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Reign of Henry the Eighth page 6

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The two main bodies of the armies only were now left where James and Surrey were contending at the head of their troops, but with this difference, that the Scottish right and left were now unprotected, and those of James's centre were attacked on each side by the victorious right and left wings of the English. On one side Sir Edward Stanley charged with archers and pikemen, on the other Lord Howard, Sir Edmund Howard, and Lord Dacre, were threatening with both horse and foot.

James and all his nobility about him in the main body were fighting on foot, and being clad in splendid armour, they suffered less from the English archers, who were opposed to thorn in the ranks of Surrey. On James's right hand fought Ms accomplished natural son, the Archbishop of St. Andrew's. Soon the combatants became engaged hand to hand in deadly struggle with their swords, spears, pikes, and other instruments of death. Whilst hewing and cleaving each other down in furious strife, face to face, life for life, showers of English arrows fell amid the Scottish ranks, and dealt terrible destruction to the less stoutly panoplied. When the Earls of Bothwell and Huntley rushed to the support of the main body on the one side, and Stanley, the Howards, and Dacre came to the aid of Surrey on the other, the strife became terrible beyond description, and the slaughter awful on every side of the environed Scots. Before the arrival of the reserves the Scots appeared at one time to have the best of it, and to be on the very edge of victory; and even after that James and the gallant band around him seemed to make a stupendous effort, as if they thought their sole hope was to force their way to Surrey and cut him down. James is said to have reached within a spear's length of him, when, after being twice wounded with arrows, he was dispatched by a bill.

Still the battle raged on. In the centre it was like the heart of a glowing furnace, all heat and deadly rage; whilst all round the extremities of the Scottish host, a bristly circle of protruded spears pushed back the murderous foes. Neither side gave quarter. Lord Howard and his followers savagely maintained their vow; and the Scots, says Haslewood, were so vengeful and cruel in their fighting, that the English, when they had the better of them, would listen to no ransom, though the Scots often offered great sums. Night, which alone could part the maddened host, at length came down upon them, and compelled them to cease their fighting, though it could not induce them to quit the ground. They rested on their arms, but stood as if they would wait the first dawn of light to again renew the sanguinary conflict. The Scottish and the English centres stood doggedly on their guard; Home and Dacre with their cavalry sternly held each other at bay. But when the morning at length dawned, it was discovered that the Scots, having had time to become aware of their immense loss, and having learnt that not only their king but almost all the nobility were slain, had silently stolen away, and had made their way across the Tweed at Coldstream, or over the dry marshes to their own country.

And what ghastly, fearful, desolating tidings did these silent fugitives bear with them over every moor and mountain, to every town and village through the length and breadth of Scotland! When the battle-field came to be examined, there were found of the English few men of note fallen, but about 5,000 soldiers, chiefly of the ranks; but of the Scots, there lay the king and his con the Archbishop of St. Andrew's dead on the field, with two bishops, two mitred abbots, twelve earls, thirteen lords, five eldest sons of peers, fifty knights and chiefs, and of gentlemen a number uncalculated; there was scarcely a family in Scotland of any name in history which did not lose a member there. In the words of Scott -

Their kings, their lords, their mightiest low,
They melted from the fields as snow,
When streams are swollen and south winds blow,
Dissolves in silent dew,
Tweed's echoes heard the ceaseless plash,
While many a broken band,
Disordered, through her currents dash,
To gain the Scottish land:
To town and tower, to down and dale,
To tell red Flodden's dismal tale,
And raise the universal wail.
Tradition, legend, tune, and song,
Shall many an age that wail prolong;
Still from the sire the son shall hear
Of the stern strife and carnage drear
Of Flodden's fatal field,
Where shivered was fair Scotia's spear,
And broken was her shield."

The ballads and traditions of Scotland are yet full of the lamentations and desolation long produced there by this fatal battle, where

"The flowers of the forest were a' wede away."

"The Scots," says Sir Walter Scott, "were much disposed to dispute the fact that James IV. had fallen on Flodden Field. Some said he had retired from the kingdom, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem: others pretended that in the twilight, when the fight was nigh ended, four tall horsemen came into the field, having each a bunch of straw on the point of their spears as a token for them to know each other by. They said these men mounted the king on a dun hackney, and that he was seen to cross the Tweed with them at nightfall. Nobody pretended to say what they did with him, but it was believed that he was murdered in Home Castle, and I recollect, about forty years since, there was a report that, in cleansing the drawwell in that ruinous fortress, the workmen found a skeleton wrapped in a bull's hide, and having a belt of iron round the waist, for which, on inquiry, I could never find any better authority than the sexton of the parish having said that if the well were cleaned out, lie should not be surprised at such a discovery. These are idle fables, and contrary to common sense. Home was the chamberlain of the king, and his prime favourite; he had much to lose, in fact, did lose all, in consequence of James's death, and nothing whatever to gain by that event; but the retreat or inactivity of the left wing, which he commanded, after defeating Sir Edmund Howard, and even the circumstance of his remaining unhurt, and loaded with spoil, from so fatal a conflict, rendered the propagation of any calumny against him easy and acceptable.

"It seems true that the king usually wore the belt of iron, in token of his repentance for his father's death, and the share he had in it. But it is not unlikely that he would lay aside such a cumbrous article of penance in a day of battle, or the English, when they despoiled his person, may have thrown it aside as of no value. The body, which the English affirm to have been that of James, was found on the field by Lord Dacre, and carried by him to Berwick, and presented to Surrey. Both of these lords knew James's person too well to be mistaken. The body was also acknowledged by his two favourite attendants, Sir William Scott and Sir John Forman, who wept at beholding it."

The fate of these relics was singular and degrading. Stowe, in his "Survey of London," gives this account from his own knowledge: "After the battle, the bodie of the same king being found, was closed in lead, and conveyed from thence to London, and to the monasterie of Sheyne, in Surrey, where it remained for a time in what order I am not certaine; but since the dissolution of that house, in the reygne of Edward the Sixt, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolke, being lodged and keeping house there, I have been shewed the same bodie so lapped in lead, close to the head and bodie, throwne into a waste room amongst the old timber, lead, and other rubble, since the which time, workmen there, for their foolish pleasure, hewed off his head, and Launcelot Young, master glazier to Queen Elizabeth, feeling a sweet savour to come from thence, and yet the form remaining, with the hair of the head and beard red, brought it to London, to his house in Wood Street, where for a time, he kept it for the sweetness, but, in the end, caused the sexton of that church to bury it amongst other bones taken out of their charnel." That the body which the English had thus secured and brought to London for so singular a fate, was the real body of James, was incontestibly proved by the monarch's well-known sword and dagger found upon it, and turquoise on Ids finger, supposed to be the same sent to him by

the Queen of France. These are still preserved in the Herald's College in London. An unhewn column marks the spot where James fell, still called the King's stone.

The guns which were captured on this occasion, are related to have been of a very superior kind, and, according to an official report, "the neatest, the soundest, the best-fashioned, the smallest in the touch-hole, and the most beautiful of their size and length that were ever seen," especially a fine train of seven pieces, called the Seven Sisters, cast by the same Robert Borthwick, the Master of Artillery, who implored James to allow him to destroy Twisell Bridge with it, and who immediately afterwards perished while directing the operations of the cannon.

On his way northward, Surrey had prepared posts all the way for the rapid conveyance of intelligence, and, by these, he announced in brief time to Queen Catherine, who was at Woburn, the great and decisive victory. Catherine was in the same fortunate position as Queen Philippa while Edward III. was on his campaign in France, and though she did not hasten over herself with the news, she wrote an able letter of gratulation, in which she said he would see how she had kept her promise of protecting the kingdom in his absence, and she accompanied it by the coat of the King of Scots, that Henry might convert it into a banner, adding, that she thought of sending his body, but that English hearts would not permit it. What is more to Catherine's credit is, that she pleaded tenderly and earnestly for forbearance towards James's widow and infant son, Henry's own sister and nephew. Some historians have praised Henry's wonderful magnanimity in conceding this forbearance, but to say nothing of the determined attitude of defence which the Scotch, in the midst of their sorrows, assumed, and the heavy losses of the English, which occasioned Surrey to attempt no further advantages, but to put sufficient troops into the border garrisons, and then disband the rest, Henry must have become more of a monster than he was, at that period of his life, to have sought to commit more evil than he had done. His empty triumphs in France might be excused, for conquest and military glory have been the world's gospel in all ages, and are too much so still; but a dispassionate and philosophical view of his conduct to Scotland, must show it to have been at once as barbarous and wicked as it was impolitic.

James IV., who fell at Flodden in the thirty-ninth year of his age, and the twenty-fifth of his reign, was a prince of a quick, generous, and chivalric character. Though of only the middle height, he was remarkably strong and agile; and by continual exercise he made himself capable of enduring any amount of labour, cold, thirst, or hunger. His face was sweet and amiable in expression, and if he had not great command of his passions, he had of his countenance, so that he seldom changed colour on the most sudden tidings of good or evil. He was easy of access, dignified and affable in his deportment, and never used severe and harsh terms, even when most offended; his sense of honour was high, and he possessed even to a degree of romance all the spirit of ancient chivalry. His courage was daring, even to rashness. Like his father, he had a taste for the arts, particularly those of civil and naval architecture; he built the great ship St. Michael, and several churches, and maintained a Court far superior in its elegance and refinement to that of any of his predecessors. On such a nature Henry, by a kind and even just treatment, might have operated so as to excite the most devoted friendship. We see what James did for an adventurer like Warbeck; we see what a spirit the blandishments and courtesies of France evoked in him; and we might have seen far greater attachment elicited towards England by a conduct upright and cordial. But Henry treated James, and his own sister his queen, with the most barefaced dishonesty and haughty discourtesy. He withheld Margaret's jewels, the sacred bequest of her father; he refused to yield up the assassin of James's own friend; he refused a safe conduct to an ambassador whom he proposed to send to him - a thing, James declared, which had never been done even by the Turks; and now this, which was exulted over as a glorious victory, had destroyed the brave-spirited monarch and brother-in-law, made his sister a widow amidst an arrogant aristocracy, and his nephew an orphan exposed to every trouble and danger which can beset an infant king in a turbulent and faction-rent nation.

If Henry had been a wise and reflective prince, capable of comprehending what is really politic, great, and just, these certainly were not circumstances which could afford him much satisfaction. A neighbouring nation, instead of a firm ally, had been made a more embittered enemy; its prince had been slain, and his kingdom left exposed, in the peculiar weakness of a long minority, to the ambitious cupidity of his royal uncle, whose overbearing designs only tended to defeat that union of the crowns which he was most anxious to ensure, and to perpetuate crimes, heartburnings, and troubles betwixt the two governments, for two eventful generations yet to come. Henry, however, overlooking all these things, which were too profound for him and his age, on returning home elate with his own useless campaign and this brilliant but cruel victory, rewarded Surrey by restoring to him the title of Duke of Norfolk, forfeited by his father for his adherence to Richard III., and Lord Thomas Howard, his son, succeeded, for his part, to the title of Earl of Surrey, which had been his father's. Lord Herbert was made Earl of Somerset; and Sir Edward Stanley, Lord Monteagle. At the same time his favourite, Sir Charles Brandon, Lord Lisle, he elevated to the dignity of Duke of Suffolk, probably with a view to his marriage with Margaret of Savoy. Wolsey, his growing clerical favourite, he made Bishop of Lincoln, in addition to his French bishopric of Tournay.

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