The Battle of Solway Moss, 1542

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Fought on 24th November 1542, this was a battle between an English and a Scottish army. Relations between England and Scotland had been mainly peaceful since King James V succeeded his father in 1513, but tensions had risen ever since a new alliance had been forged between France and Scotland and the English King Henry VIII had engineered a religious reformation.

On 24th November 1542, a Scottish force of about 18,000 men crossed the border. King James did not lead the invasion in person but remained in Scotland. Shortly before the battle, which took place at Solway Moss in Cumbria, Sir Oliver Sinclair had been declared general. Most of the other senior officials in the Scottish army refused to listen to Sinclair, who had little chance of creating any cohesion because each noble and gentleman had their own retainers who would only obey their orders.

Sir Thomas Wharton led a smaller English force of 3,000 from Carlisle to intercept the Scots. When the English cavalry attacked, it pinned the Scots between the boggy Solway Moss and the River Esk. Chaos ensued and many of the Scots fled. Rumours that another English army was approaching added to the panic. Several hundred Scots drowned in their retreat, and as many as 1,200 surrendered.

The English took Sinclair prisoner, as well as several other influential Scottish aristocrats. Three weeks after hearing of the defeat of his army, King James V died, leaving his six-day-old daughter Mary as Queen. Fighting continued with the English until 1547.

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