Journal of the Northern Renaissance

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‘Rare shewes and singular inventions’: The Stirling Baptism of Prince Henry

Michael Bath

[1] In an article on the celebrations surrounding the baptism of James VI at Stirling in 1566, Michael Lynch reached the rather challenging conclusion that ‘Stirling in 1566 deserves to be restored to its proper place as the venue of what was by most yardsticks the first truly Renaissance festival which Great Britain had ever witnessed’ (Lynch 1990: 21). The claim seems challenging, if only because students of English literature have been led to think that what Stephen Orgel and Roy Strong (1973) called The Theatre of the Stuart Court only began in England after the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Students of architecture have, likewise, been encouraged to think that English, if not British, architecture in this period was holding its breath for the belated arrival of Inigo Jones.[1] Yet we should surely remember that, as I have argued elsewhere, ‘the Stuart/Stewart dynasty that assumed power in England only in 1603 had already reigned in Scotland for more than two hundred years in a court which had its own culture – its own musical, literary and dramatic entertainments’ (Bath 2001: 183). Those entertainments have not remained completely unknown or unstudied, of course, even if Clare MacManus was right to claim, as recently as 2000, that ‘Early modern Scottish courtly performance has long suffered from neglect in favour of investigations into that of England and the major European nations’ (McManus 2000: 178). However if Lynch is right about the 1566 baptism then clearly students of the ‘Stuart’ court in England need to take account of the considerable body of work that has been done – by scholars such as Helen Mennie Shire, Andrea Thomas, and Michael Lynch himself – on the culture of the Stewart Court in Scotland. In the light of wider studies of court festivals by scholars such as Sydney Anglo, Margaret McGowan, Victor Graham and W. McAllister Johnson, J. R. Mulryne, Helen Watenabe-O’Kelly, or Robert J. Knecht, the time has surely come for us to insist on the internationalism of court culture and court festivals throughout Europe in this period.[2] It is, after all, not surprising that these should be international since all royal families depend for their succession on inter-dynastic marriages.

[2] If we are to place the Scottish festivals in context, however, we need to identify those features and conventions which they share with their English and continental equivalents. If those can be shown to have anticipated, or even influenced, the seventeenth-century Jacobean court in England we shall have made at least some progress with challenging what Rick Bowers has called the ‘prevalent Anglocentric bias that dates Stuart culture from 1603, when James succeeded to the English throne’ (Bowers 2005: 3). What Michael Lynch shows, in his study of the 1566 baptism (Lynch 1990), is that Mary Queen of Scots’ celebrations were closely modelled on the Valois magnificences organised by Catherine de Medicis in France, a year or two earlier, in which Mary’s mother-in-law had sought to reconcile the religious differences that were tearing her country apart. In a later article on ‘Court Ceremony and Ritual’, however, Lynch suggests that the 1594 baptism was more influenced by English rather than by French models. The opening tournament, he writes, ‘was a straightforward copy of what by the 1580s had become a regular spectacle in England, the Accession Day tilts, where a Protestant ethic was grafted on to a revived tradition of Burgundian chivalry’ (Lynch 2000: 89). This reading of the 1594 Baptism, in which French (Catholic) ceremonial models were overtaken by English (Protestant) ones has been further developed by Lynch himself in 2003. It has also been pursued by Rick Bowers, who argues that William Fowler’s 1594 True Reportarie of the 1594 ceremonies in Stirling, ‘represents a new form of political announcement, a reformed Protestant communiqué that breaks with a Catholic past, balances Scottish nationalism with British union, and asserts the cultural complexities of James’s future power’ (Bowers 2005: 4).

[3] The 1594 Baptism has the advantage over its 1566 predecessor in that we have a fairly full and official description of its ceremonial, whereas everything that we know about its 1566 predecessor has to be built up from fragmentary entries in The Treasurer’s Accounts and other state papers, or from contemporary eye-witness accounts. The political situation surrounding both ceremonies had certainly changed, with Queen Mary’s first-hand experience of the French court being overtaken by James’s preoccupation with his infant son’s succession to the English throne. What I want to do in this paper, however, is to question that contrast between French and English influences, whilst welcoming and insisting on the internationalism of the models and precedents for both celebrations. The continuities between the Scottish 1566 baptism of James VI and the 1594 baptism of his son and heir-apparent are stronger, I want to suggest, than Lynch’s distinction between French and English models might suggest. There remain many elements of the 1594 Baptism that go back directly to French roots, and if we want to see where it is coming from we need to reach not just for our copy of Sidney Anglo (1969) but also our copy of Victor Graham and McAllister Johnson (1979). The use of emblems in the 1594 ceremonies is – I shall suggest – an important part of that internationalism, albeit something that it undoubtedly shares with the English Accession Day tilts.

[4] The printing of William Fowler’s True Reportarie of the Baptism of the Prince of Scotland might itself be a sign of such French influence.[3] The publication of more-or-less official accounts of such ceremonies began in France in the 1550s as a way of capitalising on their huge costs by publicising more widely the magnificence of the occasion and its message. Subsequent French court festivals and royal entries had been commemorated in albums written by such authors as Maurice Scève; Jean Martin, Charles Chappuys, Joachim du Bellay, and emblematist Barthelemy Aneau. In following suit in Edinburgh in 1594, Fowler was therefore following some notable predecessors. It is, however, important to remember that two versions of the True Reportarie were published, one in Edinburgh and the other in London, so that, as Clare McManus says, ‘Despite its rushed and improvised air, Fowler’s festival was designed to signal the magnificence of the Scottish court and to advance James VI’s succession to the English throne; significantly, both Scots and anglicised contemporary variants of the text exist’ (McManus 2000: 185). It was evidently important to King James that his future English subjects noticed what had been performed in Stirling.

[5] Nevertheless, as Roy Strong says, the Valois court festivals, and particularly the magnificences that took place in Fontainebleau in 1564, formed a pattern for those to follow both in France and elsewhere (Strong 1973: 105). Lasting over two or three days, they included two different types of spectacle, outdoors and indoors, the first being predominantly chivalrous, with tournaments such as barriers and running at the ring, or the storming of a fortress. The indoor entertainments included pageant cars, feasting, singing and dancing, and a number of theatrical forms which outlasted these occasions – the Stuart court masque, the French ballet de cour, and the opera. This scenario might tempt us to distinguish the outdoor tournaments from the more theatrical indoor entertainments, but this would be a mistake, for the outdoor martial arts were no less theatrical than the indoor festivities, with the combatants dressed up in costume and often assuming fictitious roles and identities: these are tournaments in fancy dress. Scottish indebtedness to this format is clear when Fowler explains at the start of his description that the Stirling Baptism festivities were ‘devided both in Feeld pastimes, with Martiall and heroicall exploites, and in household, with rare shewes and singular inventions’ (Fowler 1936: 172).

[6] The 1594 Baptism of Prince Henry opened with Running at the Ring ‘in the valley near the castle’ by three Christian Knights of Malta, three Turks ‘verie gorgiouslie attired’, and three Amazons ‘in women’s attire, very sumptuously clad’. All nine of these costumed participants were, of course, courtiers: the three Christian knights were King James himself plus the Earl of Mar and Thomas Erskine; the three Turks were the Duke of Lennox, Lord Home, and Sir Robert Kerr; the three Amazons ‘in women’s attire’ were the Abbot of Holyroodhouse, Lord Buccleuch and Lord Lindores. The taste for cross-dressing of tournament combatants, which seems so odd to us, goes back directly to Valois precedents. The portrait of Francois I as a composite trans-gendered deity combining the features of Mars/Mercury/Minerva/Diana may not illustrate any actual masquing costume, though it surely reflects such disguising.

Fig. 1   François I as a transgendered, composite deity combining the attributes of  Minerva, Mars, Mercury and Diana. Parchment pasted on panel, c. 1545 (Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Na 255 Rés.)

Fig. 1 François I as a transgendered, composite deity combining the attributes of Minerva, Mars, Mercury and Diana. Parchment pasted on panel, c. 1545 (Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Na 255 Rés.)

In 1576 Henri III certainly gave a masqued ball in Paris at which he appeared as a woman, with his hair dressed and powdered, his gown cut low décolleté, and wearing brocade, lace and ten ropes of pearls. The most notable appearance of a costumed Amazon in the tiltyard, however, was in the 1565 Bayonne magnificence when Charles IX appeared in the first day’s tournament dressed as a Trojan, whilst his brother Henri – future Henri III – was dressed as an Amazon, wearing a skirt (Strong 1984: 108). If we want to know just what such a cross-dressing Amazon might have looked like, we have only to look at Antoine Caron’s drawing of the Bayonne tournament.

Fig. 2The Bayonne magnificences, 1565, opening tournament showing Charles IX tilting at the quintain whilst his brother Henri follows, dressed as an Amazon. Antoine Caron, attrib., drawing. (Courtauld Institute, University of London.)

Fig. 2   The Bayonne magnificences, 1565, opening tournament showing Charles IX tilting at the quintain whilst his brother Henri follows, dressed as an Amazon. Antoine Caron, attrib., drawing. (Courtauld Institute, University of London.)

This was not the last time that Amazons appeared in Valois court tournaments, for in 1573 Charles with his brothers and the Duc de Guise appeared as Amazons in the magnificence mounted in Paris to celebrate the marriage of Henri de Navarre to Marguerite de Valois. And in a notable prefiguration of the Stirling Baptism, their opponents in this running at the ring were dressed as Turks (Strong 1984: 113).

[7] The taste for Turkish disguising seems to have begun in France at the 1533 celebrations of the wedding of Prince Henry II to Catherine de Medicis in Marseilles, when Catherine’s cousin, Ippolito, recently returned from Hungary, arrived with an escort of Magyars and pages dressed as Turks, wearing turbans and wielding scimitars. French attitudes towards the Islamic empire remained more open-minded than most of its European neighbours, indeed under Henry III the Sultan became France’s ally in opposition to the territorial ambitions of the Empire: the opposition of Turks and Christians in these continental antecedents to the Stirling Baptism does not necessarily imply any foregone preference or advantage therefore for the latter. This was not the first time that Scotland had used such disguising since in 1561 we learn that the French ambassador, de Foys, with his followers, ran at the ring ‘dysguised and apparelled thone half lyke women, and thither lyke strayngers, in strange maskynge garments’ (Calendar of State Papers, ed. Bain, I: 467). For Clare McManus ‘The close approximation of the feminine and the foreign’ in these disguisings needs to be read ‘as symbolic markers of difference’ which underline the gendered rhetoric of ‘a festival which defines Queen Anna as the passive prize of King James’s romance quest’. As she says,

The performance of blackness is not unknown in Scottish entertainments. The first recorded presence of black performers in Scotland dates from 1505 and the court of James IV; however, its perhaps most significant appearance is found in the same king’s tournament of the Black Lady (1507 and 1508) in which a black woman, celebrated in Dunbar’s ‘parodic blazon’ ‘Ane Blak Moir’ as the ‘ladye with the meckle lippis’, performed. (McManus 2000: 189).

There are later Scottish examples, and in 1596 – two years after the Stirling baptism – Moorish and Turkish disguises were adopted in the Danish tournament for the coronation of Christian IV (McManus 2000: 191, citing Lausund 1992). And in England these precedents undoubtedly foreshadow the Stuart court masques of Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, notably The Masque of Blackness in which Queen Anna actually participated in 1605.

[8] We should not perhaps be surprised to find French antecedents for these Turks and Amazons in Stirling, but it might be more surprising to discover that the wild highlandmen who attacked the burning fortress in the 1566 mock-siege at Stirling had already put in an appearance the year before in France, where the Bayonne magnificences included a pageant of Knights of seven different Nations, at which a group of six knights accompanied the Duc de Guise, all dressed as wild Scotsmen ‘à l’Escossaise sauvage’ (Lynch 1990: 9; Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979: 337). These French Highlanders were admittedly more richly dressed than their Scottish successors: rather than goat skins they wore shirts of white satin, made with embroidery and cloth-of-gold, and coats of yellow velvet whose base was pleated ‘selon la coustume des sauvages’. It was almost certainly the Guise connection with Mary Queen of Scots through her mother that motivated this choice of costume (Bath 2009: 58).

[9]  The internationalism of William Fowler’s designs for the Stirling baptism certainly extends to its prominent use of emblems. Fowler himself had a wider interest in these, for his papers (which were preserved by his son-in-law, poet William Drummond, amongst the Hawthornden Papers now in the National Library of Scotland) include details of the devices embroidered by Mary Queen of Scots for her bed of state, extracts from Italian writers on the art of the impresa, and a note suggesting that he himself had written such a treatise.[4] Fowler tells us that the combatants in the first day’s Running at the Ring in Stirling rode on horses bearing their master’s impresa.

So al the persons being present and at their entrye making their reverence to the queen, embassadours, and ladyes, having their pages ryding upon their led horses and on their left armes bering their maisters Imprese or devyse. (Reportarie, p.175)

This certainly supports Michael Lynch’s contention that the 1594 Scottish Baptism was influenced by the English Accession Day tilts, where imprese were similarly used, indeed Alan Young has shown that the pasteboard shields that were presented as the combatants entered the tiltyard in England were subsequently put on display in an impresa gallery in Whitehall Palace (Young 1987; the devices are fully listed in Young 1988). Fowler would have had the opportunity to witness the Accession Day tilts during his time in England, 1581-1583, since tilts took place in both these years. The precedents for such presentations had been established, however, not in England but in France where, in the Bayonne Magnificence of 1565, for instance, the Arthurian knights of Britain and Ireland presented gold medallions bearing the devices displayed on their shields to the ladies observing their tournament in the tilt gallery. As Roy Strong notes, ‘The official Recueil of these events contains engravings of them’ (Strong 1984: 107; cf Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979: 49, and figs.27-44).

Fig. 3   Device of Filisson de Diques, monseigneur le duc de Longueville. Recueil des choses notables qui ont esté faites à Bayonne, à l'entreueuë du roy treschrestien neufieme de ce nom, [et] la royne sa treshonoree mere, auec la royne catholique sa soeur. Paris: Michel de Vascosan, 1566, p. 77.

Fig. 3 Device of Filisson de Diques, monseigneur le duc de Longueville. Recueil des choses notables qui ont esté faites à Bayonne, à l’entreueuë du roy treschrestien neufieme de ce nom, [et] la royne sa treshonoree mere, auec la royne catholique sa soeur. Paris: Michel de Vascosan, 1566: 77.

[10]  As we begin to unpack the iconography and meaning of these Scottish tiltyard imprese, it becomes clear that – like most emblems – they go back to diverse sources, combining conventional motifs and commonplace mottoes in new ways or, more often than not, inventing new emblems in a bricolage of received ideas. King James, for instance, led the group of three Christian Knights bearing the device of a lion’s head with open eyes ‘which signifieth after a mystique & Hieroglyphique sense Fortitude and Vigilance’. Fowler might seem to be overplaying the ‘mystique and Hieroglyphic’ sense of what might otherwise seem a pretty straightforward heraldic device here, but the King’s motto certainly gives it a more abstruse and pointed application. The motto Timeat et primus et ultimus orbis (He strikes fear into both nearby and distant worlds) comes from Ovid (Fasti, I: 717-18), ‘Horreat Aeneadas et primus et ultimus orbis: Si qua parum Romam terra timebit, amet’. The contrast between local and distant worlds has a long history, going back to Virgil’s description of Britain as an island almost totally cut off from the known world, ‘penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos’ (Ecl. 1, 67), but the distinction had been drawn into imperial iconography most notably in the Plus oultre badge of emperor Charles V, with its two columns signifying the pillars of Hercules that separated the Old World from the new Americas (Bath 2009: 58-59). James’s voyage to Denmark to bring back his bride Anna may look to us somewhat less than transatlantic, but there can be no doubt that the Stirling festival was designed, as McManus (2000) demonstrates, to characterise his voyage as a romance quest, re-enacting Jason’s voyage to secure his bride Medea and the golden fleece. It was an outlandish adventure.

[11]  The Earl of Mar in the Stirling tournament displayed a dog-collar ‘all beset with iron pikes’ and the motto Offendit et defendit (He attacks and protects). The emblem has no exact antecedents, though the prickly iconography surely recalls the famous porcupine device of Louis XII, whose motto Cominus et eminus (Hand-to-hand and at a distance) signals the same two alternatives of proximity and distance. The porcupine, however, has the emblematic advantage over Fowler’s spiked dog-collar since it was reported to be able to shoot out its quills. The third of the Christian knights, Thomas Erskine, displayed ‘a windmill with her spokes unmoving and windes unblowing on every side’ and the motto Ni sperat immota (He expects nothing unmoved). Again the message seems to allude to the royal journey, though quite how a windmill could be depicted with the sails not turning, or the winds not blowing, is unclear: the emblem depends on its motto to make the point. Far from being becalmed, James’s Danish voyage in 1589 had been beset by storms, which is surely what this emblem refers to.

Fig. 4Emblem showing the Reformed church shining with the full light of revealed religion. Theodore de Beze, Icones, id est verae imagines virorum doctrina simul et pietate illustrium [...] quibus adiectae sunt nonnullae picturae quas Emblemata vocant, Geneva: Jean de Laon, 1580, no. 40.

Fig. 4 Emblem showing the Reformed church shining with the full light of revealed religion. Theodore de Beze, Icones, id est verae imagines virorum doctrina simul et pietate illustrium […] quibus adiectae sunt nonnullae picturae quas Emblemata vocant, Geneva: Jean de Laon, 1580, no. 40.

[12] Of the three Turks, the Earl of Lennox displayed a love emblem showing a heart with one side on fire, the other frozen with ‘on one side Cupid’s torch, on the other Cupid’s thunder’. This, and the motto, Hinc amor, inde metus (Here love, there fear), declares a conventional Petrarchan conceit which would not have been out of place in Fowler’s Tarantula of Love, and which reflects James VI’s stance in these ceremonies as ‘a questing romance hero’ which is well analysed by McManus (McManus 2000: 190-91; and for Tarantula of Love see Verweij 2007). Lord Home’s impresa showed ‘a zodiac with a moon opposite the sun, motto: Quo remotior, lucidior. That is to say, the further the fairer’. The device has no exact equivalent in emblem books, but something of its iconography can perhaps be illustrated by an untitled emblem from the 1580 Icones of Theodore de Bèze. Its emphasis on proximity and distance has to be read, once again, as alluding to the royal voyage.

Fig. 5   Emblem ‘In deprehensum’ (Caught!) illustrating the adage Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf). Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, Leiden: Plantin, 1591, p. 38.

Fig. 5   Emblem ‘In deprehensum’ (Caught!) illustrating the adage Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf). Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, Leiden: Plantin 1591: 38.

[13]  Of the three Amazons, all ‘in women’s attire’, the Lord of Buccleuch displayed an impresa showing a crown, an eye, and a portcullis ‘the crowne betokening the power of God, the Eye his providence, and the Portcullis his Protection’ with the motto Clausus tutus ero ‘which were composed in anagram of Walterus Scotus, the Laird of Buccleuch’s name’ (Fowler 1936: 174). Fowler’s taste for anagrams is amply documented in the National Library’s Hawthornden papers, and we should not doubt that he played a major role in devising these imprese for the noble participants in the joust. The second of the Amazons was his co-author of the 1594 Baptism, the Lord of Lindores, whose device was based on a familiar proverb that had already been turned into emblems. Lindores’ device is described as ‘an hand, holding an eel by the tail, alluding to the uncertainty of times, with these words: Ut frustra, sic pantienter’ (As in vain, so patiently). The classical proverbs Cauda tenes anguillam (You hold an eel by the tail) or Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf) are recorded in Erasmus’s Adagia (1.4.95-96) and had been turned into an emblem by Alciato on capturing a slippery customer; the emblem had been imitated by Thomas Palmer and Geffrey Whitney among others at this date (Bath 1994: 63-64). Lindores’ device certainly goes back to one or other of these sources.

[14]  The actual baptism took place on the third day in the newly-built Chapel Royal which had been rebuilt especially for this baptism and at considerable cost. As Aonghus MacKechnie says, ‘The building looks Florentine, with paired round-arched windows … The doorway is a triumphal arch … originally more complex … but sufficiently intact to denote it as Scotland’s first known building based on formal “correct” use of classical Orders’ (MacKechnie 2000: 163). MacKechnie records that the chapel’s components and proportions were recognised as those of the Temple of Solomon and its design must be attributed to James’s architect, William Schaw, inventor – if David Stevenson is right – of modern Freemasonry (Stevenson 1988). In 1589 Schaw had, like Fowler, accompanied the king on his journey to Denmark to fetch home his bride, a voyage which the great model ship that became the most memorable feature of these indoor ceremonies was designed to commemorate (Stevenson 1997).

[15]  The proceedings then moved into the Great Hall for a ceremonial feast. After a sumptuous first course, a table carrying all sorts of delicacies was drawn into the hall on a large chariot. Six ladies, dressed in satin and tinsel and with loose hair dressed ‘Antica forma,’ stood round the table, presenting what Fowler calls ‘a silent comedy’. Each of these represented an allegorical figure, holding her defining attributes and with a Latin motto on her skirt. The overall theme is one of fertility, fruition and fecundity, thus Ceres appeared holding a sickle and sheaf of corn, with the motto Fundent uberes omnia campi, ‘which is to say the plenteous fields shall afford all things’. Similarly Fecundity appeared with some bushes of poppies ‘which under an hieroglyphic sense, representeth broodiness’ with the motto Felix prole divum, and on the other side of her dress Crescant in mille, ‘The first importing that this countrie is blessed by the child of the goddess, and the second alluding to the King and Queen’s majesties, that their generation may grow into thousands’ (Fowler 1936: 188). This chariot should have been drawn by the king’s tame lion, but because it was feared that this might frighten the company, or itself be frightened by the lights and torches, it was replaced by a blackamoor, who appeared to move it single-handed, though it was in fact moved ‘by secret convoy’ to the Prince’s table where Ceres, Fecundity, Faith, Concord and Perseverence delivered the whole dessert to the court servers.

[16]  It is only with the third course of this feast that we encounter the most elaborate and memorable of the ‘rare shows and singular inventions’ that characterised these festivities. After the chariot was removed there entered ‘a most sumptuous, artificial and well-proportioned ship’, 24 feet long, with a 40-foot mast and ‘the sea under her was lively counterfeit with all colours’ (Fowler 1936: 190). The ship was festooned with emblematic devices and was, we are told, his majesty’s ‘owne invention’ recalling and moralising the king’s voyage to Norway to fetch home his queen. This was by no means the first time that a large model ship had been used in such courtly pageants. Precedents include the Bayonne magnificences, which had featured actual pageant ships sailing on the river Ardour, and the Navarre-Valois wedding in 1572 featured marine chariots encrusted with coral and sea creatures, where Charles IX played the part of Neptune. In 1558 the allegorical ship that had been drawn through the streets of Brussels as part of the obsequies for the death of Emperor Charles V featured his twin pillars with the motto plus oultre and was specifically identified as the vessel of Jason and the Argonauts, who had brought back the golden fleece.

Fig. 6Allegorical ship for the obsequies of Charles V in Brussells, 1558. Engraving from J. and L. Duetecum, Magnifique et somptueuse Pompe funèbre faite aux obsequies et funerailles de tres victorieus emperor Charles V, Antwerp : Plantin, 1559 (Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, Inv.R.44.8).

Fig. 6   Allegorical ship for the obsequies of Charles V in Brussells, 1558. Engraving from J. and L. Duetecum, Magnifique et somptueuse Pompe funèbre faite aux obsequies et funerailles de tres victorieus emperor Charles V, Antwerp : Plantin, 1559 (Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, Inv.R.44.8).

Its relevance to James VI’s great ship in Stirling is signalled by Fowler’s own explanation, as he says:

But because this devise carried some morall meaning with it, it shall not be impertinent to this purpose, to discover what is meant thereby.

The Kings Maiestie, having undertaken in such a desperate time, to sayle to Norway, and like a new Jason, to bring his Queene our gracious Lady to this Kingdome … thought it very meet, to followe foorth this his owne invention, that as Neptunus (speaking poetically, and by such fictions, as the like Interludes and actions are accustomed to be decored withal) ioyned the King to the Queene. (Fowler 1936: 193)

[17]  If we are inclined to doubt whether Scotland could possibly have produced any model to compare with such predecessors, we might bear in mind the comment of a later visitor to Stirling who, in 1687, countered any doubt as to the ‘Wit, Learning and Delicacy of the Scottish court at so great a distance of time’ by appealing to ‘several pieces of workmanship used upon that signal occasion, And particularly the Ship yet extant, which I have lately seen in the apartment next to the Great Hall in the Castle of Stirling where that triumphant and royal entertainment was kept’ (Fowler 1940: 70).

[18]  The ship was piloted by an actor playing Neptune, with other actors impersonating classical marine deities Thetis and Triton and, as with the preceding pageant’s emblems of fertility, these were evidently treated as allegorical figures, each marked with a Latin motto to signal – for those who could read it – his or her ‘moral meaning’. Thus Neptune carried the inscription Iunxi atque reduxi (I have joined them and brought them back) to signal that it was the sea that united Scotland’s king and queen before bringing them back to their kingdom. The foresail of the ship bore the legend Quascunque per undas. ‘Which is to say, through quhatsoever seas, or waves, the King’s Majestie intendeth his course … Neptune as God of the sea, shal be favourable to his proceedings’. The marine pageantry at Stirling has clear French precedents. Fowler tells us, for instance, how the sea gods were surrounded by ‘Marine people, as Syrens (above the middle as women, and under as fishes)’ (Fowler 1936: 193). The 1563 ‘magnificences’ at Chenonceaux featured singing sirens and wood nymphs who were abducted by a group of lecherous Satyrs before being rescued by knights. As Roy Strong says, ‘These singing sirens were to be a standard ingredient of the mythology of every set of “magnificences” for the next twenty years’ (Strong 1984: 103).

Fig. 7   Medal of Mary Queen of Scots with the three crowns device, Aliamque moratur (And awaits another). (Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland).

Fig. 7 Medal of Mary Queen of Scots with the three crowns device, Aliamque moratur (And awaits another). (Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland).

[19]  If such French precedents and influences remained quite important on the 1594 Stirling baptism we need to ask how they might have reached Scotland. The cultural commerce between Scotland and France in the sixteenth century was, of course, very strong and direct. The Latin Pompae deorum court masque for the 1566 Stirling baptism was written by George Buchanan, who had worked in Paris and Portugal before returning to Scotland with a European reputation. Another Scottish courtier who is much less well known but who had been active in both the Scottish and French courts and, indeed, played his part in designing at least one of the French court festivals was John Gordon, son of the last Catholic Bishop of Galloway. He had been recommended by Mary Queen of Scots to serve as Gentleman of the bedchamber to French kings Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV, and in 1581 Henri III held a festival to celebrate the marriage of duc Anne de Joyeuse to Marguerite de Vaudémont. This consisted of five hours of entertainments dominated by the Balet comique de la Royne. Designed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, born Italian Baltazarini Belgioioso, who came to France c.1550 as a virtuoso violinist, he was patronised by Henri II for whom he became valet de chambre (cf David Rizzio), a position he retained in the service successively of Catherine de Medicis and Marie Stuart, followed by Charles IX and Henri III. Gordon was friendly with Brantôme, Ronsard, and d’Aubigné, and moved in the circle of courtiers surrounding the duc d’Alençon. In 1582 he wrote the festival album explaining the meaning and allegorical symbolism of the Balet comique de la Royne, which became the prototype of what we now call opera. The importance of this work, with its mixture of mythology, music, poetry and painting, emblematics and iconography, to the history of European musicology and theatre has, indeed been widely recognised.[5] As Nuccio Ordine says, its innovations were quickly noted by foreign residents and ambassadors in Paris, whose descriptions ‘ne laissent aucun doute sur la curiosité que tels événements ont éveillée chez les souverains des royaumes voisins’ (Ordine 2011: 21). It certainly provided a precedent for the Edinburgh baptism in its marine iconography, for in Paris king Henri arrived in a ship and in the Ballet he is presented as rex nauta who has steered the ship of state through troubled waters of religious sectarianism. The king is characterised as a new Ulysses who has triumphed over the poisonous enchantments of Circe, whom the hero encounters, of course, on his voyage home at the end of the Trojan War. The collection marine deities who surrounded the great model ship in Stirling do not, for obvious reasons, include the evil temptress Circe, and McManus’s claim that ‘The queen consort [Anna] is a nexus of otherness: as a necessary threat and a potential bounty, her nature, the shifting quality of which aligns her with the transformative power of the mythological figure of Circe, is celebrated in the baptismal entertainments’ must be dismissed as a piece of feminist special pleading (McManus 2000: 183). The closing pages of the printed description of the Balet comique de la Royne contain an appendix of no fewer than four different explanations, by various authors, of the meaning of the Circe mythography, of which the last was written by John Gordon. Entitled Autre allegorie de la Circé, it tells us that it was written by sieur Gordon, escocois, Gentilhomme de la Chambre du Roy. I have not found evidence that John Gordon had any connection with the Stirling baptism, though he later became a firm favourite of James VI who recalled him to England in 1603 and made him Dean of Salisbury Cathedral. Gordon’s role as an intermediary for the transmission of ideas and images between the different courts is, however, suggested by the fact that Adrian d’Amboise, in his Devises royales (1621), tells us that it was a Scotsman named Gordon who had recommended the device of three crowns, with the motto Manet ultima caelo (The last remains in heaven) to Henri III of France. The device went back to a medal minted for Mary Queen of Scots in 1560 (Bath 2009: 60-63; Ordine 2011: 184-91).

Fig. 8   Triumphal arch for Henri II’s entry into Paris, 1549, showing Henry as Typhis, pilot of the Argonauts flanked by his guiding stars, Castor and Pollux. Woodcut, C’est l’ordre qui a este tenu à la nouvelle et joyeuse entrée… , Paris 1549 (Warburg Institute).

Fig. 8 Triumphal arch for Henri II’s entry into Paris, 1549, showing Henry as Typhis, pilot of the Argonauts flanked by his guiding stars, Castor and Pollux. Woodcut, C’est l’ordre qui a este tenu à la nouvelle et joyeuse entrée… , Paris 1549 (Warburg Institute).

Fig. 9Pinkie House, Musselburgh, emblem Sit Virtus Typhis (Let Typhis be Virtue) from painted ceiling of Long Gallery, c. 1613.

Fig. 9 Pinkie House, Musselburgh, emblem Sit Virtus Typhis (Let Typhis be Virtue) from painted ceiling of Long Gallery, c. 1613.

[20] Of course none of this confirms my claims for direct French influence on the Stirling baptism, even if it does suggest the knowledge which at least some Scots had of French court festivals at this time. The continuities between French, Scots and English court festivals are, indeed, suggested by the fact that Beaujoyeulx’s Balet comique based on the legend of Circe was adapted by Aurelian Townsend for the court masque Tempe Restored designed by Inigo Jones and performed at Whitehall Palace on Shrove Tuesday 1632. It is, however, worth recalling that the Balet comique celebrated the king as rex nauta, or second Jason, sailing the ship of the Argonauts safely out of the storms of religious and political conflict guided by the twin stars Castor and Pollux and their pilot Typhis. As McManus says, ‘The Ovidian [Argonauts] myth operates as a narrative archetype for many Renaissance court entertainments and their documentation … the test of Jason’s power against the forces of a distant enchanted land underlies James VI’s representation as the romantic questing hero’ (2000: 194). The same symbolism had been used, for instance, on a triumphal arch erected for Henri II’s entry into Paris in 1549, portraying Henry II as Typhis, along with Castor and Pollux. Scottish familiarity with this iconography is evidenced by one of the emblems which Chancellor Alexander Seton painted in his remarkable neo-Stoic gallery at Pinkie House in 1613, for here we see Typhis guiding the ship of state propelled by the Goddess Fortuna (Bath 2003, ch.4). None of this proves any direct influence of French iconography on the Scottish court, but we might remember that it was William Fowler who preserved the fullest records of Mary Stuart’s embroideries on her Bed of State, which was covered in emblems including the three-crowns Manet ultima caelo emblem (Bath 2007; Bath 2008: 42-47). And it was Fowler who left these records to his son-in-law, William Drummond, who eventually passed them on to Ben Jonson after Jonson had walked to Scotland to find out more about Scottish culture. It was Jonson who wrote the majority of the Stuart court masques, with Inigo Jones, in England – masques which make notable use of emblems. Jonson had, in fact, asked Fowler on his return to London to send him a description, not of the emblems on the embroideries but of these very inscriptions at Pinkie (Bath and Craig 2010). Alexander Seton, First Earl of Dunfermline, who built this gallery in 1613, had close connections with architect, William Schaw, the architect who built the new chapel royal for Prince Henry’s baptism in 1594. Indeed it was Seton who wrote the Latin epitaph for Schaw, praising his learning and skills in the art of architecture, which one can still read on his monument in Dunfermline Abbey.[6] Seton’s emblem of Typhis copies continental prints, and should not be seen as any direct reminiscence of the Stirling baptism, but the extent of shared iconography between this ceiling and the court festivals argues for a community of taste and humanist learning which defines the context in which both must have been invented and received at this period in Scotland.


[1] This over simplification was challenged notably by the contributors to Gent 1995, see especially the articles by Lucy Gent, Deborah Howard, and Christy Anderson.[back to text]

[2]  The literature is extensive but see especially Anglo 1969; McGowan 1973; Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979; Mulryne, Watanabe-O’Kelly and Shewring 2004; Watanabe-O’Kelly 2000; Knecht 2008.[back to text]

[3]  Fowler 1594, printed in Edinburgh: Robert Waldegrave, 1594 (STC 11214.6), and in London: Peter Short, 1594 (STC 11214.7). Both versions were reprinted by the Scottish Text Society, The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, vol. 2, 1936 (Edinburgh: Blackwood): 169-95.[back to text]

[4] Details of these can be found in Fowler 1940, ‘Introduction’, xliv-xlv. For emblems on the royal bed of state see Bath 2008: 17-21, 147-57. For Fowler more generally see especially Petrina 2009.[back to text]

[5]  McGowan 1963. For Beaujoyeulx, Gordon, and the Balet comique de la Royne see Ordine 2011: 20-48, 184-91.[back to text]

[6]  As Michael Pearce has recently shown (Pearce 2012), William Schaw was responsible, as master of works, for organising the entertainments to which Ulric, duke of Holstein was treated on his visit to Scotland in 1598, when the duke was banqueted, with Alexander Seton in attendance, at the redecorated house of Ninian MacMorran in Riddle’s Court, Edinburgh, and on an extensive sightseeing tour of Scotland. The entertainments were designed to secure the influence of Denmark and other north German states in gaining imperial support for James’s accession to the English throne: the Riddle’s Court painted ceiling displays the double-headed imperial eagle and Scottish thistle to this end. As Pearce notes, ‘Schaw’s epitaph at Dunfermline Abbey describes him as “master of ceremony”’ (p. 21) – the close association of architecture with court ceremonial was by no means unique to the work of Inigo Jones. Schaw, together with Fowler, had accompanied James on the king’s marital voyage to Denmark in 1589.[back to text]


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