Siege of Haddington

Sieges of Haddington
Part of Anglo-Scottish Wars
Rough Wooing

The restored Church of St. Mary the Virgin, heavily damaged during the sieges
LocationHaddington, Scotland
Result Scottish victory; Scotland claimed back Haddington
 Kingdom of Scotland
Kingdom of France
 Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Earl of Arran
Lord Methven
Paul de Thermes
André de Montalembert
Henri Cleutin
Earl of Shrewsbury
Grey of Wilton
Sir James Wilford
Thomas Palmer
5000–6000 Up to 15,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Sieges of Haddington were a series of sieges staged at the Royal Burgh of Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland, as part of the War of the Rough Wooing one of the last Anglo-Scottish Wars. Following Regent Arran's defeat at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh on Saturday 10 September 1547, he took Haddington, with 5000 troops including French mercenaries and troops sent by Henry II of France to bolster the Auld Alliance. Afterwards, Francis Talbot, 5th Earl of Shrewsbury took it with nearly 15000. The English forces built artillery fortifications and were able to withstand an assault by the besieging French and Scots troops supported by heavy cannon in July 1548. Although the siege was scaled down after this unsuccessful attempt, the English garrison abandoned the town on 19 September 1549, after attrition by Scottish raids at night, sickness, and changing political circumstance.

The English dig in

The English commander, Grey of Wilton captured and garrisoned Haddington and outlying villages by 23 February 1548. The garrison included 200 Albanian Stratioti who had previously fought in the French army.[1] At the end of February 1548, Regent Arran brought four cannon to besiege and take the East Lothian houses of Ormiston, Brunstane, and Saltoun which John Cockburn of Ormiston and Alexander Crichton of Brunstane held for England, and summoned the men of Stirling, Menteith and Strathearn to the field.[2] Grey and Thomas Palmer began to fortify the town in earnest after 24 April 1548.

The English strategy was for the siege of Haddington to consume Scottish and French resources.[3] The soldiers built the fortifications alongside labourers from England who were called 'pioneers.' Timber was brought from the woods of Broun of Colstoun. Although the site had obvious drawbacks, overlooked by the ridge of the nearby Garleton Hills and four miles from the sea, the finished ramparts were much admired.

The French ambassador in London, Odet de Selve, heard from a French mercenary serving on the English side that it was almost as impregnable as Turin.[4] Somerset even showed Odet de Selve the plan, and said it was better than Calais. The design include four corner bastions, called Bowes, Wyndham, Taylor and Tiberio, after the commanders. Francisco Tiberio was the leader of a company of Italian mercenaries. The French ambassador was told that the tollbooth, a tall and solid stone structure, had been filled with earth to form a gun platform called a cavalier.[5] English pioneers digging the town ditch found curious ancient coins on 7 June which Grey of Wilton sent to Somerset for their strangeness.[6]


Nungate bridge: Haddington is bounded by the River Tyne to the south and west

French and Scots troops began to seriously besiege the town in July 1548. It was defended by Sir James Wilford. The Master of the Scottish Artillery, Lord Methven, organised guns to be brought from the siege of Broughty Castle in June. These guns were shipped to Aberlady the nearest haven on the Forth. The great Scottish gun 'thrawinmouth' from Dunbar Castle was also deployed[7] and the cannons from Broughty were placed on 3 July 1548.[8] On 5 July Methven gave Mary of Guise an optimistic report of the damage caused to the English defences by his guns. His fire had demolished the Tollbooth within the town, and he had advanced trenches towards the ramparts.[9] Mary of Guise came to view the progress of the siege on 9 July 1548 and her party came in range of the English guns. Sixteen of her entourage were killed around her and she was terror-stricken.[10] At this time the English inside were countermining against the French and Scottish siegeworks. A Scots force joined the French troops on 16 July to storm the town but were driven away by cannon fire.[11] Following this set-back, the French officer d'Essé ordered the heavy guns to be withdrawn on 17 July. With rumours of English reinforcement, Methven took the Scottish and French guns to Edinburgh and Leith, while d'Essé kept the camp. D'Essé made his feelings known to Arran; that an earlier decisive assault before the English had time to entrench would have been the best action.[12]

Shrewsbury arrived on 23 August 1548 with an army close in size to the English army at Pinkie. The French and Scots abandoned their siege of Haddington and retired to Edinburgh and Leith.[13] Edward VI was told that some of the departing besiegers had spoken to Captain Tiberio. They had pointed out the inadequacies of the fortifications and said all honour was due to the defenders and none to themselves. Edward also recorded a subsequent large but unsuccessful night raid against Haddington.[14] The French troops in Edinburgh started a fight in Edinburgh in October 1548 over a culverin sent for repair and several Scots were killed on the Royal Mile.[15] D'Essé organised a night raid on Haddington to increase their popularity. The raid was repulsed after the English watch shouted, "Bows and Bills", which according to John Knox was the usual alarm of the time. While the French were away from Edinburgh the townsfolk killed some of their wounded.[16] On 1 November 1548, Wilford wrote to Somerset describing the state of Haddington, with a garrison stricken by plague:

"The state of this town pities me both to see and to write it; but I hope for relief. Many are sick and a great number dead, most of the plague. On my faith there are not here this day of horse, foot, and Italians, 1000 able to go to the walls, and more like to be sick, than the sick to mend, who watch the walls every 5th night, yet the walls are un-manned."[17]

English withdraw

Maréchal Paul de Thermes, after François Clouet, 1554.

The English withdrew because they were out of supplies, many of their men had died from disease or during the Scottish night raids, and more French re-inforcements had arrived under Paul de Thermes. The English (and their mercenary forces, which included German and Spanish professional soldiers) evacuated Haddington on 19 September 1549, travelling overland to Berwick upon Tweed. Mary of Guise was triumphant.[18]


  1. Jean de Beagué, History of the Campaigns in 1548 and 1549, (1707), p.38
  2. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 9 (1911), 150–151, 153.
  3. Merriman, Marcus, Rough Wooings, Tuckwell (2000), 313–314.
  4. Merriman, Marcus, History of the King's Works, vol. 4 part 2 (1982), 718–719.
  5. Merriman, Marcus, (1982), 719–721: Correspondance politique de Odet de Selve, 52, 366.
  6. CSP Scotland, vol.1 (1898), p.117 (ancient coins), p.118 (timber)
  7. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 9 (1911), 216.
  8. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 136.
  9. Cameron, Annie I., ed., Scottish Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine, SHS (1927), 248–250.
  10. Bain, Joseph, Hamilton Papers, vol. 2, Edinburgh (1892) 602–604, Palmer & Holcroft to Somerset, 11 July 1548, (& various primary sources)
  11. Calendar of State Papers Spain, vol. 9 (1912), 569–570.
  12. Cameron, Annie I., ed., The Scottish Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine, SHS, (1927), 245, 249–251.
  13. Merriman, Marcus, Rough Wooings, (2000), 321.
  14. Jordan, W. K., The Chronicle and Political Papers of Edward VI, George Unwin & Allen (1966), 10.
  15. Teulet, A., Relations politiques de la France et de l'Espagne avec l'Écosse au XVIe siècle, vol. 1 (1862), 230; also in Knox, John, History of the Reformation, Bk. 2.
  16. Merriman, Marcus, The Rough Wooing, Tuckwell, (2000), 321: Knox, John, History of the Reformation, book 1, e.g., Lennox, Cuthbert, ed., (1905), 105–107.
  17. Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 165–166.
  18. Merriman, Marcus, The Rough Wooings, Tuckwell (2000), 344–345.


Coordinates: 55°57′18″N 2°46′55″W / 55.955°N 2.782°W / 55.955; -2.782

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