Margaret Tudor and the Battle of Flodden

A Tale of Two Queens

Chapter 3 : The Final Victory

Under the terms of James’s will, his ‘most dearest spouse’, was now Regent of Scotland, making Queen Margaret the first Tudor woman to rule a kingdom. She had no experience of government, but she was determined to protect her son. A General Council was called at the great Parliament Hall of Stirling Castle, and the coronation of her seventeen-month old son, James V, took place there in the Chapel Royal on 21st September. Robert Carver’s moving Mass for ten voices, ‘Dum Sacrum Mysterium’, was sung at what became known as the ‘mourning coronation’ because of the outpouring of grief for those who had died.

Henry returned home from France in late October, after taking Tournai, and rode hard to Richmond to see Katherine. There the victorious husband and wife were reunited and, ‘there was such a loving meeting as everyone rejoiced’. Margaret had hoped to build on Katherine’s letter of sympathy, and asked her sister-in-law to put her in her brother’s remembrance, ‘that his kindness may be known to our lieges and realm’. [1] But as Henry took charge of the follow up to Flodden, Scotland’s agony continued. His captains were ordered to strike again and again north of the border, burning corn and destroying villages.  As the desperate, starving Scots began to turn on each other, Henry was sent the chilling assessment that, ‘there is neither law, nor reason, nor justice at this day, either used or kept in Scotland, but get what you can’. [2]  

It was February 1514 before he decided they had been punished enough. A treaty was signed shortly before Margaret retreated into her chamber for the period of her confinement and the delivery of her husband’s posthumous child. 

In April 1514 Alexander, Duke of Ross was born, but Margaret had little time to recover. The Scots Council wanted a military leader, not a female Regent, and there were calls for the return from exile of James IV’s cousin, John Stuart, Duke of Albany. She was soon ousted as Regent. The Scots never really forgave her for being English born. 

It was through Margaret, however, that the Scottish crown would eventually triumph over that of England, for in dynastic matters having children was still more important than winning battles. It was Margaret, and not Katherine of Aragon, whose heirs would carry forward the royal bloodlines of England, as well as Scotland. In 1603, on the death of Elizabeth I, Margaret’s great-grandson united the crowns of England and Scotland as James VI & I. The ghosts of the Flodden were laid to rest at last, with peace between the once warring kingdoms, a victory for all.

[1] L&P2 (2440)

[2] L&P vol I pt ii (2973) Reported by Lord Dacre to Henry VIII. I have modernised the English. James IV had done much to restore law and order to Scotland, but the violence had returned worse than ever.