The battle of Flodden Field,
opposing Scottish and English armies, led by
Earl of Surrey
2nd Duke of Norfolk)
respectively, were roughly similar in size, numbering
between 20 and 30,000 men. The Scottish Camp on
was a favourable position which they had fortified. Surrey
understanding this marched to
outflank the Scots,
positioning himself between them and Scotland. On the day
of the battle James moved his army to
Branxton Hill. Both forces
had sophisticated artillery, but the lighter and more
manoeuvrable pieces used by the English were more suited to
the rain-soaked conditions of the hill and soon took
effect. In the initial action Hume and Huntly on the Scots'
right appeared to break the English left flank. The Scottish
centre seeing the success advanced but they lost momentum on
the boggy ground and their
traditional long spears were overcome
by the English billhooks.
James joined the attack and ran into similar difficulties
and the Scots formations broke down into hand to hand combat
in the dip between the hill and Branxton with the Scots
coming under effective fire from the English archers.
The field was so soaked with blood that many of the Scots
removed their shoes to gain a better purchase on the
slippery ground. The Scots casualties were heavy, said to
be close to 10,000 killed, including the King, nine earls,
fourteen lords and a handful of prominent clerics, including
the Archbishop of St.Andrews. English casualties amounted to
The Scots dead were so mutilated that many of the bodies
could not be identified, though the body believed to be that
of James IV, pierced with arrows, his left hand almost
severed from his arm by several wounds and his neck opened
to the middle, was taken to Berwick and embalmed, "lapped"
in a lead sheet and then to the
Priory of Sheen,
where it was kept finally in a lumber room
found the head hewn off by "idle workmen for their foolish
pleasure" and noticing it smelling sweetly, perhaps from the
spices used it for embalming took it home but eventually
charged the Sexton to have it taken to the charnel house
St Michael's Church, Wood Street
in the City of London for disposal
There is no record of the body after the 16th century and
Sheen Priory buildings became dilapidated and were
demolished in the 18th Century.
The foundations lie under the 14th fairway of the the
Royal Mid Surrey Golf Club
Old Deer Park.
There are also several
concerning the disposal of his body.
A sword, dagger and ring taken from
are kept at the English
College of Arms
Would it not be fitting in the year of the 500th Anniversary
of the Battle for his body to be found and returned to
Scotland to lay in rest with dignity, and for his
possessions to be brought to Edinburgh Castle to accompany
Honours of Scotland?
William, the 2nd Earl of Caithness
fell at Flodden along with George Sinclair of Keiss, Henry,
3rd Lord Sinclair, Sir John Sinclair of Herdmanston and the
Bishop of Caithness.
He had raised a body of around 300
Caithness men. This was a catastrophe for
Scotland and Caithness in particular, from which it would
never recover fully.
At the time the Earl of Caithness was under an
attainder and so, it was
said that when King James saw them in his ranks, he sent for
the Earl and pardoned him. It is said thast the Earl asked
for written confirmation , and so, with no parchment to
hastily wrote the pardon on a Sinclair
He sent it home with a member of Clan
was the only survivor of the Caithness force. The charter
has been with the Earl of Fife since 1766.
The day is also associated with Sinclair/Caithness folklore
Sinclairs crossed the Ord of Caithness on a Monday wearing
the Green tartan,
and to this day it is deemed unlucky to cross the Ord on a
Monday wearing Green.
The tragedy is remembered in the pipe lament "Flowers of the
Forest" and the folk song of the same name:
I've heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lasses a-lilting before dawn o' day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
"The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away".
As buchts, in the morning, nae blythe lads are scorning;
The lasses are lonely and dowie and wae.
Nae daffin', nae gabbin', but sighing and sobbing,
Ilk ane lifts her leglen, and hies her away.
In hairst, at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering,
The Bandsters are lyart, and runkled and grey.
At fair or at preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching,
The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.
At e'en, in the gloaming, nae swankies are roaming,
'Bout stacks wi' the lasses at bogle to play.
But ilk ane sits drearie, lamenting her dearie,
The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.
Dule and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border;
The English, for ance, by guile wan the day:
The Flowers of the Forest, that foucht aye the foremost,
The prime o' our land are cauld in the clay.
We'll hae nae mair lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning,
The Flowers of the forest are all wede away.
Meaning of unusual words:
Flodden 1513 Website Home Page
UK Battlefields Resource Centre -
Medieval - The Battle of Battle of Flodden
Remembering Flodden | The Flodden
Scottish Losses - Osprey Publishing -
The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland: The
Death-Roll of the Flodden Campaign so far as it appears in
The Laing Manuscripts: Act in favour
of the heirs of those who fell at Flodden
Battle of Flodden Field 1513
Flodden 1513: Scotland's Greatest Defeat by John Sadler and
Publication Date: 11 May 2006 | ISBN-10: 1841769592 |
Battle of Flodden | English Heritage
Flodden – A Scottish “Greek Tragedy” |
500th anniversary for Britain’s
'forgotten' battle - Telegraph
Muster roll of the Craven Men at
Flodden Field, taken from the Battle Roll at Bolton Abbey
Caithness CWS - History - History of
Caithness - Chapter 6 - Index
A view of Northumberland: with an excursion to the Abbey of
Mailross in Scotland by William Hutchinson, Thomas Randal
Architectural Remains of Richmond
Twickenham Kew Mortlake and Petersham by Frederic Chapman
Tales of a Grandfather: Scotland by
Sir Walter Scott
Cripplegate warde | A Survey of
London, by John Stow (pp. 290-303)
St Michael Wood Street
was destroyed in the
Great Fire of London
in 1666 and the address is now
2-12 Gresham Street
where archaeological investigations in 2000 revealed nothing
of the church. In his book The
Brookwood Necropolis Railway
John Michael Clarke wrote that in
from post Great Fire church
were re-interred in
Evening Telegraph: Letters: Alex Orr,
Edinburgh "Given the interest shown in King Richard III, and
given the timing of the Flodden anniversary, it is time for
a renewed interest in the discovery of the resting place of
the last Scottish king to die in battle"
Legends concerning the whereabouts of the body of James IV
Two stories are based on the discovery
since disappeared, with a chain girdle about the waist which
James IV wore
in penance for the
murder of his father James III at
One story is that that James IV having escaped
from the battlefield was murdered by one of his own nobles
and thrown down the well at Hume Castle,
where an iron girdled skeleton was found . Another relates
discovery in the time of Cromwell of a
skeleton girded with an iron chain and wrapped in a bull's
skin in the ruins of Roxburgh Castle.
A further legend is that a convicted criminal offered to
show Regent Albany the King's grave 10 years after the
battle, but Albany refused. This last was written by
Robert Lindsay (1532-1586)
The History of Scotland, from 21
February, 1436 to March 1565
. The scanned edition online was published in 1728.
Library taken from the Toronto Globe & Mail (Oct. 6, 1922,
Pg 5, Column 2):
AMONG THE MOST TREASURED of heirlooms in a certain Canadian
home is an amber-colored flask of curious shape & curious
history, which belonging to two sisters of the lineage of
Sinclair, & descendants of the House of Caithness, Scotland,
once saw service on the Field of Flodden & again served
Armistice Day in Canada. Proudly these Sinclair sisters
trace the history of the flask back to the days of the
Battle of Flodden Field. Bitter war waged between England &
during the reign of James IV.
William Sinclair of the House of Caithness - the county of
Caithness, the most northerly of the mainland of Scotland -
was under an attainder, although history never defined his
crime. A high-spirited nobleman, & loyal to his King, he
voluntarily raised 300 men & rushed to the assistance of
The Earl of Huntley was leading the right wing of the
Scottish army & William Sinclair supported him valiantly.
The night before the Battle of Flodden, as the Earl of
Caithness led forward his troops, the King, watching them
approach, cried out at sight of the fresh, green uniforms.
Curiously he questioned his men, & when they told him that
the fresh troops were under the leadership of the Earl of
Caithness he exclaimed: "If that be William Sinclair, I will
The King ordered parchment brought to him, but none could be
found; then, pointing to a drum, he ordered that the deed of
forfeiture be written on the drum head. When it was
complete, King James added his signature & commanded his men
to cut it out. This pardon he presented to William Sinclair.
The Earl, turning to one of his men, thrust the document
into his hands, commanding: "Run with this to Caithness &
put it into the hands of my Lady, for fear I fall in battle,
& the title of the estate will still be hers."
The following day the Scots suffered defeat. The Earl of
Huntley deserted the field, but the Earl of Caithness, stood
the ground, sacrificing his own life. All of his
men-excepting the runner who had gone to Caithness with the
pardon-perished. An amber flask in leather casing was
strapped to the back of the runner bearing the pardon to the
Lady of Caithness.
Through generations of Sinclairs, this flask of the House of
Caithness has come down to the possession of the sisters of
the lineage of Sinclair.
During the late war the brother of the Sinclair sisters
volunteered in a Canadian battalion drafted in the home town
of the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. On the eve of his
departure the historic flask of Caithness was filled with
blackberry wine & stored in the dusk of a cupboard against
the brother's return, when a toast should be proposed.
The brother paid the supreme sacrifice at Vimy Ridge, but on
Armistice Day these Sinclair sisters bravely brought into
light the amber flask of wine, & carrying it proudly, they
marched with the rejoicing mobs of the town streets.
Visiting an old Scottish friend, the sisters of the House of
Caithness unsealed the flask that had once been carried on
the Field of Flodden, & in the Canadian home drank a toast
to the boys then overseas.
Sourced by Wanda Sinclair on the
Sinclair Discussion Group.