British Isles, locked in internecine conflicts in the latter
half of the 15th century, were apparently on the peripheries
of the military revolution. England's armies generally clung
to the old dismounted "bill and bow" formations
that had worked so well at Agincourt in 1415. Scotland, threatened
by a powerful and aggressive neighbor, relied on peasant levies
armed with bow, spear and two-handed sword for defense. The
Wars of the Roses, however, had not entirely isolated England
from developments on the Continent. Foreign mercenaries had
brought pikes and handguns to English battlefields (with little
success against native bows and bills), and English men-at-arms,
despite their traditions of dismounted combat, had fought
once more from the saddle to play a decisive part in the Yorkist
victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. Light cavalry--referred
to as "prickers" by the Yorkists--had also played
a vital role for the rival armies, gathering intelligence,
carrying out feints, and skirmishing with their enemy counterparts.
The cream of English light cavalry were Northerners--reivers
from the volatile Anglo-Scots frontier who served in all of
King Henry VIII's campaigns in France.
English infantry, too, had not been
untouched by modern developments. Under Henry VIII, the English
had experimented widely with gunpowder weapons, particularly
for naval use, as the ordnance recovered from the sunken warship
Mary Rose has indicated. In terms of "professionalization,"
England maintained small numbers of garrison troops in the
Calais Pale and at Berwick, but Henry's most important standing
units were afloat. According to the Calendar of Scottish Papers,
1, 1547&endash;63, the armada that accompanied England's
land forces northward in 1547 was crewed by 9,222 mariner-soldiers.
Those men, along with the men-at-arms and "Gentlemen
Pensioners" of the Royal Bodyguard, are an indication
that Henry took greater steps to create large-scale, standing
forces than has been recognized in the past.
One important feature of the military
revolution was the increased size of armies. To fill out
their armies, princes competed for the services of large
bodies of international mercenaries, the most highly prized
of which were Swiss and German (Landsknecht) pikemen. The
42,000 men amassed by Henry VIII in 1544 for his so-called
Enterprise of Boulogne included 4,836 foreign horse and
5,392 foreign infantry. The 16,000-man army that Somerset
would lead across the Tweed River into Scotland in 1547
also contained a significant proportion of foreign specialists,
most notably a complement of mounted harquebusiers under
a Spanish captain, Sir Pedro de Gamboa.
The majority of Somerset's troops were
armed in the old style, with bow and bill--an archaic combination
perhaps, but one that had not yet been rendered obsolete.
Firearm development had been slow, and only 600 of Somerset's
soldiers carried such weapons. The handgun and the harquebus
that had supplanted the crossbow on the Continent had operated
from the peripheries of the battlefield, from behind walls
and entrenchments. English bowmen did not operate on the
peripheries, and the light arrows they fired at distant
targets were designed to gall, not kill. Their rate of fire,
which the harquebus could never match, disordered their
enemy and, as at Agincourt, could provoke him into a premature
attack. When the enemy closed he would be met, at shorter
range, by heavier, deadlier arrows. Using a secondary weapon,
such as a bill or maul, bowmen were then expected to melee
with their enemy, be he high-born knight or lowly peasant.
To exchange the longbow for the harquebus would have involved
abandoning a tested tactical doctrine in return for a missile
weapon with only moderately greater range and penetrative
While some English equipment was archaic,
more modern technology was also employed, including an impressively
large artillery train, under a master gunner appointed directly
by the king. Under Henry VIII's enthusiastic patronage,
artillery tactics had become surprisingly sophisticated.
At Pinkie Cleugh, the guns accompanying the army would be
manhandled into action speedily and with devastating effect.
The warships of Somerset's accompanying naval force, commanded
by Lord Edward Clinton, were very effective floating gun
platforms, capable of battering enemy ships into submission,
or sinking them, with long-range gunfire rather than by
ramming or boarding, as had been the traditional practice.
From positions in the Firth of Forth, they would support
the English land forces at Pinkie with a timely and effective
Despite the oft-quoted view of the
English as primarily infantry oriented, Somerset had amassed
some 4,000 cavalry, under the overall command of John Dudley,
Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, for his invasion
of Scotland. That considerable mounted arm included the
light cavalry, Northern Horse and Gamboa's mounted harquebusiers
("hackbutters" to the English). Among the heavy
cavalry were 500 "Bullerners"--men-at-arms from
the garrison of Boulogne--the Gentlemen Pensioners of the
Royal Bodyguard and a force of "demi-lancers."
The latter were lance-armed cavalry whose horses were unarmored
and who had replaced their own leg armor with stout, thigh-length
boots, a compromise of protection for increased speed, mobility
Article submitted by Neil Ritchie