Battle of the Standard

Battle of the Standard

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of the Standard

caption=Battlefield monument at gbmapping|SE360977
date=22 August 1138
place= Cowton Moor near Northallerton in Yorkshire
result=English victory
combatant1=Kingdom of England
combatant2=Kingdom of Scotland
commander1=William of Aumale
commander2=David I of Scotland
strength1= ?up to 10,000
strength2= ?up to 16,000
casualties1=unknown but low
casualties2=unknown; ?as high as 12,000

The Battle of the Standard, sometimes called the Battle of Northallerton, in which English forces repelled a Scottish army, took place on 22 August 1138 on Cowton Moor near Northallerton in Yorkshire. The Scottish forces were led by King David I of Scotland. The English were commanded by William of Aumale. King Stephen of England ( fighting rebel barons in the south) had sent a small force (largely mercenaries), but the English army was mainly local militia and baronial retinues from Yorkshire and the north Midlands. Archbishop Thurstan of York had exerted himself greatly to raise the army, preaching that to withstand the Scots was to do God’s work. The centre of the English position was therefore marked by a mast (mounted upon a cart) bearing a pyx carrying the consecrated host and from which were flown the consecrated banners of the minsters of York, Beverley and Ripon: hence the name of the battle.

David had entered England for two declared reasons [Lynch, Michael, "Scotland: A New History",(revised edn: London,1992 ISBN 0-7126-9893-0), page 83] , :
*To support his niece Matilda's claim to the English throne against that of King Stephen (married to another niece) [Green, Judith A., "David I and Henry I", in the "Scottish Historical Review". vol. 75 (1996)(p 18) suggests David may had his own ambitions for the English throne ]

*To enlarge his kingdom beyond his previous gains . [Strictly speaking he had enlarged his holdings, not his kingdom: England had not ceded territory to Scotland, rather the King of England had granted the King of Scotland various lands within England, some of which abutted Scotland. Everybody knew this to be a polite fiction, though. ]

David’s forces had already taken much of Northumberland apart from castles at Wark [Otherwise known as Carham -'Carrum' in Richard of Hexham's chronicle is a good phonetic transcription. There is also a Wark with a castle in Tynedale, with which it should not be confused; Wark was strategically important because it secured the furthest point upstream at which the Tweed was the border.] and Bamburgh. Advancing beyond the Tees towards York, early on 22 August 1138 the Scots found the English army drawn up on open fields two miles N of Northallerton; they formed up in four ‘lines’ to attack it. The first attack, by unarmoured spearmen against armoured men (including dismounted knights) supported by telling fire from archers failed. Within 3 hours, the Scots army disintegrated apart from small bodies of knights and men-at-arms around David and his son Henry. At this point Henry led a spirited attack with mounted knights; he and David then withdrew separately with their immediate companions in relatively good order. Heavy Scots losses are claimed, in battle and in flight.
The English did not pursue far; David fell back to Carlisle and reassembled an army. Within a month a truce was negotiated which left the Scots free to continue the siege of Wark castle, which eventually fell. Despite losing the battle, David was subsequently given most of the territorial concessions he had been seeking (which the chronicles say he had been offered before he crossed the Tees). David held these throughout the Anarchy, but on the death of David, his successor Malcolm IV of Scotland was soon forced to surrender David's gains to Henry II of England
:Some chronicle accounts of the battle include an invented pre-battle speech on the glorious deeds of the Normans, occasionally quoted as good contemporary evidence of the high opinion the Normans held of themselves.


David had gained the Scottish throne largely because of the support of Henry I of England and he had attempted to remodel Scotland to be more like Henry's England. He had carried out peaceful changes in the areas of Scotland over which he had effective control and he had conducted military campaigns against semi-autonomous regional rulers to reassert his authority; in administration, in warfare, and in the settling of regained territory he had drawn on the talent and resources of the Anglo-Norman lands. The death of Henry I in 1135 by weakening England made David more reliant on his native subjects, and allowed him to contemplate winning control over substantial areas of Northern England.
Henry I had wished his inheritance to pass to his daughter Matilda, and in 1127 made his notables swear an oath to uphold the succession of Matilda (David was the first layman to do so). Many of the English and Norman magnates and barons were against Matilda, because she was married to Geoffrey V, count of Anjou. On Henry’s death, Stephen, younger brother of Theobald, count of Blois, seized the throne instead. [ M.T. Clancy, "England and its Rulers", (Malden, MA, 1998), pp. 84-5; Robert Bartlett, "England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225", (Oxford, 2000), p. 10.] When Stephen was crowned on 22 December, David went to war. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", pp. 121-3.] After two months of campaigning in northern England, a peace treaty ceding Cumberland [ ie Carlisle and the northern half of modern Cumbria; however in David’s period the inhabitants of parts of the Scottish lowlands were known as Cumbrians. Similarly, Moravians are men from Moray, not Moravia,‘the Scots’ are inhabitants of only one area of modern Scotland, 'the English' are people who speak English. and 'the Normans' may never have set foot in Normandy. ] to David was agreed. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", pp. 122-5.] Additionally, David’s son Henry was made Earl of Huntingdon , David declining to swear the required oath of loyalty to Stephen, since he had already sworn allegiance to Matilda. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", pp. 122-5.] In spring 1137 David again invaded England: a truce was quickly agreed. In November, the truce expired; David demanded to be made earl of the whole of the old earldom of Northumberland. Stephen refused and in January 1138 David invaded for a third time. [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", pp. 126-7.]

Campaigning in 1138 before the Battle

David invades Northumberland

David first moved against English castles on the Tweed frontier. Norham Castle belonged to the Bishop of Durham and its garrison was under-strength; it quickly fell. Having failed to rapidly seize the castle at Wark on Tweed , David detached forces to besiege it and moved deeper into Northumberland, demanding contributions from settlements and religious establishments to be spared plunder and burning. cite web|url=|title=Richard of Hexham : De Gestis Regis Stephani |last=Stevenson|first=Joseph |date=1853-58|work=Church Historians of England, volume 4, part 1|language=English translation|accessdate=2008-08-29]

cots slave-raiding and Anglo-Norman alarm

The actions of the army which invaded England in early 1138 shocked the English chroniclers, cite book|last=Anderson|first=Alan O|title=Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers A.D. 500 to 1286|publisher=David Nutt|location=London|date=1908|pages=402|chapter=V|url= |language=English translation has 2 pages (180-181) of collated outrage. The two principal sources Richard of Hexham and Ailred of Rievaulx were well-placed for the events they relate - see "Sources" ] Richard of Hexham records

"an execrable army, more atrocious than the pagans, neither fearing God nor regarding man, spread desolation over the whole province and slaughtered everywhere people of either sex, of every age and rank, destroying, pillaging and burning towns, churches and houses".
Monastic chroniclers often deplore depredations made by foreign armies and sometimes even those of their own rulers [(two contemporary examples are Orderic Vitalis on the Harrying of the North by William the Conqueror and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle on the Anarchy )] but some Scots forces were going beyond normal Norman 'harrying' by systematically carrying off women and children as slaves [
"Remember what they did in the lands across the Tyne, and hope for nothing gentler if the Scots conquer. I am silent about the slaughter, the rapine, the fires that the enemy employed in something like a human way. I would tell such acts as no stories tell and no histories relate of the fiercest tyrants. I would tell them, I say, if words did not fail before such horror, or the listener flee. They spared no age, rank or sex. The high born, boys as well as girls were led into captivity "
Walter Espec's speech before the Battle of the Standard "Ailred of Rievaulx: Historical Works" p 254
] . In the contemporary Celtic world this was regarded as a useful source of revenue, like (and not significantly more reprehensible than) cattle-raiding [ Davies. R. R., "The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles, 1093-1343", (Oxford, 2000) pp 122-3 The whole of the chapter/lecture " Sweet Civility and Barbarous Rudeness" should really be read, to put the remark into wider context. Professor Davies was 'Welsh Welsh' and probably more sympathetic to the Celtic world-view than the Anglo-Norman chroniclers were ]
"Then (horrible to relate) they carried off, like so much booty, the noble matrons and chaste virgins, together with other women. These naked, fettered, herded together; by whips and thongs they drove before them, goading them with their spears and other weapons. This took place in other wars, but in this to a far greater extent."
The practicalities of this would support the chroniclers’ tales of sexual abuse of the slaves and casual slaughter of unsalable encumbrances:
"For the sick on their couches, women pregnant and in childbed, infants in the womb, innocents at the breast, or on the mother's knee, with the mothers themselves, decrepit old men and worn-out old women, and persons debilitated from whatever cause, wherever they met with them, they put to the edge of the sword, and transfixed with their spears; and by how much more horrible a death they could dispatch them, so much the more did they rejoice."
In February, King Stephen marched north with an army to deal with David. David successfully evaded him. [Little of Scotland had been feudalised by David, and consequently he had few knights at his disposal; both in comparison to the King of England and even in comparison to the notables gathered in York.] , and Stephen returned south.

cots raid into Craven and the Battle of Clitheroe

In the summer, David's nephew William fitz Duncan marched into Yorkshire and harried Craven;on 10 June, he met and defeated an English force of knights and men-at-arms at the battle of Clitheroe [Oram, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", pp. 132-3.] . He also destroyed the recently founded Calder Abbey in Copeland [ in modern Cumbria, but in English territory ; David's Cumberland went no further down the coast than the Derwent. The surviving monks resettled at Byland Abbey under the patronage of Roger de Mowbray after their parent house Furness Abbey refused to readmit them, Calder had to be refounded in 1142.
"Victoria County History": 'Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Calder', A History of the County of Cumberland : Volume 2 (1905), pp. 174-178. URL: Date accessed: 17 August 2008
Byland flourished; the refounded Calder did not, and a dispute ensued as to whether Byland was a daughter house of either Furness or the refounded Calder; eventually the matter was referred to Ailred for his decision : Ailred was a leading light in his age and his region
Burton, Janet, The Monastic Order in Yorkshire, 1069-1215, Cambridge University Press,(Cambridge,1999)ISBN 0-5215-5229-X
] . The choice of targets has no obvious strategic logic; it may be pertinent that William eventually inherited both the Honour of Skipton in Craven , and the Lordship of Copeland , previously held by his father-in-law William de Meschines and which should have passed to him on the death of William de Meschines' son Ranulph Meschin, the founder of Calder. [(William also inherited the role of lay patron of Calder.)]

Peace Feelers Fail; David enters Yorkshire

By late July David had had crossed the river Tyne and was in "St Cuthbert's land" (the lands of the Bishop of Durham). With him were contingents from most of the separate regions of his kingdom, amounting to more than 26,000 men. Eustace fitz John had declared for David and handed over to him Alnwick Castle in Nothumberland. The garrison of Eustace's castle at Malton to the North East of York began to raid surrounding areas in support of David (or Matilda).The magnates of Yorkshire [the value of the major holdings in Yorkshire is given on p298 of Dalton, Paul et al , "Conquest, Anarchy and Lordship: Yorkshire, 1066-1154", Cambridge University Press, ( Cambridge, 2002), ISBN 0 5215 2464 4 ] gathered in York to discuss the worsening crisis:

Archbishop Thurstan of York (who, as will presently appear, greatly exerted himself in this emergency), William of Aumale, Walter de Gant, Robert de Brus, Roger de Mowbray, Walter Espec, Ilbert de Lacy, William de Percy, Richard de Courcy, William Fossard, Robert de Stuteville
Much irresolution was caused by distrust of each other, arising from suspicions of treachery, by the absence of a chief and leader of the war (for their sovereign, king Stephen, encompassed by equal difficulties in the south of England, was just then unable to join them), and by their dread of encountering, with an inadequate force, so great a host]
However, urged by the 70-year-old Thurstan, to stand and fight and if needs be die in a holy cause [Thurstan had been in a sustained dispute with David as to whether the Bishop of Glasgow was subordinate to the Archbishop of York (the sparring on this occupies pages in Anderson "Scottish Annals"(1908)); as a result of this a papal legate was sent (and will play his part later), but here Thurstan is referring to the need to resist the Scots army rather than their bishops ] , they agreed to gather their forces and return to York, where they were joined by reinforcements from Nottinghamshire under William Peverel and Geoffrey Halsalin , and from Derbyshire led by Robert de Ferrers. They advanced to Thirsk, from where they sent Robert de Brus and Bernard de Balliol (recently arrived with a few mercenaries sent by King Stephen) on an embassy to David, whose army was now approaching the River Tees and North Yorkshire.
The emissaries promised to obtain the earldom of Northumberland for Henry, if the Scots army withdrew. Ailred of Rievaulx gives de Brus a speech in which he tells David that the English and the Normans have always been his true friends (against the Gaels), and without their help he may not be able to keep his kingdom together. [
"Therefore I ask you my lord, have you found such fidelity in the Scots that you can safely dismiss the counsel of the English for yourself and your people and deprive yourself of the aid of the Normans, as if the Scots alone sufficed even against the Scots. This reliance in the Galwegians is new to you. Today you are attacking with arms those through whom you have until now ruled, beloved by the Scots and terrible to the Galwegians"
Aelred of Rievaulx Historical Works p 261-2. De Brus's speech may well have been good advice in c 1155 when Ailred is thought to have written it, but in 1138 England was slipping into anarchy, and its Normans would soon be occupied with their own internecine campaigns. De Brus, however, would have had a very specific concern ; de Brus's birthplace and English fief was Skelton, near Gisborough, a short day's march south of the Tees.
] Whatever was initially said , it ended in hard words being exchanged.
Having failed to persuade David to withdraw, the emissaries returned to Thirsk, with de Brus angrily withdrawing his homage to David. [ He had done homage to David for lands in Annandale- where he had built castles at Annan and Lochmaben. Ailred describes him as " a worthy old man, belonging by law to the King of England, but from youth an adherent of the King of Scotland"; ie he had followed David to Scotland as a friend - which may explain the rancour of their parting. Ailred (as always)says David was blameless; the harsh words are an intervention by the king's nephew.] David’s forces crossed the Tees and moved south. The English forces moved northwards and took up a defensive position to the north of Northallerton. [ covering both the road to York and the road south via Boroughbridge and the old Roman road ]

Battle of the Standard

Battlefield and English Dispositions

Moving south from the Tees David’s army would have had the high ground of the North Yorkshire Moors on its left, and the River Swale on its right. Nearing Northallerton, the distance between hills and river is about 8 miles, much of it low-lying and (then) poorly drained. The road to Northallerton from the Tees (the Great North Road) therefore approaches the town along a ridge of slightly higher ground running North-South . Minor ups and downs break the line of sight along the ridge, but the ‘ups’ are hills only in relation to the low ground on either side of the ridge [UK Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Second Series Sheet 99 ‘Northallerton & Ripon’ ] ['England - Yorkshire: 056', Ordnance Survey 1:10,560 - Epoch 1 (1857). URL: Date accessed: 21 August 2008. "covers most of the battle area"] . The English army deployed across this ridge about two miles N of Northallerton in a single solid formation with the armoured men and most of the knights (who had dismounted, and sent their horses to the rear) to the front supported by the archers and the more lightly equiped men of the local levies. The barons stood with the remaining dismounted knights at the centre of the line around the standard . Their left is thought to have straddled the road, with its flank protected by a marsh; it is not known if the low ground to the east of the ridge was similarly boggy, or if the English formation extended that far.

cots Arrive and Deploy

John of Worcester says that David intended to take the English by surprise, there being a very close mist that day. Richard of Hexham says simply that the Scots became aware of the standard (and by implication the army underneath it) at no great distance. [ John of Worcester , Richard of Hexham; both in Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908) J of W p 196, R of H p 202 The Vale of York is notoriously prone to fog, but the visibility on the battlefield was clearly not bad enough to seriously inconvenience the archers cf Battle of Towton]

“In front of the battle were the Picts; in the centre, the king with his knights and English; the rest of the barbarian host poured roaring around them. The king and almost all his followers were on foot, their horses being kept at a distance.” [Account by Richard of Hexham - Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), pp. 200-01.]

Ailred of Rievaulx gives the eventual deployment of the Scots as being in four ‘lines’. The Galwegians - described by a later chronicler [Ralph de Diceto "Imagines Historiarum " page 247 of Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908) (actually describing Galwegians in connection with a Scots invasion in 1173) ] as
" men agile, unclothed, remarkable for much baldness; arming their left side with knives formidable to any armed men, having a hand most skillful at throwing spears and directing them from a distance; raising their long lance as a standard when they advance into battle"
- were in the first line. "The second line the King's son Prince Henry arranged with great wisdom; with himself the knights and archers, adding to their number the Cumbrians and Teviotdalesmen ... The men of Lothian formed the third rank, with the islanders and the men of Lorne. The King kept in his own line the Scots and Moravians; several also of the English and French knights he appointed as his bodyguard.” [ Ailred of Rievaulx - Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), pp. 201-2. From the account of the battle, the fighting was not left entirely to the Galwegians, so Ailred’s “lines” should not be taken to extend the width of the battlefield. Some historians suggest Ailred's description should be interpreted as 4 battles arranged in a diamond formation, but this is speculation based upon 'military probability' not the chronicles.]

Henry of Huntingdon's account of the battle would imply that the men of Lothian with their ‘long spears’ were in the first line; however, the generally accepted view is that the long spears were those of the Galwegians. [(Bede in chapter III.4 of his "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" : A History of the English Church and People, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1965, 341 pages - p 143, had said that St Ninian from his church at Whithorn (in Galloway) had converted "the Picts this side of the mountains" , hence to the chroniclers Gallwegians "were" Picts)] .

cots argue

Ailred says (but this may be a literary device) that this order of battle was decided at the last minute; David had intended to attack first with his knights and armoured men-at-arms, but had faced strong protests from the Galwegians that they should be given the honour of attacking first, since they had already demonstrated at Clitheroe that the vigour of their attack was sufficient to rout Normans in armour. David, however, paid more attention to the counter-argument of his Normans; that if the Galwegians failed the rest of the army would lose heart. The Galwegians resumed their protest [

Nonetheless the Galwegians persisted, demanding that their right be granted to them. 'For why art thou fearful, O King,' said they; 'and why dost thou so greatly dread those iron tunics which thou seest far off? We surely have iron sides, a breast of bronze, a mind void of fear; and our feet have never known flight, nor our backs a wound. What gain were their hauberks to the Gauls at Clitheroe? Did not these men unarmed, as they say, compel them to throw away their hauberks, to forget their helmets, to leave behind their shields? Let then your prudence see, O king, what it is to have confidence in these, which in a strait are more burden than defence. We gained at Clitheroe the victory over mail-clad men: we today shall use as shield the valour of our minds, and vanquish these with spears
Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 199] , and the debate was not aided by a "mormaer" (one of David’s native ‘great lords’ [As the linked article points out; a Scots mormaer was not the same thing as an Anglo-Saxon earl, nor yet a Norse one, or a Norman one, but 'earl' will give a rough indication of their status, if not the nuances of their powers ] asking why David listened to 'foreigners' when none of those with armour on would this day outdo the mormaer who wore no armour) [After this was said, when the King seemed rather to incline to the counsels of his knights, Malisse, earl of Strathearn, was greatly wroth, and said: 'Why is it, O King, that thou reliest rather upon the will of Gauls, since none of them with their arms today will advance before me, unarmed, in the battle? Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908) p 199 ] .
And Alan de Percy, base-born son of the great Alan - a most vigorous knight, and in military matters highly distinguished - took these words ill; and turning to the earl he said, 'A great word hast thou spoken, and one which for thy life thou canst not make good this day.'Then the king, restraining both, lest a disturbance should suddenly arise out of this altercation, yielded to the will of the Galwegians . [ Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908) p. 199.] .

Anglo-Normans orate

Both Ailred and Henry of Huntingdon report a speech made to the Anglo-Normans before battle was joined. The speech may well be a literary device of the chroniclers, to present the reasons why it was fit and proper that the Normans should win, rather than accurate reportage of an actual speech. Ailred of Rievaulx says the speech was made by Walter Espec, Sheriff of York (and founder of Rievaulx). Henry of Huntingdon and after him Roger of Hoveden say the speech was made by Radulf Novell Bishop of Orkney as the representative of Thurstan. [The underlying themes are essentially the same, but are handled somewhat differently. Ailred's version of the speech is substantially longer, and the extracts given below are therefore from Roger of Hoveden's version.] cite web|url=|title= Roger of Hoveden: "The History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201" |last=Riley|first=Henry|date=1853|publisher=Bohn, London|language=English translation |accessdate=2008-08-30]
The speaker first reminds the Normans of the military prowess of their race, (especially when compared to the Scots)

"Most illustrious nobles of England, Normans by birth, ... consider who you are, and against whom, and where it is, you are waging war; for then no one shall with impunity resist your prowess. Bold France, taught by experience, has quailed beneath your valour, fierce England, led captive, has submitted to you; rich Apulia, on having you for her masters, has flourished once again; Jerusalem so famed, and illustrious Antioch, have bowed themselves before you; and now Scotland, which of right is subject to you [ The Normans held that in William the Conqueror's time the King of Scotland had done homage to him, and subsequent Kings of Scotland had served on the campaigns of the King England when summoned. Aelred has Walter Espec be slightly more specific:
Who then would not laugh, rather than fear, when to fight against such men runs the worthless Scot with half-bare buttocks ? They are those, they are only those who of yore thought not to oppose us, but to yield, when William conqueror of England penetrated Lothian, Calatria and Scotland as far as Abernethy, where the warlike Malcolm was made ours by his surrender
] , attempts to show resistance, displaying a temerity not warranted by her arms, more fitted indeed for rioting than for battle. These are people, in fact, who have no knowledge of military matters, no skill in fighting, no moderation in ruling. There is no room then left for fear, but rather for shame, that those whom we have always sought on their own soil and overcome ..have ...come flocking into our country."
He next assures them that God has chosen them to punish the Scots
"This .. has been brought about by Divine Providence; in order that those who have in this country violated the temples of God, stained the altars with blood, slain his priests, spared neither children nor pregnant women, may on the same spot receive the condign punishment of their crimes; and this most just resolve of the Divine will, God will this day put in execution by means of your hands. Arouse your spirits then, ye civilized warriors, and, firmly relying on the valour of your country, nay, rather on the presence of God, arise against these most unrighteous foes"
that any keenness of the Scots to attack is because they don't understand the superiority of Norman equipment
"And let not their rashness move you, because so many insignia of your valour cause no alarm to them. They know not how to arm themselves for battle; whereas you, during the time of peace, prepare yourselves for war, in order that in battle you may not experience the doubtful contingencies of warfare. Cover your heads then with the helmet, your breasts with the coat of mail, your legs with the greaves, and your bodies with the shield, that so the foeman may not find where to strike at you, on seeing you thus surrounded on every side with iron."
.and that the Scots advantage in numbers is no advantage at all, especially when they are up against properly trained Norman knights
" [I] t is not so much the numbers of the many as the valour of the few that gains the battle. For a multitude unused to discipline is a hindrance to itself, when successful, in completing the victory, when routed, in taking to flight. Besides your forefathers, when but few in number, have many a time conquered multitudes; what then is the natural consequence of the glories of your ancestry, your constant exercises, your military discipline, but that though fewer in number, you should overcome multitudes?"
The bishop then finishes by promising that anyone who dies in battle against the Scots this day will go straight to Heaven with all his sins forgiven. [(Walter Espec can only vow to conquer or die and successfully invite his listeners to make a similar declaration.) ] These preliminaries over, the battle begins

Galwegian attack is held and fails

The battle began with a charge by the Galwegian spearmen who

"after their custom gave vent thrice to a yell of horrible sound [Henry of Huntingdon - Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 202 - says the cry was 'Albani', a "sluaghghairm" of some antiquity corresponding to the Gaelic "Albanaich!" "We are the Men of Scotland", which gives some malicious humour to a Tudor antiquary's claim that when the Galwegians fell back the English shouted at them 'Iry' "You're Irish", but this appears to be pure invention on his part] , and attacked the southerns in such an onslaught that they compelled the first spearmen to forsake their post; but they were driven off again by the strength of the knights, and [the spearmen] recovered their courage and strength against the foe. And when the frailty of the Scottish lances was mocked by the denseness of iron and wood they drew their swords and attempted to contend at close quarters" [Ailred of Rievaulx, Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 202.]
The English archery caused disorganisation and heavy casualties in the Scottish ranks. Ailred records the bravery and determination of the Galwegians, together with its ineffectiveness:
"like a hedgehog with its quill, so would you see a Galwegian bristling all round with arrows, and nonetheless brandishing his sword, and in blind madness rushing forward now smite a foe, now lash the air with useless strokes". [ Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 203.]
The Galwegians finally fled after the death of two of their leaders (Domnall and Ulgric); the men of Lothian similarly broke after the earl of Lothian was killed by an arrow [ Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 203-4.]

The King retreats; Prince Henry attacks

David wished to stand and fight, but was forced onto his horse and compelled to retire by his friends. Ailred simply says that the English were advancing; Henry of Huntingdon says that David's 'line' had been progessively melting away. Prince Henry led mounted men in a charge on the Anglo-Norman position, as or just after the Scots foot broke. According to Ailred, Henry successfully broke through and attacked the horse-holders in the rear of the Anglo-Norman position; the 'unarmed men' (ie unarmoured men) were dispersed, and only rallied by a claim that the Scottish king was dead. Since Prince Henry was unsupported and the rest of the army was withdrawing, for the most part in great disorder, he hid any banners showing his party to be Scottish, and retreated towards David by joining the English pursuing him. Henry of Huntingdon is keener to stress Henry's inability to shake the armoured men; again the attack ends in flight [ Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 203-5. (Ailred says that the attack on the horse-holders was to remove from the enemy their refuge in flight; the main effect will have been to make the Scots' flight less hazardous - is this what Ailred means?)]

"Next, the king’s troop ... began to drop off, at first; man by man, and afterwards in bodies, the king standing firm, and being at last left almost alone. The king’s friends seeing this, forced him to mount his horse and take to flight; but Henry, his valiant son, not heeding what he saw being done by his men, but solely intent on glory and valour, while the rest were taking to flight, most bravely charged the enemy’s line, and shook it by the wondrous vigour of his onset. For his troop was the only one mounted on horseback, and consisted of English and Normans, who formed a part of his father’s household. His horsemen, however, were not able long to continue their attacks against soldiers on foot, cased in mail, and standing immoveable in close and dense ranks; but, with their lances broken and their horses wounded, were compelled to take to flight."

cots Rout & Casualties

The battle lasted no longer than between prime and terce [,John of Hexham & Richard of Hexham ; Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 204
i.e. between daybreak and mid-morning. In Northern England at the end of August that would be no more than 3 1/2 hours (even assuming that encounter and deployment had happened before day-break).
] , and by mid-morning all elements of the Scottish army were in retreat or flight. No numbers are given for total English losses but they are said to have been light; of the knights present, only one was killed. Scottish casualties during the battle proper cannot be separated from losses whilst fleeing in the 10 or so hours of daylight remaining. The chroniclers talk variously of the fugitives scattering in all directions, of their attempting to cross the Tees where there was no ford and drowning, of their being found and killed in cornfields and woods, and of fighting between the various contingents. Richard of Hexham says that of the army which came forth from Scotland, more than ten thousand were "missing" from the re-mustered survivors. Later chroniclers built upon this to claim 10-12,000 Scots "killed". [ Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 205 - 6.] . John of Worcester gives more details on the fortunes of the Scots knights

"But of [David's] army nearly ten thousand fell in different places, and as many as fifty were captured of his picked men. But the king's son came on foot with one knight only to Carlisle, while his father scarce escaped through woods and passes to Roxburgh. Of two hundred mailed knights whom [David] had, only nineteen brought back their hauberks [ "Early in John's reign a hauberk cost £1 " Prestwich, Michael, "Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages; the English Experience", Yale University Press, (New Haven, 1996), ISBN 0-300-07663-0 page 24 ] ; because each had abandoned as booty to the foe almost everything that he had. And thus very great spoils were taken from his army, as well of horses and arms and raiment as of very many other things" [ Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908), p. 206 - 8. Ailred on the same pages confirms Henry's knights to have thrown away their hauberks; Henry himself (says Ailred) gave his to a poor man] .


was rebuilt by King David, and became one of his chief residences.]

End of the Campaign

David regrouped his forces at Carlisle; the nobles of Yorkshire did not move North against him, and their local levies dispersed to their homes rejoicing at the victory. Thus, although militarily the battle was a "shattering defeat" [Lynch, Michael, "Scotland: A New History",(revised edn: London,1992 ISBN 0-7126-9893-0), page 84] , it did not reverse David's previous gains. David had the only army still under arms and was left to consolidate his hold on Cumberland and Northumberland.
On 26 September Cardinal Alberic, bishop of Ostia, arrived at Carlisle where David had called together his kingdom's nobles, abbots and bishops. Alberic was there as a papal legate to resolve a long-running dispute as to whether the bishop of Glasgow was subordinate to the archbishop of York. However, Alberic also addressed more temporal matters: he persuaded David to refrain from further offensive action until Martinmas (11th November) whilst continuing to blockade Wark in order to starve it into submission, and the 'Picts' to (also by Martinmas) return their captives to Carlisle and free them there [Richard of Hexham, Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908) p 211-212. Richard also reports that,

The king also spoke with the prior of Hexham, who had come thither with the legate, before [the prior] had appealed to him, concerning the loss sustained by him and by his brethren; and deplored it much, and promised that he would cause the whole to be restored : and moreover that he would compel his men to compensate them for the wrong which had been done to them and to their church, and for the slaying of their vassals. And this in great part he did. For both their money and that of their vassals was almost wholly returned.
At Martinmas, the garrison of Wark surrendered on the orders of the castle's owner (Walter Espec), conveyed by the abbot of Rievaulx. The garrison had eaten all but two of their horses; King David rehorsed them and allowed them to depart with their arms. [ A "beau geste" in recognition of their stout defence of Wark, presumably. The chroniclers say he provided 24 horses, and the usual deduction from this is that there were 24 mounted men in the garrison. (Richard of Hexham, Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908)p 213) Norham the neighbouring castle and whose garrison - provided by the Bishop of Durham - included only nine knights was felt to have been both under-garrisonned, and too readily surrendered (Richard of Hexham, Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908) p 188)
"Under Henry II a standard price [of horses] appears to have been £2" Prestwich, Michael, "Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages", page 34

Another Peace Agreement

Negotiations between David and Stephen continued over the winter months, and on April 9 David's son Henry and Stephen's wife Matilda of Boulogne met each other at Durham and agreed a settlement. Henry was given the earldom of Northumberland and was restored to the earldom of Huntingdon and lordship of Doncaster; David himself was allowed to keep Carlisle and Cumberland. However, King Stephen was to retain possession of the strategically vital castles of Bamburgh and Newcastle, and Prince Henry was to perform homage for his English lands, while David himself was to promise to "remain loyal" to Stephen at all times. Stephen released those who held fiefs in the lands Henry now held to do homage to Henry, saving only their fealty to Stephen [ ie they could fight for Henry against any of his enemies except Stephen should Henry and Stephen ever become enemies(Richard of Hexham, Anderson "Scottish Annals" (1908) p 214]

Northern England Under the Scottish Yoke

This arrangement lasted for nearly 20 years, and would appear to have been beneficial to both sides. David was able to benefit from the resources of Northern England (for example, the lead mines of the northern Pennines gave him silver from which he was able to strike his own coinage). Northern England did not become involved in the civil war between supporters of Stephen and those of Matilda, although magnates with holdings further south were drawn in. This included David, who despite his promise to Stephen was a loyal supporter of Matilda, but he did not go South with a Scottish army.
The new southern border of David's realm appeared to be permanently secured in 1149, when Matilda's son Henry was knighted by David at Carlisle

he having first given an oath that, if he became king of England, he would give to [David] Newcastle and all Northumbria, and would permit him and his heirs to possess in peace without counter-claim for ever the whole land which lies from the river Tweed to the river Tyne [Roger of Hoveden Anderson "Scottish Annals" p 221] >.

tatus Quo Restored

However, Prince Henry died in 1152, King David in 1153, and King Stephen in 1154. This brought to the throne of Scotland a 14-year-old Malcolm IV of Scotland now facing a young Henry II of England who had at his command the resources not only of a England free from civil war, but also of much of Western France. In 1157, Malcolm travelled to Chester to do homage to Henry who declared that "the king of England ought not to be defrauded of so great a part of his kingdom, nor could he patiently be deprived of it ..."

"And [Malcolm] prudently considering that in this matter the king of England was superior to the merits of the case by the authority of might ..restored to him the .. territories in their entirety, and received from him in return the earldom of Huntingdon, which belonged to him by ancient right. Things being so arranged, England enjoyed for a time her ease and security in all her borders. And the king ruled more widely than all who were known to have ruled in England till that time, that is from the furthest bounds of Scotland as far as to the Pyrenees" [William of Newburgh "Historia Rerum Anglicarum" Anderson "Scottish Annals" p 239 ]

Did the Battle Matter ?

It didn't stop David achieving his declared war aims. We now know that achieving those aims whilst England was in turmoil did not prevent all David's gains having to be surrendered when Henry II made the Scottish monarch an offer he could not refuse. Unless David had other undeclared aims and ambitions, which defeat at the Standard thwarted, therefore, the battle had no long-term significance [ except for the townsfolk of Beverley; henceforth it was accepted that when levies from were made in Yorkshire for the royal army, it was sufficient for Beverley to send one man with the banner of St John of Beverley. (Agincourt was indeed fought and won on the feast of the translation of St John of Beverley. )] .




We are entirely reliant on various English chroniclers, briefly discussed below. (Gransden, Antonia, "Historical Writing in England", Routledge, (London, 1974), ISBN 0 4151 5124 4, gives a full discussion of the chroniclers of the period.) They are the earliest sources, but will not have been present at most of the events they record; for the most part they are not primary sources, just near-contemporary secondary sources.

*Richard of Hexham later became Prior of Hexham Abbey which as his chronicle notes David ordered be left unmolested, and therefore became a refuge for the poor and the formerly well-to-do. He appears to be the earliest to write an account and gives a less rhetorical account of the battle than his successors.

*Henry of Huntingdon Generally thought to have written his account before Ailred (but Baker, D. , Aelred of Rievaulx and Walter Espec p 91-98 in Haskins Society Journal 1989, 1 thinks not). Good for the colourful phrase (Eustace FitzJohn is " "a vile one-eyed traitor") but not to be relied upon where unsupported by other chroniclers. He describes a campaign by Stephen in 1139 " with Mars and Vulcan as his commanders " (a polite way of describing ravaging the Scottish Borders?) which made David seek peace. That campaign simply did not happen (see "Aftermath"). His descriptions of Scots atrocities have a refinement of deliberate and pointless frightfulness which must cast doubts on their detailed authenticity. ( However, he must have understood his audience, as his descriptions are recycled in the chronicle accounts of Scots atrocities in 1173 - see note 7 p 249 of Anderson "Scottish Annals"(1908) )

*Ailred of Rievaulx born at Hexham, joined David's household when young; Master of the Household to David until four years before the battle he suddenly became a monk at the recently founded Rievaulx Abbey (about 20 miles from the battlefield). As Ailred says (Anderson (1908), p 156:

: [David] had a son Henry, a man gentle and pious, a man of sweet nature and of pure heart, and worthy in all things to be born of such a father.And with [Henry] I have lived from the cradle, and have grown up with him, as boys together ; and in my youth I have known his youth also.And in the body, but never in mind or affection, in order to serve Christ I left him, in the full bloom of his prime ; as also his father, now flourishing in hale old age, whom I have loved beyond all mortals.
Ailred later became abbot of Rievaulx, the most important Cistercian house in England, and was instrumental in securing (through Henry II) the canonisation of Edward the Confessor (whose cult never really took off, because of the rapid growth of the cult of St Thomas a Becket, which Henry did even more to promote). In due course he has himself been canonised. Powicke, M, "Aelred of Rievaulx and his Biographer", (Manchester, 1922) summarises his attitude to David, and David's invasion as follows (p39)
Ailred, indeed, could not regard the war as an uncompromising conflict between England and Scotland, and still less between Englishmen and Scots. It was a war between kinsmen. David's mother, Saint Margaret, was the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, and but for the verdict of God at Hastings, David would have been the claimant of the legitimist party to the English throne. His sister had been the Queen of Henry I., his niece was wife of Stephen, his wife was the daughter of Waltheof, the great Earl of Northumberland. If he thought it wise to invade England on behalf of his other niece, the ex-Empress Matilda, and to try to resume Scottish possession of the northern shires, he could hardly be blamed, though it was doubtless the duty of King Stephen's vassals to resist him. In Ailred's memory the Battle of the Standard was an unhappy conflict of allegiances for the Bruces and Balliols and other North-country barons had extensive lands in David's dominions
and p 36
There was no difference in culture, race or nationality between the people who inhabited the Old Northumbria ; when a Scottish King invaded the lands of the King of England he was engaging in a domestic quarrel, about the rights of which even men who lived south of the Tweed might freely differ. What the subjects and vassals of the English King did resent and fiercely resist was the presence of barbarians, of Picts and Galloway men, side by side with the feudal host of Scotland. For Englishmen and Normans, learning as they were to speak each other's language, were united, whether theylooked to David or to Stephen as their lord, in the task of adapting the old order to the new. The definition of services and tenures in feudal terms, the encouragement of foreign fashions in art and letters, the organization of bishoprics, the foundation of monasteries, the subjection of social life to ecclesiastical discipline, were proceeding as actively in the south of Scotland as in Yorkshire.
His attitude to the ordinary Scots and (especially) Gallwegians ( when abbot of Rievaulx, Ailred visted Galloway on Church business, crowned by the foundation of Dundrennan Abbey) is discussed in Aird, William M, "Sweet Civility and Barbarous Rudeness" A view from the frontier, Abbot Ailred of Rievaulx and the Scots" p 63 onwards in Ellis Steven G et al (eds) "Imagining Frontiers, Contesting Identities", (Pisa, 2007), ISBN 8 8849 2466 9. Ailred will have personally known most of the people he attributes speeches to; but the speeches may not have happened: it was an accepted device to present a point of view in an invented 'speech'. (Ailred gives Walter Espec (the founder of Rievaulx) a rousing speech before battle with the Scots in which he boasts of the Norman's superior equipment, discipline etc. This effectively responds to the native Scots' argument to David (of which Walter should be unaware) that their offensive elan will bring him victory more surely than foreigners in armour. His audience at the time would have appeciated that they were being told why both sides thought they would win, rather than that it really happened just like that. In another work (according to Bliese J. R. E,. , "The Battle Rhetoric of Aelred of Rievaulx" p 99-107 in Haskins Society Journal 1989, 1) Aelred gives Alfred the Great an inspiring but clearly spurious speech before battle with the Danes.
Other chroniclers are
** John of Worcester a relatively short account, with some details not given elsewhere. He quantifies the Scots rout more than others and/but his quantification seems to show it to have been worse than other chroniclers seem to suggest
**John of Hexham: his chronicle follows closely that of Richard of Hexham until 1139. He gives some details not in Richard's account, but where he deviates from him it cannot be assumed that the later account is the more accurate

**Roger of Hoveden for the period in question closely follows Henry of Huntingdon; the chief reason for mentioning him is that an English translation of his text can be consulted on the internet - see link below. A Yorkshireman, but a generation later than, and not local to the battle ( from Howden - nearly in Lincolnshire; still a nice place, mind)
Michael Lynch, in his single-volume "" suggests: (p 79) "As late as the 1130s David was still, to Norman Chroniclers, the epitome of Norman knighthood, which was why his expedition into England at the head of an" ‘incredible army’ "of semi-barbarous peoples was so shocking to them." Unfortunately the remark can be interpreted to suggest that the behaviour of the Scots wasn't really as shocking as the chroniclers found it. The supporting reference is to a passage in the "Gesta Stephani" (to be found on pages 176-8 of Anderson 'Scottish Annals') which establishes that chroniclers found the Scots behaviour shocking, but does not seem to directly supportly the 'explanation'. On David's death, many of the same chroniclers give him highly favourable obituaries and none suggest that he approved of the atrocities they found shocking. David's dealings with knights and abbots seem to have allowed him to continue to be the epitome of Norman knighthood (which should be clearly distinguished from modern concepts of chivalry). The Anglo-Norman magnates don't seem to have regarded other Scoto - Normans with any great disgust either; when William of Aumale married some years after the battle, he married one of Walter fitz Duncan's daughters; admittedly she was an heiress, which often smoothes over minor difficulties)
The chronicles can found in (amongst other places)
* Anderson, Alan Orr (ed.), "Early Sources of Scottish History: AD 500-1286", 2 Vols, (Edinburgh, 1922)
* Anderson, Alan Orr (ed.), "Scottish Annals from English Chroniclers: AD 500-1286", (London, 1908), republished, Marjorie Anderson (ed.) (Stamford, 1991) - see link below, but beware that a continuous narrative is achieved by the editor putting together snippets from the various chronicles; the words are all in the chronicles, but the choice of material and its ordering is down to the modern editor
* Darlington, Reginald r et al, "The Chronicle of John of Worcester: The Annals from 1067 to 1140 with the Gloucester Interpolations and the Continuation to 1141" Oxford University Press, ( Oxford, 1995) ISBN 0 1982 0702 6
* Freeland, J P (trans & ed) "Aelred of Rievaulx: The Historical Works" (Kalamazoo,2005) gives a modern (more readable) translation of the Standard narrative (p 245-69); also includes Ailred's Lament for the Death of King David (p 45-70)
* Greenway, Diana E (trans & ed)"Historia Anglorum: The History of the English People by Henry of Huntingdon (Oxford, 1996) ISBN 0 1982 2224 6
* Riley, Henry - translation of Roger of Hoveden "The History of England and of Other Countries of Europe from A.D. 732 to A.D. 1201" (London,1853) - see link below
* Stevenson, Joseph "The Church Historians of England, volume 4, part 1" (London, 1853-58) (translation of Richard of Hexham - see link below )

Modern secondary sources

* Aird, William M, "Sweet Civility and Barbarous Rudeness" A view from the frontier, Abbot Ailred of Rievaulx and the Scots" p 63 onwards in Ellis Steven G et al (eds) "Imagining Frontiers, Contesting Identities", (Pisa, 2007), ISBN 8 8849 2466 9
* Baker, D. , "Aelred of Rievaulx and Walter Espec" p 91-98 in Haskins Society Journal 1989, 1
*Bartlett, Robert, "England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075-1225", (Oxford, 2000)
* Beeler, John "Warfare in England 1066-1189" (New York, 1966) [narrative of battle p 84-95]
* Bliese J. R. E,. , "The Battle Rhetoric of Aelred of Rievaulx" p 99-107 in Haskins Society Journal 1989, 1
* Burton, Janet, "The Monastic Order in Yorkshire, 1069-1215", Cambridge University Press,(Cambridge,1999), ISBN 0-5215-5229-X
* Clancy, M. T., "England and its Rulers", 2nd Ed., (Malden, MA, 1998)
* Davies. R. R., "The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles, 1093-1343", (Oxford, 2000)
* Duncan, A. A. M., "The Kingship of the Scots 842-1292: Succession and Independence", (Edinburgh, 2002)
* Duncan, A. A. M., "Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom", (Edinburgh, 1975)
* Gransden, Antonia, "Historical Writing in England", Routledge, (London, 1974), ISBN 0 4151 5124 4
* Green, Judith A., "Anglo-Scottish Relations, 1066-1174", in Michael Jones and Malcolm Vale (eds.), "England and Her Neighbours: Essays in Honour of Pierre Chaplais" (London, 1989)
* Green, Judith A., "David I and Henry I", in the "Scottish Historical Review". vol. 75 (1996), pp. 1-19
* Moffat, Alistair "The Borders" , Birlinn, (Edinburgh, 2007) ISBN 1 84158 466 5
* Oram, Richard, "David: The King Who Made Scotland", (Gloucestershire, 2004)
* Powicke, M, "Aelred of Rievaulx and his Biographer", (Manchester, 1922)
* Ritchie R L G "The Normans in Scotland" (Edinburgh , 1954) [narrative of battle is p 256-70)
* Strickland , Matthew, "Anglo-Norman Warfare: Studies in Late Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman Military Organization and Warfare", (Woodbridge, 1992)ISBN 0 8511 5328 3
*("Victoria County History") A History of the County of Cumberland : Volume 2 (1905)

External links

* [ Anderson (1908) ]
* [ Battlefields Trust]
* [ Richard of Hexham] (English traditional chronicle)
* [ Roger of Hoveden]

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