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Poitiers Supper, 20th November 2013

Over 40 Bowyers and friends gathered in Bangers wine bar on Wednesday 20 November 2013 for the annual Poitiers Supper. The topic of this year's pre-supper talk was the Battle of Flodden, which took place in Northumberland between England and Scotland 500 years ago, on 9 September 1513. It was the last big battle in which the longbow played any kind of decisive role, and also the first British battle that involved an artillery exchange. The story of the Battle of Flodden was told in lively style by Renter Warden Tony Kench, who had put together a thoroughly-researched 30-minute, 30-slide presentation with photographs and diagrams.

It had been a dramatic battle with a decisive result. At French instigation, the largest Scottish army ever raised, some 30,000, had crossed from Coldstream over the border into Northumberland under the charismatic but impetuous personal leadership of King James IV. An English army of 20-22,000 was quickly raised from the northern shires, commanded by Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, a 70-year-old veteran commander who had fought at Bosworth, and his son Thomas Howard, the Lord Admiral. When the two armies met, the result was an overwhelming English hand-to-hand victory, all over within three hours. At least 10,000 Scots were killed, including the King and most of his nobles, for the loss of 1,500 English dead and wounded. The text of the talk, with the story of the battle, can be viewed in the Bowyery section of our website, under the filename Battle of Flodden.

Each summer the regiment and citizens of Coldstream ride out to the Flodden battlefield monument to intone the bagpipe lament, lay a wreath and sound the Last Post, in a very moving ceremony which Tony had witnessed during his battlefield visit this year.

Following Tony's talk, Freeman Alex Cameron presented a short postscript on the Scottish view of the Battle of Flodden. The defeat had had a devastating effect on the Scottish psyche; Alex quoted Walter Scott's words "where shiver'd was fair Scotland's spear and broken was her shield", and also Jane Elliott's later 'Flowers of the Forest'. Flodden pretty much marked the end of any serious Scottish ambitions to take on the English at war, and over the succeeding 90 years led toward the ending of its 'auld alliance' with France, and toward the eventual union with England.

The presentations by Tony and Alex were very well received, and some lively and interested questions followed. The company then turned to concentrate on its 3-course wine bar supper, and a thoroughly convivial Bowyer evening was enjoyed by all.

Tony Kench

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