On 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