Anglo-Scottish Wars Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Beginning with the English rout of Scots forces at Flodden in 1513, the sixteenth century witnessed a ferocious period of Anglo-Scottish warfare, the latter part of which was marked by English attempts to force Scotland to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, to Edward, the English heir to Henry VIII.

Summary of Event

For much of the first half of the sixteenth century, Anglo-Scottish conflict seemed to increase in cost and intensity, without respite. Scotland made several attempts to strengthen its position by cultivating its traditional alliance with France, England’s bitter enemy during the period. This in turn forced England to act aggressively to counter the resulting threat to its northern border. Although events late in this phase of the perennial wars between England and Scotland centered upon the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, England’s attempts to deal with a Scotland ever ready to ally itself to France were at the heart of the period’s many and bitter wars. Anglo-Scottish Wars (1513-1560)[Anglo Scottish Wars (1513-1560)] Henry VIII Seymour, Edward James IV James V Mary, Queen of Scots Edward VI Hamilton, James Mary of Guise Howard, Thomas (1443-1524) Howard, Thomas (1473-1554) Knox, John Mary Tudor (queen of Scots) James IV (king of Scotland) Tudor, Margaret Henry VII (king of England) Howard, Thomas (second duke of Norfolk) Howard, Thomas (third duke of Norfolk) James V (king of Scotland) Henry VIII (king of England) Edward VI (king of England) Somerset, first duke of Hamilton, James Mary of Guise Henry II (king of France) Knox, John

Efforts to create a lasting peace between the perennially hostile realms of Scotland and England had resulted, in 1503, in the marriage of James IV, king of Scotland, to Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of the English king Henry VII (r. 1485-1509). Hostilities reopened, however, in 1512, when James supported France, which was soon to be the target of an English invasion. After reviving the Franco-Scottish alliance, James prepared to ease the pressure on France by invading England’s northern borderlands. He crossed the border on August 22, 1513.





After taking Norham Castle, James positioned his army of some thirty thousand troops at Flodden Field, Flodden Field, Battle of (1513) in Northumberland. An English force of about half that number was led by Thomas Howard the elder, earl of Surrey. Howard’s son, also named Thomas, led the vanguard. After an initial defeat at the hands of James’s larger and better-armed forces, Surrey’s troops took advantage of the Scots’ decision to give up their elevated position and attack downhill. The Scots soon suffered a humiliating and almost total defeat, with King James IV and numerous other Scottish nobles among the estimated five thousand Scots killed in the battle. James IV was succeeded by his infant son, James V.

In 1542, James V’s realm was beset by belligerent acts performed by the English king Henry VIII, who chafed at James’s refusal to renounce his support of the French king Francis I (r. 1515-1547). Henry decided to take aggressive action to neutralize the Scottish threat to the north of England, sending, in September, 1542, the third duke of Norfolk on a largely unsuccessful invasion of southern Scotland. James V responded by gathering an army at Lauder, which disbanded after a brief and ineffective campaign of marauding in the borderlands. Another army was soon mustered to invade the West March. On November 24, 1542, the Scottish army was soundly defeated at Solway Moss Solway Moss, Battle of (1542) by English forces under the command of Thomas Wharton, the warden of the West March.

James V died on December 14, 1542, leaving the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, as his sole heir. Mary’s marital status initiated a new phase in the Anglo-Scottish conflict, often described as the “Rough Wooing,” which involved Henry VIII’s efforts to force Mary’s marriage to his son, Prince Edward (the future Edward VI). In the spring of 1544, English forces under the command of Edward Seymour, the earl of Hertford, took Leith through a naval invasion aimed at forcing the Scots to accept Henry’s demands concerning Mary. Hertford’s army ravaged the Scottish Lowlands, sacking Holyrood and Jedburgh.

On February 27, 1545, the Scots routed the English at Ancrum Moor Ancrum Moor, Battle of (1545) , emboldening those who sought French assistance to lead a retaliatory invasion into England. In September, 1547, Hertford, now the duke of Somerset and the Lord Protector in the new regime of Edward VI, continuing the policy of “Rough Wooing,” launched an invasion of Scotland. Somerset’s forces, numbering some sixteen thousand troops, met a much larger Scots army under the command of James Hamilton, the earl of Arran, at Pinkie, Pinkie, Battle of (1547) near Edinburgh. The English routed the Scots army, leaving an estimated ten thousand Scots dead and more than one thousand captured.

The defeat of the Scots at Pinkie did not deal a decisive blow to Scotland’s independence, however, and Anglo-Scottish conflict continued through the rest of the 1540’. In 1548, Mary of Guise, James V’s widow, convinced the Scottish parliament to nullify the marriage of Mary to Edward, which had been negotiated by Arran in his capacity as Scotland’s regent. She also exacerbated Anglo-Scottish conflict by winning acceptance, on July 7, of the Treaty of Haddington, Haddington, Treaty of (1548) in which the French king Henry II (r. 1547-1559) guaranteed French military support as Scotland’s “protector.” Anglo-Scottish skirmishes increased in intensity, as French troops, imported by Mary, fought on Scottish and northern English soil. In 1557, the English ranged throughout Scotland, battling their Scots and French enemies in campaigns in the Firth of Forth, as well as through sieges at Aberlady, Boughty Crag, and Haddington.

In 1557, England began openly to support the Lords of the Congregation, a Protestant group led by John Knox that had initiated a civil war to overthrow Mary of Guise, now the queen regent. Although Mary gained support in the civil war from French forces, the reformers, empowered by English support, prevailed, successfully deposing Mary in 1559. Before her death in 1560, Mary of Guise convinced the competing Scottish factions to unite in loyalty to Mary, Queen of Scots. After Mary of Guise’s death, England and France agreed to the Treaty of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Treaty of (1560) which entailed the recognition of the sovereignty of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her first husband, Francis II, while also insisting on the legitimacy of Elizabeth I. The treaty was signed on July 6, 1560.


Although the conflict between England and Scotland proved to be costly for both sides, the Scots clearly suffered greater losses in troops and prestige than their English counterparts. However, despite such resounding victories as the Battles of Flodden, Solway Moss, and Pinkie, the English failed to deal a decisive blow either to Scotland’s independence or to its alliance with England’s enemy, France. The death of James IV at Flodden, and James V’s death shortly after Solway Moss, dealt serious blows to Scotland, each time plunging the country into the political instability of a realm without a ruler of age. The policy of the “Rough Wooing” of Mary, Queen of Scots, while it indeed led to numerous English victories, proved to be a very costly affair for the English, who needed to mobilize massive resources to supply invading armies and maintain numerous garrisons. England’s obsessive attempt to secure Mary’s marriage to Edward also led to a strengthening of the Franco-Scottish alliance, ensuring that England’s actions against France would always be shadowed by the fear of threats coming from its own northern border.

Perhaps it was the rising tide of Reformation that offered England its best opportunity for decisive defeat of the Scots, insofar as it was only when England intervened in Knox’s civil war against Mary of Guise that the English were able to overthrow an entire Scottish administration and gain a strong hand in future negotiations. The Treaty of Edinburgh of 1560, which accorded legitimacy both to Mary, Queen of Scots, and to Elizabeth I, perhaps had the most long-lasting impact, insofar as it was Mary’s heir, James VI of Scotland, who would eventually bring about the union of the crowns of Scotland and England that had eluded English aggressors ever since Edward I’s first attempts to add Scotland to England’s imperial possessions.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barrell, A. D. M. Medieval Scotland. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Broad survey of the history of medieval Scotland, covering events up to the Reformation. Includes detailed discussion of the sixteenth century Anglo-Scottish conflict. Features maps and dynastic tables.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fissel, Mark Charles. English Warfare, 1511-1642. New York: Routledge, 2001. A survey of English military history, featuring numerous maps and illustrative plates. Includes detailed treatment of Anglo-Scottish wars, placing military strategies in the broader context of England’s other military campaigns.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Phillips, Gervase. The Anglo-Scots Wars, 1513-1550: A Military History. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell Press, 1999. A survey of the armed conflicts opened up by the English victory at Flodden, focusing on technical matters of warfare. Features plates and maps.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schama, Simon. A History of Britain: At the Edge of the World?, 3000 B.C.-A.D. 1603. New York: Hyperion, 2000. A broad survey of British history through the sixteenth century, featuring numerous color plates, maps, and genealogical tables. Includes detailed discussion of the underlying causes of Anglo-Scottish conflict.

Beginning 1485: The Tudors Rule England

Dec. 1, 1494: Poynings’ Law

1497: Cornish Rebellion

1536 and 1543: Acts of Union Between England and Wales

1544-1628: Anglo-French Wars

Feb. 27, 1545: Battle of Ancrum Moor

Jan. 28, 1547-July 6, 1553: Reign of Edward VI

1558-1603: Reign of Elizabeth I

May, 1559-Aug., 1561: Scottish Reformation

Jan. 20, 1564: Peace of Troyes

July 29, 1567: James VI Becomes King of Scotland

Categories: History