Battle of Flodden Field
Relations with England were frosty, at best, following the Battle of Bannockburn, often breaking out into open hostilities. In 1295, when Edward I had begun exerting diplomatic pressure on Scotland, the country had signed a treaty with France, known as the Auld Alliance, which stipulated that if either France or Scotland were attacked, the other would invade England. The alliance of its northern and southern neighbours did not stop England from making war on France and Scotland on numerous occasions, however, and in 1513 King James IV of Scotland actually invaded England when Henry VIII started a campaign in France.
Henry had long-expected an invasion ever since he announced himself overlord of Scotland and refused to punish those making raids on the Scottish Borders, and so had prepared a garrison in the North of England. James saw this as an act of war, in addition to his fidelity to the Auld Alliance, and thus invaded England with 30, 000 men, the largest army in Scottish history. When the invasion began in August 1513, Henry was in France, and it was down to his queen, Catherine of Aragon, who was acting as regent at the time, to save his kingdom.
James IV, acting according to the mores of chivalry, had preposterously announced his intention of invading a whole month before doing so, which meant that Henry could make preparations to defend the realm. On 3rd September, Catherine responded to confirmed news of the invasion taking place by ordering an army to be gathered in the Midlands and to march immediately to the Borders. The English army, in total, amassed 26, 000 men. The sides met near the village of Branxton, Northumberland, only 3 miles from the Scottish Border (the name Flodden refers to the mountains where the Scottish were encamped).
Under the cover of smoke from the burning of their camp, the Scottish army travelled to the ridge of Branxton Hill. The battle began with the exchange of artillery fire, which resulted in the death of Scotland’s master gunner, Robert Borthwick. At this setback, rather than holding his position and forcing the English to climb the slippery grass to the top of Branxton Hill, James gave the insane order to charge down the hill. In an eerie reverse of the events of the Battle of Bannockburn, the Scottish army was slaughtered on the plain with long-handled English bills.
James IV of Scotland has the unhappy distinction of being the last British monarch to die in battle, covered with arrows, his hand severed, and decapitated by a bill. His body was disembowelled and embalmed, then sent on to a doubtless-disgusted Catherine of Aragon. Around 13, 000 other Scots lost their lives at Flodden Field, and the slaughter was made worse because so many officers died that a retreat could not be organised. The Scottish cannon were captured by the Treasurer of the English Army, Sir Philip Tilney, who was delighted at gaining such a valuable prize for his arsenal.