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Flodden Anniversary

5th September 2013

The 9 September 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of the battle of Flodden, which took place in Northumberland in 1513. The English under Henry VIII having invaded France, James IV of Scotland, as the ally of France, led an army into England on what was intended to be a diversionary expedition. It was one of the largest Scottish armies ever to invade England and would prove to be a turning point in Scottish history because of the long term after affects. On that day, the English commander, the Earl of Surrey, with about 26,000 men, was able to outmanoeuvre King James and his army of about 40,000 and a memorable slaughter took place in which the king himself, along with 10,000 Scots, were killed. It was the death of the king, along with the archbishop of St Andrews (the kings son), a bishop, ten earls, 19 barons, some 300 lairds and knights, the provost of Edinburgh and others, that made this battle such a significant event in Scottish history. Few landed families in Scotland remained unaffected, and with a child on the throne (James V) Scotland was plagued by English and French intrigues for years to come. This is how the burgh council of Edinburgh reacted when it began to hear of the disaster:


10 September 1513. We do yow to witt, Forsamekill as thair is ane greit rumour now laitlie rysin within this toun tuiching our Souerane Lord and his army, of the quhilk we understand thair is cumin na veritie as yit, thairfore we charge straitlie and commandis in our said Souerane Lord the Kingis name, and the presidentis for the provest and baillies within this burgh, that all maner of personis nychtbouris within the samyn haue reddye thair fensabill geir and wapponis for weir, and compeir thairwith to the said presidentis at jowyng of the commoun bell, for the keiping and defens of the toun aganis thame that wald invaid the samyn. And als chairgis that all wemen, and specialie vagaboundis, that thai pas to thair labouris and be nocht sene vpoun the gait clamorand and cryand, vnder the pane of banesing of the personis but fauouris, and that the vther wemen of gude pas to the kirk and pray quhane tyme requiris for our Souerane Lord and his armye and nychtbouris being thairat, and hald thame at thair previe labouris of the gait within thair houssis as efferis.


In other words, the council of Edinburgh was concerned that if the rumour was true, then the inhabitants should be ready with arms to defend the city from invasion and that women and vagabonds should not be out on the streets wailing and causing alarm. It was at this time the council began building a defensive wall around the city now known as the Flodden Wall - parts of which can still be seen today. In the Scots text above, note that u, v and w were  interchanged in those days, and so spellings such as now and our are pronounced as noo and oor as today. Also, an l or ll following an a was pronounced as a long aw. You can read more about King James IV, and the background to Flodden, by downloading part 15 of Scotlands Ain Kingly Hooses a history in Scots, in the PDF file below.