IV of Scotland, though initially on good terms with Henry
VIII (and married to his sister Margaret), held firmly to
the "Auld Alliance" with France. Henry, on the other
hand, joined The Holy League against France. Even so, James
and Henry remained on fair terms until 1513, when Henry invaded
France at the head of a large force.
Holding true to his alliance, James led an army into England.
His intent was not conquest, but merely to cause a diversion
which would bring Henry back from France.
He was met at Flodden by an army of
the north under the Earl of Surrey, a veteran of Bosworth
Field. Flodden marks a watershed in military history, for
it was the last major battle in which the longbow played
a part, and one of the first in which artillery played a
According to the chivalrous practice
of the time, James and Surrey set a time and place to fight.
Much to Surrey's disgust, James set up his army in a good
defensive position at Flodden Hill, rather than the agreed
Surrey boldly undertook a surprise
march that put him between James and Scotland, and James
responded by setting up a new position on Branxton Hill.
After an opening barrage by artillery on both sides, the
Scot Borderers charged down the hill. They initially pushed
the English back, only to be repulsed by Surrey's cavalry.
The bulk of James army then left their elevated position
to join the attack.
The Scots were undone as much by their
choice of weapon as by the valour of their opponents; they
used the long pike, a weapon introduced to the Scots only
recently by their French allies. Though a fearsome weapon
against cavalry, at close quarters the long pike was virtually
useless, and the Scots were cut to shreds. King James and
many of his lords were slain, along with perhaps 5000 of
In one stroke, Surrey and his men reduced
the Scottish threat to a mere whisper. The Scots posed no
further hindrance to the designs of Henry VIII for nearly
Article by Neil Ritchie