King David II of Scotland tried to help his ally France in the Hundred Years’ War, by knocking boldly on England’s back door. But after he stumbled across Ralph Neville’s defence force in a mist, things went from bad to worse.
FOLLOWING a heavy defeat at the Battle of Crécy on the 26th of August, 1346, King Philip VI of France appealed to the Scottish King David II to honour the ‘Auld Alliance’, and help him by harassing England from the north.
David and twelve thousand men crossed the country from Carlisle to Durham, sacking Hexham Abbey, and demanding protection money from frightened townspeople.
Meanwhile, the English had cobbled together a somewhat smaller force, which the Scots stumbled upon in a mist near Durham on the 17th of October.
During a tense standoff, the English managed to goad the Scots into losing their discipline, and they attacked in disorder.
The English, led by Lord Ralph* Neville and Lord Henry Percy, swiftly put the Scots to flight.
David was discovered hiding under a bridge over the Browney, after his reflection was spotted in the water. He spent eleven years imprisoned in Odiham Castle, Hampshire, before being ransomed back to the Scots for 100,000 marks.**
* The name ‘Ralph’ is often pronounced ‘Ralf’; but in aristocratic circles it is pronounced ‘Ray-ff’, to rhyme with ‘waif’. It is an Old Norse name, and the same as Spanish Raúl.
** About £15m in today’s money.