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The Stuart Courts
By Eveline Cruickshanks
The History PressCopyright © 2012 The contributors,
All rights reserved.
From Edinburgh to London: Scottis Court Writing and 1603
James VI and I, as Jenny Wormald perceptively remarks, is a king on whom history conferred two characters, not merely two titles: the wily, gifted, loved and successful Scot of Edinburgh gives place to a dissipated, filthy and self-indulgent alien monarch, overflowing with favouritism and excrement in England's capital. That this is so, Dr Wormald argues, owes as much if not more to differing court cultural expectations, as to the circumstantial spite of Sir Anthony Weldon. James was a king with two courts as much as two kingdoms. That this self-evident fact is worth attending to, is due to the eliding of Scottish into 'British' culture practised by our inherited historiography, and unwittingly underlined by those patriot critics who, in seeing the 'GB' of 1603 as initialising Great Betrayal, implicitly yield to assumptions of the poverty and vulnerability of the northern kingdom. In this chapter I seek rather to emphasise not only the strength and variety of Scottish court culture before 1603, but also its survival after that date, and the importance of that survival for Scottish literature itself.
Edinburgh's court in the sixteenth century was not lacking in the features of Renaissance cosmopolitanism. Sir David Lindsay's characterisation of James IV as 'myrrour of humylitie/Lode sterne and lampe of libiralytie ... of his court, throuch Europe sprang the fame' was a piece of nostalgia in step with the 'panegyrics in both Scots and Latin' that 'establish the monarch as a personification of virtue' at the centre of the Court, the persistence of which after regal union is seen in the greetings poured out in The Muses' Welcome of James to Scotland in 1617 (though by this time, Scots has been replaced by English: the panegyrists seem conscious of the King's 'British' status). Yet this high cultural idealisation of the monarch had its demotic counterpart in the accessibility and familiarity of the King, and the closeness between King and people long remarked on in Scotland, of which James V's incognito travellings and reputed contribution to folksong was only the most recent example. This paradoxical doubleness of iconography and intimacy could not be reproduced in an England that viewed James VI's familiarities as coarse derogations from the image of Tudor sovereignty. The King's description of himself as 'your Dad, James R' on letters to favoured subjects is first found in correspondence with the Earl of Huntly in the 1590s: in England, it could raise revulsion. Likewise the adoption of friendly personae such as the 'Sandy Mow', by which James denominated himself Alexander Montgomerie's poetic apprentice in the 1580s, would have been gross abdications of dignity in London. After 1603, James's easy relations with his Scottish court fools (he was one of the last to keep such) in his new capital was only one of many indications of the preservation of Edinburgh court mores in his new kingdom.
This dimension of familiarity in Scottish court culture is of particular significance, and will be returned to. But on a European scale, Scotland's high culture was also a powerful force, operating systems of patronage through the 'sufficient surplus of wealth' held by Crown, aristocracy, Church and towns, in much the style (if on a limited scale) of those in place in Italy. The poetry of William Dunbar, the establishment of the Chapel Royal in 1501, the music of Robert Carver written for it, and the choral skill required for pieces such as his 'O Bone Jesu' were, like James V's role as king of love and the drama of Sir David Lindsay, earnests of an achievement within a Scottish nation whose proud history was marked abroad in the writing of its humanist scholars such as George Buchanan, whose 'Epithalamium on the Marriage of Mary and the Dauphin' boasted that 'Sine milite Scoto/Nulla unquam Francis fulsit victoria castris' (without the Scottish soldier, no victory ever shone in French camps). At the same time, this cosmopolitanism (which seems to have helped the rapid dissemination of Reformed ideas) existed in the context of an early move towards native speech, both for patriotic reasons (as in Bishop Gavin Douglas's translation of the Aeneid into Scots) and administrative use: 'much earlier than in England, vernacular became the language of government in Scotland'. This vernacular, perhaps never universally identified as a tongue separate from English despite Douglas's aim to 'kepand na sudroun bot our awin langage', became much more closely identified with its sister speech after the Reformation.
Whatever damage the Reformation did (and Mary tried to limit it, particularly in the Chapel Royal), in 1567 James inherited many of the features of earlier court culture. Music had been badly injured through its association with the ecclesiastical establishment (for example, 'on 19th May 1563, John Hamilton, subchantor of Glasgow, was tried for assisting at Mass along with forty-seven others'), but even here the King inherited significant resources in his own Household, and sought to bolster the institutional status of music as soon as he came to maturity, paying particular attention to the song schools. Less tangibly, he may have inherited from his mother an interest in music (though not perhaps her skills in singing or composition, if she is responsible for the 'Galliards which bear her name') and significant poetic gifts. Mary was 'brought up in the company of ... Ronsard, to whom she dedicated one poem of her own', and her verse can show a definitive clarity in its feeling passion, as in this plea from captivity:
O Domine Deus! Speravi in Te;
O care mi Jesu! nunc libera me,
In dura catena, in misera poena, desidero te; ...
Adoro, imploro, ut libera me!
Beside her political and personal failings, Mary was the unfortunate victim of a Reformation typology which discovered in Elizabeth a new type of the Virgin, 'in earth the first, in heaven the Second Maid', who in the rhetoric of 'apocalyptic monarchism' was 'the Woman Clothed with the Sun' from Revelation, a near 'goddess' in George Buchanan's words. Mary was, despite her name (or because of it, given Elizabeth's predecessor) all too readily seen as an antitype: the Whore of Babylon, Spenser's Duessa – a literary characterisation which James VI understood and disliked.
Son of Duessa as he was, and baptised a Catholic, James was not demonised, and his claim to the English throne was from the beginning more credible than his mother's. George Buchanan's genethliacon on James's birth prophesied that he would be the 'child, for whom the oracles of former prophets promise a Golden Age. ... Now the Saxon race will not oppress the Scots nor the Scot in enmity oppress the Saxon.' Buchanan's praise of his royal master in 1566 is not unlike the English welcome that greeted him as Arthur restored thirty-seven years later, though the English guests present at Buchanan's rich court masque in celebration of James's birth took offence 'when the satyrs wagged their tails at the audience, "fancying that it was done in their derision"'. They perhaps need not have worried, as when the poet laureate of Mary's reign and James's regency wanted to insult people he could be less than subtle, as these lines on Pope Julius II testify, barbed as they are with evidence of Buchanan's unique gifts as a theological controversialist:
Your father was from Genoa, your mother from Greece, and the waves of the sea gave you birth. How can you be good? Italians are false, Greeks liars, and no-one can trust the sea. You alone have each of these things in you.
As official laureate, 'the deaths of friends, colleagues and court figures kept Buchanan busy with the composition of epitaphs', while 'annual celebrations at court seem to have demanded a poetic response. ... From 1566 ... editions of Buchanan were coming off the press almost annually, and his reputation as the grand old man of Latin literature was firmly established.'
After 1570, Buchanan was also tutor to the young King. Eventually the tutelage he underwent would spur James to remark that 'they gar me speik Latin or I could speik Scottis', but there is no doubt that it was effective, and the King's learning was remarked on by visitors to the Court, increasingly prosperous with the decline of Marian strife lamented by Sir Richard Maitland in his 'Satire on the Age' ('Quhair is the blythnes that hes bein/Bayth in burgh and landwart sein'). Under the Regent Morton, Scotland 'recovered with great rapidity from the disastrous consequences of prolonged civil strife; and in 1574 her sudden increase in wealth and comfort struck the English ambassador with astonishment'. Within a few years, 'the court of James VI succeeded in re-establishing Scotland as a cultural centre of importance'. Undertaking this task, James's chief efforts were directed towards music and poetry: arts often conjoined, as for example in Andro Blackhall's settings of Alexander Montgomerie's poetry.
James was at the heart of a move to restore music as fully as practicable to the significant status it had held prior to 1560. There were elements of tokenism, perhaps, but what emerges is nonetheless a programme. In 1579 'a most important statute was passed for encouragement of Sang Schools', earnest of developing reform. By 1586, the process outlined showed a degree of commitment to the musical status quo ante:
He [the king] is weill myndit as he hes already begun, that the said art [of music] salbe restorit partlie agane within this realme be providing sic personis as hes some entres in the art, and will gif their mynd and labouris thairto to the prebendareis and chappellenries of the Collegis and Kirkis that were foundit and erectit of auld to be served be musicians.
Musicians such as James Lauder and Andro Blackhall served to provide artistic (and in some cases clerical) continuity with the Marian Court. Given James's later leanings towards Anglican ceremonial, the appointment of the Englishman Thomas Hudson as Master of the Chapel Royal may not have been without significance. Hudson, 'a person of some account', has been adjudged to have 'over a period of some thirty years had the ear of the king'. Court music in Scotland was in any case witnessing something of a drift towards English models.
Some of James's musical restoratives were perhaps eased by the fact that crypto-Catholicism was present among apparently conforming kirkmen in the King's circle, and indeed it was by no means always hidden, the English Ambassador noting after the Ruthven Raid that 'the King was now surrounded by nobles most of whom were Catholic'. James's willingness to restore the Marian Archbishop of Glasgow to his see, and the King's frequent cat and mouse games with the Catholic interest, were parts of the same pattern. The ornate and extravagant ceremonies in the Chapel Royal and Stirling Castle attendant on the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594 were tokens of a defended and preserved Renaissance high culture in Scotland. Likewise, the more demotic aspects of Jacobean monarchy found a place for the King's musical interest: James's pipers, 'skirling in front of him' en route to 'Dalkeith Church' and the 'bawdy songs and ... bawdy tales' of 'his own special court-jester' were in defiance of Kirk strictures, as indeed was the 'latitude' surrounding court minstrelsy, especially in the inclusion of such minstrels in the offices of the Chapel Royal itself.
As alluded to earlier, court music was conjoined with poetry, a feature of the time common to high and folk culture alike: this was long before Allan Ramsay became 'the first man in Scotland to indulge in the pernicious malpractice of printing the texts of ballads without their tunes'. There was a cultural partnership in these arts as there was between high and folk aspects of Scottish court culture itself: ballads were known at Court, and James IV and V were familiar with folk culture, the latter indeed being supposed the author of 'The Gaberlunzie Man' in reference to his tour of his subjects in beggar's disguise. For James VI, however, the marriage of register and form seems to have been better celebrated at the higher level. The famous Castalian band of the 1580s placed a high cultural emphasis on the Court's activities. Apollo was the leader of the original Castalian band: so James was of his poetic group, which included Alexander Montgomerie, Robert and Thomas Hudson, William Fowler, John Stewart of Baldynneis, William Alexander, the future Earl of Stirling, and Robert Ayton. The King's Apollonian role invited an intensification of the iconography of Stuart monarchy, and the band did not disappoint him of the sun-king image his leadership invited. As Montgomerie put it: 'can golden Titan shyning bright at morne,/For light of torches, cast a gritter shaw?' James would have liked to think not, so despite his poetic deference to such as Montgomerie ('Beloved Sanders maistre of our art'), redolent of the intimate and democratic aspects of the Court, the King claimed the obedience of his poets not to rank alone, but by becoming their determining theorist in his distinctly Scottish literary theoretical tract Reulis and Cautelis, which he attached to the modestly titled Essayes of a Prentise in the Divine Art of Poesie (1584).
The Castalian band's title may also hint at a more immediate political realm that that of Parnassus. The Scots 'band', descriptive 'of a sworn brotherhood in league for violent action', was what James and his mother had both faced, the King most recently in the Ruthven Raid of 1582–3. In this sense, the Castalian 'band', being 'a brotherhood of peaceful, constructive making', may be a name indicative of a courtly rebuttal to the pressure Protestant associations had been bringing to bear on the throne. Within the band, figures such as Montgomerie were strongly linked to Marian agitation. His Cherrie and the Slae, to read which has been said to be 'to experience something of the enduring culture of Europe', may well be an allegorical celebration of Catholicism, the fruit provided by God 'Quha did myne helth to me restoir,/Being sae lang tyme pynd', and who might do the same for Scotland. Though later embarrassed by Montgomerie's pro-Catholic activities, James's own Lepanto disturbed Scottish opinion by praising the Catholic Don John of Austria, though the poem dutifully concludes with an attack on Rome.
Castalian poetry's European dimension must have made such an appreciation of the community of Western Christendom more than likely. Montgomerie and Thomas Hudson both had a background in France, and through these and 'the perfect French scholarship of the King, the Castalians had access and indeed recourse to ... the new poetry of France' (more generally, James planned to render 'great European masterpieces into Scots', a task on which a start at least was made). The influence of the Pleiade was marked in James's own literary theory, and the strong French backdrop to Castalian practice is itself a natural cultural link given the long-standing alliance of the two countries gloried in by Buchanan in the poem quoted above. Ronsard himself had, as a boy, been 'a page in the train of Madeleine of France when she married King James V in Paris on New Year's Day 1537', and shortly afterwards travelled to Scotland. The reliance on French sources was (perhaps more self-consciously than would have been the case in pre-Reformation Scotland) 'part of the Castalian desire to emphasise the difference between their practice and that of England'. In the context of the band's 'major poetic aim, the task of making Scottish writing once more revered at home and abroad', James's own Reulis and Cautelis was a critical statement emphasising Scotland's readiness to make its unique contribution to the Renaissance'. The King's theory combined cosmopolitan influences with a nationalist poetic manifesto (dedicated 'to the docile bairns of knawledge') studded with peculiarly Scottish poetic terminology (most of which has not stuck, though James may have been the first in Britain to use the term 'quadrain' (quatrain)). Assessing the text, Gabriel Harvey wrote that it contained
The excellentest rules & finest Art. that a King could learne, or teache, in his Kingdom. The more remarkable, how worthie the pen, & industrie of a King. How mutch better, then owr Gascoigne's notes of instruction for Inglish Verse & Ryme.
This high opinion can still stand to some extent: James was attempting in Reulis and Cautelis to create a native theoretical tradition, differentiating its 'sundrie reulis' from those of English poetry through adoption of the definitions of Continental writers. His limitations include a powerful addiction to prescriptive theory, common enough at the time, but a serious constraining factor in the context of a poetic circle so intimately centred on its kingly critic. The result was an 'over concern with manneristic perfection', which Professor Jack has argued is found elsewhere in Europe in 'societies of high cultural attainment', notably Italy, and Italy is an apt comparator for Scottish systems of patronage at this time.
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Contributors,
Foreword by David Starkey,
List of Abbreviations,
Introduction by Eveline Cruickshanks,
1. Murray Pittock From Edinburgh to London: Scottish Court Writing and 1603,
2. Nick Myers Hercule Gaulois, Great Britain's Solomon – Myths of Persuasion, Styles of Authority,
3. David Lindley Courtly Play: the Politics of Chapman's the Memorable Masque,
4. Neil Cuddy Reinventing a Monarchy: the Changing Structure and Political Function of the Stuart Court, 1603–88,
5. Arthur Macgregor The Household Out of Doors: the Stuart Court and the Animal Kingdom,
6. Jeremy Wood Taste and Connoisseurship at the Court of Charles I: Inigo Jones and the Work of Giulio Romano,
7. Lorraine Madway 'The Most Conspicuous Solemnity': the Coronation of Charles II,
8. Andrew Barclay Charles II's Failed Restoration: Administrative Reform Below Stairs, 1660–4,
9. Sonya Wynne The Mistresses of Charles II and Restoration Court Politics,
10. Gerald Aylmer Patronage at the Court of Charles II,
11. Brian Weiser Access and Petitioning During the Reign of Charles II,
12. Simon Thurley A Country Seat Fit for a King: Charles II, Greenwich and Winchester,
13. Edward Corp The Jacobite Court at Saint-Germain-En-Laye: Etiquette and the Use of the Royal Apartments,
14. Toby Barnard The Viceregal Court in Later Seventeenth-Century Ireland,
15. Hugh Ouston 'From Thames to Tweed Departed': the Court of James, Duke of York in Scotland 1679–82,