The dust has settled, the fanfare has faded, and the commemorations for the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden are now almost as much a thing of the past as the battle itself.
I doubt there's ever been a more extensive calender of events to mark this dolorous date than seen this year all across the Borders. A re-enactment of the battle, an extended Common Riding in which hundreds participated, and ceremonies in all the key Scottish Border towns, and some in England too, made sure that this momentous day was honoured fully in the heartland where its memory has never been forgotten or allowed to fade.
Last weekend I drove into Selkirk and saw a man getting into his Fiat Punto, after packing his sword into the boot. The locals did not give him a second glance, so used are they to the past being brought to life, every year. No doubt I'll soon be like them. In recent weeks I've been on what feels like a version of Bob Dylan's Neverending Tour, speaking at various bookshops and festivals to promote my novel After Flodden, which deals with the aftermath of Scotland's terrible defeat.
What is very plain, and impressive, is the degree of interest in Flodden, and what led to it, among Borderers. The further north one travels, however, the more that interest wanes. If you were to map all events held to commemorate September 9, 1513, they would fade into insignificance beyond Edinburgh and Linlithgow, like a litmus paper stained only at the tip. This, despite the fact that troops from all across Scotland - the islands, Highlands, and the farthest north - went to war that day.
Even the poignant ceremony held in St Giles Cathedral on Monday, at which all 40 clan chiefs were gathered, was the work of a handful of enthusiasts. With an invited guest list, and regrettably no First Minister, it was, as more than one observer has remarked, a reminder that the establishment still holds sway. This, despite the fact that of the 10,000 Scots who died in battle that day, by far the majority were the common people.
The patchiness of coverage of the anniversary, and indeed the clear aversion in some quarters even to acknowledging it, hints at a country that has in large part lost an appetite for history of the brutal kind. One understands those who are squeamish about reliving such violence, or seeming to revel in it. After all, though it was a calamity for us, for the families of the English who also died, that day was every bit as dark. In that sense, both sides were losers.
Yet perhaps the most unexpected and encouraging thing to have emerged from this year's remembrances has been a change of heart with regards to James IV. If nothing else has come out of this year, James's name is no longer daubed in mud. Whether the suggestion of one English historian that a statue be erected to him is ever pursued, at least he is not now seen as a reckless fool, more instead a fine king who made one terrible mistake. Politicians and leaders of all hues might find themselves reflecting on the alarming truth that no matter how exemplary their record, in terms of posterity and those who write history, a leader is only as good as his or her last act.
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