CHAPTER V. HENRY VIII (i), 1509-27 - EGO ET REX MEUS
Eastward of Flodden the Till flows north to join the Tweed. Surrey put the Till between himself and the Scottish army, and marched north, his movement masked by hills on his left, with the intention of reaching Berwick, or of threatening the Scottish communications. Arrived at Barmoor Wood, the Admiral, Thomas Howard, Surrey's son, proposed to march west, cross the Till, and move south again, threatening the rear of James's position. The operation, involving a very hard march, was carried out. The main army crossed at Twizel Mill, the rearguard fording the stream as high up as Sandyford; the junction being effected behind Branxton Marsh. The passage of the troops might easily have been prevented; but James, very inefficiently served in scouting, knew nothing of what was going on. When the approach of the English became known, he suddenly resolved to descend and give battle [Footnote: The traditions concerning the King and the old Earl of Angus on this occasion have been very untenderly handled by Mr. Andrew Lang, Hist. Scot., 1., p. 390.] on the plain, instead of remaining in his almost impregnable position. So on the afternoon of September 9th was fought the bloody and decisive battle of Flodden. Of the two armies, the Scottish was probably the larger; but the English captains had their troops better in hand than the border lords on the Scottish left, or the highland chiefs on their right. After fierce fighting, the Scottish wings were broken, and the Scottish centre was completely enveloped. There, headed by the King, fought the pick of the Scottish chivalry. The stand made was magnificent, the slaughter appalling. The English victory this time was one not of the bow - as so often before - but of the bill or axe against the spears in which the northern nation trusted. By hewing away the spear-heads, the English disabled their opponents; yet they fought on, till man by man they fell around their monarch. The King himself, brave as any man on the field, was slain; in the ring of his dead companions in arms were found the bodies of thirteen earls, three bishops, and many valiant lords. There were few families in Scotland which did not contribute to that hecatomb, whereof the memory is enshrined in the national song of lamentation, "The Flowers of the Forest".
[Effects of Flodden]
For many a long year the military power of Scotland was broken on the black day of Flodden. From that quarter Henry was to have no more serious fears. Great and decisive, however, as Surrey's [Footnote: Surrey was rewarded with the Dukedom of Norfolk, held by his father. Accordingly, after this he becomes "Norfolk," and his son Thomas becomes "Surrey". In 1524 the son succeeded to the Dukedom, and is the "Norfolk" of the latter half of the reign, the "Surrey" of its last years being his son Henry.] triumph was, the English also had paid a heavy price, and were unable to follow up victory by invasion. But Scotland had not only lost the best and bravest of her sons; the King's death left the Crown to a babe not eighteen months old, and the government of the country to the babe's mother, Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII., and to a group of nobles, to whose personal feuds and rivalries, constantly fomented by English diplomacy, the interests of the Scottish nation were completely subordinated.
[Recovery of English prestige]
The year 1513 had completely restored the reputation of the English arms. The sea-fight off Brest, the successes at Terouenne and Tournai, and, finally, the great victory of Flodden, proved beyond dispute that Englishmen only needed to be well led to show themselves as indomitable as ever they had been in the past. The march of 8th and 9th September immediately before Flodden was a feat which not many commanders would have cared to attempt, and few troops could have carried out. And it had become evident that generalship was not, after all, a lost art. It was now time for Europe to discover that England, habitually inferior to other nations in the arts of diplomacy, possessed in Wolsey a diplomatist of the highest order. The old King had indeed been as little susceptible to the beguilement of fair promises, as shrewd in detecting his neighbours' designs, little less capable of concealing his own, little less tenacious in pursuing them; but his designs themselves had not the amplitude of Wolsey's, who shewed all Henry's skill combined with a far greater audacity in execution, commensurate with the greater audacity and scope of his conceptions. Wolsey was one of those statesmen, rare in England, who for half a generation aimed, with a large measure of success, at dominating the combinations of the European Powers without involving the country in any tremendous war.
[1514 Foreign intrigues]
Before the winter of 1513 Henry VIII. returned to England, with every intention of following up his successes in the French war in the ensuing year. The campaign, however, had not been at all to the liking of Ferdinand, who gained nothing by the English victories in the north-west. These tended to strengthen his grandson Charles in the Netherlands, where Maximilian's influence over him was stronger; while Ferdinand was bent above all things on maintaining his own control over the boy, and by consequence over Castile. So Ferdinand set about making his own peace privily with France, and trying to draw off Maximilian so as to isolate Henry. In April, 1514, he accomplished his object, and a truce was declared between Ferdinand, the Emperor, and France.