Robert Borthwick at Flodden

King James IVth of Scotland was no admirer of his Brother-in-law Henry VI11 of England and observers soon forecast that their two countries would be at war. In the summer of 1513, Henry, headstrong and ambitious, invaded France whose Queen appealed to James's well-known sense of chivalry to come to her rescue by invading England. The Queen sent James a sapphire ring as a token of friendship. James wore the ring on his way to Flodden.

On the eve of the battle, the Scottish Army's artillery was impressive. According to the Lord High Treasurer, there were seventeen guns altogether, five large cannon, and twelve culverins of various sizes all under the direction of the master Gunner, Robert Borthwick. He was a skilled gunner and Gunsmith. He was credited with the casting of the famous cannon, "The Seven Sisters" which were guns of great power and beauty. The five large cannon were almost certainly part of "The Seven Sisters". The tale is told of Borthwick falling on his knees before the king, begging permission to fire, and James refusing, declaring he would meet his adversary on equal terms and not with advantage.

Thirty-six oxen each, and nine drivers drew the larger guns. The smaller guns only required eight oxen each. A crane was taken for slinging the guns onto their beds; gun-stones were born in baskets by twenty-eight horses; and there were at least twelve carts of gunpowder.


An English cannonball killed Robert Borthwick at the start of the encounter. This occurred before the main battle started. William, the 3rd Lord Borthwick was also killed in the battle.