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Castle Warfare Part VI: The English capitulate at Broughty Castle 1550


The War of the Rough Wooing was a war that the English should never have fought. Their overwhelming success at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 resulted in the arrival of a French army determined to even matters up.

The French were well equipped and their commanders knew their job. Quickly they fortified Leith and Dunbar Castle denying the English a port and forcing them instead to form isolated garrisons which proved impossible to supply. One of these was at Broughty Craig, Dundee.

Broughty Castle (1)
Broughty Castle – a 15th century coastal fort

On the 20th September 1547 an English flotilla appeared off Broughty Craig whose castle surrendered and Sir Andrew Dudley was placed in command. He quickly identified the castle as unsuited for modern warfare and employed an Italian engineer, Giovanni de Rossetti, to update its defences by means of a bastioned fort. By 1548 almost £20,000 had been spent on this work – money that the English simply did not have!

Hans Eworth Sir John Luttrell
Portrait of Sir John Luttrell

Sir John Luttrell was in command when on the 16th June 1548, 16 French galleys and two ships anchored and bombarded Broughty. However, the strong current hindered their shooting and accurate counter fire from the fort forced a withdrawal.

Now the French commander, the Count d’Etauges accompanied by Count Rhinegrave and his Landsknechts, attacked by land. Luttrell did not await the assault but boldly sallied out and met the French and Germans in hand-to-hand fighting. The battle raged until D’Etauges was killed and the attackers withdrew.

The French returned in February 1550, this time under the command of the Sieur de Thermes. De Thermes determined to succeed and came well prepared with full siege artillery. This proved its worth as ‘the fort was dung down with the great ordinance’.

The English, crouching behind their rapidly ruining walls, were too exhausted to effect repairs. The end came quickly.

At midnight on the 12th of February, a combined French and Scottish force ‘courageously and stoutly assailyeit’ the fort and killed all that did not surrender.

That left the old castle but its garrison capitulated ‘blyth in hart that they escapist with their lives’.

What became of some of the key players in this tale?

Sir John Luttrell was ransomed in September 1550 but died within the year of ‘the sweating sickness’.

De Thermes became a Maréchal de France and died in Paris in 1562 after a long military career.

Broughty Castle was refortified in the 1860s as part of a coastal defence scheme. It is now in the care of Historic Scotland but is operated by Leisure & Culture, Dundee and can be visited free as a museum charting the history of Broughty Ferry. You can find details on this website – click here .


Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.


Date posted: 11 May 2017Last updated: 16 May 2017


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