Military History


In 1138, as rival factions staked claim to the English crown, the English and the Scots engaged in a fierce clash in the marshy reaches of Northallerton, North Yorkshire. While the opposing forces grappled on the battlefield, amid the English lines rose an unusual totem comprising a wooden mast, a dangling silver box and sacred banners—a standard the English hoped would bring them divine assistance.

King David I of Scotland had invaded England that year in support of his niece, Matilda, then embroiled in a fight against her cousin, Stephen of Blois, for control of the English throne. This period of civil war, known as the Anarchy, raged in England from 1135 until 1153. Sparking it was a succession crisis following the drowning death of William Adelin—Henry I’s only legitimate son—in the tragic 1120 wreck of the royal transport White Ship. Although the king had designated daughter Matilda as his heir, on Henry’s death in 1135 his nephew Stephen had seized the throne. Matilda and husband Geoffrey of Anjou moved to overthrow King Stephen by launching an invasion from their base in English-held Normandy. Set for 1139, the cross-channel assault was pre-empted when King David invaded from the north.

much of Northumbria. A force he sent into Lancashire routed an English army at the Battle of Clitheroe on June 10. Monastic English chroniclers described the invading Scots as “more atrocious than the pagans” and accused them of committing every kind of atrocity, from the credible selling of women and children into bondage to the hyperbolic drinking of the blood of slain

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