Before I embark on June's Blog & following an excellent talk given by Clive Hallam-Baker at the Bygone Borderlands weekend in Berwick on the "Role of Women at Flodden", I thought I would re-visit my previous post on this very subject.
In addition to the women mentioned in my previous post, Mr Hallam-Baker highlighted the role played by women (and children) on the battlefield itself. It would appear that far from staying at home, many women accompanied their husbands on the march North. Some maybe to ensure their husbands did not "sow any wild oats" along the way, others to help with the logistics of feeding and caring for such a large army.
Another important role undertaken by women was the care of the sick & wounded, the knowledge of healing herbs & medicines of the day being passed down the generations from mother to daughter. Unfortunately in later years many of these "wise women" would be branded witches and suffer some form of farcical trial & hideous death.
Children on the other hand acted as "water boys". Hand to hand fighting in heavy and cumbersome armour was hot & thirsty work!. Mr Hallam-Baker is of the opinion that during the battle there would be periods of armistice to allow the children to enter the field with water for the troops. Rather like the early days of trench warfare in WW1 where boards went up and the fighting stopped for breakfast.
The last women to be highlighted by Mr Hallam-Baker are unique in that they are all Queens in their own right. Okay, two had token husbands, but one had no husband at all! They all died childless. Following the death of Henry VIII's son Edward, England would be ruled for the next 50 years by women:-
Firstly in an attempt to maintain the continuation of the Protestant faith in July 1553 by the manipulated and ill-fated Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry's youngest sister Mary by her second marriage to Charles Brandon.
Secondly by Henry's daughter Mary, daughter of his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, hell bent on restoring the Catholic faith to England from July 1553 until her death in 1558. Her persecution of the Protestants led her to be dubbed "Bloody Mary".
Thirdly by Elizabeth, who reigned for 44 years from 1558 -1603. Daughter of Henry's second marriage to Anne Boleyn, she was more moderate in government than her half siblings, and more tolerant in matters of religion.
There is of course one other woman deserving a mention here who proved to be a constant "thorn in the side" to the Tudor Dynasty. Another Queen, of Tudor descent, being granddaughter of Henry VIII's eldest sister Margaret & James IV of Scotland who was slain at Flodden. She held a real claim to the throne of England, was a Scot, and a Catholic to boot!
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was crowned aged just six months on (ironically) the 9th September 1543, the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden!
In December 1543 Henry VIII declared war against Scotland. Mary was to be the pawn at the centre of the conflict later popularised as the "Rough Wooing", by the poet Sir Walter Scott.
Henry's aim was to force Scotland's hand with the betrothal of Mary to his own son Edward. The plan failed, Mary was taken to safety in France and betrothed to the Dauphin in 1548. Peace was finally declared in March 1550 following the "Treaty of Boulogne".
Following the death of Mary of England in 1558, Mary Stuart found many supporters amongst the English Catholics keen to see her take her place as Queen of England rather than the Protestant Princess Elizabeth. She now found herself at the centre of plots and conspiracies to achieve such an aim.
Forced to surrender her Crown in 1567 in favour of her son James, it would be another 20 years before Elizabeth I finally, reluctantly, signed Mary's death warrant. On 7th February 1587 the commission for her execution was announced, the task being carried out the following morning at Fotheringhay the 8th February 1587. However, she did not die in vain as the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 marked the end of Tudors and the beginning of the Stuart Dynasty, with her son James VI of Scotland being successor to the English throne as James I.
The Stuart Dynasty was a troubled one, her Grandson Charles I, losing his head too in 1649! It finally came to an end in August 1714 with death of Queen Anne. To quote James V of Scotland, on hearing of the birth of his daughter Mary Stuart "It started with a lass and it will end with a lass"!
Clive Hallam-Baker narrates "The Battle of Flodden, Then & Now" DVD produced by the Rembering Flodden Project and can be purchased for £9.95 plus £2.00 postage & packing at http://www.flodden.net/shop/view-item/then-and-now-dvd/
When you think of the Battle of Flodden 1513, most think of the prowess of men on the battlefield, Henry VIII, the Earl of Surrey, James IV of Scotland & his Scottish Nobles wielding swords, bilhooks, pykes etc., wow - testosterone flying everywhere!
However, having done more background research , I have became acutely aware of the crucial and often overlooked role played by women, both factual and fictional in shaping the events of one of the most influential and bloodiest conflicts that occurred between the Nations of England & Scotland.
It would appear that it was women that played a major role in the instigation, orchestration, and final outcome of this battle in the manner hereafter briefly described..
A Love letter....
I'm sure the 14,000 Crowns she sent to him was no incentive at all, what do you think!
Moving on to early summer 1513...
James IV is saying his prayers at Linlithgow when a "strange gentleman dressed in blue" appears with a message from beyond the grave from his mother :-
"my mother has sent me to you, desiring you not to pass, at this time, where thou are not purposed; for if thou does, thou wilt not fare well in thy Journey, nor none that passeth with thee. Further she bade thee mell with no Woman, nor use their Counsel, for if thou do it, thou will be confounded & brought to shame."
Was this a message from the mother of the strange gentleman, the mother of James IV - Margaret of Denmark, or a plea from the Virgin Mother herself?
A wife & sister....
Meanwhile in England...
Enter stage left....
Lady Elizabeth Heron....It is now August 1513 and James IV following his ransacking of the Castles Norham and Twizell, crosses the Tweed in bouyant mood. He reputedly falls under the spell of the beautiful Lady Heron, mistress of Ford Castle - her husband being held prisoner in Scotland. He tarries too long, and many Scottish accounts of the Battle lay the blame of the Scottish defeat firmly at her feet!
Robert Lindsay of Pittscottie refers to the dalliance between King James & Elizabeth, Lady Heron as a bout of "stinking adultery & fornication". Whether this was a ploy for her husbands release, or a deliberate plan hatched between herself and the Earl of Surrey - the tactic would appear to have had the desired effect. Ford Castle remained largely unscathed and the King of Scots attention was diverted from the battlefield, preferring the alluring charms of Lady Heron's boudoir!
Peace and the death of a King....
However this was not to be - the marriage produced no issue, the young Mary seeing off her husband in less than three months of marriage due to "over exertions in the bedchamber"!. Henry must have had a wry smile to himself..
A bizarre divorce citation, & the continuation of the Tudor Dynasty
Following the death of James IV at Flodden on the 9th Septemeber 1513, his widow Margaret Tudor married Sir Archibald Douglas 6th Earl of Angus in secret in 1514. This was an ill-fated marriage and by 1518 she was already hinting in letters to her brother Henry of her intended divorce, but not before she had produced a daughter, Mary Douglas born October 1515.
Margaret Tudor, although she wouldn't live to see it, secured the future of the Tudor bloodline on the thrones of both England & Scotland being the great grandmother of James VI of Scotland (James I of England) by two accounts.
1. Her granddaughter being Mary Queen of Scots, by her son of James V of Scotland, child of her first marriage to King James IV.
2. Her grandson Henry Lord Darnley the son of Margaret Douglas, child of her second marriage to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, was 2nd husband to Mary Queen of Scots. Together they were the parents of the said James VI of Scotland, (James I of England).
Allegedly Margaret cited in her divorce petition that her first husband, King James IV had survived Flodden and was to her knowledge alive & kicking three years after the event!, making her marriage to the Earl of Angus null and void!
Women of importance were often used for political & financial gain, but on this occasion at least, they would appear to have had the upper hand! Oh! those lusty, guileful Tudor women...
Further reading and references
For anyone interested in reading more about the Battle of Flodden and the volunteer transcription project, I have posted some useful links to background reading etc at:- http://www.floddentranscribersforum.com/
There is also a talk to be given on the 18th/19th May at the Guildhall in Berwick as part of the "Bygone Borderlands" weekend. The subject is to be the "Role of Women at Flodden". For further information, please contact Linda Bankier, Berwick Archivist on (01289) 301865 or e-mail email@example.com