Battle of Sauchieburn

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Battle of Sauchieburn
Part of second rebellion against James III
Date11 June 1488
south of Stirling
56°04′N 3°55′W / 56.067°N 3.917°W / 56.067; -3.917Coordinates: 56°04′N 3°55′W / 56.067°N 3.917°W / 56.067; -3.917
Result Rebel victory
Royalists Rebels
Commanders and leaders
Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg James III of Scotland 
Arms of Lindsay, Duke of Montrose.svg David Lindsay, 1st Duke of Montrose
Arms of Malise Graham, 1st Earl of Menteith (d.1490).svg Malise Graham, 1st Earl of Menteith
Earl of Glencairn arms.svg Alexander Cunningham, 1st Earl of Glencairn 
Mackenzie arms.svg Hector Roy Mackenzie
Inescutcheon of the Duke of Rothesay.svg James, Duke of Rothesay
Arms of Home.svg Alexander Home, 2nd Lord Home
Arms of Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus (d.1593) up until 1491.svg Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus
Hugh Montgomerie, 2nd Lord Montgomerie
30,000 18,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown, but higher than the rebels Low
Designated14 December 2012
Reference no.BTL38

The Battle of Sauchieburn was fought on 11 June 1488, at the side of Sauchie Burn, a stream about two miles south of Stirling, Scotland. The battle was fought between the followers of King James III of Scotland and a large group of rebellious Scottish nobles including the future Alexander Home, 2nd Lord Home, who were nominally led by the king's 15-year-old son, Prince James, Duke of Rothesay.

Father and son[edit]

James III had faced rebellion for months, with a complicated series of events leading to Sauchieburn. The rebels having made Prince James their figurehead earlier in the year, James III became determined to get hold of his son and settle the matter. However he broke his written word that he would negotiate first, instead travelling south to Edinburgh from his stronghold in the north. This breaking of his word apparently caused some of his strong supporters to desert him, such as Huntly, Erroll, Marishal, and Glamis; they adopted a neutral stance on the issues.[1] In May, James crossed the river to use Blackness as a base, with the prince at Linlithgow. However, attempts to reach the prince at Linlithgow were defeated in a small skirmish, and James was forced back to Blackness, from where he fled, leaving behind those he had given as hostages to the rebels. By the 16th of May he was back in Edinburgh, and began spreading money around to raise supporters, including to his half uncle, John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl. At this point the rebels were geographically split, some at Stirling, some at Linlithgow. James again took the initiative with a sudden move over to Fife with his supporters and their men, advancing on Stirling, where on the 10th of June he took the rebels by surprise, driving them southwards. This left James with the town of Stirling, perhaps not the castle, from where he advanced on the 11th of June to meet the combined forces of the rebels driven from Stirling and those who had come from Linlithgow in support. To aid him in battle he had the sword of Robert the Bruce with him. Dr John Ireland heard the King's confession. His army was arrayed by the advocate John Ross of Montgrenan and battle began.

The battle went badly for the Royalists. Persistent legends, based on the highly coloured and unreliable accounts of sixteenth-century chroniclers such as Adam Abell, Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, John Lesley, and George Buchanan, claim that James III was assassinated at Milltown,[2] near Bannockburn, soon after the battle. There is no contemporary evidence to support this account, nor the allegation that he fled the battle, nor the tale that his assassin impersonated a priest in order to approach James.

Pitscottie provided a story that, on the eve of the battle, his ancestor David Lord Lindsay of the Byres presented James III with a "great grey horse" that would carry him faster than any other horse into or away from the battle. Unfortunately, the horse threw the King during the battle, and James III was either killed in the fall, or was finished off by enemy soldiers.[3]

Prince James ascended to the throne, and reigned as James IV for 25 years. Throughout his reign he wore a heavy iron chain around his waist, next to the skin, as a constant reminder of his role in the death of his father.

The battlefield is currently under research to be inventoried and protected by Historic Scotland, under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009.[4]


Some of the participants in the Battle of Sauchieburn included:


  1. ^ Macdougall, Norman, James III, John Donald (2009), page 338
  2. ^ "Recent archaeological survey of Milton, alleged site of assassination". Archived from the original on 3 March 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  3. ^ Macdougall, Norman, James III, John Donald (1982), pp.261-2
  4. ^ "Inventory battlefields". Historic Scotland. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  5. ^ Macdougall, James IV, (1997), 85
  6. ^ HMC 7th Report: J. Douglas (London, 1879), p. 729.

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