Coldstream Abbey & the battle of Flodden

The Hoppringle Prioresses of Coldstream Abbey

The Hoppringill of that Ilk family produced four Prioresses of Coldstream:
  • Margaret Hoppringill, 1489-1506: Widow of Rob. Bekirtoun de Lufnos, mother of Wil de Bekirtoun and sister of Dominis Arch. Pringill, capellano (G.S. 780/782 4 Feb 1463-64 & 1932 24 Jun 1489.
  • Isabella Hoppringill, 1506-37: Elected before 6 Jun 1506 so could not be the wife of David Hume de Wedderburn (G.S. 3006, 1 Dec 1506). She died on 26 Jan 1536-37.
  • Jonet Hoppringill, 1537-66: Elected on 23 Feb 1536-7. Sister of John Hoppringill of that Ilk and Robert prebender of Arniston.
  • Elizabeth Hoppringill, 1566-88:  On 26 Jun 1566 she receives the whole benefice and monastery. She was Jonet’s niece. Elizabeth, last of the prioresses appears to have died in 1588.


Abbess Hoppringle reclaimed the bodies from Flodden Field
Where the River Leet joins the Tweed, there was to be found the first major and reliable ford upstream from Berwick-upon-Tweed. This indeed was Coldstream’s raison d’entre. Consequently, most major Scottish and English armies invaded each others territories over this  ford. The last invading army was Scottish under the illustrious Duke of Montrose in 1640. Before the Union of the Crowns in 1603 permanent stone buildings were few. Coldstream Abbey was one and it was here that the noble casualties who fell at Flodden in 1513 were given Christian burial by Abbess Hoppringle. Although there are few remains today, names such as Nun’s Walk, Penitent’s Walk and Abbey Road are all reminders that the 12th Century Cistern Priory once stood here close to the Market Square.

Abbess Hoppringle commemorated each August in Coldstream
At 12.00 noon on Thursday in the first full week of August, this battle of Flodden is commemorated by a ride out led by the Coldstreamer, a young man who is elected to carry the town standard for the weeks festivities. There is an oration and service on the site of the battlefield where a sod is  cut and carried back to the Tweed Green in Coldstream where a moving ceremony takes place to commemorate the actions of Abbess Hoppringle.

Prioress Isabella Hoppringle
Isabella Hoppringill (daughter of Adam Pringle of Burnhouse Tower) was Prioress of Coldstream Abbey, near Flodden. On hearing of the defeat she instructed that the bodies of the dead be brought to her for burial in consecrated ground. This noble act is still commemorated each August by a ceremony in the town.

When, in the same year, Queen Margaret and her husband fled from the Regent Albany to England, they had stopped at the convent and found Isabella a congenial and intelligent hostess. In 1515, Henry VIII issued an edict to the English Wardens protecting the Prioress and her convent.

In April, 1523, Queen Margaret wrote to the Earl of Surrey and Warden of the English Middle March to save the Abbey from burning, and they had granted her request, “because the prioress is one of the best spies we have in Scotland.”