September 9

1513 A Scottish Catastrophe

Generally speaking, the Scots, for all their martial valour, do not do well fighting against the English. This is why they still yammer on about William Wallace and Robert Burns (treacherous murderers both) 700 years later. When I was living in London the Scots and English still played an annual soccer match and, more than once, I lived through mobs of half-naked, drunken Celts in tams waving their glorious lion rampant banner inscribed with “Bannockburn 1314”. Their record since, from Solway Moss to Pinkie to Preston to Culloden, has not been enviable. A nineteenth century English historian gives James IV the gears for his behaviour at Flodden Field.

On the 9th of September 1513, was fought the battle of Flodden, resulting in the defeat and death of the Scottish king, James IV, the slaughter of nearly thirty of his nobles and chiefs, and the loss of about 10,000 men. It was an overthrow which spread sorrow and dismay through Scotland, and was long remembered as one of the greatest calamities over sustained by the nation. With all tenderness for romantic impulse and chivalric principle, a modern man, even of the Scottish nation, is forced to admit that the Flodden enterprise of James IV was an example of gigantic folly, righteously punished.

The king of Scots had no just occasion for going to war with England. The war he entered upon he conducted like an imbecile, only going three or four miles into the English territory, and there dallying till the opportunity of striking an effective blow was lost. When the English army, under the Earl of Surrey, came against him, he, from a foolish sentiment of chivalry, or more vanity, would not allow his troops to take the fair advantages of the ground. So he fought at a disadvantage, and lost all, including his own life. It is pitiable, even at this distance of time, to think of a people having their interests committed to the care of one so ill qualified for the trust; the Many suffering so much through the infatuation of One.

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