The song Flowers of the Forest is known to have been played as early at 1615, although it may have been composed even before that. The lyrics in use at that time are not documented.
The “traditional” lyrics of today were composed by Scottish poet Jean Elliot in 1756. They were published anonymously and initially were presumed to be the original, or at least some version of centuries-old, lyrics. Poet Robert Burns, however, recognized a certain modernity in the structure and eventually uncovered both their pedigree and their author.
Those lyrics are a lament to the loss of some 10,000 soldiers (some estimates are higher) at the Battle of Flodden Field on September 9th, 1513, a number that included King James IV and much of the nobility of Scotland.
The song became immensely popular after it was played at the Funeral of Queen Victoria on February 2nd, 1901. It has become a standard, usually played on bagpipes, during Commonwealth funerals for fallen soldiers. It is the official lament of the Canadian armed forces and is currently used regularly by Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. It is likely that the same held true 100 years ago.
The connection between the First World War and the bagpipe tune is cemented, for many, by the words of Australian songwriter Eric Bogle from 1977 in his song No Man’s Land. He wonders at the gravestone of fallen soldier “Willy McBride” whether the pipes played Flowers of the Forest at his funeral in 1916.
Having listened to all of these songs this most recent Armistice Day anniversary, I thought to revisit the Battle of Flodden Field. This was a user-made scenario for Pike and Shot, but one in which I had some disappointment. I wondered if there existed, and in fact found, a user-made scenario for Field of Glory covering the same clash.
Flodden Field was a peripheral battle in the War of the League of Cambrai. Scotland had entered that war in support of their French alliance and launched an invasion of England. The lead up to the invasion gave both sides a chance to prepare armies and within weeks those two armies clashed in what is called The Battle of Flodden or The Battle of Branxton. The Scottish army had the edge in numbers and faced an English border guard while the English King and his army was fighting in France (Thérouanne in now Pas-de-Calais). Nevertheless, the result was a massively one-side victory for the English.
Various factors are credited as delivering the victory to the English. James is blamed for several tactical mistakes leading up to the battle. Also, while the Scots were armed and trained, courtesy of the French, in the latest in infantry warfare, they were still an army without experience. Most often the fight is seen as a victory of the English bill over the Scottish pike. The Scots had used pike formations to notable success since the First Scottish War of Independence. They had more recently been trained in the German and Swiss tactics that had come to dominate the battlefields of continental Europe. However, the moors of Northumberland did not support the same kind of battle of maneuver as did the southern-European plains. In particular, the battle was fought across marshy ground and this terrain broke up the Scottish formations, giving the advantage to the English weapons and tactics. Notably, the Swiss themselves would have their pike formations defeated by the French armies only two years latter, at the Battle of Marignano in September of 1515, permanently moving the bar for the state-of-the-art in warfare.
This battle is evenly matched in points. While the notes say that English longbow units were weakened to account for weather, nothing is mentioned about the relative effect of the marsh terrain (clearly shown on the above screenshot) on the Scottish pikes versus the English bills.
By turn 3, I’ve begun my engagement. I’m trying to to shift the weight of my army to the right, counting on the reinforcements from Sir Edwin Stanley’s force, which I have just begun moving towards the sound of the guns.
While it is not clear whether particular disadvantages of the Scottish formations are modeled, a lack of leadership and tactical skill is definitely baked in. The Field of Glory AI will tend to struggle in an evenly-matched battle, some initial tense moments aside, the English advance inevitably to victory.