How Dreams of Scottish Independence Were Crushed in a Matter of Hours in the Battle of Flodden
How Dreams of Scottish Independence Were Crushed in a Matter of Hours in the Battle of Flodden

How Dreams of Scottish Independence Were Crushed in a Matter of Hours in the Battle of Flodden

Patrick Lynch - April 29, 2018

How Dreams of Scottish Independence Were Crushed in a Matter of Hours in the Battle of Flodden
Depiction of the Battle of Flodden 1513 – British Battles

The Death of King James IV

After the failure of two pike attacks, James knew that his best chance of winning the battle was to seek out and kill the Earl of Surrey. He led the Scottish Third Unit on a charge down the hill but once again, the boggy ground hindered its progress. Contemporary accounts suggest that James fought bravely as he made his way towards Surrey and was little more than a sword’s length away from his opposite number before being cut down. An arrow pierced him below the jaw and his throat was slashed by an English bill. Lord Dacre later found James’ body on the field and two captured Scottish nobles confirmed that it was their king.

The Scottish army quickly capitulated upon the death of its leader and the Earl of Surrey captured the enemy’s guns. When the dust had settled, the Scottish army lost anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000 men. Despite being outnumbered, the English army loss approximately 1,500 men. As well as losing James, the Scots also lost most of their nobles including the Earls of Montrose, Bothwell, Argyll, and Lennox. James’ only son was 17 months old and succeeded him as king.

How Dreams of Scottish Independence Were Crushed in a Matter of Hours in the Battle of Flodden
Tactics at the Battle of Flodden 1513 – History Today

Aftermath

Overall, the Battle of Flodden was a national disaster for Scotland as virtually every noble family lost a brother, father, son, or husband. James IV was the last Scottish king to die in battle on British soil, and the catastrophic defeat ended Scotland’s ambitions of becoming a major European power. Fortunately for Scotland, Henry was probably too preoccupied with his French invasion to order a counter-invasion of Scotland. Henry rewarded Surrey as he became the Earl of Norfolk; it is worth noting that he was 70 years of age at Flodden.

The Scottish Parliament met on October 21 at Stirling Castle and crowned James’ infant son James V. The following month, a French soldier named Antoine d’Arces arrived at Dumbarton with armaments that were sent to Stirling. At this stage, the English were aware of the shipment because they found evidence of it in a paper found in a bag at Flodden. D’Arces pushed for the appointment of the Duke of Albany, John Stewart, as the Regent to rule Scotland until James V came of age.

The Scots were annihilated at the Battle of Flodden because they used the wrong tactics and weaponry. James IV may have been a brave warrior but his failure to properly survey the battleground cost him and his nation dearly. Had he been better prepared, perhaps the Scots could have won and changed the course of history. Incidentally, James IV’s great-grandson, James VI, ultimately became the King of England in 1603 as part of the Stuart line. He gained the English throne after Queen Elizabeth I died without an heir. While James IV failed to make Scotland independent, a member of his family eventually became the enemy’s ruler.

 

Where Do We Get This Stuff? Here is a List of our Sources

‘Battle of Flodden fights to take its rightful place in Scottish history.’ Robin McKie in The Guardian. August 2013.

‘Your 60-second guide to the Battle of Flodden.’ History Extra. October 2015.

‘Flodden: A Scottish Tragedy.’ Peter Reese. Birlinn Ltd. 2003.

‘The Battle of Flodden.’ Ben Johnson in Historic UK.

‘Battle of Flodden.’ UK Battlefield Resource Centre.

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