As a devotee of medieval history I found myself drawn to this account of the battle of Flodden, fought on the English/Scottish border on 9 September 1513. In many respects Flodden was the last medieval battle, being the last occasion when the longbow was used en masse and the first to feature a sustained artillery duel. It was also a calamity for Scotland (then an independent country under its own king), since King James IV and the majority of the Scottish nobility were killed in a single afternoon’s savage fighting. The sting of defeat faded and James’ grandson eventually became King James I of England in 1603 but the battle retained an iconic status in the Scottish mindset and was immortalised in the lament ‘Flowers of the Forest’.
Those who are expecting a rehash of the received wisdom on the battle ( King James rashly and needlessly invaded England and he and his large but poorly trained army paid the price) will be pleasantly surprised. Barr presents a careful, confident and thorough analysis of the contemporary sources which sheds new light on the run up to the battle, the course of the fighting and its aftermath. The revolutionary nature of the battle and the manner in which it was fought is excellently described, as are the social and political forces which sparked the conflict in the first place.
A cracking read – the blurb says it reads ‘as thrillingly as a novel’ and for once that’s not hyperbole. On a five star system this one gets the full five.