In the run-up to September’s Scottish Independence referendum, we are publishing a series on the relationship between England and Scotland through the centuries. Our second blog takes a look at the parliamentarians who fought in another major battle: Flodden…
Between Robert the Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn and the union of the crowns under James VI & I there were a series of border confrontations between England and Scotland. The most devastating battle occurred in 1513, at Branxton Moor, known as the Battle of Flodden or Flodden field.
Henry VIII, eager for glory on the continent, had joined an alliance with Spain and Pope Julius II against France in 1511. Despite the marriage between Henry’s sister Margaret and the Scottish king, James IV, James upheld his obligations under the ‘auld alliance’ and in August 1513 invaded England to aid the French. Intending to divert English attention from the continent, James only advanced a few miles into Northumbria and set up a defensive camp at Flodden.
The English, under the regency of Catherine of Aragon whilst Henry VIII was away, had prepared for a Scottish invasion. Thomas Howard, the earl of Surrey, had been appointed Warden of the Northern Marches and responded by mustering an army. After Surrey arrived in Flodden and saw the impressive defences James had established, which unsurprisingly the Scottish king would not abandon, Surrey moved his army to Branxton Moor, north-east of Flodden and between the Scottish army and their supplies in Scotland.
James was forced to leave his commanding position, and the resulting battle on the moor during the afternoon of 9 September was a disaster for James and Scotland. Casualty members are still debated, but between 7,000 and 11,000 Scots died in the Battle (the English lost around 4,000). The defeat had greater political consequences however as the Scottish lost 13 barons, 5 heirs to titles, 3 bishops, 2 abbots, and, of course, James himself. Scotland was left with a 17-month-old monarch – James V – and there followed a period of political intrigue between the young king’s guardian and mother, Margaret, and the Scottish regent, John Stewart, 2nd duke of Albany.
On the English side the battle was a triumph, and the careers of many parliamentarians were furthered by their part in the victory. Many were knighted on the battlefield: for example Sir William Rous, who had been little known before Flodden but the following year helped escort Princess Mary to France to marry Louis XII, and the two sons of Sir Marmaduke Constable (Sir Marmaduke and Sir John). William Sabine, a ship owner, had helped to transport the royal army to France before heading north. He was quickly recruited into the army. His service helped his later career as a naval commander, merchant and official, sitting in the 1539 parliament through his connection with the Howard family.
Some had more difficult careers after the battle. Sir Christopher Dacre, brother to Thomas, 2nd lord Dacre, was also knighted after the battle thanks to the two brothers “marvels” against the Scots, despite losing 800 horses. The family were in serious trouble in 1534, however, when Sir Christopher and his nephew William, now 3rd Lord Dacre, were sent to the Tower accused of using their Scottish contacts to further their feuds with other English families. Dacre was later pardoned and probably sat in later parliaments.
For later English MPs, an ancestor who fought at Flodden was something to be proud of (such as George Buc and John Winchcombe , son of the renowned ‘Jack of Newbury’). Of course in the 18th century they were joined in the Commons by those, such as James Halyburton and Archibald Kennedy, who were equally proud of ancestors who had died on the opposite side.
You can read the first post in our England-Scotland series, on Parliament and Bannockburn here. The next in our series will discuss Scottish attitudes to James VI & I’s attempted union in the early 17th century, watch this space!