Battle of Otterburn

The Battle of Otterburn is remembered as the fight where ‘a dead man won the field’.

A Scottish attack was made in Northumberland on Henry Percy and his estates, led by James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, on the 5 August 1388. During the fighting, Douglas was very badly wounded.

He told his officers to hide him in a bush so that news of his mortal injuries would not sway the battle. The fighting continued brutally all through the night until Percy eventually recognised defeat and asked a Scots knight to whom he should surrender.

The anonymously-written ‘Ballad of Otterburn’ romantically relates the knight’s reply:-

Thou shalt not yield to lord nor loon, Nor yet shalt thou to me, But yield thee to the bracken bush Grows on yonder lilye-lee.

The battle was won by the Scots, though Douglas was dead. Henry Percy was to be the source for Shakespeare’s ‘Hotspur’.