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 firstname.lastname@example.org