Battle of Melrose, 1378 and 1526
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In 1378 Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, a nephew of Archibald took Berwick by surprise with 50 men, and was immediately besieged by the town's governor Thomas De Musgrave. Douglas and Lord Lyndsay of the Byres massed a relief army at Haddington, little more than 500 in number, but marched anyway hoping to collect more men on the way. When Archibald's army approached Berwick his scouts informed him that the English army around the castle numbered around 10,000, with archers, siege engines, heavy horse and ships blockading the river. Douglas then retreated to Melrose, followed by the English army. Just short of Melrose, Musgrave attacked. Fortunately Archibald's army had now been reinforced. During the ensuing Battle of Melrose, Musgrave was unhorsed and forced to yield for ransom. With Musgrave and other leaders captured, the remaining English not already slain fled back to Berwick with news of their defeat.
On the site of the Waverley Castle Hotel close to the Tweed there
was the last known Border Clan feud between the Scott's who were
fighting for the release of James V and the Ker's of Cessford. The
Ker's won the battle and were in pursuit of the Elliot's as they
escaped west. At a point overlooking Abbotsford, Elliot turned and
speared Ker to death.
It is not known how the feud between the two clans arose, but the
enmity of the Scotts and Kers had long been smoldering, when in
1526, during a Justice Court held at Jedburgh, the boy King, James
V, secretly wrote to Sir Walter Scott, "Wicked Wat of Branxholm,"
bidding Sir Walter gather the Scotts at Melrose to free him from the
power of Douglas, Earl of Angus, who had wed his widowed mother.
From Jedburgh the King rode to Melrose, where, shortly after the
escort of Kers and Howes had taken their leave, the Scotts under Sir
Walter arrived a thousand strong. A fierce battle with Douglas and
his men was ended by the unexpected appearance on the field of the
returned Kers and Howes; the Laird of Buccleuch and his force being
compelled to flee, "followed furiouslie" by the Kers.
The Battle of Melrose was fought between Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, supported by the Kerrs and Maxwells, and Walter Scott of Buccleuch supported by the Elliots. The Earl of Angus had secured guardianship of the young King James V in what was supposed to be a three monthly arrangement where James would be cared for by each of the four members of the Council of Regency; however, having taken James into his care, Angus refused to hand him on to the Earl of Arran whose turn was next. After over a year with Angus and having grown weary of what amounted to his informal imprisonment, James sent a message to Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, pleading for him to launch an attempt to secure his liberty. After a visit to Jedburgh to participate in a Justice ayre, the king had begun his journey towards Edinburgh, escorted by Angus and his men, when they were intercepted by a large body of reivers led by Scott of Buccleuch at Melrose.
Angus’ troop, predominantly Kerrs, stood its ground and was
able to drive off its attackers, inflicting relatively heavy
The Battle of Melrose and the subsequent Battle of Linlithgow Bridge resulted from attempts by anti-Douglas forces to wrest control of the King from Angus.
Walter Scott, Lord of ccleuch (also known as Wicked Wat) was from a powerful Border reiver family. Scott was knighted on the field of the Battle of Flodden by James V’s father, James IV, on 9 September 1513 and appointed Baillie of the lands of Melrose Abbey in 1519, a position that became hereditary thereafter. In 1524, he was imprisoned by Margaret in a dispute over lands she held in Ettrick Forest. He escaped and joined the party of Angus and Lennox, who were allied against Margaret at this point.
InIn May 1526, he was given a letter of pardon under the Privy Seal for an attempt to take Arran prisoner, which he was presumably doing on behalf of Angus and Lennox. He was then contacted by James, who asked him to bring an army to release him from Angus’ control. It is not clear why James thought this was wise, but it may have been a suggestion from Lennox, to whom James was now connected by a secret pact. . After Buccleuch’s attempt to free James failed he was exiled under a penalty of £10,000 for his participation in the incident; however, he was formally pardoned in February 1528 under the Great Seal and then by an Act of Parliament in September of that year.
Buccleuch led raids into England in subsequent years, and
fought alongside Angus and Arran in the battles of Ancrum Moor
and Pinkie during the Rough Wooing. However, he was eventually
killed in the street in Edinburgh in 1552 by a group of Kerrs
taking revenge for the death of Andrew Kerr of Cessford at
However, much of this material will have been made of iron,
and it is possible that soil conditions will not have been
conducive to the survival of ferrous objects. There are
currently no artefacts known from the area of the battlefield
that might be associated with the fighting. There is no record
of eighteenth or nineteenth century discoveries of bones or
weapons in the area.
Image by Andrew Spratt
Any contributions will be gratefully accepted We would welcome a full article on these two battles.
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Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017