Battle of Melrose (1526)

Fourteen-year-old King James V of Scotland was, in 1526, under the legal Guardianship of the Council of Regency. Supposedly, the council were to share guardianship in three-monthly arrangements. Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, however, had other plans. He refused to hand James V over to the next council member whose ‘turn’ it was. Young James then wrote to Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch (known as ‘Wicked Wat’, a powerful reiver and hardy soldier), asking for his aid.

Scott gathered a force of about six hundred men, comprising Scotts, Elliots, and supporters from Liddesdale and Annandale (though estimates range to as many as one thousand men). On ‘Charge Law’, a hillside of the Eildons, Scott mustered his men, ready to intercept the train of Archibald Douglas as the Earl attempted to transport James V to Edinburgh. Douglas’ force was built of Douglases, Kerrs, and Maxwells, and when ‘Wicked Wat’ charged, they stood their ground. The battle was short and fraught, Scott losing about eighty men in the fray, and Douglas, Earl of Angus about one hundred. Despite the greater losses, Douglas was able to rout Scott’s men, thanks to the aid of Lord Hume and his reinforcement of Kerrs, which harried the Scott flank.

During the rout, an Elliot (possibly of the line which would become the Elliots of Stobs) turned on his pursuer, Andrew Kerr of Cessford, and ran him through with his spear. The killing, whether the Elliot in question knew it or not, precipitated an infamous Border feud between the Scotts and Elliots, and the Kerrs – a feud which would last decades, and end bloodily.

In 1527, a number of local lairds were pardoned for having mustered their supporters at this battle. These being specifically Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme, John Cranston of that Ilk, James Hoppringle, Walter Scott in Synton, Robert Scott of Allanhaugh, Robert Scott in Howpasley, William Scott of Hassendean, John Scott of Borthaugh, Philip Scott in Headshaw,
William Turnbull of Minto, Robert Turnbull in Hallrule, John Scott of the Walls, Simon Scott
of Fenwick, and Master Michael Scott.

In the aftermath of the battle, James V was taken to Edinburgh by the successful Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. Later that year, another battle (the Battle of Linlithgow Bridge) took place as a further attempt by anti-Douglas forces to rest control of James V from the Earl of Angus. Douglas, however, was once again victorious, and so it was not until 1528, at the age of sixteen, that James escaped the Earl’s ‘guardianship’; fleeing to Stirling to be with his mother and assume the reins of government himself. Douglas and his family then had their lands confiscated, and Douglas himself was forced to seek refuge in England. James continued to reign until his death in 1542.