The Battle of Flodden

9th September, 1513


The Battle of Flodden took place in Flodden field in Northumberland. James IV and the invading Scottish army faced the English under Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey. This was the biggest battle between Scotland and England in history up to this point with 30,000 Scots facing 26,000 English.

James invaded England at the request of the French, honouring the "auld alliance". His army was inexperienced and although well equipped they did not have expertise with either the 18 foot continental pikes or the seventeen artillery pieces that accompanied them. The army sustained heavy losses during the siege of Norham Castle and the weather throughout this campaign was typically wet and windy so by the time they reached Flodden the men were not in great spirits.

James set up his army in a fantastic position on Flodden Hill which formed a natural fortress and accepted the challenge issued by the Earl of Surrey to fight on the 9th of September. When the English arrived Surrey was dismayed to see the position the Scots had taken up and challenged the Scots to fight them on level ground, James refused.

The English flanked the Scottish army, perhaps partly under cover of the poor weather. The Scottish artillery was difficult to move and more suited to a siege than a battle. Under heavy arrow and artillery fire and unable to manoeuvre their way out of it the Scots were forced to charge down the hill at the English. James had always enjoyed combat and unusually for a king he led the charge. He is said to have gotten within a spears length of Surrey before he was cut down. Despite his personal bravery his lack of leadership skills and poor decision making in the heat of battle had led to a crushing defeat and 10,000 Scots were killed for just 1,500 English deaths.

This was the last great medieval battle in the British Isles and the last time the Scots would face the English as military equals. The loss was devastating with virtually every noble family in Scotland losing someone and with so many powerful men gone Scotland entered into a prolonged period of instability.


Battle of Flodden field