On this day in 1568 the Battle of Langside was fought between forces loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots and forces acting in the name of her infant son James VI. The battle, which can be regarded as the start of the Marian Civil War, was a crushing defeat for Mary, who was forced into exile and captivity in England.
In 1567, Mary’s short period of personal rule ended in recrimination, intrigue and disaster when, after her capture at Carberry Hill, she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son James, who was little more than a year old at the time. Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, while her half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray was appointed Regent on behalf of his nephew. However, on May 2nd 1568 Mary escaped, heading west to the country of the Hamiltons, high among her remaining supporters, and the safety of Dumbarton Castle with the determination to restore her rights as queen.
There she was joined by a wide cross-section of the nobility, including the Earls of Argyll, Cassillis, Rothes and Eglinton, the Lords Sommerville, Yester, Livingston, Herries, Fleming, Ross, numerous of the feudal barons and their followers. Within a few days Mary had managed to gather a respectable force of some 6,000 men.
It was openly declared that her abdication, and her consent to the coronation of James, had been extorted from her under threat of death. An act of council was then passed, declaring the whole process by which Moray had been appointed as Regent to be treasonable. A bond was drawn up by those present for her restitution, signed by eight earls, nine bishops, eighteen lords, twelve abbots and nearly one hundred barons.
At this stage Mary wanted to avoid battle and aimed to establish herself to the west, at Dumbarton Castle. This strong position would enable here to receive reinforcements from the north and form the base for her to establish her authority by gradual expansion. With the intention of by-passing Moray, who had around 4,000 men under his command, she marched on a wide circuit around Glasgow, intending to move by way of Langside, Crookston and Paisley back towards the River Clyde, and then on to Dumbarton on the north side of the Clyde estuary.
However, Moray and his army were ready on the moor close to Langside, which is now part of Glasgow, but was then a small village. Crossing the River Cart, the Regent placed his ordered hackbutters (musketeers) and cavalry among the cottages, hedges and gardens of the village, which bordered each side of a narrow lane, through which Mary's army had to pass. The rest of the army was deployed around the village. No sooner was this complete than the Queen's vanguard, commanded by Lord Hamilton, began its advance through the village. The battle was now under way.
Mary’s army was under the command of Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll, who was to show little in the way of real military skill, seemingly hoping simply to push Moray aside by sheer force of numbers. As Hamilton attempted to force a passage through Langside he was met by close fire from the Regent’s hackbutters. Many in the front ranks were killed, throwing the remainder back on those following, and adding to the general confusion. Hamilton pushed on, finally reaching the top of a hill, only to find the main enemy army drawn up in good order. Moray’s border pikemen advanced to intercept Hamilton’s men. Both sides now met in a 'push of pike'.
At one point it looked like Moray’s army might be turned on its right wing, however seeing this, Moray reinforced it and the counter-attack pressed with such force that it broke the Marian ranks. The remainder of the Regent’s forces were then committed and in the face of this onslaught the Queen's men crumbled. The Battle of Langside was over after just forty-five minutes.
Despite the low casualties, which numbered just one for Moray and around 100 for Mary, the defeat was a significant one for the Queen. Over 300 of Mary's men were taken prisoner, including some of her most powerful allies, such as Lord Seton and Sir James Hamilton. Mary fled, first trying to reach Dumbarton Castle, but then turning south to Dundrennan Abbey. From there she left for England, never to set foot in Scotland again. Over the next five years the Queen’s supporters in Scotland continued a civil war with the Regents of Scotland. Mary’s fate however, would now be decided by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth of England.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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