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Flodden: From Battlefield to Tartan

On the 9th of September 1513, the Scots and English armies met in battle on Flodden Field, close to Branxton Northumberland…a battle that caused such devastation it is still commemorated to this day.
To understand the true cost of Flodden we must take a look back in time…Scotland was a loyal ally of France and, famously, both were rarely saw eye-to-eye with England. In a bid to distract the English army from their seemingly endless campaign against France in the South, the Scottish army crossed the Border into England to launch a distracting campaign to divide up the English forces from the North.

The Scots crossed the border, some accounts say, around 60,000 strong. From Edinburgh they travelled through the Scottish Borders, men joining as they marched to fight alongside their King, James IV. By the time the Scottish army reached England, a vast amount of its forces were Bordersmen.

James IV had ruled Scotland from 1488 and was hailed as a peacekeeping king, who ruled throughout a time of growing prosperity throughout the country. Consequently, this prosperity allowed Scotland a strong and well-equipped military. He was devout in his commitment to support France, fellow Catholics…and also the husband of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret Tudor – a tricky position to be in as a keeper of peace married to your enemy’s sister…who is also at war with your ally.
Still, he took up arms against the English and rode his army south in what appeared to be a successful endeavour – they look castles and forts on the Border and into Northumberland, they gained strategically what seemed to be the ideal ground a top Branxton Hill on Flodden Moor for pitched battle, perfect for the Scots continental weapon of choice – the 16 foot long pike…


The English forces, lead by Thomas Howard, Early of Surrey were, in appearances weak in comparison to the Scots mighty army – only 26,000 men challenged what was now 40,000 at Flodden Moor. James was confident, he rejected Howard’s plea for the Scots to move into a fairer position and so the Early of Surrey set to work on a plan to out manoeuvre them. The English force split into six and flanked around the Scots troops on top the high ground – they could no longer retreat north, there was no where to go and their pikes were as good as useless in this battle scenario.
By mid-afternoon on the 9th of September 1513, the battle commenced – the Scots trapped between the landscape which had turned on them and the English troops attacking from the North. The Scots faced heavy artillery fire, archers and foot-soldiers scaling the hill toward them. They went from a position of strength to being totally out-strategised, their position used against them. There was nowhere to run.
James IV fell at the Battle of Flodden, the last monarch on the British Isles to die in combat, along with 10,000 Scotsmen, a devastating loss still felt and commemorated particularly throughout the Scottish Borders to this day. Generations of brave Bordersmen were lost, the Scots feared an imminent invasion and Edinburgh got to work building defences, the Flodden Wall.


The wall was spared from invasion this time, but did see military action later in the 16th century. Today, parts of it still stand or have been incorporated into other structures. Gordon Nicolson Kiltmakers hire department sits where the wall once stood on what is now St. Mary’s Street.

Throughout the summer months, the Battle of Flodden is commemorated throughout the Scottish Borders. A recent return to similar events is also enjoying increasing support the nations capital, Edinburgh.
Each Town festival upholds dearly kept traditions and ceremony rooted in the Borders towns tumultuous pasts, where the true meanings are often "better felt that tellt". Hawick, Selkirk, Coldstream, Duns all commemorate events directly connecting to the Battle of Flodden, as does the recently revived Edinburgh Riding of the Marches.   
The Flodden Tartan was designed by Gordon Nicolson in 2013 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, where King James IV led the Scots against the armies of King Henry VIII and became the last reigning British Monarch to die in battle.
Gordon Nicolson felt moved to create a woven cloth which might reflect the deep sentiment which still ripples through the Borderlands, when Flodden is remembered.
This cloth commemorates those who fought, those who died on both Scottish and English sides of the battle in 1513, as well as acknowledging the far-reaching effects of the battle for the generations who followed.
The colours woven here will forever lock together the two sides involved in the battle which took the lives of so many and devastated the lives of so many more for generations;

Red & Gold - represent the Lion Rampant of Scotland,
Green & White - represent the English Tudor colours,
Grey & Brown - represent the ground they fought for and where those defeated still lie.
Poignantly, the tartan is woven by Lochcarron of Scotland in Selkirk, a town where the aftermath of the battle is deeply felt, due to its severe losses.


The tartan has been developed into not only exclusive hand tailored kilts and trews for GNK customers,but also a complimentary range of thoughtful gifts and accessories. Louise Nicolson is a Borders lass, born & bred who spent her formative years following Common Ridings, and like every Borderer, the sorrow of Flodden is in her DNA.  The Flodden Commemorative Tartan Collection forms an intrinsically meaningful element of the LoullyMakes brand.

Flodden Lambswool Scarf
Flodden Commemorative Tartan Shawl by LoullyMakes