On Monday the 9th of September it was the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. A memorial service organised by The Standing Council was held at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. Over 40 Clan Chiefs were in attendance and you will be able to read the list of names below. The service included lessons read by Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank and Sir Malcolm MacGregor of MacGregor, a rendition of Flowers o the Forest by Isla St Clair and an excellent reading by historian Alistair Moffat.
I’d like to continue by reproducing Alaistair Moffat’s reading given at St Giles. It was an excellent account of the battle and the aftermath.
— FLODDEN ADDRESS. – ALISTAIR MOFFAT When dawn broke on the morning of 10th September, 1513, the landscape of hell was revealed. On the gently undulating northern ridges of Branxton Hill more than 10,000 men lay dead or dying. In the midst of the carnage were the naked, plundered bodies of King James IV of Scotland, his half-brother, Alexander Stewart, Archbishop of St Andrews, George Hepburn, Bishop of the Isles, two abbots, nine great earls of Scotland, fourteen lords of parliament, innumerable knights and noblemen of lesser degree and many thousands of farmers, ploughmen, weavers and burgesses. It was the appalling aftermath of the battle of Flodden, the greatest military disaster in Scotland’s history. In the grey light of that terrible dawn, sentries posted around the captured Scottish cannon could make out where the brunt of battle had been joined. Below them, at the foot of the slope ran the trickle of a nameless burn now choked with slaughter, a wrack of mangled bodies, broken pikeshafts, shattered shields and everywhere blood and the sickening stench of death, vomit and voided bowels. Not all of the bodies were yet corpses. Through a long dark night the battlefield had not been a silent graveyard. Trapped under lifeless comrades, crippled, hamstrung or horribly mutilated, fatally wounded men still breathed. Bladed weapons rarely kill outright and they were often used to bludgeon men to their knees or into unconsciousness. In the churned mud of the battlefield some men will have lost their footing, fallen and been hacked at before they could get up. Many bled to death, maimed, lacerated by vicious cuts, screaming, fainting and screaming once more in their death agonies. Some will have been put out of their misery by parties of English soldiers scouring the field by torchlight for plunder, stripping the bodies, ransacking them for valuables. But other men will have lingered on in unspeakable pain, praying to their God, passing in and out of consciousness, slowly bleeding to death. The fury of the battle on Flodden field may have been stilled and awash with death and defeat. But all was not yet over. In an instant the plunderers and scavengers looked up and the sentries by the cannon stood to, frantically peering through the morning light. They could hear the rumbling thunder of hoofbeats – and then, suddenly, riders erupted over Barelees Rig. With 800 horsemen at his back, Lord Alexander Home galloped hard across the horrors of the battlefield and up the slopes of Branxton Hill. They had not come back to Flodden to rejoin a lost battle but to rescue their captured ordnance. And they very nearly succeeded. After a sharp skirmish, the English gunners managed to load and get off a volley at Home’s squadron, and they scattered.
And so it ended. As the Border horsemen wheeled round and raced out of range, the remnants of the shattered Scottish army were limping across the Tweed at Coldstream. There was no organised pursuit. The victorious English army had taken heavy casualties and the Earl of Surrey and his captains were exhausted. In any event, their bloody work was done. The floors o’ the Forest were a’ wede awa, Flodden was a national disaster, a harbinger of lawlessness in the shape of the Border Reivers, the beginning of a long period of political uncertainty and the last medieval battle in the history of Britain. The last time a king was to die leading his army.