Castles, Battlesites & Ghosts
MotorBike Tours Northumberland
‘Episode 4’

The Prelude to War

The Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1502)

The reign of Henry VII was characterised by peaceful relations with both Scotland and Europe. The ‘Treaty of Perpetual Peace’ between the English and Scottish crowns in 1502 was the first attempt to end the conflict between the two nations for over 170 years, ushering in a new period of peace that would bring calm and safety to the English and Scottish border regions. The treaty was sealed by the marriage of Henry’s 14 year old daughter, Margaret Tudor, to the 30 year old King James IV of Scotland.

Motorbike Tours Northumberland – Battle of Flodden

As part of the marriage contract a dowry was promised to James IV but was never paid. After Henry’s death this became a bone of contention between the new King Henry VIII and James IV.

The League of Cambrai (1508-1510)

King Louis XII of France came to the French throne when his cousin Charles VIII died childless. Although untrained to the task, Louis was a vigorous and active monarch who reformed many laws. In 1499 Louis started a series of wars in northern Italy to enlarge his holdings and wealth in that area, gaining control of Milan and Naples. Louis then turned his attention on Venice, a major force in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, and was joined in the alliance by Spain and the Vatican. The ‘Warrior Pope’ Julius II felt that the influence of Venice was too great. The Venetian army was repeatedly defeated and mostly destroyed. The League disintegrated when Pope Julius II saw that France was gaining too much power for itself. He changed sides, forming a new alliance against France.

The Holy League (1511-1513)

Pope Julius II’s new alliance included Venice, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and England. Henry took little action during 1511 and 1512 and finally invaded northern France in June 1513. This action was nothing more than a cynical attempt to improve the English Crown’s traditional land holdings around Calais and Boulogne.

The Auld Alliance (1513)

The traditional ‘Auld Alliance’ between France and Scotland, of mutual support against England as an aggressor, had been partially nullified by the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. In the face of Henry VIII’s aggression in France, however, the French began to refresh the Auld Alliance early in 1513. New arrangements for mutual support against England were underwritten by an exchange of money, arms and military advisors from France, and by the Scots’ loan of the Great Michael, the largest warship of its day, to the French navy. When Henry invaded France in the summer of 1513, the Scots had two treaties to consider. On one hand, they were bound to perpetual peace with England by the treaty of 1502 but on the other, they had new agreements of mutual aid with France. The French were in no doubt that the Scots had to come to their aid. Henry VIII seemed ambivalent, not caring which treaty the Scots chose to honour.

Motorbike Tours Northumberland – Battle of Flodden

The treaties and allegiances of Europe provided the framework in which Kings and the Nation States dealt with each other, making decisions about war and peace, trade and commerce. Yet it was the smouldering relationship between James IV and Henry VIII which lit the fires of discontent between the two nations in the early 16th Century. James IV was no stranger to conflict on the English border, having supervised previous sieges of Border castles such as Norham in 1496/7. Following the treaty of Perpetual Peace, these activities were reduced from the level of national endeavours to local squabbles.

James IV was a monarch of considerable standing in Europe. His profile was greater than that justified by the size and wealth of his nation. In Henry VII, James had found an equal south of the border, a king who was prepared to offer his eldest daughter in marriage to seal the peace between the two nations that should last for all time.

The accession to the throne of the young Henry VIII ended this brief period of stability. Like Louis XII of France, Henry VIII was never meant to be king. He was crowned as the rightful heir because his elder brother Arthur had died in 1502. Like Louis, Henry had not been trained to be the leader of a great state, or how to handle international diplomacy. Instead, he had been taught the life of a prince and allowed to pursue interests of hunting, jousting and martial endeavours. It was Henry VIII’s hubris that finally led to war between England and Scotland. Henry made little effort to get along with James IV and Scotland. In James’ eyes, Henry failed to show the respect that he already received from other (and greater) monarchs on the European stage.

The Final Steps on the Road to War

Henry VIII was often dismissive or rude to James IV, even when he bothered to communicate at all. Matters came to a head in the summer of 1513 over the dowry of Margaret Tudor. This payment, promised by Henry VII as part of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, remained unpaid. James wrote to Henry VIII on several occasions asking for payment, but without success. In the early summer, he wrote again, his letter reaching Henry in France in June. Henry is said to have suggested that rather than pay the dowry he would consider re-asserting his rights of Feudal Overlordship over Scotland. James IV was deeply insulted.

Treaty Broken

Although Henry VIII’s response was insulting, it was no reason to go to war. It was however probably enough to influence James IV in deciding between the treaty of Perpetual Peace with England and the Auld Aliance with France. Henry had not only insulted James but had failed to honour the payment of Margaret Tudor’s dowry. In August 1513 Louis XII and his Queen (Anne of Brittany) requested James to honour the Auld Alliance and to invade England. James found it easy to respond.

The Muster (by 17th August 1513)

James IV received letters from Louis XII and Anne of Brittany in early August while resident in Linlithgow Palace. He ordered that his forces should muster at Boroughmuir in Edinburgh, equipped with 20 days of supplies and ready to march, no later than 17th August. A second muster was ordered for the Borders at Ellemkirk (now Ellemford). On 17th August James led his forces and his artillery train south-east from Edinburgh, heading for the English border and prepared for a major battle. Riding at the head of a column which included 20 of his most impressive cannon he was observed to be wearing a turquoise ring, sent to him by Anne of Brittany in her letter which begged that he ‘take one yard of English soil’, thus drawing Henry VIII back from France.

The Advance (17th August to 21st August 1513)

Between 17th and 21st the Scottish Army moved towards the English border. The exact route is unknown but it is thought to be via Haddington and then onwards through the Lammermuirs to Ellemkirk to meet the Border muster. From there it passed Duns, where men of the Hay clan joined the column as it advanced towards Coldstream, Ladykirk and the north shore of the Tweed opposite Wark Castle. By this time it is estimated that the Scottish army numbered between 70,000-100,000 men, women and children. Of these, some 30,000-40,000 could be counted as combatants, men who would fight on the battlefield. Supplies may also have been sent by sea from Leith at least as far as Dunbar or to Eyemouth. Some armaments may have arrived from France directly to Dunbar.

The Invasion (22nd August 1513)

The Scottish Army crossed the Tweed at Coldstream on 22nd August 1513, witnessed by the Nuns of Coldstream Priory. At about the same time, the castles at Norham and Wark came under siege from Scottish guns. It seems that James deliberately chose to avoid laying siege to Berwick-upon-Tweed as it may have been too hard a target. In the next few days, James’ army also captured the castles at Etal and Ford and with them the important crossing places on the River Till. Between 1st and 8th September the Scottish Army also fortified an extensive position on the top of Flodden Hill, Flodden Edge, and the King’s Chair. It was there that James waited for the English Army to arrive.

Surrey waits for news

The Earl of Surrey, appointed to defend the north from the Scots, took up residence during the summer at Pontefract Castle. On 24th August, three days after the Scots crossed the border, he received news of the invasion. Surrey immediately ordered a muster of English forces at Bolton, a small village west of Alnwick, no later than 5th September. He also arranged to meet his son, Thomas Howard, the Lord Admiral, with the English Fleet in Newcastle on 1st or 2nd September. He ordered food and other supplies to be stockpiled in Newcastle and Berwick.

Surrey advances (24th August to 5th September 1513)

Surrey left Pontefract and headed for York to collect a purse of £14,000 with which to pay his army. He continued north to Durham Cathedral (where he collected the Banner of St Cuthbert). No English army that had marched to Scotland with this banner had ever lost a battle. He then arrived in Newcastle on 1st September and was forced to await the arrival of his son, the Lord Admiral, aboard the Fleet Flagship, the Mary Rose. A storm in the North Sea delayed the fleet until the 2nd.

From Newcastle, Surrey, his son the Lord Admiral and over 900 sailors from the fleet marched north, first to Alnwick and then to the muster at Bolton. From here, Surrey wrote to James IV asking him to wait for the English to advance north and challenging him to fight a battle no later than 9th September. James accepted as it was his intention to fight.

The battle commences

The Scots open fire

As the English army advanced out of the Pallinsburn the Scottish artillery opened fire. Their inability to fully depress the barrels of their cannon and their slow rate of fire limited the effectiveness of their bombardment.

The English respond

When the English guns responded, for the first time in history they aimed not at Scottish soldiers but at Scottish artillery, engaging in what would later become known as counter-bombardment.The English guns were light and easily elevated so as to reach the Scottish guns. They fired at a higher rate of fire and soon put James’ artillery out of action.They then turned to the Scottish soldiers with devastating effect.

The Scots advance

As commander of the Scottish Army James IV had two main tasks: to choose the ground to fight on and to issue the order to advance. The ‘Articles of Battaille’, the official English account was written by the Lord Admiral on the day after the battle, tell us ‘the Scots advanced silently, in good order, German fashion.’ Around 4pm the command to advance was given by James and the Scottish left flank started down the hill. As the rear men in the left flank passed the front of the next unit (centre-left) the latter would start marching too, and so on. The Scots advanced in ‘echelon’, a diagonal line across the field. The aim was for the left flank to overwhelm the English right, then turn and attack along the English line so that the English would be fighting on two fronts.

The English engage

On the left, Hume and Huntly’s advance was successful, forcing the English right flank to retreat and placing its commander Edmund Howard under great pressure.To the east, the Scottish centre-left walked into a bog that could not be seen until they were standing in it. As this unit stalled, the English advanced and began a massacre of the bogged Scots.

It seems likely that James IV saw this, and departed his command position on the top of Branxton Hill, joining and taking command of the Scottish centre-right unit. His presence forced their advance through the bog were exhausted, they met the English centre commanded by the Earl of Surrey. Heavy fighting ensued, in which James IV was killed.The Scottish right flank under Argyll and Lennox also became bogged and was overwhelmed by the forces of Stanley on the English left.

On the English right, Edmund Howard was relieved by the English reserve, led by Dacre. Hume and Huntly left the field, probably commanded to do so by James IV, to secure the potential line of retreat to the fords at Coldstream.

To find out more you will simply have to get here. It is one of those places in the world for you to use your imagination and when stood on top of the hill at the monument, look around and imagine 14,000 men dead, with no doubt cries from soldiers with horrendous injuries and the fields covered in blood; it conjures up awful visions.

Leaving those visions behind we retrace our tyre tracks and head now to Ford & Etal estates (the signs we passed on the way to Flodden). Finding the signs again on the A697, heading south we turn left into the estates. However, this is an estate with a difference, one with a corn mill, tea room, light railway, heavy horse centre, and a beautiful Gallery all set in gorgeous countryside.

Ford & Etal is a place to discover.

Home to the Joicey family for over 100 years, this large rural Northumberland estate offers a host of places to visit and things to do plus a great range of accommodation. Centred on the two villages of Ford & Etal which lie in the valley of the River Till, between the Scottish Border and the Cheviot Hills and just a few miles inland from Holy Island and Bamburgh, a visit here is a journey with no set trail or prescribed route. Whether exploring the corn mill, walking the Flodden battlefield, viewing the stunning pre-Raphaelite paintings in Ford, riding on the steam railway, enjoying home baking in one of the tearooms, or exploring the more hidden corners of this estate Ford & Etal offer you a warm Northumbrian welcome and a great day out!

So let us explore a little of what this amazing area has to offer;

Motorbike Tours Northumberland – Corn Mill Ford & Etal estates

Heatherslaw Corn Mill

Sitting on the banks of the River Till, Heatherslaw Mill is the only place in Northumberland where you can experience the sight, sound, and smell of a traditional mill. You can learn how to operate the hoist, grind your own flour, try your hand at bread-making then take home some freshly milled flour to make your own wonderful creations at home.

There is a history of over 700 years of milling on this site. Powered by a 16-foot water wheel the fully-restored mill machinery, including three different pairs of millstones, still makes high quality, stoneground, wholemeal flour from wheat grown in the local fields.

You can explore the historic building, watch the milling process from beginning to end and see the 21st-Century millers at work.

Motorbike Tours Northumberland – Steam Train Ford & Etal estates

Heatherslaw Light Railway

A 15” gauge steam railway running from Heatherslaw, 6.4km to Etal Village – a return journey of 50 minutes.

Railway Shop & Ticket Office open from 1000 hours.

Trains leave Heatherslaw every hour on the hour from 11am-3pm inclusive and return from Etal on the half hour from 11.30am-3.30pm inclusive. All tickets are for return journeys and can be purchased at the ticket office, or at Etal from the guard. Coaches are covered so you may still enjoy the train on a rainy day.  Free car parking at Heatherslaw and at Etal (adjacent Etal Castle). There is be a 4pm train daily from Heatherslaw, departing from Etal at 4.30pm.

Motorbike Tours Northumberland – Lady Waterford Hall Ford & Etal estates

Lady Waterford Hall!

This inspiring building was commissioned in 1860 by Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford, and owner of Ford Estate. It was the village school until 1957 and in its heyday had as many as 134 local children on the register and really is a ‘must see’ on a visit to north Northumberland.

Lady Waterford was a keen English artist associated with John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite movement and spent 21 years decorating the interior of the Hall with stunning Biblical scenes as a teaching aid for pupils. Many of the children and other villagers were used as models and can be clearly seen on the walls. Louisa Waterford is now recognised as one of the most interesting and gifted artists of her time and many of her original smaller artworks are displayed in the Hall, as well as a display from her sketchbooks.

Not only does the estate offer things to see and do but it is also a wonderful place to just relax a while, maybe sitting next to the river and enjoying the atmosphere. Also, being close to the battle of Flodden there is every reason to believe you will be riding and walking over ground that soldiers from 500 years ago once walked too. (find out more on

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