So run the words on the information board erected at the bottom of the path which leads up to the Flodden Field memorial. I was taken aback. I really hadn't expected anything like that. I thought this site would be the English counterpart of Bannockburn.
Stuart hadn't wanted to visit Flodden. In his words, it was because 'the Scots had made an arse of it'. I wanted to visit, however, because a friend had told me what a moving experience she had found it. Stuart is being nice to me these days because I've been ill, so we went.
Flodden Field lies above the village of Branxton, on the English side of the border between England and Scotland. And for most English people, who almost certainly have no idea what happened here, and for others from across the world who make up the majority of this blog's readers, it is probably necessary to explain the events of which, for a day or two, this tiny hamlet was at the centre. Scots, of course, or at least Scots who know a bit of history, are only too well aware of these events and quite a few of them, like Stuart, don't really want to be reminded.
So, here goes, in a nutshell. Scots can skip over the next bit.
In 1513, King Henry VIII, the English king, was at war with France, as part of the War of the League of Cambrai - a war between the mainland European powers. King James IV of Scotland, which was allied to France under the Auld Alliance planned to attack the English in order to divert Henry away from the French. Henry had asked James to join the English side. They were, after all, brothers-in-law for James' wife Margaret was Henry's sister. James refused. For this breach of his peace treaties with England, James was excommunicated. So far, so complicated - but it gets worse.
James sent advance notice to the English of his intention to invade in a month's time, as one did in the Middle Ages, apparently. That gave Catherine of Aragon, Henry's wife and Regent while he was in France, time to raise another army and collect the banner of St Cuthbert from Durham Cathedral. That banner had led the English to success in previous battles.
As the Branxton board puts it:
On that fateful day, near five hundred years ago, it was the hills, the valleys, the rivers, the streams, the hidden denes, the boggy ground, that were the key to victory. It was here, where today cattle graze and crops flourish, that cannonade crashed and men fought and died.
Ballad makers on both sides of the border sang of the losses at Flodden Field for centuries after. Here is a stanza from the lovely Scots lament, Flowers of the Forest.
We'll hae nae mair lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning,
The flowers of the forest are all wede away.
After the battle and its terrible losses, the Scots expected the English to invade. Indeed, the people of Edinburgh threw up a city wall, still called the Flodden Wall, to protect them from attack. In fact, the English made no attempt to invade Scotland, despite its vulnerability under its infant king. King James V, son of James IV, was only 17 months old when he was crowned, immediately after news of the defeat reached Stirling Castle, where Queen Margaret had anxiously been waiting to hear of the outcome of the battle.
You might expect the English to regard their victory over the Scots at Flodden with a similar triumphalism to that of the Scots who still consider their victory at Bannockburn in 1314 as the defining humiliation of their hated English foe.
Far from it. While the Scots still sing of Bannockburn at every sporting event and nationalist demonstration, particularly when confronting the English, the English have long forgotten their victory at Flodden. They certainly don't sing about it every time they face the Scots across the rugby pitch or recall it when they want to be particularly insulting to a hapless representative of their historic enemy, as happened to me only two days ago.
It was here, on the quiet byroads and deserted tracks, that opposing armies once trod. And it is here, that this story of success and despair should be told.
For, at Branxton, there is no National Trust or English Heritage visitor centre. How different from Bannockburn. Indeed, no stirring account of the victors' triumph and the crushing of the defeated is inscribed indelibly into the national psyche of the English. Remembering has, instead, been left to the villagers of Branxton. And this is what they say.
Branxton is the small village that encompasses this hugely important and yet relatively unknown historical site. We hope that our efforts will inform and educate, and bring visitors to this part of the Borderlands, and help consolidate the bonds of friendship across the Border that are today, the hallmarks of life hereabouts.
I would love to say that I have seen a sign like that in Scotland about the English, a sign that celebrated a 'spirit of reconciliation, co-operation and, above all friendship', but there, I haven't.
In fact, Scotland was never conquered by England, contrary to popular belief. However, less than a hundred years after Flodden, it was the Scottish King, James VI, James IV's grandson, who in 1603 set in train the eventual union between the two countries. Inheriting the English throne from the Tudor Queen Elizabeth, the last of that Anglo-Welsh dynasty, he brought about the Union of the Crowns. His descendants, the Scottish royal family called the Stuarts, ruled England for the next hundred years.
And so we now have a United Kingdom, thanks to James VI and the Scots.