Bid to find body of James IV at Flodden

Picture: Jane Barlow
Picture: Jane Barlow
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A NEW programme of events was unveiled yesterday to mark the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of hostilities between Scotland and England.

• Expansion of The Flodden 1513 eco-musem planned with 28 new sites proposed

Members of the Edinburgh March Riding Association commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. Picture: Greg Macvean

Members of the Edinburgh March Riding Association commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. Picture: Greg Macvean

• Northumberland museum to expand into Linlithgow, Stirling and Edinburgh castles, among other places

• Crown-shaped badge from site of conflict also unveiled as 500th anniversary of battle commemorated

The initiative was launched by the Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum, a partnership of key locations in the history of the battle both north and south of the Border, which is set to be expanded from a dozen sites across the UK to 40.

As part of the programme, a dig is taking place at Norham Castle in Northumberland, which James IV of Scotland took from the English shortly before his defeat at Flodden.

The crown-shaped badge unveiled today

The crown-shaped badge unveiled today

The recent discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III under a Leicester car park has led to a renewed drive to find out what happened to the body of King James IV, however the only bones revealed at the dig yesterday belonged to a deer.

Taking a break from the excavation yesterday, volunteer Bob Jackson said: “I want to try to unravel what actually happened here. I started doing digs in 2001 when I retired, and, as a Scot, I’ve been trying to prove that we won, but I’m struggling with that.”

The former police officer from Longhirst near Morpeth added: “I don’t think we will find the king’s body here, I think it was dumped in London, but mystery still surrounds its whereabouts.”

The Battle of Flodden in Northumberland on 19 September 1513 saw James IV defeated in a matter of hours, with the king among 10,000 dead on both sides.

There are numerous stories about what happened to the body of James IV, with many believing his remains were taken to England and buried in the London borough of Richmond.

Project co-ordinator Alistair Bowden said he was not expecting another “king in the car park” revelation.

But he said he was hopeful that a wealth of new information that could help locate the body will be found.

As well as digs, the project has funded training for local volunteers who will be reading historical documents from collections in England and Scotland to find clues about what happened at Flodden.

Mr Bowden said: “I don’t think this will be myth-busting but it is about finding new information and anything which can shed new light on James IV will be very useful.

“I’m slightly puzzled about why he attacked in the first place. He was a real Renaissance monarch. He was interested in science and the arts, but he died on the battlefield with an arrow through his head.

“He was arguably Scotland’s greatest king and after he died Scotland went from being up high to down there overnight.”

The ecomuseum, a reference to the idea of an “ecological network” of sites, was created in 2009 and has received £1m in lottery funding.

It currently includes 12 sites from the Flodden battlefield itself to the Flodden Wall in Edinburgh, built as a defence as news of the historic defeat reached the city.

Some 28 new sites have been identified which the organisation hopes will join the network.

The most northerly is the Caithness of Ord, a high pass separating Caithness from the rest of Scotland through which the Earl of Caithness led his forces to join James IV in Edinburgh.

Proposed sites in England include the Mary Rose in Portsmouth, the renowned ship which was used to transport English troops to Newcastle to fight the Scots.

Some 17 of the 28 suggested locations have responded “positively” so far, organisers said yesterday.

Other events planned for the anniversary weekend in September include a guided timed walk through the battlefield sites exactly 500 years to the day of the famous conflict.

Led by historian Clive Hallam-Baker, it will take people in the footsteps of the medieval soldiers on both sides of the battle.

Inventions to commemorate the battle include the creation of a new tartan by Edinburgh firm, Nicolson Kiltmakers, an opera and two new ales.

The Battle of Flodden was one of the last major conflicts between Scotland and England before the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebels were defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

Crown-shaped Battle of Flodden badge unveiled

A crown-shaped badge from the site of the Battle of Flodden was also unveiled today at the launch of a programme commemorating the 500th anniversary of the conflict.

The copper alloy livery badge includes a Fleur de Lys design with jewels and diamonds, which were all key elements of the Scottish crown at the time of the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

Experts believe it was worn by a soldier in the personal retinue of James IV, who was killed on the battlefield along with 10,000 Scottish and English soldiers.

The outcome of Flodden was a turning point in British and European politics, paving the way for the Union of the Crowns less than 100 years later.

Announcing the find at the Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum in Northumbria today, archaeology manager Chris Burgess admitted that the historic badge was only discovered by chance.

He said: “This latest artefact was quite literally found on the very last day of our last survey on the western side of the battlefield. “Having examined it thoroughly, we are beginning to understand its importance. The crown depicted on the badge is quite distinctly associated with the 16th century Scottish crown.

“Badges such as these showed allegiance on the battlefield and this one would only have been worn by someone directly connected with James IV himself. Our current thinking is that it may have been worn by a herald or messenger taking his royal instructions to the Scottish Right Flank commanded by the Earls of Home and Huntley.”

The artefact will now be formerly reported to the official crown find liaison officer in Newcastle to assess whether or not it should be classed as ‘Treasure trove’.

If it is, a coroner’s report will be written and the find may be sent on to the British Museum for further research and assessment.

Flodden 1513 is the UK’s first cross-border museum linking a dozen key historical sites and a number of community events.

The badge was found during an archaeological programme which it is hoped will pinpoint the exact location of the battle.

It is part of a wider project commemorating the 500th anniversary of the historic battle and bringing the past to life for people north and south of the border.

A series of tributes announced today (tues) relating to the quincentenary include five books, two beers, an opera and a timed guided walk 500 years to the hour of battle.

Edinburgh kiltmaker Gordon Nicolson, of Nicolson Kiltmakers, has been commissioned to create a special Flodden tartan in white, Tudor green, golden yellow and red to represent the dyed colours of the uniforms worn by the English and Scottish troops.