Sir John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill

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John Sempill

Also Known As: "Semple", "Semphill"
Birthdate: (48)
Birthplace: Renfrew, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Death: Died in Northumberland, Branxton, England
Cause of death: Killed in the Battle of Flodden Field
Place of Burial: Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir Thomas Sempill of Eliotstoun and Elizabeth Ross
Husband of Margaret Crichton and Margaret Colville
Father of Gabriel Semple of Cathcart; Janet Sempill; William Sempill, 2nd Lord Sempill; Margaret Semple; Marion Sempill and 1 other
Brother of Margaret Sempill; Marian Sempill and Elizabeth Sempill

Managed by: Kevin Lawrence Hanit
Last Updated:

About Sir John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill,_1st_Lord_Sempill

'From Darryl Lundy's Peerage page on John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill:

John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill [1]

  • M, #147485,
  • d. 9 September 1513
  • Last Edited=26 Oct 2005

John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill married Margaret Colville, daughter of Robert Colville of Hiltoun and Elizabeth Arnot, before 9 September 1501.[1]

He died on 9 September 1513 at Flodden Field, Northumberland, England, killed in action.[1]

He was the son of Sir Thomas Sempill and Elizabeth Ross.[2]

  • He gained the title of 1st Lord Sempill.
  • He fought in the Battle of Flodden on 9 September 1513.[1]

Child of John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill and Margaret Colville

  • 1. William Sempill, 2nd Lord Sempill+[1] d. 3 Jun 1552


  • 1. [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume XI, page 622. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • 2. [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume XI, page 621.

From the English Wikipedia page for John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill,_1st_Lord_Sempill

John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill of Eliotstoun (died 9 September 1513) was a Scottish peer.

Sempill was the founder of the collegiate Church of Lochwinnoch and was created Lord Sempill in the Peerage of Scotland around 1489. He was killed at the Battle of Flodden in September 1513, along with many other Scottish peers. Lord Sempill was succeeded in the lordship by his son William.

Peerage of Scotland

  • Preceded by New Creation
  • Lord Sempill (c. 1489–1513)
  • Succeeded by William Sempill


Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990.

Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages

From the English Wikipedia page on the Battle of Flodden, in which he died:


Using the pretext of revenge for the murder of Robert Kerr, a warden of the Scottish East March who had been killed by John "The Bastard" Heron in 1508, James invaded England with an army of about 30,000 men in 1513.[4] In keeping with his understanding of the medieval code of chivalry, King James sent notice to the English, one month in advance, of his intent to invade. This gave the English time to gather an army and, as importantly, to retrieve the banner of Saint Cuthbert from the Cathedral of Durham, a banner which had been carried by the English in victories against the Scots in 1138 and 1346.[5][6]

After a muster on the Burgh Muir of Edinburgh, the Scottish host moved to Ellemford, to the north of Duns, and camped to wait for Angus and Home, and then crossed the River Tweed near Coldstream. By the 29 August, Norham Castle was taken and partly demolished. The Scots moved south capturing the castles of Etal and Ford.[7] A later chronicler, Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, tells the story that James wasted valuable time at Ford enjoying the company of Lady Heron and her daughter.[8]


The battle actually took place near the village of Branxton, in the county of Northumberland, rather than at Flodden — hence the alternative name is Battle of Branxton. The Scots had previously been stationed at Flodden Edge, to the south of Branxton, which the Earl of Surrey compared to a fortress.

Surrey moved to block off the Scots' route north and so James was forced to move his army and artillery 2 miles to Branxton Hill.[9] The Scottish artillery included; 5 great curtals; 2 great culverins; 4 sakers; and 6 great serpentines.[10] When the armies were within 3 miles of each other Surrey sent Rouge Croix pursuivant to James who answered that he would wait till noon.

At 11 o'clock Lord Howard's vanguard and artillery crossed the Twissell Bridge. (Pitscottie says the king would not allow the Scots artillery to fire on the vulnerable English during this manouevre.)[11] The Scots army was in good order in 5 formations, after the Almain (German) manner. On Friday afternoon the Scots host descended without speaking any word to meet the English.[12]

According to English report, first the groups commanded by the Earls of Huntly and Crawford totalling 6000 men engaged Lord Howard and were repulsed and mostly slain. Baron Dacre's company fought Huntly and the Chamberlain Lord Home's men.[13] Then James IV himself leading a great force came on to Surrey and Lord Darcy's son who bore the brunt of the battle. Lennox and Argyll's commands were met by Sir Edward Stanley.[14]

James was killed within a spear length from Surrey and his body taken to Berwick.[15] The 'rent surcoat of the King of Scots stained with blood' was sent to Henry VIII at Tournai.[16] The biggest error the Scots made was placing their officers in the front line, medieval style. A Scottish letter of January 1514 contrasts this loss of the nobility with the English great men who took their stand with the reserves and at the rear.[17] The English generals stayed behind the lines in the Renaissance style. The loss of so many Scottish officers meant there was no one to coordinate a retreat.[18]

Tactics and aftermath

Flodden was essentially a victory of bill used by the English over the pike used by the Scots. As a weapon, the pike was effective only in a battle of movement, especially to withstand a cavalry charge. The pike had become a Swiss weapon of choice and represented modern warfare. The hilly terrain of Northumberland, the nature of the combat, and the slippery footing did not allow it to be employed to best effect.

Bishop Ruthall reported to Wolsey, 'the bills disappointed the Scots of their long spears, on which they relied.'[19]

The infantrymen at Flodden, both Scots and English, had fought in a fashion that in essence would have been familiar to their ancestors, and it has rightly been described as the last great medieval battle in the British Isles. This was the last time that bill and pike would come together as equals in battle.

Two years later Francis I defeated the Swiss pikemen at the Battle of Marignano, using a combination of heavy cavalry and artillery, ushering in a new era in the history of war. An official English diplomatic report issued by Brian Tuke noted the Scots' iron spears but concluded: 'the English halberdiers decided the whole affair, so that in the battle the bows and ordnance were of little use.'[20]

Despite Tuke's comment (he was not present), tactically, this battle was one of the first major engagements on the British Isles where artillery was significantly deployed. John Lesley, writing sixty years later, noted the Scottish bullets flew over the English heads while the English cannon was effective, the one army placed so high and the other so low.[21]

The battle is considered the last decisive use of the longbow, yet through the 16th century the English longbowmen continued to have success, as in the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Many of these archers were recruited from Lancashire and Cheshire. Sir Richard Assheton raised one such company from Middleton, near Manchester. In gratitude for his safe return, he rebuilt St. Leonard's, the local parish church.

Soon after the battle there were legends that James IV had survived; a Scottish merchant at Tournai in October claimed to have spoken with him,[23] Lindsay of Pitscottie records two myths; "thair cam four great men upon hors, and every ane of thame had ane wisp upoun thair spear headis, quhairby they might know one another and brought the king furth of the feild, upoun ane dun hackney," and also that the king escaped from the field but was killed between Duns and Kelso.[24] Similarly, John Lesley adds that the body taken to England was "my lord Bonhard" and James was seen in Kelso after the battle and then went secretly on pilgrimage in far nations.[25]

Every noble family in Scotland was supposed to have lost a member at Flodden. The dead are remembered by the song (and pipe tune) "The Flowers of the Forest";

  • We'll hae nae mair lilting, at the yowe-milking,
  • Women and bairns are dowie and wae.
  • Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning,
  • The flowers of the forest are all wede away.


Surrey's army lost 1,500 men killed.[1]

There were various conflicting accounts of the Scottish loss. A contemporary French source, the Gazette of the Battle of Flodden, said that about 10,000 Scots were killed,[3] a claim made by Henry VIII on 16 September while he was still uncertain of the death of James IV. Italian newsletters put the Scottish losses at 18 or 20 thousand and the English at 5000. Brian Tuke, the English Clerk of the Signet, sent a newsletter stating 10,000 Scots killed and 10,000 escaped the field. Tuke reckoned the total Scottish invasion force to have been 60,000 and the English army at 40,000.[26] George Buchanan wrote in his History of Scotland (published in 1582) that, according to the lists that were compiled throughout the counties of Scotland, there were about 5,000 killed.[2] A plaque on the monument to the 2nd Duke of Norfolk (as the Earl of Surrey became in 1514) at Thetford put the figure at 17,000.[2]

Notable men who died included:

  • James IV , King of Scots (1488–1513); died in battle
  • Alexander Stewart, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Lord Chancellor of Scotland; died in battle
  • Lieutenant General Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll; died in battle
  • John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill of Eliotstoun; died in battle

From Fulwood, Scotland.

Died in Flodden Field, Northumberton, England

The north side of Castle Semple Loch, near Lochwinnoch, today forms the Castle Semple Country Park, part of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. From the Watersports Centre a track leads along the north shore of the loch, before heading north into woodland then east. Following the signs shown below right brings you to a track, and shortly afterwards to your first glimpse of Castle Semple Collegiate Church. The total walk to the church is about a mile and a half.

The church has a remarkably beautiful rural setting and, apart from the obvious absence of its roof is surprisingly complete. What you find on closer examination is a lovely example of a late gothic church, remarkably unaltered by later influences - primarily because it ceased to be used soon after the Reformation of 1560.

The family variously known as Sempill, Sempil, Sempel and Semple had owned estates in the area from as early as the 1300s and at some point, probably in the 1400s, built a castle at the east end of the north shore of what was at the time known as Loch Winnoch, but has since become known as Castle Semple Loch.

Castle Semple Collegiate Church was built in 1504 by John, Lord Sempill, in the grounds of Castle Semple. Like other collegiate churches founded at around the same time in Scotland, it was built to house a college of clergy, whose main role in life was to pray for the souls of the Lord and his family.

At Castle Semple Collegiate Church there would have been a senior priest, or Provost, six other priests, two altar boys, and an administrator. The college of priests would have lived nearby and the church became the focus of an important centre of learning.

As built in 1504 the church was rectangular in shape, with a tower at its west end. But, together with most of Scotland's nobility, Lord Sempill was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Immediately afterwards the church was extended eastwards to form a three sided apse, and a highly ornate tomb was placed in the north wall of the extension as Lord Sempill's final resting place. This remains on view today.

Collegiate Churches across Scotland ceased to be used for their original purpose after the Reformation, and Castle Semple Church fell out of use altogether, though it remained a burial enclosure until the 1800s. Not far from Lord Sempill's tomb is the tombstone to Gabriel Sempel, who died in 1587, while other, more recent, graves occupy part of the interior.

The estate was sold to the MacDowell family in 1727, and Colonel William MacDowell demolished Castle Semple to make room for (and provide building materials for) the Castle Semple House he built in its place in 1735. This burned down in 1935 and its shell was demolished in the 1960s.

Castle Semple The whole of Parkhill Wood, used to be part of a large formal estate founded many centuries ago by the Sempill or Semple family. They had close links with the Scottish crown, and were rewarded for their loyalty by being made lords by James IV in the late 1400s. The original Castle Semple was built around 1500. The Semple family sold the grounds in 1727 to the wealthy Macdowall family, who demolished the old castle and replaced it with an elegant new mansion – Castle Semple House. During the 18th and 19th centuries, they added many features such as the grotto and ornate gatehouses. Most of the House was demolished in 1950 after a fire, but you can still see traces of the estate’s former glory on this walk. The grotto is currently being restored by the Semple Family Society

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Sir John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill's Timeline

April 9, 1465
Fernois, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Renfrew, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Renfrewshire, Scotland, (Present UK)
Age 16
Renfrewshire, Scotland, (Present UK)
Age 20
Renfrew, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Age 20
Kilbirnie, North Ayrshire, Scotland
September 9, 1513
Age 48
Northumberland, Branxton, England