Flodden: the Scottish Invasion of Henry VIII’s England

Flodden by Niall Barr is an account of the Battle of Flodden between the English and the Scots in 1513, which challenges the traditional view of the battle.  In 1512 James IV, Henry VIII’s brother-in-law, had renewed the ‘Auld Alliance’ with France, promising mutual support should England attack either country. So when Henry made war on France, James had no alternative and he crossed the River Tweed into England with about 40,000 men.

The weather that September was much like it’s been this September – wet and stormy. The battle field was at Branxton, then just a few houses surrounded by bog and woodland. The two armies came face to face separated by a small valley with the English at the bottom of Flodden Hill. The Scots attacked down the hill and were chopped to pieces by the English and James himself was killed. Barr shows how, contrary to the traditional view, James led a well organised and prepared army and considers that it was using new, continental weapons and military tactics in the wrong situation that led to his defeat.

There is a bit too much detail about the weapons used and military history for my liking and I scan read the chapters dealing with that. But the book as a whole gives a real flavour of the times, the diplomacy, the main protagonists and the battle. I found it interesting, maybe because I live in the area where it all took place. I’ve been to the battle field, which today is so peaceful and tranquil, but I could imagine the terrible carnage that took place there nearly 500 years ago.

Map on the notice board in the car park below Flodden Field

6 thoughts on “Flodden: the Scottish Invasion of Henry VIII’s England

  1. That’s interesting Margaret. Being across the pond, I don’t know what the traditional view is, but I like history and I like the way history is rediscovered with more evidence or a different look at the evidence.


  2. we visited FF a few years back Margaret on a day when you could barely see your nose in front of your face, and it did make the battle live for us too


  3. The historian Neil Oliver did a programme a few years ago where they tried to follow the exact events of Flodden Field (including trying out the relevant weapons, as I recall) – it was part of a series on British battles. Did you see it? I found it fascinating to see more detail about all those long-ago battles we’d studied at school (Scottish schools took battles against the English *very* seriously in my day!)


    • GeraniumCat, I missed that programme, shame because it sounds very interesting, more so now I’ve been there. I don’t remember learning about the battle at school, O level history was European History up to 1789, so a very broad sweep! I then ‘did’ the Stuarts for A level, so know much more about James VI & I, etc.


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