Burning of Edinburgh

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The Burning of Edinburgh in 1544 by an English sea-borne army was the first major action of the war of the Rough Wooing. A Scottish army observed the landing on 3 May 1544 but did not engage with the English force. The Provost of Edinburgh was compelled to allow the English to sack Leith and Edinburgh. However, the Scottish artillery within Edinburgh Castle harassed the English forces, who had neither the time nor the resources to besiege the Castle. The English fleet sailed away loaded with captured goods, and with two ships that had belonged to James V of Scotland.

Henry VIII of England wished to unite the Kingdom of Scotland with the Kingdom of England, or at least bring the kingdom under his hegemony. He had contracted with the Regent Arran that Mary, Queen of Scots would marry his son, Prince Edward. But Arran allowed the Parliament of Scotland to revoke this agreement prompting Henry to declare war in December 1543, and now the Regent was making ground against his rebels who still supported the English marriage, such as the Earl of Lennox, Earl of Glencairn, the Earl of Cassillis and the Earl of Angus. These nobles were in touch with Henry VIII via Lennox's secretary Thomas Bishop and Angus's chaplain, Master John Penven. Their letters to Henry VIII requested intervention, and in March he replied that a 'main army' was in preparation.[1] Henry's Privy Council issued his instructions for the invasion force on 10 April 1544, and they were to;

"Put all to fire and sword, burn Edinburgh, so razed and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what ye can of it, as there may remain forever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lightened upon (them) for their falsehood and disloyalty."[2]

Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, at this time called Lord Hertford was the King's Lieutenant of this Army Royal. He had considered establishing an English garrison at Leith but the Privy Council vetoed this plan. Henry VIII had also asked him to destroy St Andrews, but Lord Hertford pointed out the extra distance would be troublesome.

Hertford discussed with Privy Council the possibility of Scottish allies capturing Cardinal Beaton during his invasion. Henry VIII believed that Beaton, a favourer of the Auld Alliance with France, was particularly responsible for the rejection of the marriage plan. Beaton's would-be kidnappers included James Kirkcaldy of Grange, Norman Leslie Master of Rothes, and John Charteris who offered to attempt to capture the Cardinal as he travelled in Fife. Their second scheme was to attack Arbroath while attention was focussed on Edinburgh. This offer was made by Alexander Crichton of Brunstane who sent a messenger called Wishart to Lord Hertford.[3] Time was too short to offer military support for these plans, but if those concerned would join in the destruction of Church property they would be offered asylum in England and £1000 to fund their action.[4] Any schemes more elaborate than a punitive raid on Edinburgh were shelved as Henry VIII committed resources to the siege of Boulogne in France already planned for the summer.

The army assembled at Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead. In April 1544, Sir Christopher Morris reported to Lord Hertford that he had organised munitions for the invasion at Berwick upon Tweed. These included;

Anthony Neville of South Leverton was appointed Surveyor General of Victuals for the army.[5] Edward Shelley (who was one of the first English soldiers to be killed at the battle of Pinkie) reported that he had 40 thousand-weight of biscuit on 20 April. At Berwick, Shelley had problems getting enough coal or wood for baking and brewing. He had to ask permission to impress more supplies and hold sales to rotate his stock.[6] 4000 border horsemen waited at Berwick for Hertford's signal. At first it was planned that they would make a diversionary attack on Haddington. Their commander Ralph Eure wrote from Alnwick on 28 April that these 'countrymen' were so poor he had to lend them money.[7] He also asked for 1000 Yorkshire archers as reinforcement so that they could come to Edinburgh to support the landing. In the event, it was agreed that Hertford would summon Eure when he had disembarked his troops. When Eure's men arrived in Edinburgh they would get their pay.[8]

This page was last edited on 14 May 2018, at 15:04 (UTC).
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_Edinburgh under CC BY-SA license.

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