“Musselburgh Field”


"Two goodly hosts" meet on Musselburgh Field. The Scots enter the battle confident, but are defeated heavily. The English narrator describes the contingents defeated


The song claims that the battle of Pinkie was fought in "the fourth yeere of King Edwards raigne" -- but in fact 1547 was the first year of the reign of Edward VI (reigned 1547-1553). Other such errors occur in the song (e.g. the battle is dated to the twelfth of December, not the tenth of September); apparently the piece (which surely originated as a broadside) went through several stages of imperfect tradition.

Pinkie was the final major ballad of the Anglo-Scottish border wars; by the time the Scots were fully recovered, Elizabeth was Queen of England and the Scottish monarchs were her heirs; James VI, in particular, was very careful not to offend Elizabeth.

Pinkie was the final battle of a long campaign between the English and Scots over the fate of the infant Queen Mary, who came to the throne at the age of eight days (1542) and instantly found herself a pawn in the contest between England and France.

In 1543, the English under Henry VIII pressured the Scots into negotiations, and the result was a draft treaty to wed Mary to Prince Edward (the future Edward VI). The Scottish parliament, however, rejected the treaty. There followed the so-called "Rough Wooing"; Henry sent in his armies in 1544 (burning Edinburgh) and 1545, but the latter was heavily defeated at Ancrum Moor.

A quiet period followed, with continued skirmishing but no big battles. That changed after Henry VIII died in 1547. Now, with Edward VI King of England, the desire to take over Scotland was even stronger.

The battle of Pinkie itself resulted when the English Lord Protector, the Duke of Somerset, let an English army in the direction of Edinborough. The Earl of Arran gathered a Scots army -- but, as was often the case, the Scottish army was not really a unified force, but a collection of individual armies; the English won an easy victory.

Pinkie scared the Scots, but did not convince them to marry their Queen to Edward; instead, they shipped her off to France the next year. - RBW

Historical references

  • Sep 10, 1547 - Battle of Pinkie (Pinkie Cleuch, Musselburgh). English armies defeat the Scots


  1. Child 172 "Musselburgh Field" (1 text)
  2. Roud #4003
  3. BI, C172


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1750 (Percy folio)
Keywords: battle nobility
Found in: Britain