09.09.06, Cooper, Scottish Renaissance Armies

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Steven Gunn

The Medieval Review 09.09.06

Cooper, Jonathan. Illustrated by Graham Turner. Scottish Renaissance Armies, 15131550. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2008. Pp. 64. ISBN: 9781846033254.

Reviewed by:
Steven Gunn
Merton College, Oxford

Interest has been reviving in the armed forces of the early sixteenth century in many parts of Europe. For a long time the debate over the "military revolution" focused attention on the armies of Maurice of Nassau, Gustavus Adolphus and their contemporaries. Those of Charles V, Francis I, Henry VIII, James IV and their generation were seen as inadequate attempts to adapt medieval warfare to the demands and possibilities of effective hand-held firearms and field artillery, poor forerunners of what was to come. British attempts to keep up with the continent were thought to be particularly inadequate. Proper pike and musket drill seemed to have been attempted only with the English trained bands of the 1570s. Real bastioned trace italienne fortification was evident only at Elizabethan Berwick-upon-Tweed and even there nearly a generation behind France and the Netherlands. Now the armies of France, Spain, the Low Countries and England in this period of frequent warfare, expanding armies and increasing firepower are being re-assessed. [1] So are those of the Scots.

A number of historians have taken part in this re-evaluation, David Caldwell, James Hill and Marcus Merriman among them. Two prime contributions have come from Norman Macdougall and Gervase Phillips. MacDougall's was part of a wide-ranging consideration of James IV's kingship, turning the quixotic figure of past interpretations into a shrewdly ambitious monarch. Among MacDougall's emphases were the size and quality of James's navy, led by the Great Michael, a vessel fit to prompt the envy of Henry VIII, and his determination to adapt his army to the latest styles of continental warfare. At Flodden he aimed to beat the English by combining cannonry with pikes, and it was the terrain and failures in tactical coordination, rather than the inadequacy of the conception, that led to his defeat. [2] Phillips' arguments were more wide-ranging. He saw Anglo-Scottish warfare from Flodden to Pinkie and beyond not as a story of benighted slogging between old adversaries isolated from the continent and ignorant of military novelties, but as one of "change, innovation and gradual modernisation." Encouraged by French captains and aiming at least to keep up with their English enemies, the Scots adopted firearms in ever greater numbers and learnt to tackle the bastioned fortifications built in temporary materials by the English in their attempt to occupy the Lowlands after Pinkie. [3]

Jonathan Cooper draws effectively on these insights and many more in the work under review. He explains the political and diplomatic contexts of Anglo-Scottish warfare and describes five battles in detail. Refreshingly, the three Anglo-Scots clashes include not just the well-known defeats at Flodden and Pinkie, but also the victory at Ancrum Moor in 1545. Linlithgow Bridge in 1526, on which Cooper has published at greater length elsewhere, provides an instance of large- scale civil conflict, as the earl of Lennox and his allies with some 10,000 men fought the Douglases for control over the teenage James V. [4] Loch Lochy in 1544 gives an insight into Highland warfare, as the Frasers of Lovat were crushed by Clanranald in a hard-fought ambush at the culmination of weeks of raiding and alliance-building. Analytical sections then examine the recruitment and organisation of Scottish armies, tactics, siegecraft, armour and weapons, flags, liveries and badges, and the Scots' role in the continental wars of their French allies.

There are a few surprising omissions or mistakes. There is very little description of the Anglo-Scots wars of the 1520s and no mention at all of that of 1532-4. If a protracted siege, such as that of Haddington, had been added to the five battles considered in detail, a wider range of operations would have been exemplified and there would have been the opportunity for more concerted exploration of the Scottish and French response to the English garrison policy of 1547-50. There is no sense of the rehabilitation of the Scottish nobility and the political system they managed associated with the work of Sandy Grant and Jenny Wormald: in 1542 "Scottish affairs sank once more into their habitual state of internecine quarrels among the nobility" (9). [5] Louis XII of France was not Charles VIII's son but a cousin (4). Ferdinand of Aragon, fighting the French for Naples and grabbing Navarre, was surely a bigger factor in the European politics of 1512-13 than the Emperor Maximilian (4). Marignano was fought in 1515, not 1513, and Pavia in 1525, not 1526 (54). It seems to be implied that Henry VIII was still alive at the time of Pinkie, when he had been dead nearly eight months (14-15).

One should not cavil too much. A prominent feature of the book is its wide range of illustrations, and these will make it useful to what are presumably two major parts of its intended audience, military modellers and re-enactors, who will value the considerable detail on weaponry and dress provided both there and in the text. There are sixteenth-century portraits and prints, including both a complete reproduction and selected details of a remarkable depiction of Pinkie apparently based on eyewitness sketches. There are Victorian prints, modern battle plans and reconstruction drawings of soldiers and battles by Alan Gault and others. There are photographs of surviving and replica arms and armour and of standing fortifications. Most prominently, there are eight pages of lively colour plates painted by Graham Turner. They show a wide range of armed men in a variety of situations, including on board ship, spread across the geographical and chronological range of the book. The detailed notes on them, describing the clothing, equipment and heraldry depicted and the sources on which the reconstructions are based, greatly enhance their value. If read with a little caution, then, and used above all as a visual resource, this book will serve as a useful introduction to the fighting Scots of the Renaissance.


Notes: 1. David Potter, Renaissance France at War: Armies, Culture and Society, c.1480-1560 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2008); Fernando Gonzalez de Leon, "Spanish Military Power and the Military Revolution," in Early Modern Military History, 1450-1815, edited by Geoff Mortimer (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 25- 42; Steven Gunn, David Grummitt, Hans Cools, War, State and Society in England and the Netherlands, 1477-1559 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007); Luke MacMahon, "Chivalry, Military Professionalism and the Early Tudor Army in Renaissance Europe," in The Chivalric Ethos and the Development of Military Professionalism, edited by David Trim (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 183-212; James Raymond, Henry VIII's Military Revolution: The Armies of Sixteenth-Century Britain and Europe (London: Tauris, 2007).

2. Norman Macdougall, James IV (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1989).

3. Gervase Phillips, The Anglo-Scots Wars 1513-1550 (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1999), quotation at p. 7.

4. Jonathan Cooper, The Heart and the Rose: The Battle of Linlithgow Bridge, 1526 (Leigh-on-Sea: Partizan Press, 2004).

5. Alexander Grant, Independence and Nationhood: Scotland 1306- 1469 (London: Edward Arnold, 1984); Jenny Wormald, Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland 1470-1625 (London: Edward Arnold, 1981).

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Author Biography

Steven Gunn

Merton College, Oxford