The last of the medieval confrontations between England and Scotland was not so much a battle as a slaughter. It was a battle in which leadership and tactical skill won out against muddle and indecision. Which is not to say that there was a lack of courage, as the events of the battle clearly show.
After his defeat at Otterburn, Harry “Hotspur” Percy, heir to the Earl of Northumberland, craved revenge on the Scots. First, however, he took a hand in sorting out the internal unrest in England. King Richard II had ruled well for many years, but after the death of his beloved Queen Anne something snapped in his brain. He indulged in every luxury known at the time and gave himself over to gluttony and drink. He hired a large private army, not to fight the kingdom’s enemies, but to crush resistance to his heavy taxes and arbitrary whims. He ordered the murder of the Duke of Gloucester and personally beat the Earl of Arundel senseless. Other nobles and bishops were executed, thrown into prison or exiled. The economy was in a mess and the common people suffered terribly.
When Henry Duke of Lancaster raised a rebellion in the summer of 1399, the powerful Percy family joined immediately. Richard sent out the summons to raise the royal army, but nobody came. Abandoned and alone, Richard was captured and deposed. A few months later Lancaster announced that Richard was dead and took the throne as King Henry IV.
Almost immediately a man with a strong resemblance to Richard appeared at the court of King Robert III of Scotland. The Scots hailed him as the real King Richard and refused to deal with King Henry on the grounds that he was a usurper. The Scots stepped up the number and scale of their border raids. In July 1402, Henry led a large army into southern Scotland, but failed to capture any major cities or to bring the Scottish army to battle.
from "England vs Scotland" by Rupert Matthews
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