The Long Game: The Tudors, The Scots, and the Stuart Takeover

James Ryan

To say the relationship between Scotland and England has been precarious is an understatement

To say the relationship between Scotland and England has been precarious is an understatement. Multiple wars between the two neighbouring countries has led to a rivalry as old as time immemorial. And yet, in 1603 King James VI of Scotland was crowned king of England; unifying the crowns and bringing over 600 years of feuding to an apparent end. How on Earth did we get here? The answer lies with the Tudors; Margaret Tudor, to be exact. Scotland had supported the Tudor’s Lancastrian cousins during the War of the Roses, and with Margaret’s father King Henry VII victorious, he sought peaceful relations with his northern neighbours. In 1502, England signed a Treaty of Perpetual Peace with Scotland, then under the rule of the Stewart king, James IV. To solidify this peace, James married Henry VII’s daughter Margaret the following year. The peace that followed was certainly perpetual; it lasted a whole ten years. The catalyst for this breakdown was Margaret’s brother, King Henry VIII. In 1513, Henry declared war on England’s other big rival, France, leading his armies across the English Channel in an invasion. With her ally under attack, Scotland was duty bound to uphold the “Auld Alliance” she made with France in 1295. With Henry away in Europe, his Brother-in-law James mustered a huge Scottish army and marched across the border into England. Crossing the river Tweed near Coldstream, where Edward I had crossed whilst invading Scotland centuries before, James’s army numbered over 40,000. This was the largest Scottish army ever to invade England. The Scots managed to capture several castle strongholds along the border, before hearing of a smaller English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey. Eager to do battle, James led his army to meet them at Branxton Hill, not far from a village called Flodden.
<strong>The Long Game: The Tudors, The Scots, and the Stuart Takeover</strong>
James I of England

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<strong>The Long Game: The Tudors, The Scots, and the Stuart Takeover</strong>
Flodden Memorial

The last British monarch killed in battle.

On the 9th September 1513 James and Surrey met each other across a large stretch of hilly, boggy pasture. James had the larger army and more powerful artillery, but his guns took longer to reload and fire, whilst the English artillery were more accurate and effective. Though the Scots were able to rout the first English advances, they soon found themselves trapped in thick boggy ground. Eventually more and more Scots piled in, including King James himself, who were effortlessly picked off and wiped out by the English soldiers. Flodden was the bloodiest day in Scotland’s history: over 14,000 Scots were killed compared to just 1,500 of the 26,000 English. The most devastating loss for Scotland however was James IV – he was among those dead at Flodden; the last British monarch killed in battle. With her husband dead, Margaret Tudor became regent of Scotland whilst her son James was young. When he was crowned James V, he too would face trouble from his Tudor relations: after James refused to break from the Catholic Church, uncle Henry VIII declared war on Scotland. The Scots were humiliatingly defeated at the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542. James V, devastated at this defeat, died later that year, leaving behind his six-day old daughter Mary (better known as the future Mary Queen of Scots). Mary too would not be able to catch a break – Henry VIII invaded Scotland again as part of the “Rough Wooing”. This was Henry’s retaliation after Scotland refused to offer Mary’s hand in marriage to Henry’s son, Prince Edward. Queen Mary would face her end at the executioner’s axe in 1587 after her cousin and Prince Edward’s sister, Queen Elizabeth I, sentenced her to death for treason. But inevitably, it was the Scottish monarchs who won out after unintentionally playing the long game. In 1566, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to a son called James. He was crowned James VI the following year after his mother was forced to abdicate. Years later, when Queen Elizabeth died childless, the English had no choice but to offer the crown of England to the closest blood link. That blood link led to James VI; son of Elizabeth’s cousin. The Scottish monarchs had won; they were now the rulers of their sworn enemy, and it was all thanks to Margaret Tudor. This connection allowed the House of Stuart to follow the Tudors. And when the crown of Britain transferred from the House of Stuart to the House of Hanover in 1714 it was thanks to family connections with James, and his ancestry with the Stuarts and the Tudors.
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<strong>The Long Game: The Tudors, The Scots, and the Stuart Takeover</strong>

James Ryan

James Ryan lives in Inverness and works at Culloden Battlefield, site of the last pitched battle in Britain, where he works in educating and interpreting the history behind Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite defeat. In his spare time, he can be found either exploring museums or out in the field looking for fossils. His passions lie in both human and natural history; particularly in Scottish history, golden age of piracy, and Victorian natural history. As well as Culloden, James can also be found volunteering at Hugh Miller’s Birthplace Museum in Cromarty where he works with the museum’s fossil collection. If you are interested in seeing what James gets up to, or are interested in learning more about Scottish history and heritage, you can follow him on Instagram at the handle @that_tall_jacobite.
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