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Sir Thomas Howard - Earl of Surrey


Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was the eldest son of John Howard, 1st Duke 0f Norfolk.

He was a fine soldier and fought alongside his father in a number of encounters in the Wars of the Roses, most notably at Barnet, where he was badly wounded, and at the Battle of Bosworth. After his father and King Richard III were killed at Bosworth Thomas was imprisoned by the victorious Henry VII and remained in custody for several years.

Although a devoted Yorkist, Thomas was eventually freed from prison and asked to serve the Tudors as a military commander in the wars against the Scots. In 1497 he successfully repelled the Scots army at Norham Castle and again at the Bishopric of Durham.

In 1511 he was appointed Warden General of the Northern Marches and continued his rise in favour.

1513 saw the Scots embark on a foolhardy invasion of England in support of the French under the "Auld Alliance". The French hoped that an attack from their Sctos allies would divide Henry's forces (currently fighting in France) and lead to his defeat on both fronts. However, they had reckoned without the skills of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey.

Now a man of 60 years old, Thomas was an extremely skilled tactician and a veteran leader of many military conflicts. He was asked to command a force to meet the Scots and turn them back. He marched northwards with an army of about 26,000 men, chiefly archers and billmen. He feared that the Scots may retreat back over the border before he engaged them, so a message was sent by herald inviting the Scots king, James IV, to wait and meet him on equal terms. James sent a reply that he would do so.

On September 6th Howard's troops arrived at the Valley of the Till and saw James's troops amassed on the top of a steep hill. Howard sent another message to James saying that he had agreed to meet him fairly but that his present position gave him an unfair advantage. He invited James to come down and fight on the plain, a request James refused.

King James was killed and and the Scots routed at the battle of Flodden

The Scots position was so strong, and their numbers superior (about 30,000) that Surrey could have no chance of winning such an encounter. However, he was short on supplies and he realised he had to take action or face withdrawing. On the evening of 8th September Thomas Howard bagan marching his army north and west, around the Scots in a calculated attempt to outflank them and cut off their supply route back into Scotland. It was a risky and bold move, as the army was spread out and had to move fast.

The move seems to have taken James completely by surprise. He was unaware of the position of the English until after noon the next day, when the morning mist had cleared. The result was that the Scots now faced the English from the top of much gentler slope. They were also facing the wrong way, cut off from their supply trains and were forced into a hurried redeployment.

The battle began with an artillery duel, the English guns proving much more effective and accurate, as the Scots could not aim theirs low enough to fire accurately on the soldiers below them.

In the ensuing encounter, the English bills proved much more effective than the Scots long, cumbersome pikes and in a desparate charge down the hill, James and many of the Scottish nobles fighting with him were cut down and killed.

The action was a resounding English success, due to Howard's military skills and the Scots impetuousity. It effectviely destroyed the Scots as a serious threat and they were never to recover from the loss of so many of their high ranking nobles. The English losses are estimated at about 1,500 and the Scots at close to 10,000.

Thomas Howard was rewarded with his rightful title of 2nd Duke of Norfolk, the title that he should have inherited from his father but for the bill of attainder passed after Bosworth.

Howerd died in 1524 and was buried at Thetford Priory, but moved during the dissoution of the monasteries to Framlingham church.


Contact info
Peter Moore: p1415moore@hotmail.com
John Horgan: john@worcesterhousehold.co.uk