Battle of Ancrum Moor
King Henry VIII was a lively sort, and rather than spend his dotage idling away at the backgammon board, or reclining in his easy chair, cradling a glass of Chartreuse, he went to war.
Courting Scotland’s alliance, the king hoped that an arranged marriage between his son Prince Edward and the infant Mary Queen Of Scots could bring the countries together in diplomatic wedlock. The Scots agreed… to a point. But Scotland took cold feet, and baulked at the the thought of marching up the altar to be greeted with an old foe – the nation’s sovereignty would probably have been scattered like confetti. In their wisdom, the Scots decided that the infant queen’s hand would be guaranteed to the French; the Dauphin’s charm all the more winning when ensconced within the bosom of the Auld Alliance . In no mood to wait at the altar – he was an old man after all – Henry VIII marched to war. Or rather, he sent some of his men to strong-arm the Scots into an alliance.
And so the period known as the Rough Wooing began – it was aptly named. Henry VIII ordered the Earl Of Hertford to amble round Edinburgh and Leith , battering them into submission. The border towns were not spared the king’s aggression; woman and children perished when Brumehous Tower was torched. Southern Scotland was in a sorry state. Such was the scale of the king’s sorties, even the curmudgeonly pairing of James Hamilton, 2nd Earl Of Arran and Archibald Douglas, Earl Of Angus, would put aside their differences and knit together a Scottish army to eject the English interlopers. The English were merciless. Razing towns and villages in an attempt to secure Scotland’s alliance was a curious tactic. But then again, subtlety had rarely graced relations between the two neighbours.
The Battle Of Ancrum Moor took place just a few miles from the Scottish border town of Jedburgh. Scott Of Buccleuch would join the fight. Scotland’s army was now representative of the nation’s outrage; Arran , Angus and the Borders would all face the English army. Sir Ralph Eure and Sir Brian Layton led an English army fortified by about 3,000 German and Spanish mercenaries – there were even some Scottish Borderers among their ranks.
Though the Scottish army were heavily outnumbered, they would triumph under a setting sun. Lured into action by a small band of Scots having a go at Gersit Law, the English gave chase. It ended on Palace Hill, with the remainder of the Scots army ambushing the English and rolling them off the hill. As the English frontline cracked, their efforts collapsed – the Scottish contingent in the English army switched allegiances again. Although Scotland’s victory was robust enough to cool Henry VIII’s ardour, it would not put an end to the war.
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