Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

partof=Anglo-Scottish Wars
date=September 10 1547
place=Musselburgh, Lothian, Scotland
result=Decisive English Victory
commander1=Earl of Arran
commander2=Duke of Somerset
strength1=Between 23,000 and 36,000
30 warships
casualties1=5,000 killed
1500 prisoners
casualties2=500 killed|
The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, along the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland on 10 September 1547, was part of the War of the Rough Wooing. It was the last battle to be fought between the Scottish and the English Royal armies and the first "modern" battle to be fought in the British Isles. It was a catastrophic defeat for the Scots caused by the use of Naval artillery by the English for the first time in a land battle in Britain. In Scotland it is known as Black Saturday.Fact|date=August 2008

This was historically significant as the first "modern" battle fought in Britain, demonstrating active cooperation between the infantry, artillery and cavalry with a naval bombardment in support of the land forces.

Background to the War

In the last years of his reign King Henry VIII had tried to secure an alliance with Scotland, and the marriage of the infant Mary Queen of Scots with his young son, the future Edward VI. When persuasion and diplomacy failed, he launched a ruthless war against Scotland, an episode known as the Rough Wooing.

After Henry died, Edward Seymour, uncle to Edward VI, became Protector with the title of Duke of Somerset and with initially unchallenged power. He too wished to forcibly ally Scotland to England by marrying Mary to Edward, and also to impose an Anglican Reformation on the Scottish church establishment. Early in September 1547, he led a well-equipped army into Scotland, supported by a large fleet.

The Campaign

Somerset's army was partly composed of the traditional county levies, summoned by Commissions of Array and armed with longbow and bill as they had been at the Battle of Flodden, thirty years before. However, Somerset also had several hundred German mercenary arquebusiers, a large and well appointed train of artillery, and 6000 horse, including a contingent of Spanish mounted arquebusiers under Don Pedro de Gamboa. The cavalry were commanded by Lord Grey, and the infantry by the Earl of Warwick, Lord Dacre of Gillesland, and Somerset himself.

Somerset advanced along the east coast of Scotland, to maintain contact with his fleet and thereby keep in supply. Scottish Border Reivers harassed his troops but could impose no major check.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Regent, the Earl of Arran, had levied a large army, consisting mainly of pikemen with contingents of Highland archers. Arran also had large numbers of guns, but these were apparently not as mobile or as well-served as Somerset's. His horse consisted only of 2000 lightly equipped riders under the Earl of Home, most of whom were potentially unreliable Borderers. His infantry were commanded by the Earl of Angus, the Earl of Huntly and Arran himself.

Arran occupied the slopes on the west bank of the River Esk to bar Somerset's progress. The Firth of Forth was on his left flank, and a large bog protected his right. Some fortifications were constructed, in which cannon and arquebuses were mounted. Some guns pointed out into the Forth, to keep English warships at a distance.


On September 9, part of Somerset's army occupied Falside Hill (then known as Fawside), three miles east of Arran's main position. In an absurdly chivalric gesture, the Earl of Home led 1500 horsemen close to the English encampment and challenged an equal number of English cavalry to fight. With Somerset's approval, Lord Grey accepted the challenge, but engaged the Scots with 1000 heavily armoured men-at-arms, and 500 lighter demi-lances. The Scottish horsemen were badly cut up, and chased west for three miles. This action cost Arran most of his cavalry.

Later during the day, Somerset sent a detachment with guns to occupy the Inveresk Slopes, which overlooked the Scottish position. During the night, Somerset received two more anachronistic challenges from Arran. One request was for Somerset and Arran to settle the dispute by single combat. Another was for 20 champions from each side to decide the matter. Somerset rejected both proposals.

The battle

On the morning of September 10, Somerset advanced his army to close up with the detachment at Inveresk. He found that Arran had moved his army across the Esk by a Roman bridge, and was advancing rapidly to meet him. Arran knew himself to be outmatched in artillery, and therefore tried to force close combat before the English artillery could deploy.

Arran's left wing came under fire from English ships offshore. (Their advance meant that the guns on their former position could no longer protect them.) They were disordered, and pushed into Arran's own division in the centre.

On the other flank, Somerset threw in his cavalry to delay the Scots' advance. The Scottish pikemen successfully drove them off with the English suffering heavy casualties. Lord Grey himself was wounded by a pike thrust to the face.

However, the Scottish army was now stalled, and under heavy fire from three sides from ships' cannon, artillery, arquebusiers and archers to which they could not reply. When they broke, the English cavalry rejoined the battle. Many retreating Scots were slaughtered, or drowned as they tried to swim the fast-flowing Esk or cross the bogs.


Although they had suffered a resounding defeat, the Scottish government refused to come to terms. The infant Queen Mary was smuggled out of the country, and sent to France to be betrothed to the young dauphin Francis. Somerset occupied several Scottish strongholds and large parts of the Lowlands and Borders, but without peace, these garrisons became a useless drain on the Treasury of England.

A violent Reformation in Scotland was only a few years away, but Scots refused to have Reformation imposed on them by England. During the battle, the Scots taunted the English soldiers as "loons [persons of no consequence] , tykes and heretics". A thousand monks from various orders formed part of the Earl of Angus's division. Many died in the battle.

Of the Scottish prisoners, few were nobles or gentlemen. It was claimed that most were dressed much the same as common soldiers, and therefore not recognised as being worth ransom.

Although the Scots blamed traitors within their own ranks for the defeat, it is probably fair to say that a Renaissance army defeated a Mediaeval army. Henry VIII had taken steps towards creating standing naval and land forces, which formed the nucleus of the fleet and army with which Somerset gained the victory.

It should be noted that the longbow continued to play key roles in England's battles and Pinkie was no exception. Though the combination of bill and longbow which England used was old, the pike and arquebus tactics used in continental armies did not make it obsolete as the bill and bow could still hold their own against them at this stage in the development of firearms.

The battle-site is now part of East Lothian.

Clans at Pinkie

The following is a list (currently incomplete) of clans that fought at the battle of Pinkie.

*Clan Agnew
*Clan Boyle
*Clan Brodie
*Clan Buchanan
*Clan Cameron
*Clan Campbell
*Clan Carnegie
*Clan Cathcart
*Clan Colquhoun
*Clan Elphinstone
*Clan Farquharson
*Clan Forbes
*Clan Forrester
*Clan Gordon
*Clan Graham
*Clan Hannay
*Clan Henderson
*Clan Home
*Clan Hunter
*Clan Irvine
*Clan Johnstone
*Clan Livingstone aka Clan MacLea
*Clan MacFarlane
*Clan MacDowall
*Clan MacGregor
*Clan MacKenzie
*Clan MacKinlay
*Clan MacLaren
*Clan Munro
*Clan Muir
*Clan Napier
*Clan Ogilvy
*Clan Rose
*Clan Sempill
*Clan Skene
*Clan Stirling
*Clan Strange
*Clan Stuart, forces of the royal House of Stuart
*Clan Urquhart
*Clan Wemyss


"Famous Scottish battles", Philip Warner, Leo Cooper, London, 1975, ISBN 0-85052-487-3"Burke's Country Gentry" under Henderson of Fordell & "History of Inverkeithing & Rosyth" by W.M.Stephen,1921.

External links


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