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The Battles of Flodden and Pinkie Cleugh were the last two battles fought between the national armies of England and Scotland. Both were victories for the English.



Date - 9th September 1513
Combatants - James IV of Scotland .v. King Henry VIII of England
Location - Flodden Moor, Northumberland, England

With England committed in France the Scottish King attempted to take advantage and aid the 'auld alliance' with France by invading England from the north.

He amassed an army estimated at 50,000 and headed south.   James was a charismatic leader.  Unusually his army consisted of both Lowland and Highland Scots he was one of the few Scottish king able to unite the two. 

He quickly overwhelmed the English outposts but was delayed at the fortified house of Ford where he allegedly flirted with the lady of the house, who was reputedly an English spy.

The English had not wasted time and were busy raising an army under the Earl of Surrey. This army numbering approximately 20,000 moved north to deprive the Scots supplies from the countryside.

In consequence James's army began run low on supplies, large number started to desert northwards in search of food.

When the armies met it is estimated that the Scots numbered between 30-40,000 and the English around 20,000.

The Scottish King who was no master  tactician nevertheless took the sensible decision to deploy his army on the high ground. 

Surry thought this rather unsporting and asked the Scottish King to come down for a fair fight. This request was refused.

The English army deployed on the plain of Brancstone.  James missed a glorious opportunity to attack the English army while it deployed in front of him.

The English artillery then engaged the Scots. The English artillery proved to be more deadly than anything the Scots could muster and eventually the Scots charged. It was there that their luck ran out. 

The English beat the Scots in bloody hand-to-hand fighting mainly by use of the Halberd, a particularly vicious weapon which combined the subtlety of an axe with the finesse of a scythe. This weapon proved superior to the sword and spear favoured by the Scots.

The Scots were routed and their King killed.  He appeared to have been attempting to reach Surrey for one to one combat, but never made it having first ensured that he got most of the other Scots noblemen killed in the process.

An old English poem about Flodden

Pinkie Cleugh

Date: 10th September 1547

Place: Musselburgh

Protagonists: Edward Seymour The Duke Of Somerset v James Hamilton 2nd Earl of Arran


The background to this battle was a complicated matter between royal families as was so often the case in this period. The English wished to quieten this northern border by marrying the infant king Edward to the equally young Mary (Queen of Scots) except that the Scots had other ideas on the subject.

The armies that opposed each other were a strange mix of medieval and modern. The Scots had a sizeable cavalry element and had arranged their infantry into three large columns of pikemen. They did have more tradition infantry at Pinkie but it was the pikemen which form the main part of their plan, trained by foreign mercenaries the pike when used en masse by well trained troops was a potent weapon. The use of mercenaries from all countries was quite popular at this time.

The size of the armies is not exact but the Scots are thought to have fielded around 26,000.

The English had more horsemen than the Scots but less infantry who employed the medieval Bill and Hook. Firearms at this time were in use but they were unreliable and slow to use. Pinkie was the swan song for the English longbow. The English army is recorded at 16,000. They did however have one important ally on their side. The English Navy had shadowed the army and played a critical role at Pinkie by shelling the Scots and routing most of the highland contingent.

The Scots pikemen charged, according to one eyewitness they moved as fast as cavalry. For a while it looked as though they would smash through the English lines but the English cavalry counter charged and checked them.

The Scots fought off the cavalry but their momentum had been lost. In the intervening period the English had concentrated their bowmen who let loose terrible volleys onto the Scots. This was followed by the cannon and the Scots threw down their weapons and fled.

Pinkie had little impact politically, as Somerset managed to occupy Edinburgh but could not control the surrounding territory. Internal strife in English eventually forced a withdraw. 

Though the English and Scot national armies would no longer meet in battle, the English and Scots did fight again during the Civil war.