Battle of Solway Moss 1542

Background

In 1502 James IV of Scotland had forged a peace treaty with England and married Henry VII’s daughter Margaret. King Henry VII died in April 1509 and his son became King Henry VIII. Eager to make a name for himself, in 1511  Henry invaded France to reclaim lost land. While Henry was in France fighting the French, King James IV of Scotland tried to break the peace treaty. In Henry’s absence his wife Catherine of Aragon, ordered troops be sent to Scotland. On 9th September 1513 the Scots were defeated at Flodden Field and James IV killed.

King James V Battle of Solway Moss
King James V of Scotland

King James V inherited the Scottish throne from his father at the age of 17 months and while he was growing up Scotland and England remained at peace, although the underlying animosity between the two countries continued.

In 1536 James V renewed Scotland’s alliance with France and married Madeleine of Valois a year later. When she died after a few months James married Mary of Guise.

In 1541 James had agreed to meet Henry VIII at York while Henry was making his summer progress. However, the Scottish nobles advised James that he was in danger of being kidnapped by the English and James did not attend. Henry took James action as a personal insult.

Events of the Battle of Solway Moss

In October 1542 the Duke of Norfolk at the head of 20,000 men marched north and burnt the Scottish border towns of Jedburgh and Kelso. In retaliation James V sent a Scottish army of 10,000-17,000 men commanded by Oliver Sinclair south of the border with orders to burn Cumbria.

Thomas Wharton, the local commander, had managed to raise an English force of 3,000 men and stationed them on a slight elevation overlooking the swampy area known as Solway Moss.

On 25th November 1542 the Scots approached. They saw the English flags and soldiers ahead of them. Fearing it was part of a much larger force many turned and fled. The battle was a resounding victory for the English who took two Earls, five Lords more than one thousand soldiers prisoner. Seven English men and twenty Scots were killed during the battle, some of the Scots drowned in the swamps.

James V did not take part in the Battle of Solway Moss because he was ill with a fever. He died two weeks after the battle leaving his 6 day old daughter Mary as Queen of the Scots.