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Flowers of the Forest is an ancient Scottish folk tune commemorating the defeat of the Scottish army of James IV at the Battle of Flodden in September 1513. Although the original words are unknown, the melodywas recorded c. 1615-25 in the John Skene of Halyards Manuscript as "Flowres of the Forrest", although it might have been composed earlier. Several versions of words have been added to the tune, notably Jean Elliot's lyrics in 1756 or 1758.

Others include those by Alison Cockburn below. However, many renditions are played on the Great Highland Bagpipe. Due to the content of the lyrics and the reverence for the tune, it is one of the few tunes that many pipers will perform in public only at funerals or memorial services, with play otherwise limited to private practice or to instruct other pipers.

It was played at the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901, which explains its subsequent popularity. In late 1942, according to the late Duchess of Windsor's Memoir, The Duke of Windsor asked that it be played at the funeral of his brother, the Duke of Kent, who was killed in a plane crash in the Highlands. Apparently it was a personal favourite of Prince George, Duke of Kent.

A Song That Made History: 2013 marked the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden Field, Northumberland on 9th September 1513 (Flodden 1513 Ecomuseum), the largest ever battle fought between the two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, ending with the death of the Scottish king James IV and 10,000 countrymen, the proverbial Flowers of the Forest.

Flowers of the Forest has come to represent the very quintessence of lamentation at the time of someone's passing.



I've heard them lilting at our ewe-milking,

Lasses a-lilting before the dawn of day;

But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning -

The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.

At bughts, in the morning, nae blythe lads are scorning,

The lasses are lonely, and dowie, and wae;

Nae daffin', nae gabbin', but sighing and sabbing,

Ilk ane lifts her leglin and hies her away.

In har'st, at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering,

Bandsters are lyart, and runkled, and gray;

At fair or at preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching -

The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.

At e'en, in the gloaming, nae younkers are roaming

'Bout stacks wi' the lasses at bogle to play;

But ilk ane sits drearie, lamenting her dearie -

The Flowers of the Forest are weded away.

Dool and awe for the order sent our lads to the Border!

The English, for ance, by guile wan the day;

The Flowers of the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,

The prime of our land, are cauld in the clay.

We'll hear nae mair lilting at our ewe-milking;

Women and bairns are heartless and wae;

Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning -

The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.


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