Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Battle of Ancrum Moor

The Battle of Ancrum Moor was fought on the 17th of February, 1545.

Over the centuries, representatives of what we now recognise as Scotland and England have been at odds with one another, to say the least, on many an occasion. Anglo-Scottish conflict between nation states or tribes, from north and south of wherever the border was at the time, was rife until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when Scotland’s James VI became James I of England. In the Dark Ages, we had the Northumbrians fighting the Picts or the Scots from Dal Riata. In the Middle Ages, there were umpteen wars and battles, sieges and skirmishes. Typically, they fought over land, particularly Berwick-Upon-Tweed, and the Anglo-Scottish border frequently changed as a result. Major conflicts between the two ‘sides’ include the 1st and 2nd Wars of Scottish Independence, including battles fought by the Bruces in Ulster, and the Rough Wooing. The Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the 17th Century and the Jacobite Risings of the 18th Century don’t count as Anglo-Scottish conflicts, because they were really Civil Wars.

Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, the score stands at Scotland 30, England 24. There was a single draw, which was the indeterminate Action at Earnside (Yrenside); the last military action of William Wallace.

The Battle of Ancrum Moor was one of the battles fought during the War of the Rough Wooing and it took place on the 17th of February, 1545. It was yet another of those ‘against the odds’ Scottish victories and it put an end to English depredations in the Borders – for a while. The Rough Wooing was the sardonic name for the concerted efforts of Henry VIII to force the marriage of the infant Mary I, Queen of Scots, daughter of James V, to Henry’s son Edward.  Between 1544 and 1551, the English King, who looked like he modelled for ‘Sponge Bob’, mixed intermittent diplomacy with force or the threat of force. Nevertheless, in December 1543, prior to hostilities breaking out, the Scottish Parliament, under the Earl of Arran, as Regent for the infant Mary, decided to reject Henry’s overtures and decided to renew the alliance with France instead.

Stung by the rejection, Henry began a ruthless war against Scotland. He ordered the Earl of Hertford, his Warden of the Marches, to devastate Edinburgh, Leith and many other towns. Hertford wholeheartedly and dutifully achieved that task in two campaigns during 1544. The following year, an army under Sir Ralph Eure (a.k.a. Rivers or Evers) and Sir Bryan Laiton arrived at Jedburgh with an army of five thousand soldiers. The objective of the English was to seize the Merse and Teviotdale, which duty they set about with some zeal, committing several atrocities. Those activities of the English meant that the Regent and the Earl of Angus were forced to put aside their differences in order to oppose the invaders. For Angus it was personal as his estates had born the brunt of the invasion and his family tombs had been vandalised by Hertford in 1544. To add insult to injury, Henry granted some of his lands to Sir Ralph, in the expectation that he’d be keeping them. Red Angus had other ideas.

The Scottish army didn’t amount to much in the way of numbers. It consisted of between three hundred and a thousand lances under Angus, and a similar number of troops under the Leslie Earl of Rothes. They were joined by seasoned border mosstroopers under Scott of Buccleuch, whose lands had also suffered at the hands of the English. The English command, on the other hand, had three thousand German and Spanish mercenaries, fifteen hundred English borderers, and seven hundred disaffected Scots at their disposal. A bit obviously one-sided, from a purely mathematical point of view as you’d be forgiven for stating.

Without waiting for reinforcements, The Regent and the Earl of Angus moved to confront the English army on Ancrum Moor. But they didnae lose the heid; for a change, they played things canny. As the English approached, a small Scottish force made a feint attack and then retreated. Fooled perhaps, by the small numbers, and encouraged by their usual arrogance, a good portion of the English force followed in pursuit. What followed next has been repeated many a time since in Cowboy films. As the English dashed over the Hill and chased down the other side, they found that the whole Scottish army was gleefully waiting for them. The Scots pikemen drove the English back in disarray and the entire army scattered. The English lost eight hundred men killed on the battlefield, including Eure and Layton, who got their just deserts, and upwards of a thousand were taken prisoner.

Ancrum Moor was a hugley decisive Scots victory, considering the inequality of their number. The Rough Wooing was a series of three campaigns and the result was Scotland 2, England 1. Apart from Ancrum Moor, the Scots won the Sieges of Haddington, with the sole English victory coming at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Soon after, when Henry VIII died, the war came to an end. You’d think it was but only a temporary reprieve for the Scots as usual, but in fact, the next action wasn’t until 1575. That skirmish became known as the Raid of the Redeswire and it was, effectively, the last Anglo-Scottish battle.

Also worth a mention regarding Ancrum Moor, is the story of Lady Lilliard, after whom the battlefield was later named. She fought against the English and was herself killed in the battle. The remains of her tombstone can still be seen on the battlefield site. And there’s a wee poem in her memory:

Fair maiden Lilliard lies under this stane;
Little was her stature, but muckle was her fame.
Upon the English loons she laid monie thumps,
An’ when her legs were cuttit off, she fought upon her stumps.


  1. Thanks Ian, good one. I was researching from a local viewpoint, Milne's Description of the Parish of Melrose 1743, and was checking the date out of curiosity. Four different dates from four different sources ! Keep up the good work,
    John H.

  2. Aye, thanks John. Dates are always difficult, with the most common discrepancy being old-new calendars. I try to be consistent. My main goal is to get something for each day of the year and I'm on to duplicating days now, apart from the bulk of February, which will be coming soon... Regards, the Pict.