Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Book review: Fatal Rivalry: Flodden, 1513, By George Goodwin

Five centuries ago, a well-equipped Scots army faced the English. The result shaped our history

Even today, 500 years after the battle of Flodden, the roll-call of the Scottish dead is shocking, like the cemeteries of the First World War or the names engraved on the Pinkas synagogue in Prague. The Scots lost ten thousand men, with almost their entire nobility and clan chiefs, including their charismatic King, James IV. Yet they had a larger force than the English and a seemingly impregnable position.

Get money off this title at the Independent's book shop

This book banishes the simplistic idea that the Scots army which in 1513 had invaded south as far as Northumberland was a bunch of primitive stone-slingers emerging from the mists. James had some of the most sophisticated cannon in Europe plus battle-hardened soldiers, and he was an experienced and courageous leader. Too courageous, perhaps: one theory was that his insistence on leading the charge in person led to disaster, but this account brings fresh evidence to show a hidden factor beyond James' control.

It's not the only reversal of myths: here is that ultimate put-upon wife, Katherine of Aragon, acting as Regent during Henry VIII's absence on a French invasion, wishing she could send him James's body and enclosing his bloody coat instead. Her commander, Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, who with his two sons led the English army, took no prisoners. Contrary to the usual conditions of warfare, defeated Scots were killed on the field with no hope of ransom.

The leading characters in this sad history are portrayed with contextual explorations of the notions of Renaissance kingship, and studies of cultural and technical developments. It is shamefully surprising to learn that the biggest battleship in Europe was in fact owned by the King of Scots – his beloved "Great Michael".

George Goodwin previously wrote a gripping account of the battle of Towton, that most brutal action of the Wars of the Roses. Flodden, "the last medieval and the first modern battle", follows subsequent cultural and technical developments. Goodwin's theory is that the family which emerged most successfully from the Flodden débacle was neither the Tudors nor the Stuarts, but the Howards, whose fortunes soared.

However, James, who according to the portrait reproduced here has a strong claim to be the handsomest man in history, like Banquo won out genealogically. He had married Henry's sister, Margaret, bequeathing a claim to the English throne to his descendant, who eventually triumphed as James I of England and VI of Scotland.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'