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The Battle of Flodden or Flodden Field was fought in the county of Northumberlandmarker in northern England on 9 September 1513, between an invading Scots army under King James IV and an English army commanded by Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. It ended in a victory for the English and a bloody defeat for the Scots and was the largest battle (in terms of numbers) fought between the two nations.


This conflict began when King James IV of Scotland declared war on England to honour the Auld Alliance with France by diverting Henry VIII's English troops from their campaign against the French king Louis XII. England was involved in a larger conflict – defending Italy and the Pope from the French (see Italian Wars) as a member of the "Catholic League".Using the pretext of revenge for the murder of Robert Kerr, a warden of the Scottish East March who had been killed by John "The bastard" Heron in 1508, James of Scotland invaded England with an army of about 30,000 men in 1513.

The battle actually took place near the village of Branxtonmarker, in the county of Northumberlandmarker, rather than at Floddenmarker — hence the alternative name is Battle of Branxton. The Scots had previously been stationed at Flodden Edge, to the south of Branxton.

Flodden in history

Flodden was essentially a victory of bill over pike. As a weapon, the pike was effective only in a battle of movement, especially to withstand a cavalry charge. The hilly terrain of Northumberland, the nature of the combat, and the slippery footing did not allow it to be employed to best effect. Indeed the Scots might have managed better if they had kept to their traditional schiltron spears.

The infantrymen at Flodden, both Scots and English, had fought in a fashion that in essence would have been familiar to their ancestors, and it has rightly been described as the last great medieval battle in the British Isles. But this was the last time that bill and pike would come together as equals in battle. Two years later Francis I defeated the Swiss pikemen at the Battle of Marignano, using a combination of heavy cavalry and artillery, ushering in a new era in the history of war.

Tactically, this battle was one of the first major engagements on the British Isles where artillery would play a decisive role. This battle is considered the last decisive use of the longbow, yet through the 16th century the English longbowmen continued to have success, as in the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

Many of these archers were recruited from Lancashiremarker and Cheshiremarker. Sir Richard Assheton raised one such company from Middletonmarker, near Manchestermarker. In gratitude for his safe return, he rebuilt St. Leonard'smarker, the local parish church. It contains the unique "Flodden Window" depicting each of the archers, and the priest who accompanied them, by name in stained glass.

As a reward for his victory, Howard was subsequently restored to the title of "Duke of Norfolk", lost by his father's support for Richard III. The arms of the Dukes of Norfolk still carry an augmentation of honour awarded on account of their ancestor's victory at Flodden, a modified version of the Royal coat of arms of Scotland with an arrow through the lion's mouth.

Every noble family in Scotland was supposed to have lost a member at Flodden. The dead are remembered by the song (and pipe tune) "The Flowers of the Forest";

:We'll hae nae mair lilting, at the yowe-milking,
:Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
:Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning,
:The flowers of the forest are all wede away.

Notable casualties

Battlefield today

The battlefield still looks much as it probably did at the time of the battle, however the burn and marsh which so badly hampered the Scots advance is now drained. A monument, erected in 1910, is easily reached from Branxton village by following the road past St Paul's Church. There is a small car park and a clearly marked and signposted battlefield trail with interpretive boards which make it easy to visualise the battle. Only the chancel arch remains of the medieval church where James IV's body was said to have rested after the battle – the rest is Victorian, dating from 1849 in the "Norman" style.

See also


  1. ”The Seventy Greatest Battles of All Time”. Published by Thames & Hudson Ltd. 2005. Edited by Jeremy Black. Pages 95 to 97.ISBN: 978-0-500-25125-6.


  • Hall, Edward, Chronicle of England, 1809.
  • Pittscottie, Robert Lindsay of, The History and Chronicles of Scotland, 1809.
  • "The Trewe Encountre or Batayle Lately Don Between England and Scotland etc.", in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 7, 1867–8.
  • Barr, N., Flodden 1513, 2001.
  • Barret, C. B., Battles and Battlefields in England, 1896.
  • Bingham, C., "Flodden and its Aftermath", in The Scottish Nation, ed. G. Menzies, 1972.
  • Burkes Landed Gentry of Scotland under Henderson of Fordell
  • Elliot, W.F., The Battle of Flodden and the Raids of 1513, 1911.
  • Hodgkin, T., "The Battle of Flodden", in Arcaeologia Aeliania, vol. 16, 1894.
  • Kightly, C., Flodden-the Anglo-Scots War of 1513, 1975.
  • Leather, G. F. T., "The Battle of Flodden", in History of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club, vol. 25, 1933.
  • Macdougall, N., James IV, 1989.
  • Mackie, J. D., "The English Army at Flodden", in Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vol 8 1951.
  • Mackie, J.D., "The Auld Alliance and the Battle of Flodden", in Transactions of the Franco-Scottish Society, 1835.
  • Story of Inverkeithing & Rosyth by Rev. W.M.Stephen, 1921 Brit.Lib. No.0190370.f.78
  • Tucker, M. J., The Life of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and Second Duke of Norfolk, 1443–1524, 1964.
  • White, R. H. , "The Battle of Flodden", in Archaeologia Aeliania, vol. 3, 1859.

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