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Battle of Pinkie
Part of the Rough Wooing
River Esk at Musselburgh.jpg
River Esk and Inveresk Church at Musselburgh
Date 10 September 1547
Location 55°55′49″N 3°01′16″W / 55.9304°N 3.0211°W / 55.9304; -3.0211 (Battle of Pinkie)
Result English victory
England Scotland
Commanders and leaders
Duke of Somerset Earl of Arran
30 warships
18,000 to 22,000
Casualties and losses
200–600 killed 5,000 to 6,000 killed
2,000 captured
Designated 21 March 2011
Reference no. BTL15

The Battle of Pinkie, also known as the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, took place on 10 September 1547 on the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland. The last pitched battle between Scotland and England before the Union of the Crowns, it was part of the conflict known as the Rough Wooing and is considered to have been the first modern battle in the British Isles. It was a catastrophic defeat for Scotland, where it became known as "Black Saturday". A highly detailed and illustrated English account of the battle and campaign authored by an eyewitness William Patten was published in London as propaganda four months after the battle.


In the last years of his reign, King Henry VIII of England tried to secure an alliance with Scotland by the marriage of the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, to his young son, the future Edward VI. When diplomacy failed, and Scotland was on the point of an alliance with France, he launched a war against Scotland that has become known as the Rough Wooing. The war also had a religious aspect; some Scots opposed an alliance that would bring religious Reformation on English terms. During the battle, the Scots taunted the English soldiers as "loons" (persons of no consequence), "tykes" and "heretics". The Earl of Angus, who is said to have arrived with monks "the professors of the Gospel", the heavy pikemen of the Lowlands, eight thousand strong, was in the lead.

When Henry VIII died in 1547, Edward Seymour, maternal uncle of Edward VI, became Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, with (initially) unchallenged power. He continued the policy of seeking forcible alliance with Scotland by demanding both the marriage of Mary to Edward, and the imposition of an Anglican Reformation on the Scottish Church. Early in September, he led a well-equipped army into Scotland, supported by a large fleet. The Earl of Arran, Scottish Regent at the time, was forewarned by letters from Adam Otterburn, his representative in London, who had observed English war preparations. Otterburn may have seen the leather horse armour designed and made by the workshop of the Italian artist Nicholas Bellin of Modena at Greenwich.


Somerset's army was partly composed of the traditional county levies, summoned by Commissions of Array and armed with longbow and bill as they had been at the Battle of Flodden, thirty years before. However, Somerset also had several hundred German mercenary arquebusiers, a large and well-appointed artillery train, and 6,000 cavalry, including a contingent of Spanish and Italian mounted arquebusiers under Don Pedro de Gamboa. The cavalry were commanded by Lord Grey of Wilton, as High Marshal of the Army, and the infantry by the Earl of Warwick, Lord Dacre of Gillesland, and Somerset himself. William Patten, an officer of the English army, recorded its numbers as 16,800 fighting men and 1,400 "pioneers" or labourers.

Somerset advanced along the east coast of Scotland to maintain contact with his fleet and thereby keep in supply. Scottish Border Reivers harassed his troops but could impose no major check to their advance. Far to the west, a diversionary English invasion of 5000 men was led by Thomas Wharton and the Scottish dissident Earl of Lennox. On 8 September they took Castlemilk in Annandale and burnt Annan after a bitter struggle to capture its fortified church.

To oppose the English south of Edinburgh, the Earl of Arran had raised a large army, consisting mainly of pikemen with contingents of Highland archers. Arran also had large numbers of guns, but these were apparently not as mobile or as well-served as Somerset's. Arran had his artillery refurbished in August, after the siege of St Andrews Castle, with new gunstocks made from woods of "Aberdagy" and Inverleith. The Lord Treasurer's account describes this work as preparation "against the feild of Pynkie Cleuch."

His cavalry consisted of only 2,000 lightly equipped riders under the Earl of Home, most of whom were potentially unreliable Borderers. His infantry and pikemen were commanded by the Earl of Angus, the Earl of Huntly and Arran himself. According to Huntly, the Scottish army numbered 22,000 or 23,000 men, while an English source claimed that it comprised 36,000.

Arran occupied the slopes on the west bank of the River Esk to bar Somerset's progress. The Firth of Forth was on his left flank, and a large bog protected his right. Some fortifications were constructed in which cannon and arquebuses were mounted. Some guns pointed out into the Forth to keep English warships at a distance.


Fa'side Castle, East Lothian

On 9 September part of Somerset's army occupied Falside Hill (Falside Castle put up a slight resistance), 3 miles (5 kilometres) east of Arran's main position. In an outdated chivalric gesture, the Earl of Home led 1,500 horsemen close to the English encampment and challenged an equal number of English cavalry to fight. With Somerset's reluctant approval, Lord Grey accepted the challenge and engaged the Scots with 1,000 heavily armoured men-at-arms and 500 lighter demi-lancers. The Scottish horsemen were badly cut up and were pursued west for 3 mi (5 km). This action cost Arran most of his cavalry. The Scots lost around 800 men in the skirmish. Lord Home was badly wounded, and his sons were taken hostage.

Lord Grey of Wilton's charge at Pinkie
Lord Grey charges the Scottish cavalry

Later during the day, Somerset sent a detachment with guns to occupy the Inveresk Slopes, which overlooked the Scottish position. During the night, Somerset received two more anachronistic challenges from Arran. One request was for Somerset and Arran to settle the dispute by single combat; another was for 20 champions from each side to decide the matter. Somerset rejected both proposals.


On the morning of Saturday, 10 September, Somerset advanced his army, seeking to position his artillery at Inveresk. In response Arran moved his army across the Esk by the "Roman bridge", and advanced rapidly to meet him. Arran may have seen movement in the English lines and assumed that the English were trying to retreat to their ships. Arran knew himself to be outmatched in artillery and therefore tried to force close combat before the English artillery could be deployed.

Arran's left wing came under fire from English ships offshore. Their advance meant that the guns at their former position could no longer protect them. They were thrown into disorder and pushed into Arran's own division in the centre.

The fight for the standard at Pinkie
The fight for the standard

On the other flank, Somerset threw in his cavalry to delay the Scots' advance. The English cavalry was at a disadvantage, as they had left their horses' body armour at the camp. The Scottish pikemen drove them off, inflicting heavy casualties. Lord Grey himself was wounded by a pike thrust through his throat and into his mouth. At one point, Scottish pikemen surrounded Sir Andrew Flammack, the bearer of the King's Standard. He was rescued by Sir Ralph Coppinger, and managed to hold onto the standard, despite its staff breaking.

Roman Bridge over the Esk at Musselburgh
The 16th century ‘Roman Bridge’ over the Esk

The Scottish army was by now stalled and under heavy fire on three sides, from the ships, land artillery, arquebusiers, and archers, to which they had no reply. When they broke, the English cavalry rejoined the battle following a vanguard of 300 experienced soldiers under the command of Sir John Luttrell. Many of the retreating Scots were slaughtered or drowned as they tried to swim the fast-flowing Esk or cross the bogs.

The Imperial ambassador's accounts of the battle

Battle of Pinkie sketch, 1547
Battle of Pinkie, woodcut illustration from William Patten, (1548)

The Imperial ambassador François van der Delft went to the court of Edward VI at Oatlands Palace to hear the news of the battle from William Paget. Van der Delft wrote to the Queen Dowager, Mary of Hungary, with his version of the news on 19 September. He described the cavalry skirmish on the day before the battle. He had heard that on the day of the battle, when the English army encountered the Scottish formation, the Scots advance horsemen dismounted and crossed their lances, which they used like pikes standing in close formation. Van der Delft was told that the Earl of Warwick then attempted to attack the Scots from behind using smoking fires as a diversion. When they engaged the Scottish rearguard the Scots took flight, apparently following some who already had an understanding with the Protector Somerset. The rest of the Scots army then attempted to flee the field.

Van der Delft wrote a shorter description for Prince Philip on 21 October. In this account he lays emphasis on the Scots attempting to change position. He said the Scots crossed the brook in order to occupy two hills which flanked both armies. The Scottish army, "without any need whatever were seized with panic and began to fly". Another letter with derivative news of the battle was sent by John Hooper in Switzerland to the Reformer Henry Bullinger. Hooper mentions that Scots had to abandon their artillery due to the archers commanded by the Earl of Warwick, and when the Scots changed position the sun was in their eyes. He was told there were 15,000 Scottish casualties and 2,000 prisoners. There were 17,000 English in the field and 30,000 Scots. Hooper's letter is undated but he includes the false early report that Mary of Guise surrendered in person to Somerset after the battle. These newsletters, though compiled and written by non-combatants days after the battle and far from the battlefield, are nevertheless important sources for the historian and for reconstruction of the events, to compare with Patten's narrative and archaeological evidence from the field.


Inchmahome Priory Ruin - - 1563241
Inchmahome Priory on an island in the Lake of Menteith was a safe refuge for the infant Mary during the invasion.

Although they had suffered a resounding defeat, the Scottish government refused to come to terms. The infant Queen Mary was smuggled out of the country to France to be betrothed to the young Dauphin of France, Francis. Somerset occupied several Scottish strongholds and large parts of the Lowlands and Borders but, without peace, these garrisons became a useless drain on the Treasury.

Scottish artillery

Warned of the approach of the English army, the Scottish artillery was made ready at Edinburgh Castle. Extra gunners were recruited and 140 pioneers, i.e. workmen, were employed by Duncan Dundas to move the guns. On 2 September carts were hired to take the guns and the Scottish tents and pavilions towards Musselburgh. There were horses, and oxen were supplied by the Laird of Elphinstone. John Drummond of Milnab, master carpenter of the Scottish ordnance, led the wagon train. There was a newly painted banner, and ahead a boy played on the "swesche", a drum used to alert people.

William Patten described the English officers of the Ordnance after the battle retrieving 30 of the Scottish guns, which were left lying in sundry places, on Sunday 11 September. They found one brass culverin, 3 brass sakers, 9 smaller brass pieces, and 17 other iron guns mounted on carriages. Some of these guns appear in the English royal inventory of 1547–48, at the Tower of London where sixteen Scottish brass guns were recorded. They were a demi-cannon, 2 culverins, 3 sakers, 9 falconets, and a robinet.

The fitted account of the English Treasurer General of the Army

Ralph Sadler was treasurer for Somerset's expedition in Scotland from 1 August to 20 November 1547. The expense of the journey northwards cost £7468-12s–10d, and the return was £6065-14s–4d. Soldiers' wages were £26,299-7s–1d. For his own expenses, Sadler had £211-14s–8d with £258-14s–9d for his equipment and auditor's expenses. A number of special rewards were given to spies, Scottish guides, and others who gave good service, and to the captain of the Spanish mercenaries. The Scottish herald at the battlefield was given 100 shillings. When Sadler's account was audited in December 1547, Sadler was found to owe Edward VI £546-13s–11d which he duly returned.


Somerset's Mound, Inveresk Kirkyard
Somerset's Mound, Inveresk Kirkyard

The battle site is now in East Lothian. The battle took place most probably in the cultivated ground 12 mi (800 m) southeast of Inveresk Church, just to the south of the main East Coast railway line. There are two vantage points for viewing the ground. Fa'side Castle above the village of Wallyford was just behind the English position, and with the aid of binoculars, a visitor can get a good view of the battle area though the Scottish position is now obscured by buildings. The best impression of their position is obtained from the golf course west of the river Esk and just off the B6415 road. The Scottish centre occupied ground a few yards west of the clubhouse. The Inveresk eminence, an important tactical feature at the time of the battle, is now built over, but from it, a visitor can get down to the Esk and walk for some way along the bank. The walk gives a further idea of a part of the Scottish position, but the town of Musselburgh now completely covers the left of the line. The battlefield was added to the Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Scotland in 2011.

A stone commemorating the battle has been erected southwest of Wallyford village near the junction of Salters Road and the A1 road. The stone is carved with St. Andrew's Cross, the English rose and Scottish thistle and the name and date of the battle. It is situated on the north side of the driveway to the home that is in the northwest corner of the intersection. Co-ordinates: 55.9302992°N 3.0210942°W.

Re-enactors carrying some of the banners of the Scottish army at Pinkie in 2017
Scottish re-enactors at Pinkie in 2017

In September 2017 the Scottish Battlefields Trust staged the first major re-enactment of the battle in the grounds of Newhailes House. Such re-enactments are intended to continue on a triennial cycle.


Some of the injured soldiers were treated by Lockhart, a barber surgeon from Dunbar. David H. Caldwell has written, "English estimates put the slaughter as high as 15,000 Scots killed and 2,000 taken but the Earl of Huntly's figure of 6,000 dead is probably nearer the truth." Of the Scottish prisoners, few were nobles or gentlemen. It was claimed that most were dressed much the same as common soldiers and therefore were not recognised as being worth ransoming. Caldwell says of the English casualties, "Officially it was given out that losses were only 200 though the rumour about the English court, fed by private letters from those in the army, indicated that 500 or 600 was more likely."

William Patten names a number of high-ranking casualties. The Englishmen he names were horsemen forced onto Scottish pikes in a ploughed field to the east of the English position, after they had crossed a slough towards the Scottish position on Falside Brae.


Protector Somerset marker stone at Pinkie, Musselburgh
Stone marking the site of the English encampment at Inveresk
  • Edward Shelley, subject of a lost portrait by Hans Eworth, fourth son of Sir William Shelley.
  • Sir Walter Hawksworth, son of and heir of Thomas of Hawksworth, Yorkshire.
  • The Lord Fitzwalter's brother
  • Sir John Clere's son, a brother of the poet Thomas Clere, (John Clere of Ormesby, Norfolk was killed in battle at Kirkwall on 21 August 1557).
  • Thomas Wodehouse, son of Sir Roger Wodehouse of Kimberley, Norfolk


The names of a number of other Scottish casualties are known from legal records or Scottish chronicles, and include;

See also

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