Monday, July 19, 2010

The Battle of Halidon Hill

In 1822, Walter Scott published "Halidon Hill: a dramatic sketch from Scottish History".  Scott included some history along with his verse.  The Battle of Halidon Hill took place on July 19, 1333, and was part of the Second War of Scottish Independence.  Scottish Sir Archibald Douglas and his forces were routed by forces of the Edward III of England as they tried to relieve Berwick-upon-Tweed from English siege.  Scott begins his version of the story as follows:

'It may be proper to observe, that the scene of action has, in the following pages, been transferred from Homildon to Halidon Hill. For this there was an obvious reason, for who would again venture to introduce upon the scene the celebrated Hotspur, who commanded the English at the former battle ? There are, however, several coincidences which may reconcile even the severer antiquary to the substitution of Halidon Hill for Homildon. A Scottish army was defeated by the English on both occasions, and under nearly the same circumstances of address on the part of the victors, and mismanagement on that of the vanquished, for the English long-bow decided the day in both cases. In both cases, also, a Gordon was left on the field of battle; and at Halidon, as at Homildon, the Scots were commanded by an illfated representative of the great house of Douglas. He of Homildon was surnamed Tine-man, i. e. Lose-man, from his repeated defeats and miscarriages, and, with all the personal valour of his race, seems to have enjoyed so small a portion of their sagacity, as to be unable to learn military experience from reiterated calamity. I am far, however, from intimating, that the traits of imbecility and envy, attributed to the Regent in the following sketch, are to be historically ascribed either to the elder Douglas of Halidon Hill, or to him called Tine-man ; who seems to have enjoyed the respect of his countrymen, notwithstanding that, like the celebrated Anne de Montmorency, he was either defeated, or wounded, or made prisoner in every battle which he fought. The Regent of the sketch is a character purely imaginary.

The tradition of the Swinton family, which still survives in a lineal descent, and to which the author has the honour to be related, avers, that the Swinton who fell at Homildon in the manner narrated in the preceding extract, had slain Gordon's father; which seems sufficient ground for adopting that circumstance into the following Dramatic Sketch, though it is rendered improbable by other authorities.

If any reader will take the trouble of looking at Froissart, Fordun, or other historians of the period, he will find, that the character of the Lord of Swinton for strength, courage, and conduct, is by no means exaggerated...'

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