Annual act of remembrance of the Battle of Flodden

The Coldstreamer Jamie Nicolson gallops up Branxton Hill with the burgh standard.
The Coldstreamer Jamie Nicolson gallops up Branxton Hill with the burgh standard.

The annual pilgrimage to Flodden Field by more than 300 horses and riders left Coldstream on Thursday morning, with 2016 Coldstreamer Jamie Nicolson leading the way.

The Earl of Home, whose ancestors led the Borderers in the Battle of Flodden between the English and the Scots in 1513, charged Jamie to carry out his Flodden Day duties “to lead the cavalcade assembled in Coldstream to Flodden Field, the site of the battle to commemorate the dead of both Nations”.

The Coldstreamer Jamie Nicolson, his right and left hand men Andrew Guthrie and James Balmbro gallop up Branxton Hill.

The Coldstreamer Jamie Nicolson, his right and left hand men Andrew Guthrie and James Balmbro gallop up Branxton Hill.

And once the Home colours had been tied to the burgh standard carried by the Coldstreamer, 326 horses and riders set out from the town.

Once there, the Flodden service was held on Branxton Hill, and this year’s orator Lord James Joicey, of Ford and Etal Estates, took those assembled back over 500 years of change.

The fifth Baron Joicey has been a key figure in marking the 500th anniversary of the battle, and he told his audience: “I have often stood on this hill wondering what it would have been like to have been here before Flodden, let’s say in 1512, when this hillside was just an ordinary anonymous hillside, and I often like to reflect on what had happened in the preceding 10 years.

“Ten years before, Henry VII is on the throne, a relatively elderly man who gets on well with his friend King James IV, king of the Scots.

Lord Joicey gives the Flodden oration on Branxton Hill during Coldstream's Flodden Rideout

Lord Joicey gives the Flodden oration on Branxton Hill during Coldstream's Flodden Rideout

“They resolve to try to put an end to the age-old bickering and squabbling between their two countries, and in the January of 1502 they sign the Treaty of Eternal Peace.

“Under that treaty, James marries Henry’s daughter Margaret. The treaty also contains a clause about the position of Berwick, which is almost certainly a reason why James, when he came to Flodden Ridge 11 years later, left Berwick untouched.

“But in April 1502, Henry VII’s eldest son Arthur dies, and the plans for succession switch onto his second son, the young Henry, by all accounts a rather different character to Arthur.

“Things had changed greatly in the 20 years preceding Flodden – very important twists in the kaleidoscope of the history of our islands and the history of Europe too.”

Flodden Memorial service

Flodden Memorial service

Politics and international alliances may have changed bu the physical landscape has not, with Lord Joicey adding; “In terms of its contour lines, the view from Branxton Hill has not changed from what we would have seen in 1513, but how much man has changed the character of that view.”

He went on to talk about the not-for-profit company he and George Farr of Pallinsburn set up to steer the Heritage Lottery-funded Flodden 500 anniversary project and eco-museum.

“The work of the past four years is currently the subject of an exhibition in the museum in Berwick Barracks. It runs until the end of August, before it moves to Coldstream to open on September 10.

“I strongly encourage you to go and see it, either in Berwick or Coldstream, to appreciate the scale of what has been achieved in the last four years.

Coldstream's Flodden Rideout up Branxton Hill.

Coldstream's Flodden Rideout up Branxton Hill.

“One document uncovered tells us what happened to the horses left abandoned on this hillside, how they were rounded up and to whom they were subsequently given.

“Today, as we remember a very significant event and the huge loss of life that went with it, it is right to flag up another significant event which changed things, a date that is fast approaching –the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Carham in 2018, a battle which was every bit as important in the history of Scotland, and indeed of these islands, as was Flodden.

“Carham set the borderline between England and Scotland down the middle of the Tweed.

“Despite all the changes, the Tweed has been a constant border line for nearly 1,000 years.

“Whether we look back 1,000 years to Carham, 500 years to Flodden or 10 or 20 years in our own lives, or even just to this time last year, the one constant is change.

“Let us remember and honour those who fell here in 1513. It is very important that we do so, and important too that we reflect on the peace and stability in which, despite so many changes, we all now live, 500 yearsafter Flodden.”

One of the duties charged by the Earl of Home to the Coldstreamer was to cut a sod of earth from the battlefield and carry it back to Coldstream to symbolise the actions of Abbess Hoppringle of Coldstream Abbey, and when the weary travellers returned to Coldstream, the sod of earth was duly laid at the Tweed Green, near the site of the abbey.