Posts Tagged ‘Earl of Surrey’

On This Day in 1513

Posted in On This Day on September 9th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – 5 Comments

James IV of Scotland created a job vacancy for James V. The battle of Flodden was a real boon to Scottish probate lawyers and undertakers. Of course, James IV had not planned on wiping out half of the Scottish nobility, along with 12,000 less socially prominent men. His last emotion would have been genuine surprise. He had invaded England, with 30,000 men, under the impression that the English were defenseless. His brother-in-law Henry VIII had taken England’s best men-at-arms to invade France. All England had left was its home guard led by the elderly Earl of Surrey.

So the carefree James took a leisurely approach to his invasion, rambling around the Northern shires, besieging a castle here and there. The Earl of Surrey was 70, but he proved very spry, amassing and organizing an army to meet the Scots. True, Surrey’s forces were the B-team of English long bowmen, which meant they were only the second best archers in the world.

When confronted by this English force at Flodden, James arrayed his army on the high ground to resist any cavalry attack. This would have been an excellent defense if he had been fighting the French. However, the English never squandered their knights on pointless frontal assaults. Their horsemen were used for flanking manuevers, cutting off retreats–tactics that actually were intelligent. So the Scottish troops stood their high ground and got to play “catch the arrow.”

Aside from their aerial vulnerability, the Scots’ defensive position was precarious. On the positive side, hey could only be attacked in one direction; however, they also could only retreat in one direction. Unfortunately, it was the same direction–where the English army was. So the Scots charged, and they did not do well. Now was the time for the English cavalry to outflank and cut off retreat. The battle became a trap and the trap became a slaughter. The Scots lost at least 12,000 men; the English at most 1,500.

For his victory, the Earl of Surrey was granted the title of Duke of Norfolk. In fact, he had been the Duke of Norfolk for a few minutes in 1485. His father had died at Bosworth Field–on the wrong side. The Earl did not have any time to exercise his inherited title. He had been on the wrong side, too; the captured Earl was brought before the victorious Henry VII–and given the chance to talk his way out of execution. The Earl said he loyally served whoever wore the English crown; since Henry now was king, Surrey would serve him too. Henry liked that answer; he dispossessed Surrey of his dukedom but let him live and prove his loyalty.

In 1513, his probation period ended with the victory at Flodden. Thomas Howard once again became the Duke of Norfolk, a title that the Howards still hold.

As for the Stuarts, they kept getting killed by the Tudors–James V and Mary–but still managed to outlast them.