Scotland increased once again not least because Henry had already broken with the Roman Catholic Church and embarked upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries, whereas James held to Rome and gave authority to powerful prelates such as Cardinal David Beaton.

War broke out in 1541. Once again there were preliminary border skirmishes, but when James sent a large army into England, its leadership was weak and divided and it suffered a humbling defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss. [2]

James died shortly afterward the defeat. Once again, Scotland's monarch was an infant, this time Mary, Queen of Scots. Henry tried to pressure a divided Scotland into an alliance, and secure the marriage of Mary to his son Edward (the "Rough Wooing"). [3] When Cardinal Beaton gained control of the government of Scotland and renewed the alliance with France, Henry reacted in 1544 by sending an army under the Earl of Hertford, Edward's uncle, to systematically devastate and slaughter throughout southern Scotland, as a means of inducing a change of heart. Campaigning continued the next year, but some Scottish factions reconciled and won a victory at the Battle of Ancrum Moor, which temporarily halted English attacks. [4]

Henry died in 1547. Hertford, now Protector and Duke of Somerset, renewed the attempt to enforce an alliance, and also to impose an Anglican church on Scotland. He won a great victory at the Battle of Pinkie, but Mary was smuggled to France to be betrothed to the Dauphin Francis. Fighting continued for some more years, but French troops assisted the Scots. Without lasting peace, Somerset's regime could not stand the expense of the war. He was overthrown and eventually executed.

Pinkie Cleugh was the last pitched battle between England and Scotland prior to the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Beaton was murdered in 1546, and within a few years, Scotland underwent a major religious reformation which was, unlike most European countries, remarkably peaceful and was never seriously threatened by counter-reformation, though neighbouring England was to undergo a counter-reformation under Queen Mary I. For a while, both countries were distracted by internal troubles. Eventually, Queen Elizabeth I came to rule England and restore stability. [5]

Scotland remained divided. The Catholic faction under the queen mother, Mary of Guise, held Leith and Edinburgh. Elizabeth was able to ensure victory for the Protestant faction by using her fleet to blockade the Catholics and prevent French aid reaching them. [6]

For the later part of the 16th century, peace was ensured by the probability that James VI of Scotland, who was raised as a Protestant and was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, would become King of England on the death of Elizabeth. There was perennial trouble from Border Reivers, but Elizabeth was inclined to forgive even their depredations rather than pick a quarrel with her Protestant neighbour.

Scotland’s Great Tragedy: The Bloody Battle of Flodden - History

The Killing Ground of the Scottish Wars. of Independence, 1296-1346

Stirling Bridge and Falkirk 1297-98.

Wallace, Bruce and the Wars of Independence, 1286-1328 (Collins Scottish History S.)


Culloden 1746: The Highland Clans' Last. Charge

The Battle of Aberdeen 1645

Dunbar 1650: Cromwell's Most Famous. Victory

Flodden, 1513: The Scottish Invasion of. Henry VIII's England

Culloden and the '45

Famous Scottish Battles

England Versus Scotland: Great British. Battles

Flodden: A Scottish Tragedy


Culloden Moor 1746 (Osprey Campaign S.)

The Concise Encyclopedia of the Revolutions and Wars of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1639-1660

Scotland's Wars and Warriors: Winning Against the Odds (Discovering Historic Scotland S.)

Freedom's Sword: Scotland's Wars of Independence

The Wars of the Bruces: Scotland, England and Ireland, 1306-1328

The Second Scottish Wars of Independence

Scottish Battles Scottish history has been shaped and defined by a series of great battles. From Mons Graupius to Culloden, this book shows how terrain and politics shaped the campaigns and decisive engagements still remembered today. Each chapter also features sections on the developments of warfare: its tactics, equipment and styles of fighting. For the military historian, Scotland is an example of how a small country can fight off domination by a far larger neighbour. From Celtic warfare to the feudal host to the professional border armies of the 18th century, from guerilla warfare to the pitched battle, from siege to Border revier, Scotland is unique in having had almost every major type of warfare taking place within it frontiers. Battles such as Bannockburn, Flodden and Culloden, have had an impact far beyond Scotland. John Sadler is the author of "Battle for Northumbria".

Highland Warrior: Alasdair MacColla and the Civil Wars In 1644 James Grahame, Marquis of Montrose, stormed his way into legend with a series of astonishing victories over the Covenanters. At his side stalked a shadowy but terrible ally, Alasdair MacColla, who had a far more ancient agenda of his own. MacColla's aim was nothing less than the effective destruction of the power of Clan Campbell and its replacement by the older overlordship of the Macdonalds. MacColla was the first - and perhaps the last, great Celtic general of modern times, who lived at a dynamic time which saw the increasingly forgotten and marginalised Gaelic speaking peoples of Scotland and Ireland nearly succeed in regaining control of their lands and destiny. The author argues that it was in fact MacColla and not Montrose who was the true architect of the 'Year of Victories', and that without his Highland ally, Montrose's blunders would have doomed him to disaster, thus presenting a compelling and radical reappraisal of Scottish history during the crucial years of the 1640s. As MacColla's actions were unwittingly to lead his people and culture to ruin, so his own career ended in chaos when, despite leading his own troops in a victorious charge, an incompetent general led him to defeat and death at Knocknanuss in Ireland. Superbly written, Highland Warrior is a compelling and dramatic sweep through some of the most eventful years in Scottish history, told in a text both authoritative and highly readable.

Battles of the Scottish Lowlands. This historical guide retells, in graphic detail, the story of nine of the most important battles to be fought in Scotland south of the Highland Line, stretching from Aberdeen to the Firth of Clyde. The battles range from medieval period to the time of Jacobite Rebellion. They show how weapons and equipment, tactics and strategy, and the make up of the armies themselves changed over the course of almost 500 years. By concentrating on these nine battles Stuart Reid provides a concise, coherent account of Scottish military history, and he presents detailed reassessments of each battle in the light of the very latest research. His book is fascinating introduction to Scottish military history and an essential guide for readers who are keen to explore these battle sites for themselves. Three of the battles belong to the medieval period and Scotland's fight to establish and maintain its independence from England - Wallace's victory at Stirling Bridge in 1296, Bruce's even greater victory at Bannockburn in 1314 and then, at the end of the period, the crushing defeat at Pinkie in 1547. Three more battles belong to the bloody civil wars of the seventeenth century - Montrose's great victory at Kilsyth in August 1645, Cromwell's triumph at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and the short, bloody action at Inverkeithing that followed. Finally for the Jacobite period the trilogy covers Sherriffmuir 1715, Prestonpans 1745 and the conclusive encounter at Falkirk 1746. By skillful use of maps, diagrams and photographs the author explains the complex, sometimes puzzling sequence of events that make these encounters so fascinating. He provides a detailed tour of each battleground as it appears to the visitor in the present day and rediscovers the lanes and by-ways tramped by soldiers hundreds of years ago.

Bannockburn 1314 (Osprey Campaign S.) The full story surrounding the battle that represented the climax of the career of King Robert the Bruce, and has since remained the most famous battle in Scottish history - the Battle of Bannockburn. In 1307 King Edward I of England, "The Hammer of the Scots" and William Wallace's nemesis, died at Burgh-on-Sands. His son, Edward II, was not from the same mould incorrigibly idle and apathetic, he refused to take on the burdens of kingship, surrounding himself with favourites. The Scots under Robert the Bruce now had a chance to recover from the grievous punishment Edward I had inflicted upon them. By 1313 Bruce had capture every English-held castle bar Stirling. Faced with the complete collapse of the English position in Scotland even Edward II had no choice but to respond.

Grampian Battlefields: the Historic. Battles of North-East Scotland from AD84 to 1745.

The Jacobite Wars: Scotland and the. Military Campaigns of 1715 and 1745. This book is a detailed exploration of the Jacobite military campaigns of 1715 and 1745, set against the background of Scottish political, religious and constitutional history. The author has written a clear and demythologized account of the military campaigns waged by the Jacobites against the Hanoverian monarchs. He draws on the work of recent historians who have come to emphasize the political significance of the rebellions (which had been dismissed by earlier historians), showing the danger faced by the Hanoverian regime during those years of political and religious turbulence. The Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745 occurred within the context of the 1707 Act of Union, acquiring the trappings of a national crusade to restore Scotland's independence. James Edward Stuart promised consistently to break the Union between Scotland and England if he became King. The rebellions also had great religious significance: the Jacobite cause was committed to restoring a Catholic dynasty to the throne and was therefore supported by the small number of Catholics in the country, and also the Episcopalians, who were together set against the Presbyterians. The failure of the rebellions, culminating in the Battle of Culloden, coincided with the national identity of Scotland becoming associated with Presbyterianism and North Britain. John L. Roberts presents the view that the political vulnerability of Hanoverians would explain the strength of Government reaction to the 1745 rebellion, especially in the Scottish Highlands, and the ferocity of its retribution, which has long been lamented in popular Scottish culture.


In 1502, James IV of Scotland and Henry VII of England had agreed upon the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. The Scottish leader believed it was a formal recognition of his nation&rsquos independence but this notion was quashed by Henry VIII who tore up the agreement soon after becoming king in 1509. Scotland had signed the Auld Alliance with France back in 1295 and was still subject to its terms. Both nations agreed to help one another should one of them get attacked by England and by 1513, French King Louis XII was ready to call in this favor from Scotland.

This was because of Henry VIII&rsquos desire to make England a European superpower. In 1511, he joined in an alliance with Pope Julius II and Spain against France. Two years later, Henry launched his invasion of France and Louis appealed to Scotland for help as per the terms of the Auld Alliance. Although James was initially reluctant, he ultimately acquiesced and both England and Scotland were preparing for war early in 1513.

Thomas Howard aka Earl of Surrey &ndash Famous Biographies

By the end of June, a large English force was on French soil having sailed from Dover to Calais. With the assistance of French troops, arms and ammunition, James was able to assemble the largest force Scotland had ever produced. The Scottish King crossed the border into England in August with an army of approximately 60,000 men. His goal was to draw English forces north to him and reduce the number of soldiers available for the French invasion.

James enjoyed initial success as he captured all of Northumberland&rsquos major forts. However, the English were ready because the Scottish king followed chivalric protocol and informed Henry of his intent to attack one month before his invasion. As Henry was in France by this time, Catherine of Aragon was acting regent and she issued warrants for the seizure of the lands of all Scots in England on August 27. On September 3, she heard about James&rsquo invasion and ordered Thomas Lovell to raise an army in the English Midlands.

However, it was Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, who was given command of Henry&rsquos army in the north of England and by early September, he had assembled an army of at least 26,000 men at Alnwick. Meanwhile, James&rsquo forces began to dwindle as he had to spare some men for garrison duty. It is also true that thousands of men deserted him. By the time Surrey sent a diplomat offering battle on September 5, the Scottish army had numbered less than 40,000. Even so, the Scottish King was probably aware that he outnumbered his English counterpart and agreed to fight on September 9.

Watch the video: Episode 125 - A Brief History: The Bloody Battle of Flodden (May 2022).


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