Army of the Earl of Mar, 1411

My wife and I have had several complications in recent months revolving around several health issues which have caused some rearrangement of priorities. I have had little time to work on hobby activities but have tried to paint for about fifteen or twenty minutes most days.

Using this procedure I have slowly completed the Earl of Mar’s forces and based them in The DBX style used by Allen Campbell in his Vows of Iron rules (more about the rules below).

<All the following photos may be enlarged by clicking>

As was period typical, the Earl of Mar’s army at Harlaw was apparently divided into three battles (wards). Mar and his close supporters (Keith and Hay) are seen to the left forming part of the Main Battle. The Van (to the right) is comprise mainly of men from Angus and the Mearns, lead by Sir James Scrymgeour (Constable of Dundee) who is seconded by the Sheriff of Angus, Sir Alexander Ogilvy. To their rear is a small contingent of mounted knights comprised of various gentry of the region.

A good portion of what we know about Harlaw comes to us from mythic poems and folktales (mythic in style but not necessarily anti-historical). According to John Sadler (arguably the most complete modern historian of the battle), the first poem was likely contemporary with the battle, composed by a Gaelic bard and had the Lord of the Isles as the clear winner. The Scots English version, perhaps a hundred and fifty years later, reverses the outcome in favor of Mar.

By the 18th century the well-known song (below) used elements of the later poem but with substantial alteration, placing all the emphasis on Lord Forbes (who was not yet a lord at the battle) and prominently featuring the name of Graham (likely thanks to the exploits of both Montrose and Claverhouse In the previous century) so well-known to an 18th C. audience. This song doesn’t even mention the Earl of Mar (probably so as not to invoke the name of Stewart)!

The Old Blind Dogs version is typical and the video is a splendid mix of Hollywood versions of 14th to 18th century warfare in Scotland (although Agincourt makes an appearance as well). If the viewer is patient there are lovely aerial views of the monument erected on the 500th anniversary of the battle.

The accuracy of the song not withstanding, I like it so well I have added Sir John Graham and Sir James Rose to the Aberdeen regional contingent of Sir Alexander Forbes. Forbes did apparently command the Rear Battle (show to the left above). More of Mar’s Main Battle can be seen to the right.
A reverse view of Mar’s army. The figures are mostly Pendraken with a portion of Old Glory completing the mix.
A second view to include the mounted knights.

Vows of Iron is a very period specific rules set that covers medieval battles quite well. It uses a very elegant combat/morale system that is easy to manage as a solo system and plays quickly. I love the For King and Parliament rules for my 17th C. gaming but found that when I used To The Strongest! for medieval, I would often confuse the subtle differences. My increasingly ancient mind does better using completely different systems for each period. I am, however, looking forward to the coming Renaissance extensions to TtS! which (I think) will use the FK&P command structures.

A fair overview of the events of 1411 and the Battle of Harlaw can be found at Battlefields of Britain.

I am slowly working on the army for the Lord of the Isles and also now have in hand Peter Page’s very well thought-out scenario for the Battle of Alford (1645). I hope to do Alford soon but will need to work on some table space issues we are currently having.

3 thoughts on “Army of the Earl of Mar, 1411

  1. Bill, firstly I hope you and your wife are on the mend, as I know from recent experience how health issues can affect you.

    I must say that your units look superb and very medieval, if that makes sense, due to the heraldry etc. I just wish I had the patience to do this: maybe one day. I’ve never heard of the rules you’ve mentioned but am off to check them out.

    All the best and Happy New Year!


    • Steve, thanks so much for your comment and your good wishes. The flags are printed but the painted heraldry is rather abstract. I just try to suggest the design with a few blobs of color here and there. Allen Campbell (Vows of Iron) regularly posts on TMP as Rampantlion. His Rules can be purchased at Vows of Iron


  2. As always, your post is very well researched and scholarly. My limited knowledge of the time period means I don’t understand all the complexities of the post. I’m glad you are finding some time to work on your passion, even with other obligations. Enjoy your passion! I enjoy seeing the intensity of it through your writing.


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