9 September 1513 – Victory for Regent Catherine of Aragon

Posted By on September 9, 2014

Catherine_of_Aragon_with_a_monkey_HorenboutOn the 9th September 1513, while Henry VIII was away, busy campaigning against the French, James IV and his Scottish troops crossed the border and challenged the English force, which was headed by Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, at Flodden in Northumberland.

Before leaving for France, Henry VIII had left his wife, Catherine of Aragon in charge of England as Governor of the Realm and Captain General of the Forces. She was Regent and was to manage the kingdom, with the help of a council, while Henry was fighting France, with the help of Imperial forces. Flodden was a victory for Catherine. After about three hours of fighting, the English army had defeated the Scots, killing most of the Scottish aristocracy, including two abbots, two bishops, twelve earls and King James IV himself. The English army lost around 1,500 men, whereas the Scottish army lost 5,000 – 17,000, depending on which source you believe.

Catherine of Aragon wrote to Henry VIII of the victory on 16th September:


My lord Havard [Howard] hath sent me a letter open to your grace within one of mine, by the which ye shall see at length the great victory that our Lord hath sent your subjects in your absence: and for this cause it is no need herein to trouble your grace with long writing; but to my thinking this battle hath been to your grace and all your realm the greatest honour that could be, and more than should you win all the crown of Fraunce: thanked be God of it, and I am sure your grace forgetteth not to do this, which shall be cause to send you many more such great victories, as I trust he shall do.

My husband, for hastiness with Rogecrosse, I could not send your grace the piece of the king of Scots’ coat, which
John Glyn now bringeth; in this your grace shall see, how I can keep my promise: sending you for your banners a king’s coat. I thought to send himself to you, but our Englishmen’s hearts would not suffer it: it should have been better for him to have been in peace than to have this reward; all that God sendeth is for the best. My lord of Surrey, my Henry, would fain know your pleasure in the burying of the king of Scots’ body, for he hath written to me so; with the next messenger your grace’s pleasure may be heroin known; and with this I make an end, praying God to send you home shortly : for without this no joy here can be accomplished: and for the same I pray and now go I to our lady at Walsingham, that I promised so long ago to see.

At Woborne the 16 day of September.

I send your grace herein a bill found in a Scottyshe man’s purse, of such things as the French king sent to the said king of Scots to make war against you: beseeching you to send Matthew hither as soon this messenger cometh to bring me tidings from your grace.

Your humble wife and true servant


She was obviously proud of the English victory, but somewhat disappointed that she couldn’t send her husband James IV’s body!

The battle was also a victory for the Earl of Surrey, and his reward was being restored as the Duke of Norfolk.

Note: Contrary to myth, Catherine did not take part in the battle, riding in armour against the Scots. She was travelling north but, as her biographer Giles Tremlett points out, she had only got as far as Buckingham when she received news of the English victory.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1543 – The infant Mary, Queen of Scots, daughter of James V, King of Scotland, was crowned queen at Stirling Castle.

Notes and Sources

  • Catherine’s letter is from The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, Volume VI, Gilbert Burnet
  • Tremlett, Giles (2010) Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen, p198

10 thoughts on “9 September 1513 – Victory for Regent Catherine of Aragon”

  1. BanditQueen says:

    Did the King of Scots, James IV ever get buried? I think that his body was put in a coffin but never formally buried and is now vanished? I did hear last year that it had been returned to Scotland but that claim has never been confirmed and for a number of years it was known not to have been buried. What a terrible thing; not to be given a grave. I am shocked that Katherine had such sentiments as to actually want to send Henry the body of his brother in law. What Katherine did in gathering the nobles under Surrey and the gentry and commons in England who had not gone to France to defend the borders was a great achievment and she proved to be a worthy regent, able to keep a cool head and give the orders needed for the Flodden Earl to lead against the invading Scots. However, today is a day of memorial for us Scots and not jumping for joy. Last year of course was the big memorial being 500 years since the battle. I feel sad for the hundreds of brave men on both sides who were killed at Flodden. If anyone knows where James is buried; we would please like our King returned to Scotland to lay him to rest just as Richard III will now be given his rest in March next year. James and all those on both sides at Flodden rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon them, Amen.

    1. Cindy says:

      The treatment of the bodies of the fallen is quite disturbing. Richard III’s body was stripped naked and tied to the back of his horse. His body was only discovered last year. Also Anne’s body was placed into an old arrow chest. It was said that her head was placed on her body because there wasn’t enough room.

  2. Charity says:

    I’ve been reading extensively about this recently, in a bunch of different biographies (Starkey, Weir, Fraiser, and two different books on KoA and Johanna, as well as Henry VIII) so I can’t cite exactly which one I read it in, but in response to the earlier questions —

    Henry applied to the Pope for permission to bury James of Scotland in sacred ground, despite his excommunication for invading England while Henry was in defense of the papal armies abroad, and it was granted; so presumably yes, James was buried.

    One source I read also claimed that KoA’s letter has been misconstrued; her reference to wanting to send James abroad was likely ‘as a prisoner’ (she wanted him captured alive and sent to her husband) — but her implication was that the English could not suffer a foreign sovereign who attacked England to live, so she was robbed of the opportunity, and forced to send a dead man’s coat instead.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Apparently Katherine of Aragon buried James. The latest book three sister three queens discusses where he is (Philippa Gregory’s book)

  4. James says:

    I understand that Catherine of Aragon gave a stirring speech to the English army before the Battle of Flodden. I would like very much to see this speech if anyone knows where I can find it. Thanks.


    1. Claire says:

      Giles Tremlett, in his biography of Catherine, writes of Peter Martyr writing that he’d heard that it was a stirring speech that Catherine made that was responsible for the English victory: “Fired by these words, the nobles marched against the Scots… and defeated, humiliated and massacred them”. However, as Tremlett points out, Catherine wasn’t with the troops, she was in Buckingham.

      1. James says:

        Thank you, Claire.

  5. Don White says:

    All extremely interesting but it looks as if most of the comments are either superstition or just imagination ,with no reliable authentic documentation to substantiate these thearys

  6. Kate says:

    To be honest I don’t think it was Katherine’s victory at all.
    True she was regent at the time, but all she done was sent somebody to raise troops.
    Eight year old child would know to do that!
    Some claim she stood in front of army that defeated Scots, or that she rallied troops…and yet we know she never travelled North. And since army was raised at North, she couldn’t have ever seen it and she couldn’t have give any speech. And actual reports of her were about her making banners and flags…so sewing.

    I think the victory of English in this battle is due to three things:
    1) Scottish King acted too honorably.
    He sent message with his plans to invade and even some cannons were sent back from continent…armies assembled…and his too nice actions continued even when he crossed the border.
    2)Henry chosen right man as Defendor of his Kingdom.
    Henry decided to not take Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey with him to France.
    Why?(Evil tongue say it was because Thomas Howard wanted to still be Chancelor and King wanted Wolsey at that position)…But I have different theory.
    Henry knew there was no better man to defend his Kingdom if Scots attacked, he knew Surrey’s history and experience and knew there was no better choice.
    Young Henry wasn’t being mean to Surrey, he was being good ruler. Henry made Surrey Earl Marshal of England, not Katherine.
    The title was mostly ceremonial, but it also included dealing with King’s horses and cavalry and military operations in times of need.
    While it was mostly heriditary title we knew Henry later gave it to Charles Brandon and Edward Seymour…and at least Brandon was good commander. So Henry gave it more based on skill(and partly trusting the person…but hey…command of King’s horses…important part of army at the time…still.)
    3)Commander worthy of the name
    Thomas Howard was restored title of his father and became 2nd Duke of Norfolk for winning this battle. And he deserved it fully.
    Being noble of old family wasn’t enough to be good commander and good warrior…and often noblemen utterly failed in their duties as knights…
    However Earl of Surrey was commander worth of the name.
    He fought and lived through battle of Flodden in 1485 after which he was imprisoned for long time. But in 1489 he was sent to deal with Rebellion in Yorkshire and he stayed at North as King’s Lieutenant for 10 years(in Sheriff Hutton’s castle).
    Hence he was there when in September 1496 army of King James IV invaded England in support of Perkin Warbeck. Reports from then speak of Earl of Westmorland Ralph Neville leading the army…but surely many other nobles in the North supported him and were at least helping to raise army and prepare counter attack. Seeing all this and how Scottish fought and behaved, as well as intimate knowledge of landscape at Scotland/England border…made up valueable skillset which Surrey put at use at Flodden.
    Strangely main comanders of army at that battle are all linked to Howard, except lord Stanley who was famously put into rear. Whetever that was jealousy or keeping imcopented commander out of way…we do not know for sure.
    (I seriously doubt he killed king James IV, if he did it would be recorded and he would be applauded by it loudly at court.)
    However Howard took his sons-Thomas(later 3rd Duke of Norfolk) and Edmund with him(father of Katherine Howard). It is said they all bore full strenght of battle(Surrey being reported just spear away from King when he was slain…so perhaps two main commanders were trying to get one another…)
    Another man who fought beside them was Thomas Dacre, 2nd Baron Dacre of Gilsland.

    Conection to Surrey is interesting. Surrey’s wife Elizabeth Tilney was first married to Sir Humphrey Bourchier and by him she had three children. Son named John and two daughters-Margaret(future famous lady Bryan, the governess of Henry VIII’s children) and Anne, Baroness Dacre. But she was married to another Dacre-Thomas Fiennes, 8th Baron Dacre.
    There were two Barons Dacre simultaneously, the Fiennes peers, seated in Sussex, were commonly called Baron Dacre of the South, while their counterparts, seated at Naworth Castle and Gilsland in Cumberland were Baron Dacre of the North.
    They were related through blood.
    Interesting conection though. It is possible since Anne married in 1492 and stayed at Sherrif Hutton Castle with her mother…that Howards met Dacres in the North and then some of their relatives from the South visited and marriage was agreed upon.

    I got bit carried away…
    My point is…we know Katherine didn’t lead the troops, she didn’t rally the troops, nor chosen the commander who won the battle. So why the heck does she have the credit?! And is celebrated as the one who defeated the Scots?!

    She doesn’t doesn’t deserve to be promoted for this. She used it as her propaganda, she and her supporters. But real credit belongs to Thomas Howard and his sons.

    (Or you could say Anne Boleyn’s grandfather and her uncles…that kind of changes status of Boleyns entirely in the court…doesn’t it?…Anne’s family was already in favour long before she caught King’s eye and her sister before her…)

    My point is this was great victory for England and Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk deserves to be given full credit for leading the army that day.

    And Katherine even belittles him in her letter to Henry. She says ‘I thought to send himself to you, but our Englishman’s hearts wouldn’t suffer it…’ The man in command of the battle and the aftermath was Thomas Howard.
    She speaks of him not having heart to send King the body!!!
    She continues. ‘My lord Howard would fain know your pleasure in the burying of the king of Scots’ body, for he hath written to me so’
    Does it not sound like: ,He denies you pleasure of burrying king James’s body, he wrote to me so.(That he won’t send the body?)
    I know my translation to modern English might be wrong…

    But it sounds to me like Katherine of Aragon didn’t like Thomas Howard very much and called him soft-hearted and too mild in comparison to her. In letter informing King that he won the battle.

    So..letter goes :I received the news and we won greatly while you were away…which is such great honnour to all your subjects(to me)
    I hope you’ll win something in France too, your man was weak and refused to send your brother in law’s body to you as gift, as you and I would have wished it so. Instead just cloak…
    I am pregnant by the way and what we took from dead scottish will be sent to you shortly
    Your wife.

    I know I am probably more than biased against Katherine…but that letter sounds like her showing off as ruler and belittling Englishmen who just risked their lives.

    Not really picture of humble wife who loved all he loved even if they were her enemies…

  7. Marga says:

    I’m not biased against Katherine at all but I’m also not biased towards her. Honestly Queen Anne Boleyn is the most underrated imo but this is not about her…. An 8 year old would know how to rally troops but wouldn’t necessarily be able to. Apparently it was her speech that really spurred more people to take up arms. Unfortunately the reality of those times is that someone in her position usually would be “showing off” as a ruler to get lower-ranking people to have faith in what they should or should not do for their country

    .She did not belittle them, if anything she speaks of them being kind (which was not automatically bad/belittling lol); depending on how the king felt this would be his choice to allow honorable burial or not depending on the fallen’s nobility as well as how much the king felt betrayed. The fact that he had been the husband of King Henry’s sister might be why they felt too wrong not allowing for the burial.

    Besides people back then could handle a little belittling and most likely expected it from people “above” them. It was a sign of strength. (Yet this is partially why Queen Jane was a welcome difference as she was seen as passive and very feminine as to give hope of providing an heir- as she did even if he died young…).

    Survival rates were super low for most people, you could almost guarantee everyone was living with some sort of pain from a physical ailment whether it be poor dental habits and/or simply things like fleas depending on station. If the King was grumpy he could send you to your death. I don’t think Katherine’s letter was harsh if you consider all. She took more responsibility in making sure the battle succeeded in their favor than another queen likely would have in their time. ESPECIALLY if it’s true she was pregnant- when it was a common superstition that pregnant women had to get little to no exercise for their babies to survive. She didn’t come from that culture and way of thinking obviously.

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