1547 - Battle of Pinkie: Scots defeated by English


In the early years of Mary's reign, foreign invasions were a constant threat. The English wanted more than soothing diplomacy from the Queen Mother - Mary of Guise - they wanted custody of little Mary herself, in order to marry her to their child-king Edward VI. The result was another in the series of invasions known to later history as 'the Rough Wooing' and the catastrophic Scots defeat at the battle of Pinkiecleuch, on 10 September 1547. William Patten, a Londoner (as he proudly styles himself on the title page of his work), came to Scotland with the invasion force and saw for himself the dreadful carnage left in the wake of the successful English assault. To the Scottish Catholic church, the English invaders were heretics, and a good turn-out of church men and their vassals was a feature of the Scottish side. Alas, the Kirk militant had little success. The battle was a disaster, with casualties greater than at Flodden. Mary had to be spirited to safety at the island priory of Inchmahome whilst arrangements were made to evacuate her to France.

Soon after this notable strewing of their footmen's weapons, began a pitiful sight of the dead corpses lying dispersed abroad, some their legs off, some but houghed, and left lying half-dead, some thrust quite through the body, others the arms cut off, diverse their necks half a sunder, many their heads cloven, of sundry the brains pasht out, some others again their heads quite off, with other many kinds of killing. After that and further in chase, all for the most part killed either in the head or in the neck, for our horsemen could not well reach the lower with their swords. And thus with blood and slaughter of the enemy, this chase was continued five miles in length westward from the place of their standing, which was in the fallow fields of Inveresk until Edinburgh Park and well nigh to the gates of the town itself and unto Leith, and in breadth nigh 4 miles, from the Firth sands up toward Dalkeith southward. In all which space, the dead bodies lay as thick as a man may note cattle grazing in a full replenished pasture. The river ran all red with blood, so that in the same chase were counted, as well by some of our men that somewhat diligently did mark it as by some of them taken prisoners, that very much did lament it, to have been slain above 14 thousand. In all this compass of ground what with weapons, arms, hands, legs, heads, blood and dead bodies, their flight might have been easily tracked to every of their three refuges. And for the smallness of our number and shortness of the time (which was scant five hours, from one to well nigh six) the mortality was so great, as it was thought, the like aforetime not to have been seen. Indeed it was the better maintained with their own swords that lay each where scattered by the way, whereof our men, as they had broke one still took up another; there was store enough, and they laid it on freely, that right many among them at this business broke three or four ere they returned homeward to the army. I may well perchance confess, that herein we used some sharpness (although not as much as we might) and little courtesy, and yet I can safely avow, all done by us, as rather by sundry respects driven and compelled, then either of cruelty or delight in slaughter. And like someway to the diligent master that sharply sometime (when warning will not serve) doth beat his scholar, not hardly for hate of child, or his own delight in beating, but for love he would have him amend his faults or negligence and beats him once surely because he would need to beat him no more. One cause of the correction we used, I may well count to be their tyrannous vow they made (which we certainly heard of) that whensoever they fought and overcame, they would slay so many, and spare so few, a sure proof of whereof they plainly had showed at our onset before, where they killed all, and saved not a man.

Another respect was to revenge their great and cruel tyranny shown at Panyarhough [the battle of Ancrum Moor, 1545 - a Scottish victory] where they slew the Lord Evers [Sir Ralph Eure] and cruelly killed as many else of our men as came in their hands . . . Another thing and not the meanest matter was that their armour amongst them so little differed, and their apparel so base and beggarly, wherein the Lurdein [rascal] was in a manner all one with the Lord, and the loun [commoner] with the laird: all clad alike in jacks covered with white leather, doublets of the same or of fustian and most commonly all white hose. Not one with either chain, brooch, ring or garment of silk that I could see, unless chains of latten drawn four of five times along the thighs of their hose and doublet sleeves for cutting; and of that sort I saw many. This vileness of port [appearance], was the cause that so many of their great men and gentlemen were killed and so few saved. The outward show, the semblance and sign whereby a stranger might discern a villein from a gentleman was not among them to be seen. As for words and goodly proffer of great ransoms, [they] were as common and rife in the mouths of the one as of the other. And therefore hereby it came to pass that after, at the examination and counting of the prisoners we found taken about above twenty of their villeins to one of their gentlemen: whom no man need to doubt, we had rather have spared, then the villeins, if we could have known any difference between them in taking. And yet notwith-standing all these our just causes and quarrels to kill them, we showed more grace and took more to mercy then the case on our side, for the cause aforesaid did well deserve or require . . . for the prisoners accounted by the Marshal's book were numbered to above 1500. Touching the slaughter, sure we killed nothing so many as (if we had minded cruelty so much) for the time and opportunity right well we might, for my Lord's grace, of his wonted mercy, much moved with the pity of this sight, and rather glad of victory, than desirous of cruelty, soon after (by guess) five of the clock stayed his standard of his horsemen at the furthest part of their camp westward and caused the trumpets to blow a retreat. Whereat Sir Ralph Sadler treasurer (whose great diligence at the time and ready forwardness in the chiefest of the fray before did worthily merit no small commendation) caused all the footmen to stay and then with much travail and great pain, made them to be brought into some order again. It was a thing yet not easily to be done, by reason they all as then somewhat busily applied their market to the spoil of the Scottish camp, wherein were found good provision of white bread, ale, oatcakes, oatmeal, mutton, butter in pots, cheese and in diverse tents good wine also; good store to say truth, of good victual for the manner of the country. And in some tents among them (as I heard say) were also found of silver plate a dish or two, 2 or 3 goblets and 3 or 4 chalices, the which the finders (I know not with what reverence but with some devotion hardly) plucked out of the cold clouts and thrust into their warm bosoms...

It was a wonder to see, but that (as they say) many hands make light work, how soon the dead bodies were stripped out of their garments stark naked, even from as far as the chase went until the place of our onset; whereby the personages of our enemies might by the way easily be viewed and considered; the which for tallness of stature, cleanness of skin, bigness of bone with due proportion of all parts, I for my part advisedly noted to be such, as but that I saw that it was so, I would not have believed sure so many of that sort to have been in all their country. Among them lay there many priests and kirkmen, as they call them, of whom it was bruited amongst us, that there was a whole band of 3 or 4 thousand, but we were after informed, it was not altogether so...

Among these [the Scots] weapons and beside several other banners, standards and pennons, a banner of white sarcenet was found under which it was said these kirkmen came, whereupon was painted a woman with her hair about her shoulders, kneeling before a crucifix, and on her right hand a church; after that written a long upon a banner in great roman letters afflictae sponsae ne obliviscaris [Do not forget your afflicted spouse]; which words declared that they would have this woman to signify the church, Christ's spouse and thus in humble wise making her petition unto Christ her husband that he would not now forget her, his spouse, being scourged and persecuted, meaning at this time by us. It was said it was the Abbot of Dunfermline's banner; but whether it was his or the Bishop of Dunkeld's, the governor's brothers [brothers of the Regent Arran] (who I understand were both in the field) and what the number of kirkmen was, I could not certainly learn: but I was sure it was some devout papist's device, that not only be like would not endeavor to do ought for atonement and peacemaking between us, but all contrariwise brought forth his standard stoutly to fight in field himself against us; pretexting this his great ungodliness thus bent toward the maintenance of a naughty quarrel with colour of religion to come in aid of Christ's church. Which church to say truth, coming thus to battle full appointed with weapon and guarded with such sort of deacons to fight; however in painting he had set her out, a man might well think in that in condition he had rather framed a cursed quean [hussy] that would pluck her husband by the pate except she had her will, than like a meek spouse that went about humbly by submission and prayer to desire her husband's help for redress of things amiss.

William Patten, 'The Expedicion into Scotlande', printed in Fragments of Scottish History, ed. Sir J. G. Dalyell, Edinburgh, 1798.

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