Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

A Scottish Bargain

Posted in General, On This Day on October 17th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

October 17, 1346:  The Battle of Neville’s Cross

King David II of Scotland thought that he was being clever. Imagining that the English army would be spending the next hundred years fighting in France, the sneaky Scotsman invaded his presumably defenseless neighbor. On this day in 1346, at the battle of Neville’s Cross, the English Home Guard could only amass 3500 retirees and 4-Fs to face 12,000 of Scotland’s stoutest lads. However, the English hobby of archery evidently proved more useful than the Scots’ caber toss. (You really could not expect the English to await patiently for a log to fall on them.)

The Scots were routed and King David II was captured. He would spend the next 11 years as an English prisoner, while the Scots and the English negotiated over his ransom. The Scottish opening bid likely was 8 sheep and a gallon of oatmeal. Scotland finally acceded to the sum of 16,000,000 pence. (The Scots refused to think in terms of paying pounds.) Of course, it hardly mattered because the Scots reneged anyway.

King David was actually rather lucky. Most of his successors died fighting the English: James II, James IV and James V. Mary Queen of Scots did not exactly fight the English but she ended up just as dead. James III had the originally to be killed in a civil war with his son, who evidently was in a hurry to be James IV.


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.

The Hollow Crown for Hollow Heads

Posted in General, On This Day on February 20th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – 2 Comments

How would you like to rule over an impoverished, fractious land with the added perk of a violent death? Just send your resume to 15th or 16th century Scotland.

On this day in 1437, James I resolved an argument with some cousins by being stabbed to death. He also set a precedent for names and sudden deaths. His son was James II who, while besieging an English castle in 1460, belatedly discovered a need for caution when standing next to a cannon. He was succeeded by James III whose son just couldn’t wait to be James IV; among royalty, civil wars generally are family reunions. Having killed dear old dad, James IV became king in 1488. In 1513, he had a fatal family reunion, fighting his brother-in-law Henry VIII; and that created a job opening for James V. Unfortunately, in 1542, he died in flight from Uncle Henry. James V forgot to have any legitimate sons and he could not bring himself to naming his heir Jamesette. No, she was known as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her autopsy report is fairly well known. Mary’s heir was…wild guess…James VI; however, he heard of a job opening in London where the pay and longevity were better. He was the first reigning Stuart in nearly 200 years to die of natural causes.

Charles I must have been a traditionalist, chipped off the old block. But his descendants were content to die of the pox (both syphilitic or small) and alcoholism.