The Tudor Society

9 September – Catherine of Aragon and the mystery of James IV’s body

On this day in Tudor history, 9th September 1513, during the reign of King Henry VIII, English and Scottish forces clashed at the bloody Battle of Flodden.

Henry VIII was campaigning in France at the time, so Catherine of Aragon was in charge as regent. It was a victory for Catherine and also for Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, who led the English troops against the Scots on that day. Henry missed this moment of victory.

King James IV of Scotland died at the Battle of Flodden, but what happened to his body?

In today's talk, I give details of the battle, Catherine's role in England's victory, and explains what is thought to have happened to James IV's remains.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1543 – The infant Mary, Queen of Scots, daughter of James V, King of Scotland, was crowned queen at Stirling Castle.
  • 1583 – Death of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, explorer, soldier, member of Parliament and half-brother of Sir Walter Ralegh, on board The Squirrel after a storm off the Azores. The crew of the Golden Hind heard Gilbert shout “We are as near to heaven, by sea as by land” as The Squirrel sank.

There are 8 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    Wasn’t Catherine’s job over her victory short lived, though? Was the Battle of the Spurs part of the campaign that Maximillian and Ferdinand backed out of, and Henry became angry with Catherine by association?

    1. M

      That’s supposed to be joy. Catherine’s joy over her victory…. Sorry, I tried to correct it twice

  2. R

    Katherine of Aragon was the true warrior, because she and her generals destroyed the Scots at Flodden which wasn’t an easy task.

    It was Katherine who had the honour and she also said that Henry should have the honour and thank God for his victory, which was really her victory. I don’t believe there is any evidence for Henry being angry as Katherine also wrote that she had been on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Walsingham which was code for “I am with child” . Henry had to gloss up his victory because he only had two towns and the skirmish known as the Battle of the Spurs to boast about. Katherine, like her mother, had shown she could rule and had a sound military mind.

    1. C - Post Author

      We have to remember, though, that Catherine was safely in Buckingham and wasn’t anywhere near Flodden. However, she was the one issuing orders and doing the organising, along with Thomas Howard who deserves the credit for the victory.

  3. R

    Poor James iv, he was a great warrior, he was a renaissance King and he had ruthlessly defeated the Lordship of the Isles. Like his father he saw the wealth and wisdom of true strategic alliances which is why he united in marriage with the new Tudor regime and married Margaret, Henry’s older sister. He was also impetuous and he was drawn into this fight too soon. Having said that James was able to choose his ground and placed his vast army on the hillside. It took several sorties uphill to break through and defeat him.

    What a shame he was unable to be buried and lay for so long at the Abbey of Syon unburied and then his body vanished. I heard many of those stories, but one has him taken back to Scotland and buried in secret in holy ground. He probably was buried in London or Scotland, although I don’t really believe the one about his head being used as a football. Mind you, stranger things have happened. I can imagine Katherine wanting to chop his head off and send his body to Henry. She could probably be as ruthless as anyone. A tough Spanish Princess.

  4. M

    No, I know Henry wasn’t angry then, but wasn’t it shortly after that she lost some of her influence with him on diplomatic matters because her father and Maximillian left them in France?

  5. R

    The betrayal of Henry and the Holy League which was what England, Spain and the Empire had signed up to with Rome to invade France by Ferdinand caused no end of problems between Katherine and King Henry. It didn’t cause anything personal between them, they were fine and made up, but on the diplomatic front, yes it was a problem.

    Katherine had to write to her father about how he had caused offence and anger and make a choice. It was actually Cardinal Thomas Wolsey who after 1515 became the person who influenced Henry’s foreign policy before his fall in 1529/30 and Katherine did decline but not for a few years. Henry decided to marry his sister, Mary to King Louis in 1514 as a reaction to the betrayal of Spain, although he later moved back towards the Empire and Spain with the betrothal of Princess Mary, his daughter to Charles V, who of course was Katherine’s nephew. Formerly she had been promised to the Dauphan of France. The architect of the Field of the Cloth of Gold and Treaty of Perpetual Peace in Europe was Thomas Wolsey. By the way, at this time, Katherine didn’t see him as her enemy. He also attempted to gain proper funding for war but that failed because it didn’t go through Parliament and so was unlawful. A law made by King Richard iii, a lot of protesters and Magna Carta ensured Henry backed down in 1524 when this happened. Wolsey was probably on the right track but went about it the wrong way. It should have gone via Parliament who probably wouldn’t have agreed anyway as the Tudor Parliament during the early 1520s was not as compliant as later ones.

    However, we do see a decline in diplomatic influence from Katherine as her childbearing days declined. She did influence him in many other matters, she did have some influence during the visit from her nephew and she was very much officially Henry’s partner. This betrayal by Ferdinand was a serious breach, however, but it didn’t have long term affects on their relationship. Henry was too dependent on Katherine, although Wolsey became his chief advisor on foreign policy.

    1. M

      Ah, I see. Thank you!

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9 September – Catherine of Aragon and the mystery of James IV’s body