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I.-THE BATTLE OF FLODDEN.
BY THOMAS HODGKIN, D.C.L., F.S.A. [Read on the 26th August and 28th October, 1891.] HAVING been selected to describe the site of the battle of Flodden to the members of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, and having for that purpose made a pretty careful survey of the field under the most helpful guidance of Mr. Watson Askew-Robertson, I propose in the following paper to tell, as briefly as I can, the story of the great encounter. I will not apologise for what some would call the presumption of adding anything to the immortal sixth canto of Varmion. I am loyal to Sir Walter to my heart's core, and would venture to maintain that his description of Flodden is the finest battle-piece that has been painted in words since Homer sany of the wrath of Achilles. But Prose has his office as well as his sister Poetry. While she sweeps majestically through the air we sons of Prose may creep humbly along the ground with our measuring.chain, and survey the fields which her wings have overshadowed. The highest aim of any historian of this battle can now be only to give his readers a prosaic explanation of some point which Scott, by the rules of his art, was forced to leave unnoticed.
More substantial is the need of an apology for treating of a subject which has been already so well handled in our own Archaeologia (vol. iii. (n.s.), pp. 197-230) by that careful and industrious antiquary, Mr. Robert White, and in a somewhat more popular manner, but with great accuracy, by the Rev. Robert Jones, vicar of Branxton.* My only excuse can be that when one has read a good deal concerning a spirit-stirring scene like this, one is under a strong inclination to tell the story over again in one's own words, however well it may have been told by one's predecessors; and, moreover, in a few points,
* The Battle of Flodden Field.' Coldstream. 1869; also, Proc. Bern. Nat. Club, vol. iv., p. 305.
especially with reference to the conduct of James IV. my conclusions are not precisely the same as those of my prosaic predecessors, nor even as Sir Walter's. But enough of apologies. I will briefly indicate the chief sources of the narrative as far as I am acquainted with them.
(1) Undoubtedly the best authority that we at present possess is the Gazettel of the battle, which was printed in black letter by Richard Faques, 'dwellyng in Poulys Churche Yerde,' and which has been two or three times reprinted. The absolutely contemporary character of this narrative is shown by its enumeration of the losses of the English • Syr John Gower of Yorkeshyre and Syr John Boothe of Lancasshyre both wantynge, and as yet not founden.' It of course gives the English side of the story, and, unfortunately, for the actual events of the battle it is rather meagre.
(2) Next in order come the letters and documents published in the Calendar of State Papers. These are of great value, though not quite so full as we could wish. There are accounts for the payment of wages to Lord Surrey and his soldiers ; letters about the campaign from Katharine of Arragon to her husband and to Wolsey, the very interesting and naïve letters of Ruthal, bishop of Durham (also to Wolsey), two important letters from Lord Dacre, Lord Surrey's cartel to James IV., and an Account of the battle of Flodden,' anonymous, but evidently put forth by authority.
(3) Next, but at a long interval in time, is the narrative of the historian Edward Hall, compiled about 1533. No other authority, I think, marks the dates so carefully as Hall, and on the whole his is perhaps the best and fullest account of the battle, but with some little signs of bias and partiality.
(4) Rather more impartial but not quite so full, and yet farther from the time, is Raphael Holinshed, who wrote his Chronicles in the early part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and published them in 1571. It is to be observed that Holinshed tells the story of Flodden twice over-once in the English Chronicles, and once in the Historie of Scotland; but in this latter work he is confessedly only abstracting the Scottish historians who had gone before him.3
Not self-styled by that name.
2 . He perfited and writt this historie no further than to the foure and twentie yere of Kyng Henry the Eight.'— Richard Grafton's Preface,
3 Who were these? Hector Boece does not reach so far.
CHIEF SOURCES OF NARRATIVE
The two Scottish historians from whom we get the fullest account of the battle appear to be (5) Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie (about 15001565) and (6) George Buchanan (1506-1582), the celebrated tutor of James VI., and versifier of the Psalms. The first is little more than a name to us, whilst the second is one of the best-known literary characters of Scotland; but for our present purpose they may not improperly be classed together, since both give us that version of the history which was generally current in Scotland in the first and second generations after Flodden was fought. Pitscottie's work is incomparably the more interesting to a modern reader, giving as it does the very form and fashion of the times,' the story of the great overthrow as the writer may have heard it in his boyhood told in broad Scotch, with many a 'waeful' ejaculation by grey-headed beldames whose sons had fallen in the fight. But of course history collected from such sources as this is apt to contain a large infusion of somewhat inaccurate gossip, and this is probably the character of some of Pitscottie's statements.
Buchanan's is a history written in Latin in "correct' and classical fashion, after the model of Sallust or Livy, but does not I think show any great endeavour after minute historical accuracy, while it certainly is far less pictorial than that of Pitscottie.
(7) Lastly, we come to the source from which we derive perhaps more of the colouring of the picture than any other, but which must be considered inferior as an authority to any of those already namedThe Ballad of Flodden Field. This curious poem was probably written towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth. The writer is evidently a great admirer of the glories of the Stanley family, and it has been therefore conjectured that he was a native either of Lancashire or of Cheshire, where the influence of that family was most felt. Much, but not all, of the ballad might have been written by an author who had a volume of Hall or Holinshed before him. It is perhaps allowable to suppose that some local traditions derived from returning soldiers of Stanley’s troop are imbedded in this curious production, in which there are occasional thrills of something like real poetical emotion.
* There are some features in the work of Lindsay of Pitscottie which remind me a little of Procopius.
s The bibliography of this ballad is accurately described by Henry Weber, in his edition (Edinburgh, 1806), a much more useful one than thať by Robert