Alexander, 3rd Lord Home, was executed on the 8th of October, 1516.
On the death of the 2nd Lord Home in 1506, guess what – his son, Alexander, became the 3rd Lord Home and succeeded to the vast estates of that famous Borders family. By the turn of the 16th Century, the Homes had taken their place in the front rank of Scotland’s Nobility. Centuries before that, the family stemmed from a natural son of the 4th Earl of (Dunbar and) March, whose lineage sprang from the Saxon Kings of England and the Cospatrick Earl of Northumberland, before William of Normandy arrived on the scene. The Homes, via marriages of the Dunbar/March Earls, were also in the blood line of the Comyns, who were of Norman origin. However, more than a smidgeon of true Scots blood was infused as Ada, the progenitor-ess of the Homes, was the daughter of a natural daughter of William the Lion. Like many so-called Nobles, the Homes were the product of invaders, foreign exiles, usurping bandits and bastards. What price noblesse oblige.
In 1507, Alexander, 3rd Lord Home, also succeeded his father as Lord Chamberlain of Scotland, becoming, in addition, Warden of the East March. Alexander was confirmed in those honours by Royal Charter of James IV, in February of 1510. Subsequently, in the space of six short and sharp years, Alexander de Home went from being seen as one of the good guys to a coward and traitor – allegedly. He started out well, finding favour with James IV and, in 1513, when war between James and his brother-in-law, Henry VIII, was looming, Home led a marauding foray into England.
At the head of three or four thousand men (hardly eight thousand as some ‘histories’ suggest), Lord Home crossed the border and proceeded to pillage and burn several villages or hamlets, laying waste to the country like a good Reiver. On their way back, laden down with booty and driving a herd of (yes, stolen) cattle, Home’s Borderers fell into an ambush laid by Sir William Bulmer. That took place at Broomfield on Millfield Plain, near Wooler. According to the English chronicler, Holinshead, the Scots were “surprised and defeated with great slaughter,” with five or six hundred being “slain upon the spot.” Holinshead also records that four hundred were taken prisoner, among them Sir George Home, Lord Alexander’s brother. In contrast, George Buchanan, historian, poet and tutor to the young James V, estimated the number of prisoners at a mere two hundred. Buchanan also wrote that it was only Home’s rear columns that succumbed to the ambush, and that the rest of his force made it safely back to Scotland with its plunder.
Soon after, the tragic events that led to the penning of ‘The Flowers of the Forest’ unfolded as James IV led his chivalrous Lords and sundry Earls, Bishops, Nobles and Serfs to their doom at the foot of Branxton Moor. Amongst those Lords was Home with “a powerful array of his followers” forming, along with Lord Huntly’s Gordons, the vanguard of the Scottish army. Home and Gordon began the battle of Flodden Field by mounting a charge on the English right wing, under Sir Edmund Howard, brother of the Admiral. After some initial resistance, Howard’s banner was taken, albeit he managed to escape, and his division was totally routed by the Scots’ momentum.
The start of Alexander Home’s tribulations began after Flodden, mostly because he was one of the few ‘Flowers’ to have returned unhurt. Home’s place in history is littered with accusations of cowardice and treachery; the former for not having “hastened to the relief of his sovereign” who was struggling in a bloody mêlée with the Earl of Surrey. However, the truth is that Home was intercepted by Lord Dacre and the English reserve, who had advanced to support Howard. According to Dacre, in a letter to the English Council, dated the 17th of May, 1514, he engaged Home and Huntly in an encounter, the ferocity of which, judging by its contents, must entirely disprove any accusations, by the likes of Pitscottie, against Home. There are preposterous stories, noted contemporarily by Buchanan and later by Sir Walter Scott, that Home carried his King from the battlefield only to have him murdered afterwards, but no credibility can be given to such fables.
Six months after Flodden, Lord Home was appointed one of the Standing Councillors to Queen Margaret, the Queen Mother, who had been made Regent. Home was also appointed Chief Justice South of the Forth. You’d think then, he’d be ‘on the pig’s back’ as they say, but never expect anything less than the unexpected where medieval politics is concerned. In 1515, Margaret lost the Regency and her influence to the Duke of Albany and a Battle Royale for possession of the infant James V ensued. Margaret didn’t do hersel’ any favours by marrying the Earl of Angus, but Home’s downfall was, let’s say, his misplaced loyalty to his deceased King’s widow.
Referring back to accusations of treachery against Home, his mistake was to engage in an intrigue with his earlier battlefield protagonist, the English Lord Dacre. Guilty as charged! In Home’s defence, his actions were perhaps attempts to protect the Royal House from what he saw as the usurping designs of Albany, himself next in line to the throne, but getting involved in a plot to overthrow the legitimate Government was a step too far. Taking a second step much too far, he then led an English army into Scotland. Subsequently, Alexander was tricked, by promises of amnesty and pardon, into meeting Albany, but instead, he was arrested and held prisoner, by his brother-in-law. His family tie with the Earl of Arran led to Home escaping to England, but amazingly, he was soon back again and restored to his estates, ready for the final betrayal.
Not seemingly having learnt any kind of a lesson, Home continued to cause unrest in the Borders, which led to Albany yet again enticing him to meet. Unwisely, in September, 1516, Alexander, accompanied by his brother William, went to Holyrood Palace, where they were both arrested. On the advice of Albany’s Council, Lord Home and his brother were tried and condemned for treason. Alexander, 3rd Lord Home, was executed on the scaffold outside the Tolbooth in Edinburgh on the 8th of October, 1516. Sir William de Home was executed the following day, after which both men’s heads were placed on spikes on the northern gable of the Tolbooth, where they remained until 1521, when Home of Wedderburn had them buried with honours in the Kirkyard of Greyfriars.
“The Home’s awa’
Tae Heav’n or Hell,
Ye cannae tell,
But ae thing’s sure
He’ll nae be back.”