Flodden 1513: the biggest ever Anglo-Scottish battle

Just over five hundred years ago, a Scottish army invaded England in an attempt to thwart Henry VIII's challenge to their independence. George Goodwin describes what happened when the two sides clashed at Flodden Field

King Henry VIII, shown here around 1520, was in his early 20s when his decision to attack France challenged the position of James IV. (Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the September 2013 issue of BBC History Magazine

In 1542 King Henry VIII published a declaration asserting “the true and right title that the king’s most royal majesty has to the sovereignty of Scotland”. As evidence, he cited ‘history’ and the ancient division of Britain together with documentary ‘proof’ that the kings of Scotland had paid homage to their English superiors no fewer than 17 times from the 10th century onwards.

Although this was an act of the mature and tyrannical Henry, it exactly matched his behaviour 30 years before, when in 1512 he had parliament describe his brother-in-law James IV, King of Scots, as “the very homager and obediencer of right to your Highness”. In 1512, this was a means of indicating that the young Henry was now an active king, no longer passively accepting the peace policies of his father, Henry VII, but one preparing to emulate the actions of his hero Henry V by invading France. But for James IV, it was an extraordinarily hostile act, threatening this gifted monarch’s achievements over two decades and, in particular, that of having finally gained England’s apparent recognition of Scotland’s independence.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now