A Treatise concerning the Defence of Honour of… Marie Queen of Scotland – John Leslie

Our fifteenth research blog of the 2017-18 class was produced by Roisin McLinden, and provides another example of the rich range of texts by John Leslie on Mary that we hold in the University’s Special Collections. 

A Treatise concerning the Defence of Honour of the Right, high mightie and Noble Princesse Marie Queen of Scotland… is a volume of work written by John Leslie, Bishop of Ross. Alongside his bishopric, Leslie was Lord of Session, a privy counsellor and ambassador for Mary Stuart at the English court. He has been described as her “prime champion”[1] existing “at the heart of government in Scotland”[2]. However, condemnation of Queen Mary and particularly of Catholicism throughout England compelled Leslie to print his Treatise under another name. It was at the advice of the Catholic Judge Sir Anthony Brown that Leslie attribute the Treatise to ‘Morgan Phillips’.  The pseudonym was intended to divert attention away from Leslie at a time when he played a central role in a criminal plot against the Protestant Queen Elizabeth. Phillips, who had died in 1570[3], had no knowledge that Leslie would put his name to the Treatise. He was educated at the University of Oxford and ordained a Roman Catholic priest after he received his degree in 1542[4]. Phillips was a zealous supporter of Queen Mary hence his name signed on the Treatise was not unbelievable.

‘Mary, Queen of Scots’ – painted by Francis Clouet, National Portrait Gallery, London.
John Leslie scottish national portrait gallery2
‘John Leslie 1527-1596, Bishop of Ross’ – Unknown artist, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.









The Treatise is a small book measuring 10cm in width, 15cm in height and 2.5cm in depth. The small size, rectangular shape and vertical chain lines are indicative of the book’s ‘Octavo’ gathering. The book consists of nineteen gatherings in total, however the first page of each section are cancels. It has a plain brown binding made of calfskin. Speckled edges and a simple “renaissance ornament”[5] tool design on the spine provide the only outer decoration; the latter is characteristic of book binding style circa 1530-1580. The text is worn, to the extent that both the front and back cover are completely detached. Similarly, the first page, which is blank except for an offset shelf mark, is dis-joined from the main text.

10cm width, plain binding
15cm height
2.5cm depth
Off-set shelf mar


Renaissance ornament design on spine

The text was produced by relief printing, and displays a Roman style typeface throughout. ‘Shoulder notes’ have been printed alongside the main text in order to aid the reader’s interpretation. Similar to the ornamental spinal details, inside the text are ‘fleurons’ (floral-like geometric designs) which are typical of Renaissance works. In addition, the first letter of each ‘book’ is decorated, once again with inspiration taken from stylised, plant-like concepts[6]. Besides this decoration, the work as a whole is rather plain.

‘Shoulder notes
Decorated first letter of Preface (also shows the previous cancelled page)

The Treatise’s provenance is identifiable by two signatures – located on the title page of the volume and on the title page of ‘Book Two’ – of ‘Alexander Arbuthnott’. Arbuthnott was appointed principal of King’s College[7] Aberdeen “following a purge of Catholic staff by the Earl of Moray[8]” in 1569. He was entrusted to implement reforms at the University; being a zealous protestant and former student at St. Andrews and Bourges[9], Arbuthnott was seen as the perfect candidate to rid the institution of Catholicism. Yet, Arbuthnott’s library included other somewhat Catholic texts, such as works by the early Christian theologians – the Church Fathers, various philosophical and theological texts, an analysis of Latin poetry, a Latin Bible and the Book of Sentences[10].

Despite the expectation on Arbuthnott, no comprehensive plan to instigate reform at Aberdeen University was drafted until 1582[11], and even then reforms were not realised to their full extent. Such was not due to any religious vagueness on Arbuthnott’s part. Rather, the college “experienced severe financial and other difficulties, and therefore… fail(ed) to live up to the expectations of the new church.”[12] It is possible that as a student pre-1560, Arbuthnott’s book collection dates from a time before his career within the Protestant church. Equally, the Nova Fundatio for King’s College (like that of Glasgow University) included the study of sacred chronology within its curriculum. Considering this, it is likely that any Catholic-leaning works within Arbuthnott’s library formed part of the religious-history studied at Aberdeen. The educational link between the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen paired with the fact that Arbuthnott and Andrew Melville were colleagues and friends could, in part, validate why this particular copy of Leslie’s Treatise came to reside in Glasgow University. The bookplate on the opening binding of the text originates from circa 1750-1850. Although the original year the book came into Glasgow University possession is not known, the Bibliotheca Universitaris Glasguensis confirms that the Treatise existed within the university library in 1791.

The inclusion of the Treatise within Arbuthnott’s collection highlights this text as one of importance to a Scottish humanist, particularly as the curriculum at Aberdeen included study of Classical Antiquity and the Latin and Greek languages. It is possible that the Treatise itself could be interpreted as a humanist text as it includes sections of Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as various references to ancient Greek mythology. Moreover, the Treatise might be of interest to humanists in light of the fact that it was not attributed to its genuine writer, but to Morgan Phillips; scholars of humanism did often concern themselves with the discovery of authentic authorship. Lastly, it is important to recognise that Leslie saw himself as a humanist. His Treatise can be seen as a reflection of a humanist belief that he “had a strong… civic duty”[13] to defend Queen Mary and the Catholic Church.

1750-1850 Glasgow University bookplate
Title page displaying Alexander Arbuthnott signature









The Glasgow University Library contains twenty-one works attributed to John Leslie. These include the original 1569 Defence of the Honour of… Queen Marie as well as Latin, Spanish and French translations it, the 1571 Treatise and a later 1574 Treatise defending both Mary and her son’s right to the English throne. The library also includes various other works by Leslie that both honour Mary and detail the inadequacy of other claimants to the throne, as well as two editions of his 1578 ‘Historie of Scotland’. Indeed, the Glasgow University Library is not the only collection in which Leslie’s work resides. Other copies exist in various libraries all over the world, particularly within university institutions. Edinburgh University Library, the National Library of Scotland and the British Library[14] host other copies in Britain. Outside this, the Treatise exists in five European countries and in seven countries worldwide.[15]

Contemporarily, the Treatise is also part of a wider collection. It is a revised edition of the aforementioned 1569 Defence. Both editions include three identically titled ‘books’ which together defend and assert Mary as the rightful Queen. Other editions include a Latin translation of the Treatise, published in 1580; this particular copy named Leslie author, which by implication meant that he “claimed authorship of the earlier, almost identical editions.”[16] The 1580 translation was distinct from the 1569 and 1571 editions in that, it contained book two and three only. In 1584, book two was published by itself in English and then in Spanish and French[17] two years later.

The First Book

The first book in the Treatise is a defence of Mary’s character. In particular, it is concerned with defending Mary against the charge that she had been privy to her husband (Lord Darnley’s) murder[18]; it also safeguards Mary’s right to the Scottish throne. The suspicion of Scottish nobles regarding Mary’s involvement in Darnley’s murder forced her to abdicate in 1567. By the time of the Treatise’ publication, accusations against Mary were circulating Britain, as were pamphlets condemning her honour. These included the 1569 Book of Articles and George Buchanan’s 1568 publication De Mara Scotorum Regina[19]. Leslie’s defence of Mary’s innocence was necessary in order to quell any further condemnation of her from circulating. Furthermore, book one intended to persuade Scottish nobles to re-accept Mary as their Queen. It highlights the indisputable strength of Mary’s lineage, thus presenting a devoted argument in favour of the Stuart monarchy. Leslie’s defence of Mary’s character and right to the Scottish throne was the first priority; in representing her as a moral leader, Leslie created a foundation on which his subsequent ‘books’ could be built.

The Second Book

Book two of the Treatise concerns ‘the Right… of Marie… to the… Croune of England.’ In this section of the 1569 edition, Leslie is very respectful to Elizabeth I. He acknowledges her as “most gracious sovereign”[20] with the foremost right to the English throne, establishing Mary’s right as secondary. The argument presented under the same title in his 1571 Treatise is contrary to this. Leslie is much “more offensive to the English court”[21] stating that Elizabeth has no right to the throne and that Mary is the one, true Queen. Leslie’s standpoint changed so drastically over the space of two years because his 1571 work was written with an ulterior purpose; indeed, it was “part of a larger scheme.”[22] A plot by prominent Catholic elites in Britain (John Leslie, Roberto Ridolfi and the Duke of Norfolk) intended to release Mary from captivity and place her on the thrones of Scotland and England. As Leslie was “accredited to Elizabeth’s court as the official ambassador of Mary” he provided an “important link in the chain”[23] for the scheme, which became known as ‘The Ridolfi Plot’. The plan involving Leslie’s Treatise was as follows: A Papal Bull excommunicating Elizabeth from the throne would be released in England. It “declared Elizabeth to be cut off from the communion of the faithful” and therefore “forbade her subjects to recognise her as their sovereign.”[24] Such would create a power vacuum throughout the country; Leslie’s Treatise would then be released. The Pope’s Bull would render England without a ruler, and the Treatise would provide one in Mary.

Such did not work out as intended. The Treatise had, in fact been completed in 1570. However, under the “vigilance of the Elizabethan authorities”[25], “the publication was prevented”[26]. Leslie “aborted (his) attempt to publish in England (and did so in Liege which) would account for the year’s discrepancy.”[27] When the Treatise’s publication did finally place in 1571, the imminence of the plot had passed.  Despite this, the 1571 revised edition of book two became “one of the best published of all the works attributed to Leslie.”[28] It had resonance with Catholics throughout Europe, particularly in countries such as France, Spain and Italy where support for Mary was present. Although in 1571 Leslie did not recognise the religious aspect of the text, in 1574, “when Leslie was safely in France… he claim(ed) to be working day and night for the Catholic Church.”[29]

The Third Book

The final book in the Treatise entitled ‘A Treatise wherin is declared, that the Regiment of Women is conformable to the lawe of God and Nature’ stands out from the other two books, firstly because of its size. It is half the length of the other two books, indicating that Leslie did not believe it presented the most important argument within the composite volume.[30] Indeed, Leslie himself claimed that the third book might seem superfluous, as he had already given an adequate defence of Mary. Yet, “his mistresses’ claim… could still be challenged on the grounds… that women were, by their sex, disqualified to rule.”[31] Such was the contemporary view; an earlier work by John Knox was a scathing attack on female rule. His 1558 publication First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women vehemently deplored their right to rule. Although Knox’s work was initially directed at Mary Tudor, its argument was relevant to Elizabeth and, more importantly, to Mary. Hence, is it widely acknowledged by historians that book three was written in direct opposition to Knox’s work.[32] There were also political reasons for its publication. Rival claimants to the throne of England had arisen after “Queen Elizabeth’s… life had been endangered by smallpox in October 1562”[33], namely the Earl of Huntingdon. Huntingdon’s claim was weak. It provided no competition with Mary, whose lineage descended from the marriage uniting the houses of York and Lancaster. Nevertheless, contemporary reports from the house of “commons… favoured Huntingdon… (as he was) the only possible male heir.”[34]

Thus, the significance of the final book in Leslie’s Treatise lies in its originality. “Leslie… breaks free of the attitudes of most of his contemporaries … (by) contruct(ing) a far more generous view of women than had hitherto been published in England.”[35] In fact, the significance of this document as a whole cannot be understated. On a local level it is part of a collection within Glasgow University that holds a further twenty of Leslie’s works, and many more presenting the opposing argument in relation to Queen Mary’s right to rule (for example, George Buchanan’s De Maria Scoturum Regina.) Such could provide a compelling exhibition on the contemporary ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments of Mary as a ruler; certainly, this is the everlasting debate within the historiography on Mary Queen of Scots.

Nationally, it is crucial that contemporary defence of Mary is recognised. Although “some pamphlets could be found in Mary’s defence” it is largely “an achievement of the Bishop of Ross”[36] that it is known she was defended at all. Such demonstrates the necessity of Leslie within study of Mary Queen of Scots; he spearheaded the defensive argument for Mary (and the Stuart monarchy in general.) Even “if he couldn’t not secure Mary’s crown in her lifetime he could at least do something to protect her posthumous reputation.”[37] Similarly, the intention of the Treatise within the Ridolfi Plot provides an insight into the existence and determination of a Catholic elite that existed in Britain post-Reformation. On an international level, the Treatise’s significance lies in its innovative thought, particularly in relation to its third book. It “shows Lesley at his most original… and has the most resonance to this day.”[38] His argument that gender should in no way disqualify a woman to rule is pioneering when considered in its sixteenth century context. It has merit to be included within an exhibition on the history of women in power, or even on women’s rights in general.

In terms of engaging the public with the Treatise, it is important that it is exhibited alongside its earlier edition, as well as with other translations (the Glasgow University Library has the capacity to do this.) Similarly, it should be displayed with its rival works (from authors such as George Buchanan and John Knox) to provide context of the Treatise’s position within the wider debate on Mary’s right to rule. Yet, due to the fact that this particular copy of the Treatise is delicate, it could not be handled by the public. Also, the plain nature of the text does not make it particularly engaging to look at. A digitization of the work is the best option to address this issue. It would allow those who wanted to, to read excerpts of the text for themselves.

However, it is important that no member of the public is disengaged with this text, or its rivals. They are simply too important within the debate of Mary’s right to rule to be overlooked. One way that would captivate the public would be through dramatization. A ‘court-case’ scenario could be staged as part of a wider exhibition on Mary Queen of Scots, with a space reserved for performances to take place throughout the day. Within the court-case drama, an actress portraying Mary would be seated as the accused. Her lawyer, (an actor portraying Leslie) would then read passages from the Treatise as evidence in her defence. Indeed, the passages may have to be adapted slightly to aid public understanding. Conversely, actors portraying either John Knox or George Buchanan would read passages from their publications to present the opposing argument. It would work effectively if the ‘judge’ in this staging was an actor portraying a historian, whose script included prominent historiographical material; this way, secondary evidence could also be presented. The ‘jury’ -comprised of the public – would then confer and come up with a verdict on whether or not Mary should be considered fit to rule on the Scottish throne, the English throne, both thrones, or not at all. Indeed, an actor may need to be planted within the jury to stimulate and aid discussion. Once the verdict is declared, the scene would come to a close, leaving the public free to wander back to into the exhibition with (hopefully) a wider understanding of the contemporary ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments of Mary’s right to rule.

Dramatization of historical characters has been successful at various institutions throughout the country. In particular, Renaissance history at Sterling Castle is ‘brought alive’ within the sixteenth century palace of James V where “costumed interpreters set the scene and talk to visitors about the palace and the intrigues which took place within its walls.”[39]Although the set-up of a court-case dramatization would engage the public in groups (more akin to the Edinburgh Dungeons) the performative format has the potential to be equally as engaging and historically accurate.



‘A treatise concerning the defence of the honour of the right, high mightie and noble Princesse, Marie Queen of Scotland…’, English Short Title Catalogue, [http://estc.bl.uk/F/JSM7IQ84VVN6PUCUEXIXJVVEP4SD87YFV9NHBITHCDK6XBC1XK-38008?func=full-set-set&set_number=011762&set_entry=000151&format=999] accessed 01.11.2017

Anderson, James, Collections Relating to the History of Mary Queen of Scotland: Vol. I, (Momsen and Brown, 1727), [https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=_rQ_AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en_GB&pg=GBS.PA63] accessed 04.11.2017

Arthur, Archibaldi, Catalogus Impressorum Librorum Bibliotheca Universitaris Glasguensis, (In aedibus academicis excudebat Andreas Foulis, academiaetypographus, 1791)

Beckett, Margaret J., ‘The Political Works of John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (1527-96)’, Scottish History Theses (2002), [https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/2015] accessed 08.11.2017

Clouet, Francis, ‘Mary Queen of Scots’, (circa 17th century), National Portrait Gallery, [https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw04269/Mary-Queen-of-Scots?LinkID=mp02996&search=sas&sText=mary+queen+of+scots&role=sit&rNo=0#artist] accessed 14.11.2017

Coles, Kimberly, ‘Printed at London Anonymous: Was there ever an attempt to publish the first edition of the of Mary Queen of Scotland in England?’, The Review of English Studies, (Oxford University Press, 1998), Vol. 49, No. 195, pp.273-281 [http://www.jstor.org/stable/518942] accessed 04.11.2017

Durkan, John and Anthony Ross, Early Scottish Libraries, (J.S. Burns, 1961)

Hamshere, Cyril, ‘The Ridolfi Plot, 1571’, HistoryToday, (London, 1976), Vol. 26, Issue 1 pp. 32 – 39 [http://ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/docview/1299063834?accountid=14540] accessed 04.11.2017

Lee, Sir Sidney, Dictionary of National Biography, index and epitome, (Elder Smith, 1903) [https://archive.org/details/dictionaryofnati00leesuoft] accessed 11.11.2017

Lesley, John, A treatise concerning the Defence of Honour (Apud Gualterum Moberium, 1571)

Lewis, Jayne, Mary Queen of Sots: Romance and Nation, (Routledge, 1998)

Mitchell, James, The Scotsman’s Library; Being a collection of anecdotes and facts illustrative of Scotland and Scotsmen, (Sherwood Jones and Co., 1825)

Pearson, David, English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook, (Oak Knoll Press, 2005)

Reid, Steven, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625, (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2001)

Rees, D. Ben, ‘Morgan Phillips (d. 1570)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22117] accessed 17 Nov 2017

Stevenson, David, King’s College Aberdeen, 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution, (Aberdeen University Press, 1990)

Sterling Castle, ‘The Royal Palace’, https://www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk/discover/highlights/the-royal-palace/ accessed 13.11.2017

The Marie Stuart Society, ‘England’ [http://www.marie-stuart.co.uk/England.htm] accessed 13.11.2017

Unknown, ‘John Leslie, 1527 – 1596. Bishop of Ross’ (circa after 1580), Scottish National Portrait Gallery, [https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/2996/john-leslie-1527-1596-bishop-ross?search=john%20leslie&search_set_offset=16] accessed 04.11.2017

Worldcat Libraries Database, ‘John Leslie A treatise concerning the defence of the honour of… Marie’ [http://firstsearch.uk.oclc.org.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/WebZ/FSFETCH?fetchtype=holdingsall:holdingsorttype=state:entityholdingsortpage=all:holdinglimittype=none:sessionid=fsapp6-37243-ja6pg68a-vtynqk:entitypagenum=10:0:recno=1:resultset=4:format=FA:next=html/holdings.html:bad=error/badfetch.html::entitytoprecno=1:entitycurrecno=1:numrecs=1] accessed 19.11.2017




[1] Kimberly Coles, ‘Printed at London Anonymous: Was there ever an attempt to publish the first edition of the of Mary Queen of Scotland in England?’, The Review of English Studies, 49 (1998), p. 277.

[2]Margaret J. Beckett, ‘The Political Works of John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (1527-96)’, Scottish History Theses (2002), p. ‘abstract’.

[3] Beckett, p.100.

[4]D. Ben Rees, ‘Morgan Phillips (d. 1570)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22117], accessed 17 Nov 2017.

[5] David Pearson, English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook (Oak Knoll Press, 2005), p. 126.


[7]David Stevenson, King’s College Aberdeen, 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution (Aberdeen University Press, 1990), p.25.

[8]Steven Reid, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2001), p.95.

[9]Sir Sidney Lee, Dictionary of National Biography, index and epitome (Elder Smith, 1903), p.27.

[10] John Durkan and Anthony Ross, Early Scottish Libraries (J.S. Burns, 1961), p.72.

[11] Stevenson, p.30.

[12]Ibid, p.25.

[13] Beckett, p.257.

[14] English Short Title Catalogue, ‘John Leslie A Treatise concerning the defence of the honour of… Marie’.

[15] Worldcat Libraries Database, ‘John Leslie ‘A Treatise concerning the defence of the honour of… Marie’.

[16] Beckett, p. 62.

[17]Ibid, p. 59.

[18]Ibid, p.38.

[19] Beckett, p.58.

[20] James Anderson, Collections Relating to the History of Mary Queen of Scotland: Vol. I, (Momsen and Brown, 1727), [https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=_rQ_AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en_GB&pg=GBS.PA63] accessed 04.11.2017, p. xi.

[21] Coles, p.278.

[22] Ibid, p.280.

[23] Cyril Hamshere, ‘The Ridolfi Plot, 1571’ in HistoryToday, (London, 1976), Vol. 26, Issue 1 pp. 32–39. [http://ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/login?url=https://search-proquest com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/docview/1299063834?accountid=14540] accessed 04.11.2017, p.33.

[24] Ibid, p. 27.

[25] Beckett, p. 62.

[26] Coles, p. 273.

[27] Ibid, p. 278.

[28] Beckett, p. 88.

[29] Ibid, p.61.

[30] Ibid, p.142.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Anderson, p. x.

[33] Beckett, p. 92.

[34] Ibid, p. 92.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid, p. 254.

[37] Ibid, p.252.

[38] Ibid, p.59.

[39] ‘The Royal Palace’, Sterling Castle, [https://www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk/discover/highlights/the-royal-palace/] accessed 13.11.2017.


John Leslie, A defence of…. Princesse Marie, Quene of Scotlande and Dowager of France, with, a declaration as well of her right… to the sucession of the Crowne of Englande, as that the regimente of women ys conformable to the law of God and Nature.’ (Rhemis,1569).

Continuing the theme of pro-Marian propaganda, our fourteenth research blog of the 2017-18 class, by Colette McGinley, looks at another text by John Leslie, bishop of Ross, this time on Mary’s rights as a monarch.

(Figure 1: John Leslie N.G.S.)

The tragic narrative of the life and death of Mary Queen of Scots is one which has been of great historical interest, with scholars primarily deeming her as a weak political ruler.[1] Due to this simplistic and one-dimensional portrayal, the most popular contemporary texts have maintained this narrative by castigating her decisions and vilifying her monarchic rule. Conversely, those who wrote in favour of her reign have been less well known and consequently less thoroughly investigated. [2] An analysis of early modern printed books is a particularly valuable form of study as such texts afford insights into the contemporary ideas and messages of the time. To gain a fuller insight through utilising this type of material, ‘we must look at the written and printed words not [only] as texts, but as a process of communication in which meaning is made through the relationship between signs, structures and materials.’[3] However, it is important also to be mindful in any evaluation that such texts were often first, early editions that were not subject to the later printing and publishing protocols which established a text’s authenticity and derivation. Thus, verifying authorship, important as it is, often can be tricky and speculative. The book under investigation here is ‘A defence of the honour of the…Princesse Marie, Quene of Scotlande…’ (Sp Coll Hunterian Cn.3.37) which was anonymously published in 1569.


At the time of publication, the printing press had only been around in Scotland for about fifty years. Many historians attest that this text was written by Marian supporter, John Leslie, the Bishop of Ross (figure 1).[4] Although this position can be justified through consideration of his other historical works and his preeminent advocate activities for Mary, his authorship is not self-evident within the document. Further, a number of ambiguities surrounding the place of publication question the veracity of authorship. The print states that it was published in London by Eusebius Dicaeophile, however further research reveals that this is a false imprint and that it was in fact published by Jean de Foigny in Reims, France. Gleaned from inspecting the book, it seems that one of the original owners of the text ‘R.S. (1618)’ attempted to discover the author, as after the second edition was published in 1571 under a pseudonym, the owner has made a hand-written note on the book to state that it was ‘made by Morganne Phillipes’ (figure 2). In addition, directly on the previous page, it appears that there is an erased bibliographic note, possibly dated to the eighteenth or nineteenth century, recording that the publisher ‘Leodii’ confirms that it was made by Morgan Phillips (figure 3). Although this naming is misleading, it is relevant because Morgan Phillips was a Welsh Roman Catholic priest who would have most likely supported Mary Queen of Scots in her claim to the English throne. At this time the Catholic church believed that Elizabeth was not a legitimate heir because of her father Henry’s divorce and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn.[5] This is significant as this owner took an active role in the historical process by adding this information to the historical narrative.

Figure 2: had written inscription
Figure 3: erased note confirming Phillips












At the beginning of the second book there is another hand-written inscription matching the italic handwriting inscribed at the beginning.[6] It reads, ‘the second book made by Morganne Phillipes’ with the ‘advise of Anthony Browne knight one of the Justices of the Comone Pleas’ (figure 4).  This name reveals another significant player in Scottish politics, Sir Anthony Browne who was appointed chief judge a month before the death of Mary Queen of Scots. However, Elizabeth removed him because of his religion.[7] Arguably, this suggests that it was Elizabeth who was firm in her intention to execute Mary and was not persuaded by her nobility as her letters to King James VI suggest. [8] The common thread in both the names added is their known connection to Catholicism, most likely being prominent figures. Browne’s potential involvement in contributing to this text perhaps shows that Leslie’s opinion of Mary as the true heir was accepted by others. Added to this, Browne was perhaps part of the Catholic hierarchy because of the in-depth knowledge demonstrated and the access to publication resources that would be required to produce this book.

Figure 4: hand written inscription noting A. Browne

The physical aspects of the book can also provide some insight into its purpose, usage and value. The size of the octavo book (breadth 10 cm, length 14 cm, depth 3cm) is significant as it would be for private use rather than wider public consumption (figure 5). Other interesting physical aspects include, a cut off inscription on the third page at the top right-hand corner (figure 6). Unfortunately, it is difficult to make out what is written. Nevertheless, two pieces of important information can be taken from this. First, the secretary style handwriting dates the ownership to the sixteenth or seventeenth century, and the clean-cut line that runs through the inscription indicates that it was written in before the book was bound. Therefore, this would have been sold initially as more of a manuscript and perhaps was sold cheaply. The binding itself has gold tooling round the front which perhaps shows that the owner who had it bound was wealthy and that the book’s contents were of significant value to him. Perhaps this book was regarded as valuable and special because it challenged the prevailing critical, torrent waves of public opinion condemning Mary at this time.

Figure 5: Scale of the book
Figure 6: cut off hand-written inscription












At both the front and back of the inside cover there is an extra leaf that has been used to bind the book together (figure 7). This is particularly interesting because it appears to be a Latin list of names, perhaps a legal document of some sort as this was often used as ‘waste’ paper to bind books in this period.[9] Another note of interest is what appears to be a catalogue reference number to the  ‘Anthenae Oxonienses’ which is a record of all writers and bishops who attended Oxford University (figure 8). We know that Morganne Phillips graduated from Oxford in 1542 however the specific reference does not match up to his name. [10] So, on balance, the works would most likely have been penned by John Leslie, as commonly held, although his need for anonymity, starting from the initial print, is not immediately obvious and requires further investigation.

Figure 7: waste paper used to bind the book



‘A defence of… Marie, Quene of Scotlande’ (1569) includes three books in this edition. In the first and second book, John Leslie advocates for Mary Stewart as the true heir to succeed Elizabeth. In doing so, Leslie doesn’t directly question the legitimacy of Elizabeth’s claim but rather he defends the rights of women monarchs in the third book, which is perhaps why the book was allowed to be published. In this text Mary, as a woman, is presented as possessing Divine right rule, which is important because of the overwhelming public opinion against her personal authority as well as the questioning of her legitimacy to rule a protestant nation. This image is significant as there were also contemporary works which showed Elizabeth in this regal light, so perhaps Leslie was responding to this situation by advocating that Mary was equal to or even embodied more divine attributes than Elizabeth. This promotion of Elizabeth I as divine can be seen in her heraldic image posted on the cover of the Protestant Bishop’s Bible (1568).[11]  Also, taking cognisance of the prevailing context, this defence of Mary could have been written as a response to John Knox’s treatise against women in which he argues that female monarchs were against the laws of nature.[12] Leslie tackles this notion of female unworthiness by highlighting the troubles in male monarchs’ reigns like King Stephen and Henry II.[13] The core and force of his argument is that it is not gender that ensures political instability and that women are as capable as men. To hammer home this point, Leslie quotes the Book of Genesis by stating that ‘A womã the Image of God, as vvell as man.’[14] However Leslie’s approach changes in the second edition, ‘A treatise concerning the defence of the honour of… Marie’ (1571). Leslie undermines Elizabeth’s sovereignty when he directly attacks her legitimacy as rightful ruler of England, arguing that Mary should depose her.[15] This controversial claim may explain why Leslie would feel the need to write under a false name and imprint, but it is unclear why he would choose to write anonymously in the first edition if it wasn’t directly challenging Elizabeth right to govern, unless he had a clear intention of scribing future works and was fearful of the consequences.

These irregularities and idiosyncrasies within the book posit some very interesting questions for the reader including, what was Leslie’s wider political role and why the need for secrecy? The main reasons could be that Leslie wanted the work to be read on its merits and not to be tarnished by the prevalence and competition between the political and religious factions. Also, if it was known that the author was a Catholic cleric, the book could be too easily rejected and disregarded because of the huge concern over Catholic motives and activity, further adding to the prejudicial ill-feeling towards Mary as a Catholic ruler. As a dedicated “solider”, to tactically advance Mary’s cause positively, Leslie perhaps decided that writing anonymously, and claiming that it was published in England, would increase its potential acceptability than if it was known it emanated from a loyal Catholic supporter and published outside the English borders. This would help to explain, in part, why he chose the names Morgan Phillips and Anthony Browne because it would be assumed that they wrote from a non-biased English perspective which would give the message more credence to challenge Elizabeth’s control of England. Added to this, it was only after Phillips died in 1570 that Leslie used this name, which may explain why his name wasn’t in the first edition.[16] This holds meaning as a dead man could not be held responsible for any ill-feeling directed toward this text or any consequence that resulted after its publication. If this is an accurate assessment of the rationale for seeking anonymity, then it indicates an extremely high-level of fear and fundamentally questions the extent of the power of the pro-Marian support in this era. Notwithstanding, Mary Queen of Scots remains an important historical figure in terms of her familial troubled relations, her royal legitimacy and legacy issues, as well as her role in resisting the increasing Protestant ascendancy. Therefore, any book which presents an argument and insight into a regal figure at the time of the Renaissance would be of interest, inter alia, to Enlightenment scholars and Scottish historians.

In some quarters, Mary has been characterised as a true renaissance queen in relation to her openness to new European ideas as well as an increased sense of realism that valued freer thinking, especially in relation to female rulers.[17] From his published writings, it is clear that John Leslie clearly thought of himself as a humanist.[18] Therefore, for example, a Scottish humanist would value this book as it informs the historical struggle to overthrow religious domination of civic matters and encourage citizens’ personal thinking and decision making based on individual understanding and preference rather than historical patriarchal categories.

It was during the period of the Scottish Enlightenment that William Hunter collected a full range of books and manuscripts, where following his death in 1807, Glasgow University library received 10,000 volumes from his private collection.[19] This work by John Leslie (Sp Coll Hunterian Cn.3.37) was included in this donation, a fact which is corroborated through his bookplate which appears on the inside cover (figure 9). Unfortunately, the original owner of the book cannot be identified, nor can a chain of ownership be confidently confirmed. The university now holds three books written by John Leslie, that all came from different collections. Sale records from the British Library show that William Hunter bought a copy of this work on the 2nd of March 1778 from the ‘Hoblyn’ sale for 5 shillings 6 pence. However, it appears that Hunter also bought a copy in the sale of ‘Dr., Rev B. Wilson, Mr J. Channing and “Unknown” on the 11th May 1778. Yet, we cannot confirm which copy is held in the university holdings as we don’t have digitised copies of the sale records. It appears that in the same collection gifted to the university, Hunter had the political writings of John Knox (a critic of Mary) as well as Tarbet’s defence of King Robert against claims of illegitimacy. [20] Therefore, this is significant as John Leslie’s work seems to have an important place within a historical collection addressing the nature and legitimacy of royal authority

There are 28 known copies of this book worldwide (not including private collections). Sixteen of those copies are in German universities, two in Scotland, the other being located at the National Libraries of Scotland (Ser.49.12). Perhaps therefore, the other copy of William Hunter’s ‘A defence’ is located in the NLS. Overall, the fact that such volumes were gifted to Universities is noteworthy because it is likely that the owners saw a value in these work beyond their sale price and commercial value. Instead, they expected universities to catalogue, preserve and utilise these gifts for new knowledge research and posterity.

Figure 8: Oxford catalogue reference
Figure 9 : William Hunter bookplate














John Leslie’s work would be of great interest to the general public as it is very socially and politically relevant. For example, Leslie’s ideas concerning the rights and capabilities of women links cogently with contemporary feminist thinking and advancements all over the world. Further, the ideas of female equality inherent in a female ruler, performing what was generally considered a “man’s job”, lends itself to debates on the ascribing of gender roles today.  In a political sense, the ideas of sovereignty and the nature of the Anglo-Scottish relationship is an important dynamic which has current traction.  A Scottish queen being held captive and eventually executed by another monarch, especially an English one, exposes the traditional nature of English control over Scottish politics. A very sensitive and topical notion given the recent campaigns for Scottish Independence and the current nationalist government in Scotland.

In a marketing sense, potentially this book has popular appeal as the current year, 2017, marks the 450th anniversary of the capture and imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots. To mark this occasion commemoratively and to raise awareness of the political writings of this period, perhaps a special anniversary edition of a chess game is fitting. This would entail the two queens – the most powerful pieces on the board and the two most prominent players in sixteenth century politics, Mary and Elizabeth – striving not only to capture one and other, but competing for the throne. In this sense, because the two powerful and independent queens ruled in their own right, without a man, the king chess piece on the board would be replaced with a throne in which they would seek to protect. To raise awareness about John Leslie’s work and others which tend to have been forgotten, each of the pieces in the chess game would represent a specific historical character who either supported Elizabeth or Mary’s claim to the throne; i.e. John Leslie the Bishop of Ross would be one of the bishop pieces on the Marian side. To educate the players, the game could be accompanied by a bibliographic fact file of cards of all the different pieces. Using the example of John Leslie, the corresponding card would tell the player about his significance in advancing Mary’s cause and the political writings that he published. Additionally, the piece could even have a gold mitre to make him stand out.  Although the two queens never met, let alone faced each other in battle, it is an activity for people of all ages that would provide the chance to learn more about this period and about the forgotten people, like John Leslie, who worked tirelessly to further their religious and political cause through the written word. Such an endeavour would also help to bring history alive by embedding the historiographical approach into use through every day social activity and dialogue.


[1] See, Jenny Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots: Politics, Passion and a Kingdom Lost, (London, 1988), pp.103-131; Michael Lynch, ‘Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms’, special edition to the Innes Review, 38 (1987),pp.1-29.

[2] See George Buchanan,  A detection of the actions of Mary Queen of Scots… (1721), <https://archive.org/details/detectionofactio00buchiala>, [accessed 25/10/2017].

[3] Mark Bland, A Guide to Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, (Sussex, 2010), p.1.

[4] Rosalind K. MarshalJohn Lesley (1527–1596), bishop of Ross, historian, and conspirator’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2007), <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/16492?docPos=1> [accessed 18/11/2017].

[5] D. Ben Rees, ‘Phillips , Morgan (d. 1570)’, ODNB, (2004), para 1., <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/22117&gt;, [accessed 20/11/2017].

[6] John Leslie, ‘A defence of….Princesse Marie, Quene of Scotlande and Dowager of France, with, a declaration as well of her right… to the sucession of the Crowne of Englande, as that the regimente of women ys conformable to the law of God and Nature.’ (Rhemis,1569),p.50.

[7] J. H. Baker, ‘Browne, Sir Anthony (1509/10–1567)’, ODNB , (2008), para 2. <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/3666&gt;, [accessed 20/11/2017].

[8] ‘Queen Elizabeth to King James’, 14 February 1587, in Rait and Cameron (ed), King James Secret: Negotiations Between Elizabeth and James VI Relating to the Execution of Mary Queen of Scots, From the Warrender Papers (London,1927), p.194.

[9] Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance, (New Haven,2010),p.38.

 [10] Rees, ‘Phillips, Morgan (d. 1570)’, para 1.

[11] The Bishops’ Holy Bible (1568) – Sp Coll Eadie e101.

[12] John Knox, ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous regiment of Women’, Project Gutenberg, <http://www.public-library.uk/pdfs/4/354.pdf&gt;, [accessed 22/11/17].

[13] Leslie, A defence of….Princesse Marie, p.105.

[14] Ibid ,p.138.

[15] John Leslie, A treatise concerning the defence of the honour of the right high, mightie and noble Princesse, Marie Queene of Scotland, and Douager of France. Made by Morgan Philippes, Bachelar of Diuinitie, (Leodii,1571).

[16] Rees, ‘Phillips, Morgan (d. 1570)’, para 4,

[17] Michael Lynch, ‘Queen Mary’s Triumph: The Baptismal Celebrations at Stirling in December 1566’, The Scottish Historical Review, 69:187 (1990), pp.1-21.

[18] Margaret J. Beckett, The Political Works of John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (1527-96), PhD Thesis (2002), <http.//hdl.handle.net/10023/2015>, [accessed 19/11/17], p.4.

[19] Jack Baldwin, A Catalogue of the Fifteenth-century Printed Books in the Library of the University of Glasgow, (2010), <http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/incunabula/projectintroduction/>, [accessed 20/11/17].

[20] John Young, William Hunter: Physician, Anatomist, Founder of the Hunterian Museum, (Glasgow 1901), p.32.




Barlow, ‘John Lesley, 1527-1596. Bishop of Ross’, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, (1795), SP I 21.2.

‘Hoblyn, Sale Catalogue’, British Library.

Hoblyn, Robertus., Bibliotheca Hobliniana: Catalogus Librorum, (London).

Holy Bible (1568), Sp Coll Eadie e101.

Knox, John., ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous regiment of Women’, Project Gutenberg, <http://www.public-library.uk/pdfs/4/354.pdf&gt;.

Leslie, John. ‘De titulo et lure…Mariae Scotorum Reginae, quo regni Angliae successionem sibi lustè vendicat, libellous: simul et Regum Anglie à Gulielmo Duce Normandie…genealogiam… in tabula descriptam…complectens…accessit ad Anglos et Scotos… Paraenesis.’ (Rheims, 1580).

Leslie, John., ‘A defence of…. Princesse Marie, Quene of Scotlande and Dowager of France, with, a declaration as well of her right… to the sucession of the Crowne of Englande, as that the regimente of women ys conformable to the law of God and Nature.’ (Rhemis,1569).

Leslie, John., A treatise concerning the defence of the honour of the right high, mightie and noble Princesse, Marie Queene of Scotland, and Douager of France. Made by Morgan Philippes, Bachelar of Diuinitie, (Leodii, 1571).

‘Queen Elizabeth to King James’, 14 February 1587 in Rait, Robert S. and Cameron, Anne I. (ed) King James’ Secret: Negotiations Between Elizabeth and James VI Relating to the Execution of Mary Queen of Scots, From the Warrender Papers (London,1927).

‘Wilson et al Sale Catalogue’, British Library.


Baker, J. H. ‘Browne, Sir Anthony (1509/10–1567)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2008), <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/3666&gt;, [accessed 20/11/2017].

Baldwin, Jack. A Catalogue of the Fifteenth-century Printed Books in the Library of the University of Glasgow, 2010, <http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/incunabula/projectintroduction/>, [accessed 20/11/17].

Beckett, Margaret, J., The Political Works of John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (1527-96), PhD Thesis, (2002), <http.//hdl.handle.net/10023/2015>.

Bland, Mark. A Guide to Early Printed Books and Manuscripts, (Sussex, 2010), p.1.

Boase, G. C., ‘Hoblyn, Robert (bap. 1710, d. 1756)’, rev. Ian Maxted, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004), <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/13406>.

Buchanan, George. A detection of the actions of Mary Queen of Scots: concerning the murder of her husband, and her conspiracy, adultery, and pretended marriage with Earl Bothwel : and a defense of the true lords, maintainers of the king’s majesty’s action and authority (1721), <https://archive.org/details/detectionofactio00buchiala>.

H., T.F., ‘John Leslie, (1527-1596)’, Dictionary of National Biography, (1877).

Knox, John., ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous regiment of Women’, Project Gutenberg, <http://www.public-library.uk/pdfs/4/354.pdf&gt;.

Lynch, Michael., ‘Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms’, special edition to the Innes Review, 38 (1987), pp.1-29.

Lynch, Michael., ‘Queen Mary’s Triumph: The Baptismal Celebrations at Stirling in December 1566’, The Scottish Historical Review, 69:187 (1990), pp.1-21.

MacRobert, A. E., Mary Queen of Scots and the Casket Letters, (London,2002).

Marshal, Rosalind K.,  ‘John Lesley (1527–1596), bishop of Ross, historian, and conspirator’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004), <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/16492?docPos=1>.

Norgate, G. Le G., ‘Wilson, Bernard (1689–1772)’, rev. William Gibson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004), <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/29642&gt;.

Pettegree, Andrew. The Book in the Renaissance, (New Haven,2010).

Rees, D. Ben., ‘Phillips, Morgan (d. 1570)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2004), <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/22117&gt;.

Savage-Smith, Emilie. ‘Channing, John (c.1703–1775)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (2008), <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/56833&gt;.

Wormald, Jenny. Mary Queen of Scots: Politics, Passion and a Kingdom Lost, (London, 1988), pp.103-131.

Young, John. William Hunter: Physician, Anatomist, Founder of the Hunterian Museum, (Glasgow 1901).

Robert Turner: Maria Stuarta (Ingolstadt, 1588)

Our thirteenth research blog from the 2017-18 class is written by Michaela Vaskova, and is another example of propaganda defending Mary Stewart, albeit in this case from a posthumous perspective, by the Catholic priest Robert Turner. 

Following her forced abdication, Mary Stuart entered England in May 1568 in hope that Queen Elizabeth would restore her by armed force to the throne of Scotland.[1] This decision was identified by a number of scholars, including P.J. Holmes and Michael Lynch, as one of the greatest mistakes of Mary’s life, which led to her captivity and execution.[2] Several months before the latter took place, she was put on trial and found guilty of conspiring against the life of Elizabeth. Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle on eighth of February 1587, nearly nineteen years after her arrival to England.[3] Mary’s execution was an unprecedented event during which an anointed queen was put to death at the conclusion of judicial process and at the permission of another equally anointed queen.[4] Writers from the British Isles and the Continent produced a substantial body of literature dealing with Mary Queen of Scots during her lifetime. However, this long literary engagement reached its highest point after Mary’s death, between 1587 and 1589, as Mary’s accusers and defenders rushed into print in order to respond to her execution.[5] One of such responses, by an apologist of the executed queen, was Maria Stuarta, Regina Scotiæ, Dotaria Franciæ, Hæres Angliæ et Hyberniæ, Martyr Ecclesie, Innocens à cæde Darleana: Vindice Oberto Barnestapolio. Continet hæc epistola historiam penè totam vitæ, quam Regina Scotiæ egit miserè, sed exegit gloriosè.

Figure 1

The author of Maria Stuarta was an English Catholic priest of Scottish descent called Robert Turner. He was active in the Roman Catholic cause and, as many Catholics at the time, chose to leave the Protestant England.[6] The book was published in 1588 under the pseudonym Obertus Barnestapolius, derived from the name of the place where Turner was born, Barnstaple in Devon. At the time of writing and publication of Maria Stuarta, Turner worked as rector of the University of Ingolstadt and, accordingly, the book was published in the city of Ingolstadt by Wolfgang Eder. As indicated by a decorative bookplate on the inside front cover, the studied copy of Maria Stuarta belongs to the Hunterian Collection of the Special Collections of the University of Glasgow. As apparent from Figure 1, the bookplate contains a scored-out former shelfmark, as well as the modern shelfmark ‘Sp Coll Hunterian Cn.3.35’. Although many books were added to the core of the Hunterian Collection in the nineteenth century, there is an external evidence that the Scottish physician, anatomist and collector, William Hunter, owned this copy.[7] It was listed in the section M Octavo & Infra in the manuscript catalogue of the Hunterian Library number three, compiled by Hunter’s Trustees in 1785.[8] Hunter lived between 1718 and 1783 and the evidence points to the fact that the copy of Maria Stuarta was in Hunter’s possession at the time of his death. However, the copy’s title page contains late sixteenth or early seventeenth century italic handwriting, meaning that the copy had an early owner. As visible in Figure 2, this person wrote in black ink R Turnero seu potius Niniano Winzeto Scots Ab. Rat. in order to identify Obertus Barnestapolius. The inscription also describes Turner’s authorship and creates a link between his work and that of Ninian Winzet by the use of phrase seu potius, meaning ‘or more’. The same hand was responsible for the inscription Ex libris […] on the top of the title page. This phrase was used in a sense ‘out of the books or library [of someone]’ and indicated the name of the book owner, but this ownership description in the copy of Maria Stuarta was obliterated, as apparent in Figure 3. Despite the use of a magnifier, an ultraviolet lamp and a lightsheet that transmitted light from behind the title page, the inscription proved unreadable. Turner wrote the book in Latin and it was printed on paper in an octavo format with the collation formula A-E8 F4 ($ F4 blank). There is a mistake in signature statement, as D4 follows E3 in the gathering E. The text of the book was printed by the use of letter press with metal types and the leaves were framed by a metal rule frame. The title page is followed by a section called LECTORI on A1v, PRÆFATIO, which starts on A2r and ends on A6v, the main text, starting on A7r and finishing on F2r, and the final reiterations on F2v and F3r of the title, place of publishing, publisher and date. The main text is numbered and has 71 pages. Throughout the book there is a combination of italic and roman type, most visible in PRÆFATIO, containing mostly the italic type, and the main text, which is in the roman type. The opening pages of LECTORI, PRÆFATIO and the main text each have a highly decorative woodcut headpiece and an ornate initial letter, the ones of PRÆFATIO are visible in Figure 4. There are further decorations created by carved wooden devices on the title page and on F2v and F3r. The leaf size of the book’s gatherings is 145×95 millimetres. When compared to another copy of the same book from 1588 held by the Euing Collection of the University of Glasgow, the pages of the Hunterian copy are twenty-six millimetres shorter and ten millimetres narrower. This difference in sizes is apparent on Figure 5. They both have chain lines thirty millimetres apart and it is thus possible that they were printed on paper of the same stock, but the paper in the studied copy was later trimmed. During the handpress period, books were not bound at the place of printing, but at the workshops of retail outlets, meaning that each binding from this period, including the one of the copy of Maria Stuarta, is copy-specific.[9] Each of these workshops produced bindings of varying degrees of elaboration and quality in order to satisfy the needs of different customers.[10] The binding of the studied copy is more on the luxury side of the spectrum and it is likely that it was produced at the end of the sixteenth century. Its front cover is visible on Figure 6. The covering material of the book was made out of animal skin, which was treated by alum and salt in the process of tawing. Through tawing the skin acquired off-white colour and flexibility, which are the characteristic attributes of leather produced through this process.[11] The book cover was made out of the hair side of the animal and hair follicles are still visible. Both sides of this limp leather binding were decorated by gold tooling, which points to the fact that this binding was an expensive and elaborate product. The decorations include centrepieces in flower design, framed on each side of the cover by two distinct fillets of single line. The inner fillets further encompass cornerpieces that partly mirror the design ideas of the centrepieces. The copy has four sewing supports spaced evenly along the spine in material that was preferred for higher quality works for its durability- tawed leather.[12] The seven flyleaves at both the beginning and the end between the cover and the textblock were added with the rest of the binding. All pages in the book were given a gold edge colouring treatment. In the studied copy of Maria Stuarta, the blank page F4 which was integral to the last gathering of the book was taken out, possibly also during the binding process. Further indication that this binding was of higher price and quality is the fact that the whole book, with a very few exceptions, was interleaved by blank pages for writing notes. People who purchased books in the early modern Europe left the graphic design to the binders, but they could specify the price, which affected the resulting quality, as well as other functional aspects.[13] It is therefore possible that the person who bought this book wanted it to include the extensive amount of blank paper and intended to use it as a study copy. However, except for R Turnerus and Robertus Turnerus on A6v, in Figure 7, and the already mentioned inscriptions on the title page, there are no other annotations or comments in this copy. Despite a quite substantial number of marks of black and one of rusty colour, which probably represent impurities in paper and are exemplified well by Figure 8, the copy is in a good condition.

Figure 2


Figure 3

The primary significance of Maria Stuarta by Robert Turner is that it represented a piece of religious propaganda. The international Catholic community never accepted the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and, consequently, the legitimacy of Elizabeth as a ruler of England. In their eyes, Mary Queen of Scots, being herself a Roman Catholic with a claim to the English throne through her descend, was the kingdom’s rightful queen.[14] Catholics and Protestants alike considered Mary to be a threat to Protestantism and she came to be perceived as a symbol by both sides of the confessional divide.[15] Throughout Mary’s life, writers manipulated her image in order to further their own, or a particular group’s, political and religious interests. On one hand, she was presented as a devoted wife and mother of supreme beauty and an innocent victim, while on the other as a murderer, adulterer, and a papist plotter.[16] Her death left Catholics outraged and in Paris, for instance, press reported that everybody was ‘in an extreme state of grief-all mortally hating the Queen of England who consented to such a cruel and merciless act.’[17] The English were careful to narrate the execution in their official account, compiled by Robert Wingfield, and in their later responses in a way that avoided the charge that Mary’s chief crime was her religion.[18] However, the violent scene allowed Mary’s defenders to claim that she had died for her Catholic faith and to transform her into a martyr. In their martyrological accounts, they drew on all available sources that dealt with the final hours of Mary and her execution and they put an emphasis on the aspects of these sources that could support their claim.[19] The defenders, however, did not need to manipulate the evidence too much, as Mary Queen of Scots laid the groundwork for her own martyrdom through ritualizing her death. She saw herself as a pious queen who was being executed for her Catholicism and her speech, clothing and overall behaviour during her final hours were all appropriate to her future role of a martyr.[20] After the execution, the Marian propaganda sought not only to elicit feelings of horror, but also to inspire religious and political responses in a form of conversion of heretics, promotion of Catholicism and military action against the English and Continental Protestants.[21] The martyrdom of Mary Queen of Scots was ‘more powerful than a thousand sermons’ in motivating this cause.[22] She bound together the Catholics of the British Isles, France, Spain, the Low Countries and Italy, many of whom were persecuted for their faith and driven from their homeland.[23] Maria Stuarta by Robert Turner, himself a Catholic exile, should be understood within this context. Works produced after Mary’s execution usually dealt with the illegality of the imprisonment of Mary prior to her death and, as was already established, the execution narrative.[24] Turner’s book was one of the very few exceptions that focused, at this late date, on Mary’s political innocence during her Scottish career. Already the long title of this book, meant to advertise the text to potential readers, contains a phrase which cleared Mary from the accusation of her complicity in the murder of her second husband, Lord Darnley- Innocens à cæde Darleana. Turner’s aim, as stated in his justification of the topic choice, was to show, through the example of Mary, how Protestants torment and persecute innocent people. The text therefore claimed that this disrespect of human and divine law was the consequence of toleration of heretics.[25] Linkage of Protestantism and disorder was one of the common themes of the contemporary religious propaganda and its use placed Turner’s work firmly into this tradition. The text was filled with numerous references to Mary as a martyr. As other Catholic writers at the time, Turner depicted Mary as extremely regal and the title page stresses her position as Queen of Scotland, dowager of France, heir to the thrones of England and Ireland. Inclusion of the title dowager of France also reflected the strengthening of emphasis on Mary’s French identity in the martyrological accounts.[26] Furthermore, Turner employed the theme which associated heresy with disease when he noted that Calvinism spread into Scotland as a ‘plague and contagion’.[27] Maria Stuarta was included on a list ‘of certain seditious books newly published’ that was sent in 1588 to Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s principal secretary.[28] The fact that the book was considered to be damaging to the English might mean that it enjoyed popularity and had influence on the public opinion soon after it was published. This is also supported by the fact that in 1589 the book was afforded French translation and was expanded by Robert Guttery to include the execution narrative.[29]    

Figure 4
Figure 5

The book has a further immediate and wider significance. Mary’s opponents had to justify her enforced abdication of 1567 to Elizabeth and this was formulated by the learned humanist of international distinction, George Buchanan.[30] During the trial which took place soon after Mary’s arrival to England, the question of whether Mary should be restored to her throne was judged solely on the basis of her immorality. This was done so that the principle of inviolable sovereignty, and by implication Elizabeth’s own position, was not undermined.[31] Buchanan’s first justification of the deposition, Ane detectioun of the doinges of Marie queen of Scottes (1571), therefore stated that Mary had an affair with the Earl of Bothwell and that she took a direct part in Darnley’s murder.[32] This attack on Mary formed the basis of most subsequent works of Mary’s opponents and it was published in a number of editions and translations. In Germany it was published twice and the fact that Turner was moved to respond to it as late as 1588 testifies to the continual power and influence the work has enjoyed there.[33] Buchanan wrote two further works as a response to the deposition of Mary Queen of Scots- De Iure Regni apud Scotos (1579) and Rerum Scoticarum Historia (1582). The former defended the right of the people to legitimately resist and remove tyrannical rulers and it provoked the opposition of Ninian Winzet in his Velitatio in Georgium Buchananum (1582).[34] Both Turner and Winzet therefore made a direct response to Buchanan and both their works were published in Ingolstadt. This might be the reason why the owner of the copy of Maria Stuarta under study inscribed Winzet’s name on the title page as a part of the authorship description. Winzet was a Scottish Catholic priest who engaged in disputations with Protestants, including John Knox, on topics of religious controversy. He received the patronage of Mary Queen of Scots and, for a short time, he was a member of her household in both Edinburgh and in the English exile.[35] Winzet himself spent a substantial part of his life in exile and when he published Velitatio he held the position of Abbot of Ratisbon. As revealed by the surviving correspondence of Winzet, he and Turner knew each other and their letters were written ‘in terms of warm friendship’.[36]

Figure 6

The studied copy of Maria Stuarta belongs to a broader network of sources, as there are thirty-one copies that were published in 1588 held by various international libraries. A digital copy is available via the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The copy under study has a price of four shillings written on one of its flyleaves and it was thus bought either by Hunter or the earlier owner in England. Continental books were routinely imported in sheets and bound once they arrived in England.[37] The binding design of the copy is similar to some English late sixteenth century bindings, meaning that the copy could have arrived to England at an early date and received its binding there. The copy later formed a part of the library of some 10,000 volumes of William Hunter that was open to a wider public. This library was received, including the copy, by the University of Glasgow in 1807.[38] As already alluded to, there is one more copy of 1588 held by the Glasgow University and, in the context of the United Kingdom, further eight copies exist, held by the British Library and the university libraries of Cambridge and Oxford.

Figure 7


Figure 8


The two radically different pictures of Mary created in the sixteenth century propaganda shaped the later literature dealing with the queen, which is rarely unbiased. One of her present-day depictions that stem from this tradition is Mary as a romantic and tragic monarch. This image engages the public interest to such an extent that Mary Stuart could be ranked as one of the most popular figures in history. The copy of Maria Stuarta this essay has dealt with would be therefore best presented in an exhibition on Mary Queen of Scots and her legacy, which is bound to attract the public attention. Another potential theme for an exhibition which would include this source is the early modern propaganda, which would explore various forms of propaganda and the imagery the authors employed in order to gain support for their political or confessional causes. Finally, the book is a unique object in its form not only in its content. It would fit well into an exhibition on bookbinding or book production in the early modern period, during which live presentations of the production could take place.

[1] Michael Lynch, ed., Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), p. 196.

[2] Ibid., pp. 19, 196.

[3]Debra Barret-Graves, ed., The Emblematic Queen: Extra-Literary Representations of Early Modern Queenship (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p. 102.

[4] Alexander S. Wilkinson, Mary Queen of Scots and French Public Opinion 1542-1600 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 156.

[5]Jenny Wormald, Mary, Queen of Scots: Politics, Passion and a Kingdom Lost (London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2001), p. 13.

[6] Peter E.B. Harris, ‘Turner, Robert (d. 1599)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by David Cannadine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27861&gt; [accessed 6 Nov 2017]

[7]Jack Baldwin, ‘A Catalogue Of The Fifteenth-Century Printed Books In The Library Of The University Of Glasgow’, Glasgow Incunabula Project, 2010 <https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/incunabula/projectintroduction/&gt; [accessed 14 November 2017]

[8] Karen Baston and Julie Gardham, ‘William Hunter’s Library: a Transcription of the Early Catalogues: Transcription of Museum Records 3, Trustee Catalogue of Printed Books, 1785’, William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues, 2017 <http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/151114/3/151114.pdf&gt; [accessed 15 Nov 2017], p. 259.

[9] David Pearson, English Bookbinding Styles, 1450-1800: A Handbook (London: British Library; New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2005), p. x.

[10] Ibid., p. xi.

[11] Ibid., p. 17.

[12] Ibid., p. 24.

[13] Ibid., p. 11.

[14] Kristen P.Walton, Catholic Queen, Protestant Patriarchy: Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Politics of Gender and Religion (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 164.

[15] James E. Phillips, Images of a queen: Mary Stuart in sixteenth-century literature (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1964), p. 6.

[16] Ibid., pp. 7, 197.

[17] Wilkinson, p. 125.

[18] Ian B. Cowan, ed., The Enigma of Mary Stuart (London: Victor Gollancz Limited, 1971), p. 17.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Barret-Graves, p. 112.

[21] Ibid., p. 113.

[22] Wilkinson, p. 139.

[23] Barret-Graves, p. 124.

[24] Wilkinson, p. 148.

[25] Phillips, p. 187.

[26] Wilkinson, p. 137.

[27] Ibid., p. 142.

[28] Phillips, p. 188.

[29] Wilkinson, p. 137.

[30] Wormald, p. 14.

[31] Cowan, p. 14.

[32] Caroline Erskine and Roger A. Mason, eds, George Buchanan: political thought in early modern Britain and Europe (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2012), p. 3.

[33] Phillips, p. 188.

[34]J.H. Burns, Ninian Winzet: The Defence of the Faith in Scotland (Glasgow: The Catholic Truth Society of Scotland, 1959), p. 42.

[35] Ibid., pp. 15, 31.

[36] Ibid., p. 43.

[37] Pearson, p. x.

[38] Baldwin.



Primary Sources

Turner, Robert, Maria Stuarta, Regina Scotiæ, Dotaria Franciæ, Hæres Angliæ et Hyberniæ, Martyr Ecclesie, Innocens à cæde Darleana: Vindice Oberto Barnestapolio. Continet hæc epistola historiam penè totam vitæ, quam Regina Scotiæ egit miserè, sed exegit gloriosè. rationem tituli præfert frons sequentis pagellæ.(Ingolstadt: Wolfgang Eder, 1588)

Secondary Sources

Abbott, D. M., ‘Buchanan, George (1506–1582)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by David Cannadine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn 2006) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3837&gt; [accessed 17 Nov 2017]

Baldwin, Jack, ‘A Catalogue Of The Fifteenth-Century Printed Books In The Library Of The University Of Glasgow’, Glasgow Incunabula Project, 2010 <https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/incunabula/projectintroduction/&gt; [accessed 14 November 2017]

Barret-Graves, Debra, ed., The Emblematic Queen: Extra-Literary Representations of Early Modern Queenship (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Baston, Karen, and Julie Gardham, ‘William Hunter’s Library: a Transcription of the Early Catalogues: Transcription of Museum Records 3, Trustee Catalogue of Printed Books, 1785’, William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues, 2017 <http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/151114/3/151114.pdf&gt; [accessed 15 Nov 2017]

Brock, Helen, ‘Hunter, William (1718–1783)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by David Cannadine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/14234>  [accessed 18 Nov 2017]

Burns, J.H., Ninian Winzet: The Defence of the Faith in Scotland (Glasgow: The Catholic Truth Society of Scotland, 1959)

— —, ‘Three Scots Catholic Critics of George Buchanan’, Innes Review, 2 (1950), 92-109

Cowan, Ian B., ed., The Enigma of Mary Stuart (London: Victor Gollancz Limited, 1971)

Dilworth, Mark, ‘Winzet, Ninian (1518/19–1592)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by David Cannadine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn 2010) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29784&gt; [accessed 6 Nov 2017]

Erskine, Caroline, and Roger A. Mason, eds, George Buchanan: political thought in early modern Britain and Europe (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2012)

Ford, Margaret, ‘Importation of printed books into England and Scotland’, in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: 1400-1557, ed. by Lotte Hellinga and J.B. Trapp, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 179-202

Harris, Peter E. B., ‘Turner, Robert (d. 1599)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by David Cannadine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27861&gt; [accessed 6 Nov 2017]

Lynch, Michael, ed., Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988)

Marshall, Rosalind K., ‘Lesley, John (1527–1596)’, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. by David Cannadine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn 2007) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16492&gt;  [accessed 6 Nov 2017]

Pearson, David, English Bookbinding Styles, 1450-1800: A Handbook (London: British Library; New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 2005)

Phillips, James E., Images of a queen: Mary Stuart in sixteenth-century literature (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1964)

Walton, Kristen P., Catholic Queen, Protestant Patriarchy: Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Politics of Gender and Religion (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Wilkinson, Alexander S., Mary Queen of Scots and French Public Opinion 1542-1600 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)

Wormald, Jenny, Mary, Queen of Scots: Politics, Passion and a Kingdom Lost (London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2001)



Analysis of the marriage medal of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Darnley, 1565

Our twelfth blog of the 2017-18 class is by Isabel Thomas, and examines one of the major pieces of coinage propaganda from Mary Stewart’s personal reign, featuring her second husband Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. 

Mary Queen of Scots was Scotland’s reigning monarch from 1542-1567. During this time Mary released a variety of different coinage which is often divided into groups according to her marriages. Ian Stewart divides her coinage into: before her marriage with Francis, after her marriage with Francis, her first widowhood, the marriage of Mary and Henry and Mary’s second widowhood.[1] This medal was struck to commemorate the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to Henry Lord Darnley on the 29th July 1565. The medal comes from the Lord Stewartby Collection. Lord Stewartby is a leading collector and is a well-respected scholar in the field of numismatics. He gifted his collection of Scottish coins to The Hunterian coin collection in March 2017. This collection is a bequest to The Hunterian in his will and the medal is currently deposited on loan (reg. no. IN.2017.4). Five specimens of the medal are known to exist, two in which Mary and Henry are crowned and three without crowns. The Hunterian collection is in possession of another specimen of the medal but without the crowns (GLAHM:37190).  The medal in which the busts are not crowned was issued on the same occasion as the crowned medal, from which it only differs in the portraits.[2] The uncrowned version of the medal is currently on display in The Hunterian Art Gallery as part of their exhibition on Scotland’s Own Coinage which has been running since the 3rd October 201. This specimen was purchased in 2015 with aid from an Art Fund grant.


Marriage medal Mary and Henry Darnley 1565

In terms of its physical characteristics the medal’s diameter is 4.3 cm and the weight of the medal is 342.5 grains. It would have been minted in Edinburgh in 1565. Medallic Illustrations, notes that the medal is in very fine condition with slight ghosting from the die visible on the left thistle on the reverse of the medal and is very rare. It also notes that Patrick Cochran made an electrotype copy[3], it is not clear whether the medal at The Hunterian is a genuine medal or the nineteenth century electrotype copy. Concentrating on the medal itself the design is taken from the silver ryal issued earlier the same year.[4] The obverse shows the busts of Mary and Darnley facing each other, both crowned. Darnley is shown in profile on the left, wearing armor and wears a medal, while Mary faces him on the right of the medal wearing a doublet, high collar and earrings. Beneath them the date 1565 is stated, this is the year that they were married but may not be the year the medal was struck. The Latin inscription on the border states: “MARIA & HENRIC. D. G. REGI & .REX .SCOTORBM”, which translated into English is ‘Mary and Henry by the grace of God Queen and King of Scots’.[5] The reverse of the medal shows the shield of Scotland crowned, the lion rampant and with two Scottish thistles at either side. The reverse also has a Latin inscription around the border which states: “QVOS .DEVS .COIVNXIT .HOMO NON SEPARET” which translated into English is: ‘Whom God has joined together let no man put asunder’.[6]

The medal was struck to commemorate the marriage of Mary with Henry Darnley. Without waiting for the consent of her parliament she conferred upon him the title of King and ordered that all writs should run in their joint names. This medal must not be confused with the silver ryal that was issued the same year.[7] In comparison the silver has the busts uncrowned, and Henry’s name is stated before Mary’s. A specimen of the silver ryal is in the British Museum.[8] The medal is extremely rare as contemporary portraits of Mary are not very common. Her image is found in paintings, engravings, and certain Scottish coin issues. However, many of these are posthumous. Therefore, these medals show a rare contemporary image of Mary. The medals themselves have no monetary value instead they are used as a way to spread news and were often given as gifts to ambassadors or visitors. Medals would have to be cast or hard struck as they are bigger than coins a lot more pressure would have to be applied in order to imprint the image onto the medal.

The significance of the medal surrounds one of the more controversial aspects of Mary’s reign; her marriage to Henry Darnley. After her return to Scotland in 1561 following Francis’ death, Mary was anxious to marry again.  However, the question of Mary’s next husband did not just concern Scotland. As Jenny Wormald notes “‘the marriage of the Scottish queen was a matter which the English government was naturally anxious to control”.[9] This was because Mary’s marriage might possibly determine the future King of England. Elizabeth’s choice of husband for Mary was Robert Dudley, a man who was the suspected murderer of his wife and the supposed lover of Elizabeth. Instead of taking Elizabeth up on this offer Mary instead decided to find her own choice of husband. Henry Darnley was the son of Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox. There were good political reasons for the marriage; it was approved by the catholic kings of France and Spain and also by the papacy. Asides from this Darnley was also Mary’s half-first cousin through Margaret Tudor, which also put Henry in the line of succession for the English throne. As John Guy notes “If Mary married him, her claim to the succession would be greatly strengthened because, unlike Mary, he was male and born in England”.[10] However, there was domestic opposition to the marriage which had a radical effect on the political situation in Scotland. Mary’s relationship with Darnley grew as her relationship with her half-brother the Earl of Moray deteriorated. Moray refused to sign a document pledging his support to the union as he believed the marriage was too hasty and he also had issues with Mary marrying a leading Catholic figure. This led to the revolt known as the Chaseabout raid, this was rebellion led by Moray and his allies in which Mary chased the rebels around Scotland without ever meeting. Moray eventually fled to England where he was given asylum.


Silver ryal 1565, obverse showing Henry’s name placed before Mary’s.

The tensions surrounding Mary’s marriage to Darnley are visible in her coinage. Mary had granted Darnley the title of King of Scots on the evening before their marriage. This was done without the approval of Parliament and therefore Darnley was not officially crowned. As mentioned earlier the design on the medal is taken from a silver ryal issued earlier the same year. On this coin the obverse shows the busts of Henry and Mary face to face uncrowned, with the date 1565 below. The reverse shows the escutcheon between two thistle-heads, crowned with the Scottish crown.[11] The main issue of contention surrounding this coin was the placing of the name of Henry before that of Mary. As the Latin inscription on the obverse states: HENRIVVS. &. MARIA. D:GRA. R &. R. SCOTORVM,[12].  This caused a lot of controversy as Edward Hawkins states in his description of the medal this circumstance was remarked by Randolph to Cecil “who notes that though issued as a coin it was almost immediately called in.”[13]  It seems that among the nobles there was resentment that on the coin his name was before hers with the implication that his status was at comparable to hers. Reflecting the tensions surrounding the marriage of Mary to Henry due to what was perceived to be Henry’s ambitions for the crown matrimonial.

In terms of the effects the marriage to Darnley had  on Mary, Kristen Post Walton looks at Mary’s reign through the lense of gender, she argues that “The marriage to Darnley is the best example of her assertion of her own sovereignty at this point of her reign, and the Scottish reactions to the resulting Chaseabout Raid demonstrate that for the first time in her reign the queen appeared to be in an infinitely stronger position than her half-brother”.[14] Showing that the marriage to Darnley did have some positive effects in terms of Mary being able to assert her independence although the marriage was not an entirely happy one. However, in comparison with Jenny Wormald believed that Mary was ultimately a failure and that her failure cannot be attributed to her gender or religion, she believes that Mary put “marriage before monarchy”[15], and that this combined with Mary’s perception of Scotland and her obsession with the English throne, led to her own downfall. Shortly after the marriage of Mary and Henry, Henry’s real personality began to emerge. Although Darnley was physically attractive he was inept, weak, and had a drinking habit. By the time Mary realized what he was truly like she was trapped, as she had to maintain her independence and not be seen to be controlled by Elizabeth. In effect as John Guy notes “Mary’s marriage to Darnley would in the end become one of convenience”[16]. The catalyst for Darnley’s eventual downfall would be the murder of David Rizzio, which highlighted the tensions and resentment which had grown within Mary and Henry’s marriage.  Since his arrival to Scotland in 1561, Rizzio had quickly risen through the ranks advancing to Mary’s secretary for French affairs. Rizzio was deeply unpopular with nobles as he was seen to be ambitious and too close to the queen. As a result of a plot David Rizzio was murdered by Darnley and some of the protestant lords, including Patrick lord Ruthven, Morton and Lord Lindsey in a well-organised and well executed plan. Rizzio was having a private supper with the queen in his bedchamber when he was dragged out and stabbed, all while the queen was present. As Wormald notes “Over 120 people were involved”[17], highlighting the opposition that had built up around this relationship. Darnley’s behavior was becoming an increasing liability, in autumn 1566 he appears to have been writing to the pope and the king of France and Spain, accusing his wife of failing to restore Catholicism to Scotland. The tensions within their marriage would once again be highlighted when after the birth of James, Darnley refused to attend the baptism casting doubts on the legitimacy of James. This would all lead to the eventual assassination of Darnley taking place eight months after the birth of James on 9th February 1567.

The growing rift between Mary and Darnley is visible in the coins that were produced. In the coins you can track distancing from Darnley with a move in the iconography shifting from Henry and Mary to just Mary. After the original silver ryal placing Henry’s name before Mary’s was recalled a new coin replaced it.[18] The new coin was minted in Edinburgh in December 1565, the obverse shows a crowned shield with a thistle on each side and unlike the first issue have Marys name before Henrys and show on reverse a crowned palm tree, up which a tortoise is climbing. [19]The obverse inscription around the border reads: MARIA & HENRIC’ DEI GRA R&R SCOTORV”, (Mary and Henry by the grace of God Queen and King of Scots, while on the reverse it states: DAT GLORIA VIRES” (Glory gives strength) with date below and legend: “EXVRGAT DEVS & DISSIPENTR. INIMICI EI'”, (Let God arise and his enemies be scattered).[20] This remained the design for three years, with Henry’s name being dropped after his death in 1567. These coins were popularly known as Crookston dollars, this is on the false assumption that the tree was meant to be a yew tree under which Henry and Mary were supposed to have sat at Crookston Castle in Renfrewshire however, there is no evidence for this. [21]

Mary silver ryal 1567, reverse showing a tortoise and a palm tree

This coin is particularly controversial and there is a lot of debate surrounding its meaning.  Many interpret the tortoise to be representative for Darnley, while the palm tree is meant to represent Mary, symbolising Darnley’s pretensions to the Crown Matrimonial. Ian Stewart remarks that “on the back of the tortoise on the one-third ryal is a rose, apparently showing Darnley’s English descent from Henry VII”.[22] Burns also makes note of this “The device, no doubt, had its significance, which is not far to seek in the relative positions of Mary and Darnley, as queen and subject, before marriage.”[23] However, Lord and Lady Stewartby do not agree with this interpretation believing that the interpretation is fanciful as “the so-called rose is no more than a representation of the normal segmented pattern on the shell of any tortoise”[24]. Believing that in order to understand the coin it is necessary to contemplate the various situations the design was used. For example, the coin was introduced at the end of 1565 in order to counteract the controversy caused by the first issue of the silver ryal in July 1565. By 1566 Darnley was becoming increasingly unpopular and by 1567 Mary once again a widow so any reference to Darnley was irrelevant. It may be important to note that Mary reproduced the tortoise design in her captivity while doing needlework showing that this design may have had some meaning to her. Lord and Lady Stewartby make note of the fact that in Mary’s will a tortoise jewel is specified, it is possibly a gift from David Rizzio and seems to be important to her. [25]

Mary queen of Scots is an eternally popular figure who is still a source of fascination for many historians and with the general public. Michael Lynch believes the reason for this is that Mary’s story has all the features of a modern day soap opera as he states “her history shares the essential ingredients of popular fiction sex, murder and intrigue, with a dash of religiosity”[26]. As this medal concerns one of the most intriguing period of Mary’s reign, her marriage to Henry Darnley, there is reason to belive that this item would be of great interest to the general public. With the tensions surrounding the origination of this medal almost reflecting the controversy that would take place inside the marriage itself. In order to raise interest in this medal an exhibit seems to be the most traditional option and an easy way of making the medal accessible to the public. An interesting theme to hold this exhibit around would be the marriage coinage and medals of scotlands royals. As this would be able to provide some direct comparsion with the different images on the coins and it would not limit the exhibit to one royal in particular.

If possible it would be useful to make some 3d copies of some coins and medals of particular interest. This would provide an interactive aspect to the exhibit, which might be of interest in children in particular who may find it more interesting if they are able to actually hold a physical copy of the coins rather than simply look at them through a glass case. A somewhat cheaper option might be to have 3d images of the coins and medals on electronic touch screens so that people can zoom in to see the details of the coins and are able to see both sides of the coins. The Hunterian art gallery currently has an exhibit on Scotland’s own coinage showing that an exhibit surrounding coinage can be popular. An interesting fusion would be that between the past and present, combining these coins with new technology such as social media as a means of advertising the exhibit. Another way to make the public aware of the exhibit or the coinage in general would be to put up poster advertisement in the subway or at bus stops as these are places where people will have the time to be able to properly read the posters. The posters could consist of an image of the coin or medal with some general information regarding what the images on the coin represent and some information on its physical properities. Due to the history surrounding this medal it would be of importance to make it accessible to a wider audience.



Burns, Edward, The Coinage of Scotland (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1887)

Cowan, Ian B, The Enigma of Mary Queen of Scots (Sphere, 1971)

Guy, John, My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (HarperPerennial, 2004)

Hawkins, Edward, Medallic Illustrations of The History of Great Britian and Ireland to the death of George II (Spink & Son, 1969)

Lynch, Michael (ed.) ‘Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms’, Innes Review 38 (1987), pp. 1-29

Skingley, Philip, Coins of Scotland, Ireland and the Islands (Spink & Son, 2002)

Stewartby, Lord and Lady, ‘Mary Stuart, The Tortoise and The palm-tree’, The Stewarts Vol.22 No.4 (2007),  pp. 224- 227

Stewart, Ian, The Scottish Coinage (Spink, 1967)

Walton, Kristen Post, Catholic Queen, Protestant Patriarchy. Mary Queen of Scots, and the Politics of Gender and Religion (AIAA, 2007)

Wormald, Jenny, Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure (Collins & Brown, 1991)

[1] Ian Stewart, The Scottish Coinage (Spink, 1967), p. 80.

[2] Edward Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations of The History of Great Britian and Ireland to the death of George II  (Spink & Son, 1969), p. 115.

[3] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, p. 114.

[4] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, p. 114.

[5] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, p. 114.

[6] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, p. 114.

[7] Edward Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1887) p. 338.

[8] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, p. 114.

[9] Jenny Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure (Collins & Brown, 1991) p. 135.

[10] John Guy, My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots (HarperPerennial, 2004) p. 194.

[11] Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, p. 338.

[12] Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, p. 338.

[13] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, p. 114.

[14] Kristen Post Walton, Catholic Queen, Protestant Patriarchy. Mary Queen of Scots, and the Politics of Gender and Religion (AIAA, 2007), p. 92.

[15] Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots, p. 107.

[16] Guy, My Heart is My Own, p. 211.

[17] Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots, p. 158.

[18] Hawkins, Medallic Illustrations, p. 114

[19] Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, p. 339.

[20] Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, p. 339.

[21] Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, p. 339.

[22] Stewart, Scottish Coinage, p. 90.

[23] Burns, The Coinage of Scotland, p. 339.

[24] Lord and Lady Stewartby, ‘Mary Stuart, The Tortoise and The palm-tree’, The Stewarts Vol.22 No.4 (2007), p. 225.

[25] Lord and Lady Stewartby, ‘Mary Stuart, The Tortoise and The palm-tree’, p. 227

[26] Michael Lynch, ‘Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms’, Innes Review 38 (1987), pp. 3.

De titulo et iure Mariae Scotorum Reginae – John Lesley (Rheims, 1580)

Our eleventh blog of the 2017-18 class comes from Anne Traill, and is one of several works by the Bishop of Ross, John Lesley, defending the life and reputation of Mary Queen of Scots.

The life of Mary, Queen of Scots has long been a subject of great interest and debate for historians, but relatively little work has been carried out on her trusted advisor John Lesley. His defence of her is the subject of this study. John Lesley’s De titulo et iure is a Latin translation of the second two books his 1569 text entitled A defence of the honour of the Princesse Marie, Quene of Scotlande and Dowager of France defending the right of Mary Queen of Scots to ascend to the English throne and the right of women to rule. Given Jenny Wormald’s scathing criticism of Mary for too great an interest in the English throne,[1] this is clearly another topic worth investigating. The title page gives the place and date of publication as Rheims and 1580, as well as naming Ioannes Fognæus as the publisher. Also known as Jean de Foigny and was active between 1561 and 1586, he was also a printer for leading Catholic figures in France. Most significantly, Jean de Foigny also published the first copy of the Defence under a false imprint in 1569, before publishing the Latin version in 1580.[2]

The text itself is a sixteenth century print book in good condition. A quarto, it measures approximately 22cm by 17cm, but is only a couple of centimetres thick. It is half-bound in green leather with a morocco pattern, but this binding most likely dates from the early nineteenth century, as the entry in the Gordonstoun sale catalogue, which lists the sale of the book in 1816, describes this specific binding clearly.[3] The title page has a relief printed woodcut border depicting various British coats of arms and the motto of the Order of the Garter: ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’[4]. This ties into the content of the book, which justifies Mary’s claim to the throne of the England.

The title page also includes an autograph from ‘Robertus Gordone’ and 5 shillings written in secretary hand in the top right-hand corner, most likely by Robert Gordon, the first traceable owner of the book. As Gordon was born in 1580, it is unlikely he bought the book before 1598 when he moved to St Andrews to study, so it is likely that the book had another owner who brought it to Britain and sold it to Gordon here. Furthermore, the Gordonstoun catalogue, which details the sale of this book in 1816, on its title page states that it is ‘A Catologue of the Singular and Curious Library, Originally formed between 1610 and 1650, by Sir Robert Gordon, of Gordonstoun’.[5] This therefore suggests that Lesley’s book came into Gordon’s possession at some point after 1610, so most likely had another, as yet untraced, owner before Gordon.

The title page of De titulo et iure

The book remained in the Gordon library for around 200 years. According to the catalogue, the Gordons owned another five Lesley texts, including the English and French translations of the Defence dating from 1584 and 1587, respectively. It was eventually sold in 1816 as lot no. 1432 to the Boswell family, witnessed by Sir Alexander Boswell, for 2 guineas.[6] This is noted in the Gordonstoun sale catalogue, as well as in the front leaves, with £2-2-0 written in pencil and another nineteenth century hand in pen describes the ‘Autograph of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun/See Gordonstoun Catalogue No. 1432’. It remained in the Boswell collections until 1893, when it was sold to William Ridler, a bookseller based in London, for 8 shillings.[7]

De titulo et iure (left) and the Gordonstoun Catalogue (right)

From William Ridler, the trail goes cold, but at some point between 1893 and 1928 – when the book entered the University collections – it was bought by David Murray. As a lawyer and antiquary, Murray started collecting books at the age of eight and by the end of his life had accumulated a large library,[8] including De titulo et iure and the Gordonstoun Catalogue. This is clearly demonstrated on the beautifully marbled endpaper, which contains two bookplates: one from David Murray, and another from the book’s entrance into the University of Glasgow collections. Interestingly there is also a description of the text from a sale catalogue, but it refers to a different copy of the text bound in reindeer hide with red edges.

The marbled endpaper of De titulo et iure with bookplates from David Murray and the University of Glasgow

Other than those relating to the ownership of the book – including several stamps from the Glasgow University Library – there is very little marginalia. The only example is in the final leaf; a nineteenth century hand has pencilled a correction of the Latin on leaf 53b: correcting ‘Maxima’ to ‘maxim’. There is an ‘errata’ page at the end of the print book, but clearly some eagle-eyed reader in the nineteenth century noticed one that had been missed and noted it down. All of these details come together to create a book that is visually stunning and carries a lot of history within it.

The history of the book starts with its author: John Lesley (or Leslie). Born in 1527 and described by Knox as a ‘priest’s gett’,[9] John Lesley was appointed Bishop of Ross in April 1566.[10] Sent to France by the earl of Huntly and other Catholic nobles shortly after the death of Francis II, he tried to persuade her to return to Scotland via Aberdeen.[11] Although unsuccessful, he did become one of her most trusted advisors during her personal reign as according to his own accounts, he was entrusted with Mary’s jewels and will shortly after the birth of her son.[12] Appointed a member of the Privy Council 1565, records show he was a fairly diligent member of the council, appearing at most of the eighteen meetings that occurred between April 1566 and May 1567.[13] Following Mary’s flight to England and subsequent imprisonment, Leslie was summoned to defend her.[14] His writing of the Defence of the Honour could be considered a continuation of this attempt to have her released. After a brief incarceration in 1569, Lesley was appointed Mary’s ambassador to Elizabeth, before being imprisoned again in 1571 in the Tower of London due to his involvement in the Ridolfi plot.[15] Eventually released after writing a Latin oration to Elizabeth, he was exiled from England and hated in Scotland so went to France. He arrived in January 1574 and remained on the continent representing Mary’s interests in various settings, including the papal court, until his death in 1596.[16]

His Defence of the honour of the Princesse Marie, Quene of Scotlande and Dowager of France was first published in 1569 under a false imprint,[17] and again in 1571, without him claiming authorship. The first time he claimed authorship was with the 1580 publication of De titulo et iure. This was most likely because he was in the relative safety of France, so could publish the text in his own name. Interestingly, Lesley gives his title as the Scottish Bishop of Ross (Episcopus Rossensis Scoti) despite having been made suffragan for the see of Rouen in 1579.[18] This can most likely be explained by the fact that the book is concerned with Mary, Queen of Scots, so he would want to emphasise his Scottish identity.

De titulo et iure itself is a translation of the second two ‘books’ of the 1569 publication. The first part of the 1580 edition (corresponding to the second original ‘book’) is a justification of Mary’s right to the succession of the English throne (anglici regni successionem). In this, Lesley used Mary’s ancestry as justification, inserting a genealogical table to prove his point, which is sadly missing in this copy.[19] Lesley also refutes the argument that Mary was ineligible to inherit the English throne because she was an ‘alien’, born outside England. This drew on, although did not explicitly mention, the discussion of the dual body of the monarch, which argued that the monarch had a body natural and a body politic, which was separate from any infirmities of the body natural.[20] As a result, Mary being born outside England did not disqualify her from becoming Queen of England as it was her body natural that was born outside England, which would be separate from her body politic should she become queen. The second argument against Mary succeeding Elizabeth was that Henry VIII’s will favoured the Suffolk line and prevented the descendants of Margaret Tudor and James IV from ascending to the English throne.[21] Lesley disputes existence of this will, but also argues that even if the will exists it was not possible for the king to dispose of his property as a private landowner might.[22]

The second text in the 1580 edition is a justification of the right of women to rule. While technically a distinct book with its own title page, the separate ‘books’ are bound together. In this, Lesley was seeking to refute those who argued that women were disqualified to rule by their sex. This included Knox,[23] as well as Calvin’s belief that female rule was a punishment for man’s sins.[24] The reasons for Lesley’s inclusion of this book is uncertain, having been advised by Plowden to remove it from the 1569 version,[25] but it was possible that Lesley wanted to ensure that all ends were tied, as well as potentially wanting to improve his relationship with Elizabeth, whose hatred of Knox was well known.

This then bring us to the wider importance of De titulo et iure. One person to whom this wider importance is applicable is its first traceable owner, Robert Gordon. Born in 1580, the Gordonstoun catalogue describes him as ‘One of the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber to King James I. and King Charles I., Vice Chamberlain, one of the Lords of the Privy Council, and Premier Baronet of Scotland; Author of “The Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland,” &c.’[26] The precise date of purchase cannot be traced, as Gordon did spend time in France between 1603 and 1605,[27] but the price in shillings would suggest that it was bought in Britain, rather than Rheims, where it was published. He clearly had an important role in the running of country, so would why such a man want De titulo et iure? There are a number of potential reasons. First of all, Robert Gordon clearly had an interest in history, writing his family history, and this was an important text regarding relatively recent history. Secondly, he collected a large number of books, and amassed a huge library and may have merely been concerned with preserving knowledge, as he owned several different copies of the Defence in four different languages. There is also a somewhat tenuous link between Gordon and Lesley through the 4th Earl of Huntly that may explain Gordon’s interest in his works. Huntly was Gordon’s maternal grandfather, but also had links to Lesley as it was he who sent Lesley to France after Francis II’s death. Finally, De titulo et iure may also have been relevant to Gordon’s work as one of the Lords of the Privy Council, following James VI and I’s accession to the English throne. If James’s mother had the right to inherit, then so would James.

Therefore, as part of the university collections, De titulo et iure represents an important stage in Anglo-Scottish relations as well as providing some insight into discussions about gender in the sixteenth century. It is one of eighteen texts by John Lesley owned by the University, including all the editions of the Defence, from the 1569 and 1571 editions, to the Latin version of 1580, the English retranslation of 1584 and the French and Spanish translations of 1587. It is also one of thirty-seven extant copies of the Latin edition in the world,[28] which makes it surprising that Lesley has been the subject of so little research.

[1] Jenny Wormald, ‘The Reluctant Ruler, 1560-5’ in Mary, Queen of Scots: Pride, Passion and a Kingdom Lost revised ed. (New York: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2001) pp.103-131

[2] ‘Foigny, Jean de (1535 – 1586)’, CERL Thesaurus https://thesaurus.cerl.org/cgi-bin/record.pl?rid=cni00008274 [accessed 15/11/17]

[3] John George Cochrane, and Archibald Constable, A catalogue of the singular and curious library, originally formed between 1610 and 1650, by Sir Robert Gordon (Oxford, 1816), p.114

[4] Definition: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/honi-soit-qui-mal-y-pense [accessed 21/11/17]

[5] Cochrane and Constable, Catalogue (Oxford, 1816), p.i

[6] Terry I. Seymour, Boswell’s books: four generations of collecting and collectors (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press with support from the Book Club of California, 2016), p.258

[7] Ibid., p.64

[8] Michael S. Moss, ‘Murray, David (1842–1928)’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/50273?docPos=4 [accessed 01/11/17]

[9] Sidney Lee, Dictionary of National Biography: Vol XXXIII, Leighton – Lluelyn (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1893), p.93

[10] Ibid., p.94

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Margaret J. Beckett, The Political Works of John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (1527 – 96) (Unpublished PhD Thesis: St Andrews, 2002), p.21

[14] Lee, Dictionary, p.94

[15] Ibid., pp.95-6

[16] Ibid., pp.96-7

[17] ‘Foigny, Jean de’, CERL Thesaurus https://thesaurus.cerl.org/cgi-bin/record.pl?rid=cni00008274 [accessed 15/11/17]

[18] Beckett, Political Works, p.47

[19] It is possible that the genealogical table was lost when the rebinding took place, but the record of the sale in Seymour’s Boswell’s Books states that the table was missing, so was likely lost before 1816.

[20] Geoffrey de C. Parmiter, ‘Edmund Plowden as Advocate for Mary Queen of Scots. Some remarks upon certain Elizabethan Succession Tracts’ in The Innes Review, Vol. 30 (1979), p.37

[21] Ibid., pp.35-6

[22] Beckett, Political Works, p.130

[23] Jane E. A. Dawson, ‘Knox, John, (c.1514-1572), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15781?docPos=1 [accessed 08/11/17]

[24] Beckett, Political Works, p.147

[25] Parmiter, Edmund Plowden, p.53

[26] Cochrane and Constable, Catalogue, p.i

[27] Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, Dictionary of National Biography: Vol XXII, Glover – Gravet (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1890), p.224

[28] ‘De titulo et jure’, USTC, http://ustc.ac.uk/index.php/record/111506 [accessed 01/11/17]

BL287 & BL287a

Our tenth blog of the 2017-18 class, by Harry Potts, examines two charters from the Blackhouse Charters collection relating to gifts made to the University of Glasgow by Mary Queen of Scots and her mother. 

The two documents (BL287 and BL287a) are both part of a collection of records known as the Blackhouse Charters, as they were originally the property of the Dominican, or ‘Black’ Friars. Many of these records are deeds of the properties owned by the friars, which eventually became a part of the University of Glasgow when gifted in 1563 and 1573, by the Crown, in an attempt to aid the heavily declining university. Their significance lies not only in the fact they are some of the largest grants made by the Crown in the 16th century, but also because they show the expansion of the University of Glasgow. Now, the Blackhouse Charters are held at the University of Glasgow Archive Services.

The first document this blog will consider from the Blackhouse Charters, is BL287, which is a royal charter written in Edinburgh on the 16th of March 1567, involving Mary, Queen of Scots and her Privy Council. The main document of the charter is a rectangular parchment that is 28cm in length x 52cm in width. It has some damage to the bottom-left corner, which has been folded upwards and a pencil outline mark is visible on the left side of the parchment. Being in quite good condition, the bastard hand script is legible, mixing traditional elements with an upright secretary hand. Although the original charter is written in Latin, there is a translation into English that can be found in Volume 1, pt.2 of the Charters and other documents relating to the city of Glasgow. In addition, an almost identical twin charter, created for and in Edinburgh on the 13th day of the same month, can be found.

IMG_20171115_142848 (1) (1).jpg

BL287 was created with the intention of providing much needed help for the foundation and maintenance of hospitals for the poor, and the support of ministers in Glasgow. This was to be achieved by uniting:

‘the lands, tenements, churches, chapels, dues, profits, and pertinents belonging to any chapels, altarages, prebends in whatever churches, chapels or colleges in the said city, together with all the mansions, annual rents and dues which formerly belonged to the Dominican or Franciscan friars within the said city, and with all the annual rents from any lands or houses in Glasgow due to any chapels, altarages or churches in Scotland, or the rents and duties exigible from the provosts and bailies of the burgh

into one trust, to be called Queen Mary’s foundation. The charter also mentions that the city of Glasgow would be expected to appoint someone to collect the ‘annual rents, fruits, duties, profits and emoluments whatsoever’ that formerly belonged to the Dominican Friars.

The charter states that the collectors themselves are not to benefit from these profits. The charter goes on to explain that this is because since the Reformation, many of the friars previously in charge of the land had been found to have used or sold it fraudulently for their own personal gain. This was made easier by the fact that the lands were often passed through generations through inheritable sasines. A sasine is a part of Scots law which involved the delivery of feudal property. Meaning, everything that naturally comes with the property, including buildings, trees and even minerals. Thus, the charter goes on to annul these previous sasines, with a new one, which is the second document, BL287a. However, the charter, which decrees that the new sasine was to be taken at the Tolbooth of Glasgow, goes on to state that ‘we reserve to them the use of the foresaid fruits and duties during their lives only’. Meaning, the chaplains, prebendaries and friars who benefitted before the Reformation were to retain their privileges, although these rights would not be passed onto their descendants.

IMG_20171115_142758 (1).jpg


Attached to the document by another small piece of weathered material, roughly 10cm x 4cm, is a seal, with a diameter of approximately 11cm. Carved onto the seal is a figure sat upon a chair, or throne, with a sceptre in his left-hand. The seal has been damaged significantly on its front left side, missing around 3cm and in addition the face of the image has no discernible feature. However, it is believed to be the seal of Andrew Hay, a former student of the University of Glasgow. The back of the seal features a crest topped with a crown. On the left-hand side, there is what appears to be a horse, or possibly a unicorn, whilst the right-hand side is missing, though presumably this would have been another animal. Perhaps a lion.

Finally, the charter is signed by several witnesses. Firstly, the 5th Earl of Huntly, George Gordon. His father, George Gordon the 4th, died after being captured at the Battle of Corrichie, which involved his forces against those of Mary, Queen of Scots. The 5th Earl of Huntly most likely signed the charter because of his alliance with James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell and the second witness of the charter. The next witness is Richard Maitland, the Keeper of The Privy Seal between 1563 and 1567. Finally, James Balfoure, the clerk of rolls register and council, and John Bellenden, the justice clerk signed.

The second document, BL287a, was produced a few months after the royal charter, on the 13th of May 1567. This document, also written in Latin, is in worse condition than BL287, with chunks missing from the top part of the document. It is approximately 18cm x 30.5cm and straight away textual issue are present as this document is written rather messily, in secretary script. Also, although there is a Latin copy of this document in the Munimenta there is not an accompanying English translation, as with the BL287.

BL287a (2) (1).jpg

The document, as explained by the notary David Wylie, who leaves a distinct ‘W’ as his signature, describes the official ‘ceremony of delivering earth and stone as symbols of possession’. This involves vice-sheriff of Glasgow, John Hall, presenting the sasine to the representative of the ministers and hospitallers of Glasgow, baillie George Herbertson. The document is very specific, the ceremony taking place an hour before noon, before going on to list the witnesses, which included the Treasurer of Glasgow.

To understand why the charter and subsequent sasine were produced, it is necessary to consider them in a cultural context. To do this, we have to examine the personal and political affairs of Mary, Queen of Scots. The charter BL287, and its Edinburgh twin, were produced within five weeks of the brutal and suspicious murder of Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley. Darnley, or Henry Stewart, was Mary’s cousin and the father of her first and only child, James, born the previous year on the 19th of June 1566. Unfortunately, the marriage quickly soured for various reasons, the main one arguably being Darnley’s involvement in the murder of Mary’s secretary of French affairs, David Riccio, on the 9th of March 1566.

The death of Rizzio and the murder of Darnley give insight into Mary’s quickly waning support. After Darnley’s murder, Mary was quickly considered a suspect and she began to realise she need to muster support. As a result, she made various attempts to improve her popularity. One of them being the charter of 1567. Mary’s charter was produced not only to benefit the city of Glasgow, but also as part of a wider campaign by Mary to promote her own self-image.

However, despite the fact that the sasine was enacted only a few months after the charter was written, later records show that the original intentions of the charter were not fully upheld but were redirected to benefit the University of Glasgow. To understand why, it is important to consider the changes that were happening to the University of Glasgow at the time.

The University of Glasgow records for the faculty of arts abruptly end in 1555 and for the entire university in 1558. Due to this lack of evidence, we are faced with the issue of trying to gage how the University of Glasgow reacted to the Reformation by looking at it within a wider framework of the Reformation However, there is some evidence from other sources that suggests Glasgow was not in a good condition.


In the lead up to the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the future of the University of Glasgow was uncertain, as we can see when the university chancellor of 1558, Archbishop Beaton, wrote ‘this perilous  and dangerous tyme quhair detestabil heresies ryeses and increasis in the diocy of Glasgow’. Hay was referring to the fact that the University, founded originally as a Catholic institution was set to convert to Protestantism, with its principal John Davidson converting in 1559. Although there was surprise at his conversion, as expressed in a letter  between his friends, the humanist Giovanni Ferrerio and Archbishop Beaton, arguments suggest it would have been genuine. This was because his conversion meant he could have lost his position as principal, due to the university still technically being a Catholic institution.

Further evidence that shows Glasgow, along with the other Scottish universities, faced a troubling time, were low matriculation numbers. At one point, it was ‘doubtful if St. Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen between them had as many as 100 new members each year’. In addition, in 1560 Archbishop Beaton was expelled from the University of Glasgow. Having no chancellor, and on the brink of the Reformation, the university and its teaching patterns were directly affected. For example, it became much harder to justify the teaching of canon law, one of the principals that the university was founded on.

With the visit of Queen Mary, two years after returning from France, to the University of Glasgow, on the 13th of July 1563, an official description of the university was issued under the Privy Seal stating ‘apperit rather to be the decay of ane Universitie nor ony wyse to be reknit ane establisst fundatioun’. Although this description does not indicate that the university had completely ceased to function, it confirms that only two teachers were present, in the figures of John Davidson and Robert Hamilton, and that the university was in desperate need of funds in order to repair various buildings in a state of decay. As a result of her visit, Mary made a donation, if someone small, to the University, of £100 Scots, which is thought to be roughly the equivalent of £60 todayAlso, the university was granted immunity from clerical taxation, though this would not have been a very big help.

It is noted that Mary considered further donations to the university in 1563, however, no such donation was ever made. In fact, it was not till 1568, that the university received a donation as a result of the crown. This donation came through the Regent Moray, Mary’s half-brother James Stewart, as he redirected the proceeds of the 1567 charter. He granted a third of the chaplainries and altarages included in the previous charter to the Magistrates and Council of Glasgow. Then, provision was made to secure the salaries of the ministers. Finally, the University of Glasgow benefitted, as the funds stated in Mary’s charter were redirected to it, along with plans for the university to receive a new foundation.

It is believed that these funds were also redirected to the University of Glasgow because the Town Council thought that it would be a shame for the city if ‘the youth grow without training’ as a result of lack of funds. This reflects the similar view of the First Book of Discipline, created in April 1560, by appointment of the Lords of Counci. The attempted aim of this book was the encouragement and spreading of the new Protestant faith throughout Scotland. The Book ‘recognised the universities in Scotland as training ground of the ministry as well as of the commonwealth’.

However, the fact that it took so long for the University of Glasgow was even considered for proper funding, despite records showing it was in need of it, reflect that difficult situation in which it had to maintain itself. Sources credit the survival of the university to its Principal, John Davidson and rector Andrew Hay. In 1563, Davidson quickly rented out lands granted to the University for ‘twenty-eight bolls of malt’. Davidson was then supported by Hay, in 1569, when Hay petitioned to the regents and masters in the university to help Davidson collect rents to maintain the University. This proved to be successful, as we can see in a letter from Regent Moray on the 18th of January 1570 and from a decree made by the Lords of council, which orders the ‘occupiers of lands and tenements pertaining to the chaplainry to make payment to Davidson of the rents and dues’.

After considering that these documents are a part of a wider context of Glaswegian and Scottish history, they could be used in a number of different ways to promote Scotland. Especially after recent events, such as Brexit and the Scottish Independence Referendum, have put Scotland in the spotlight and as a result, sparked a renewal of interest in the country’s history. Particularly, it could be argued that the general public would be interested in these documents for the following reasons. Firstly, they give an in-depth insight into how Glasgow as a city has changed and the pivotal reasons for its development. Secondly, these documents obviously are greatly concerned with Mary, Queen of Scots. Her history has often fascinated people, particularly as she is one of the last Scottish monarchs to rule over just Scotland, before the kingdoms of England and Scotland were joined in the Union of the Crowns in 1603. This long-term fascination with Mary coincides well with the renewal of interest in Scottish history, particularly as a female monarch. To this day, Mary splits opinions in a similar way to current female, political figures, such as Mhairi Black and Nicola Sturgeon, meaning that any exhibition which looks into her history would be a significant reflection of the advancements women have made in Scottish history to the present day.

To encourage interest in these documents and the history they reveal about the University of Glasgow, and Scotland, I would propose creating a series of exhibitions which follow Mary’s own re-introduction to Scotland. A tour which follows her own royal progress, proposedly starting with Leith, the first place she returned to in Scotland after her time in France. Then a route of all the places of significance she visited between her arrival in 1561 and forced abdication in 1567 could be proposed. At each route, an exhibition giving details to the major events happening at that point in her life could be presented. One aspect I think these exhibitions could focus on is her age, seeing as it is often easy to forget she was orphaned, widowed, married three times separated from her son and forced to abdicate by the age of twenty-four. This is relevant to the documents as it would show people the context in which they were created and the places they were created would feature on this tour of Scotland.

The exhibitions could also encourage engagement with viewers by having interactive aspects. For example, visitors of the exhibitions could be encouraged to write their own ‘charters’ for the area they are visiting on the tour. Placing suggestions of improvement for each place, in a way that mimics the original intention of Mary’s charter. To add to the interactive aspect, the tour would have an online feature, such as a blog or Facebook page, where people could post pictures or their ‘charters’, documenting their discovery of Scottish history. One of the locations would also be the University of Glasgow, thus promoting it to the wider public.



  • Brown, A.L., and Michael Moss, The University of Glasgow: 1451-1996 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996)
  • Dickinson, W., Donaldson, G. and Milne, I. (1963). A source book of Scottish history, vol. 2, 1424 to 1567. London, etc.: Nelson.
  • Donaldson, G. (1983). All the queen’s men. London: Batsford Academic and Educational.
  • Durkan, J. and Kirk, J. (1977). The University of Glasgow, 1451-1577. [Glasgow]: University of Glasgow Press.
  • Durkan, J. (1959). THE CULTURAL BACKGROUND IN SIXTEENTH-CENTURY SCOTLAND. Innes Review, [online] 10(2), pp.382-439. Available at: http://www.euppublishing.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/doi/pdfplus/10.3366/inr.1959.10.2.382 [Accessed 21 Nov. 2017].
  • Mackie, J. (1954). The University of Glasgow 1451-1951. Glasgow: Jackson, p.59.
  • Marwick, J. and Renwick, R. Charters and other documents relating to the city of Glasgow, ed. by Sir James D. Marwick (Glasgow: Scottish Burgh Record Society, 1894-1906), vol. I, part 2, p. 131-137.
  • Reid, Steven. J., Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Dawson Books, 2010)
  • ‘Blackhouse Charters’ in Glasgow University Archives, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/data/gb248-guabl (Last Accessed: 22/11/16)
  • Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis, Records of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation till 1727, ed. by Cosmo Innes (Glasgow : the Maitland Club, 1856), I, p.71-74 (entry no 43).








A Book Instead of An Execution

From praise poetry to a literary assassination: the ninth blog of the 2017-18 class by Amy Winfield is an  examination of a copy of Ane Detectiovn of the duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes, which reveals the vengeful side of the scholar George Buchanan. The context of this copy reveals the book’s importance.

Ane Detection is a polemic book about Mary Queen of Scots, where the famous Scottish writer George Buchanan voices his beliefs about the Queen’s final two husbands: Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley and James Hepburn, fourth Earl of Bothwell. Glasgow University’s special collection is in possession of two copies of Buchanan’s book, translated into the Scots vernacular. Glasgow Universities two copies are from separate collections, both donated to Glasgow, the Euing collection (1874)[2] and the Murray collection (1927)[3].

Despite being the original spark of printed literature which would set Mary Queen of Scot’s reputation ablaze with criticism, the book itself is relatively small, measuring nine centimetres in width, thirteen centimetres in height and one centimetre in depth from cover to cover. The book is therefore pocket size, comparable to smartphones on the current market, the new Google Pixel phone being a centimetre taller than the book[4].  The pages of this book have been tightly cropped, helping to create its compact nature, which would have made the controversial work easy to hide on one’s person. The 176 pages of the book[5] are unnumbered, perhaps because page numbers would have taken up space unnecessarily. To help the reader find specific parts of the book, there are several printed shoulder notes in the outer margin of the book, acting as headings for the compressed print. The pages of the book are collected in octavo gatherings, allowing the book its small size, with 16 pages of text being printed on a single folio. Furthermore, the details of the books printer and translator have been omitted. The translation is believed to have been done by Thomas Wilson (1523/4-1581) humanist and servant to Elizabeth I, and the printer is regarded as John Day (1521/2-1584)[6], a highly successful London printer.

The small book in the Murray collection is subtly decorated. The nineteenth-century binding is of goats skin, the most luxurious of bindings, the skins were imported from Morocco; known for having the optimum environment for producing hides which were both tough but flexible enough to make quality book-covers[7]. Unfortunately, as is the case with many of the historic books in Glasgow’s special collection, the front cover to the Murray copy of Ane Detection is now completely detached from the body of the book. Both the front and back cover have mirrored gold tooling. Three simple decreasing rectangles border the covers in thin gold and regulated fern-like swirls decorate each inner corner. The spine is more elaborate, with heavy gold tooling and five ribs. The second rectangular gap on the spine is the only place text is featured on the cover of the book. In simple Roman font and in block capitals are the words “Buchanan’s Detection”.

The pages of the book have also been gilded in gold. There are two more decreasing gold-tooled rectangles on the inside covers of the book. Incredibly, there is even gold tooling along the edge of the book’s covers, in a pinstripe pattern. Thus, despite the immediate lack of detail on the books front and back covers, when looking at the edges of the book, it appears to have been almost dipped in gold. The first and last two pages of the book feature colourfully-themed marbling and along with the following title page (featuring the forty-two word title printed) have been repaired, likely during a process of cleaning up the book before it was sold in the nineteenth century. The repair of this page may have removed signatures- indications of previous ownership of this copy of Ane Detection. The only handwritten additions to this book are pencilled notes of modern librarians. These notes include the presumed translator, printer and publication date. In the main section of the book, there is no handwritten script. The title page is in large clear Roman typeface, with the bulk of the main text consisting of lumped Gothic type.

The remaining interesting feature of the fabric of this copy of Ane Detection is David Murray’s bookplate, which covers most of the marbling in the left hand side of the inside cover.  The central figure on the bookplate is (the upper half of) an old man, on top of an early-modern metal helmet. David Murray’s initials and name are both large features on the bookplate, along with “E Libris”, indicating this book was part of David Murray’s collection[8]. There is no known analysis of this bookplate, which is clearly symbolic and personal to David Murray, as opposed to being a filled-in templet[9]. The aforementioned figure has both a crown and belt of laurel leaves. The whole bookplate speaks of historical wisdom. Laurel leave crowns (particularly in gold) are known as symbols for victory, which could be tied in to Murray’s career as a successful lawyer. The sword in the right hand of the figure and the helmet at the bottom of the illustration continue the imagery of historic battle. In the figures right hand, is a large key, perhaps indicative of the popular nineteenth-century “key to the city” tradition, where a large golden key was given to those a city wished to honour[10].

The author of Ane Detection is the famous Renaissance poet, historian and politician: George Buchanan (1506-1582). Keeper of the privy seal for the Scottish government for the best part of a decade and the tutor of James VI, Buchanan spent the latter half of his life closely entwined with Scottish politics[11]. The previous years of Buchanan’s life saw his trial for heresy in Portugal and many periods of residence in France[12]. As such, Buchanan could hardly have been more delighted with a marriage alliance between his native country and his second home[13]. In a fairly elicit poem “Silvia IV”, Buchanan celebrated the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphine Francis.[14] Yet, just over a decade later, his passionate discrediting of Mary’s moral character immerged by way of Ane Detection. An internationally respected scholar, who was close to matters of government came out in harsh opposition to a Queen he once praised and sat beside[15]. James Melville outlined Buchanan’s worst quality to be that of his anger and taste for vengeance,[16] so perhaps a personal grievance to Mary sparked this great scholar’s bitterness. Indeed, Buchanan remained an admirer and associate of the Earl of Moary,[17] who had also once been close to Mary, but left Scotland after the murder of Lord Darnley[18].

The thrust of Ane Detection is towards Mary’s involvement with the death of King Henry Steward, Lord Darnley. Buchanan gave questionable evidence supporting his argument that Bothwell and Mary had a long-ranging affair[19]. He argued Mary’s passion for Bothwell lead to Darnley’s murder and subsequently Mary and Bothwell’s quick marriage. Historian James Mackay is a supporter of Mary and believes her mental illnesses caused trouble in her reign[20]. Mackay argues directly against Ane Detection, calling the book an “extremist protestant version of the events”[21]. Putting forward the evidence that Mary herself, along with members of her court, attributed her brush with death in 1566 to stress from her marriage to Darnley[22], Mackay maintains that although greatly vexed by her second marriage, Mary had no knowledge of the plot to end Darnley’s life[23] and indeed had both grown close to Darnley at Kirk ‘o Field before his murder[24]. Adding to Mary’s innocence of the plot to kill the king, Mackay outlines the queen has assumed Lord Darnley’s assassination had been intended for her, as Mary had been planning to stay in the Old Provost’s lodging’s the night they were blown up[25].

Mackay also strongly contests Bothwell and Mary’s alleged affair, arguing that although their falling in love was inevitable,[26] there were no carnal relations between the two[27] until Bothwell’s kidnapping of the Queen. Furthermore, Mackay evidences that Bothwell and Mary’s marriage was turbulent and unpleasant behind closed doors, with Bothwell often reducing the Queen to tears and Mary announcing she was suicidal.[28] The Queen  was originally opposed to the marriage on account of Bothwell’s association with Darnley’s murder[29] and his guilt in the eyes of the public; she only agreed to the marriage after the Ainsley bond was presented to her, and Bothwell raped her[30], which Mackay sates in plain language. Mackay presents Mary’s story as a tragedy and Buchanan’s work as “ammunition for subsequent generations of character assassins”[31]. Ultimately, Mackay stages a modern defence against Buchanan’s slander of the somewhat romantic figure of the Queen of Scots.

If George Buchanan’s reasons for arguing against Mary were personal anger and dislike for a figure he had previously admired, what was Thomas Wilson’s motivation for translating the work? Wilson’s choice to admit his name from the publication reveals that he was concerned his involvement would put him in some sort of danger, so what lay behind this academic’s involvement? By 1560 Wilson had made a name for himself in England and abroad,[32] and eventually found himself in the service of Queen Elizabeth, were he commonly examined prisoners in the tower of London, extracting information[33]. Wilson is known for his 1560 publication Wilson’s Arte of rhetorique,[34] a work he was clearly proud to put his name to as a humanist scholar. The translation of Ane Detection was clearly of a darker nature. In 1558, Wilson from a position in Rome had found himself on the wrong side of the Roman Inquisition and had been tortured and imprisoned for nine months, escaping through sheer luck.[35] Wilson’s Arte of rehtorique was linked to his previous employer Katherine Brandon, the Duchess of Suffolk, a known hard-line Protestant[36], and coupled with his trouble in Rome it is safe to say Wilson was a Protestant with a strong dislike of Catholic power. As such, we can assume Wilson was strongly opposed to the dream held by many English Catholics who wanted to replace Elizabeth I with Mary Stewart. Indeed, Wilson examined those involved with the Ridolfi plot of 1571,[37] where Mary was believed to be involved with those seeking Spanish help to assassinate Elizabeth and place Mary on the English thrown[38]. Wilson, as such, was highly involved with trouble concerning Mary Stewart and translating Buchanan’s defamatory work into Scot’s vernacular was likely intended to influence Mary’s own countrymen to oppose any further plots to restoring Mary to a position of power. Wilson was looking to neutralise the threat Mary posed to Protestantism, and to Elizabeth.
The highly controversial nature of Ane Detection, particularly in the early 1570’s, is reason for its ambiguous translator and printer. The London printer which this copy and translation of Ane Detection is attributed to is John Day. Day has unknown origins but first emerges on record with sufficient funding for printing ventures and thus was either from a wealthy family or was a highly successful self-made businessman.[39] Day began printing in London in 1546, mastering the foreign technology of printing and producing Protestant works from the outset. With a monopoly on the “ABC with little Catechism”, Day was humanist in the materials he printed, with many important English translations and work of leading influencers such as John Calvin[40]. Day is well known for his quality printing of octavo books,[41] so Ane Detection in the David Murray collection is very feasibly from Day’s press. We also see great technical ability in the book, with the mixture of Roman and gothic typeface, varied font size and printed shoulder-notes as a navigational aid. The book was clearly expertly formatted to be a small and condensed work and Day’s press was more than capable of this. Day’s greatest work, is the famous Acts and Monuments by John Foxe,[42] which was eventually commissioned to be placed in every Cathedral and the homes of the senior clergy.[43] A technical feat for England, Acts and Monuments was an enormous book, with the first edition spanning one-thousand eight-hundred pages, and had many technical challenges, such as various fonts and marginalia.[44] Day’s press was thus capable of the high level of printing present in Ane Detection and was also on the royal radar, so when Elizabeth came to sanction the printing of Ane Detection a decade after Foxes work was released, Day was an obvious choice of printing press.


The events of 1571 were directly involved in the printing of Ane Detection. The uncovering of the Ridolfi Plot revealed how powerful, determined and indeed just how close Catholics were to placing Mary on the thrown. The Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, had begun to gather English supporters to revolt against his cousin Elizabeth I,[45] marry Mary Stewart and rule England and Scotland as a Catholic nation. Roberto Ridolfi, an Italian banker and secret papal agent to England was attaining help from the Spanish by way of six-thousand troops[46] and as the mastermind of the plot lends his name to its title. When the plot was uncovered, English officials insisted Elizabeth have the heads of both Norfolk and Mary[47], yet it took Elizabeth almost half a year to execute Norfolk after he had been found guilty of high treason and Mary, admitting to knowing Ridolfi but claiming to have no involvement with his conspiracy[48], was spared the axeman for a decade and a half. Yet, Elizabeth did sanction the printing of Ane Detection, offering Mary a death by means of literature and public opinion[49]. Ane Detection opened up a literary scar on Mary which has never disappeared. The book was a bestseller,[50] and Elizabeth send a copy directly to Mary.[51] Queen Mary, as such, has read Buchanan’s damming work, declaring it to be the “lewd work of an atheist”[52]. Ane Detection was thus a political and a personal tool used by Elizabeth to attempt to neutralise the threat Mary posed to her.


Specific owners of the David Murray collection copy of Ane Detection are not traceable as there are no catalogues of purchase relating to this book, and the only marks of ownership in this copy are David Murray’s bookplate and various stamps and stickers of Glasgow University. Murray is an interesting character himself and was owner of a large book collection[53] and was clearly concerned with the preservation of historic materials. A close associate to Glasgow University, serving twice on the court of the University[54] and publishing his book “Memories of the Old College of Glasgow” a year before his death,[55] Murray clearly has a close affinity to his place of education. Furthermore, Murray’s youngest daughter Eunice Guthrie Murray was an active and published suffragist,[56] books such and Ane Detection showing the historic treatment of women across the board could have been sources of inspiration for Eunice Murray. Murray, by profession was a successful lawyer who specialised in commercial and property law[57] and contemporary books in his collection were based of banking, railways and canals.[58] Although Murray’s profession doesn’t reveal why he would be interested in material on a historic Scottish monarch, his passion as antiquarian is seen in his involvement with Society if Antiquaries in Scotland and the Glasgow Archaeology society, holding the position of president twice.[59]  Murray’s collection contained fifteen-thousand books when he donated it to Glasgow University.[60] Due to his interest in preserving and studying the past, Murray had several hundred sixteenth-century prints amongst his collection and twenty-two incunabula.[61] The Murray collection also features a folio of Buchanan’s work, a Latin copy of Rerum Scoticarum historia,[62] a far less controversial work.
Modern fascination with Mary Queen of Scots is ripe, spearheaded perhaps by the inspired American TV series “Reign” which aired first in 2013 and had its finale in 2017[63] and a movie titled simply “Mary Queen of Scots”,[64]  made by a Swiss director, both projects showing the international captivation with Mary Stewart. There is clearly wide interest of the general public not only in the Renaissance period but specifically in Mary Queen of Scots. To publicise the importance of Ane Detection a digestible YouTube video would be a suitable method for engaging the public with the literature. The video should be a short piece, explaining the chequered relationship of the author to the subject, Mary’s personal interactions with the book at the order of Elizabeth and the printer and translator’s motives for becoming involved with the work. A video is suitable as it is a presently popular form of consuming information and the delicate books are preserved by being available for many people to see but only being handled by one individual. David Murray’s involvement with the book could also be mentioned but copies of the book exist in many libraries and as such some may have more historical details of ownership which are more valuable to the scholar. An online transcript of the Ane Detection in modern English would also make the book more accessible, as the majority of people are unfamiliar with old Scots, an English transcript as opposed to photographs of the original pages of the book, would be helpful for modern academics and enthusiasts who wanted to look into contemporary criticisms of Mary. Currently in all its noted collections the book is only available to elite scholars who have access to archives where copies of the book are stored, online transcripts would open up the audience for Ane Detection.



Abbott, D. M.. “Buchanan, George (1506–1582).” D. M. Abbott In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, May 2006. http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/3837

Bookplate Society, The., “An Overview of Principal Styles of Bookplates in Britain 1600-2000”, last modified 2008, accessed 19/11/2017 http://www.bookplatesociety.org/styles.html

George Buchanan, “ Ane Detectiovn of the duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes, touchand the murder of hir hufband, and hir confpiracie, adulterie, and pretenfed marriage with the Erle Bothwell. And ane defence of the trew Lordis, mainteiners of the Kingis graces actioun and authoritie.  ” trans. Thomas Wilson (John Day: London, 1571), Sp Coll Mu6-h.6

Buchanan, George.  Rerum Scoticarum historia (Antwerp, 1583), Murray. Mu50-a.5

CBS Television Studios , Reign, 2013-2017. (accessed 20/11/2017) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2710394/

“Day , John (1521/2–1584),” Andrew Pettegree in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. David Cannadine, January 2008, http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/7367 (accessed 12/11/2017).

Doran, Susan and Jonathan Woolfson. “Wilson, Thomas (1523/4–1581).” Susan Doran In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, January 2008. http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/29688 (accessed 17/11/2017).

Foxe, John. Acts and Monuments, (John Day: London, 1563), The Unabridged Acts and Monuments OnlineTAMO(HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011). http//www.johnfoxe.org (accessed 13/11/2017).

English Short Title Catalogue, S106062, (British Library), accessed 8/11/2017 http://estc.bl.uk/F/EF9PLA9AIUUHDQPJEPRB2BAGHT2MJHIA4P4JFIJF8NP8TPL9X3-19968?func=full-set-set&set_number=013605&set_entry=000001&format=999
Euing Collection, (Glasgow University Special Collections: Glasgow, 1847), accessed 20/11/2017 https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/specialcollections/collectionsa-z/euingcollection/#d.en.119369


“Google Pixel” All Versions, GAMArena, accessed 19/11/2017  https://www.gsmarena.com/google_pixel-8346.php

Imbach, Thomas. “Mary Queen of Scots” (Pathé, 2013).

Kings College, Cambridge, “Ex libris: bookplates in the archives”, (2012) accessed 19/11/2017


Lake, Peter. (London: Oxford Uni Press, 2016).

Mackay, James. In My End is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen of Scots, (Mainstream Publishing: Edinburgh, 1999).

Melville, Sir James of Halhill. Memoirs of his own Life, (Bannatyne Club: Edinburgh, 1827).

“Murray Collection”, University of Glasgow, Special Collections, accessed 13/11/2017 https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/specialcollections/collectionsa-z/murraycollection/

Office of the Mayor Commission for the United Nations Consular Corps & Protocol, “Key to the City of New York”, (The City of New York, 2011), accessed 19/11/2017 https://web.archive.org/web/20111114110402/http://www.nyc.gov/html/unccp/html/protocol/key.shtml

Sabrio, David. “George Buchanan and Renaissance Latin Poetry”, Explorations in Renaissance Culture 7,  (Jan 1, 1981): 36-46 http://ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/docview/1311898830?accountid=14540.

Wagner, John. Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britian, Ireland, Europe and America, (Routledge: New York, 1999).

Wier, Alison. Mary Queen of Scots: And the Murder of Lord Darnley, (Vintage Books: London, 2008).

Wilson, Thomas. Wilson’s Arte of rhetorique, (At the Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1560), Kelly- University of Toronto, accessed 19/11/2017,  https://archive.org/details/wilsonsarteofrhe00wilsuoft


[1] George Buchanan, “Ane Detection…” trans. Thomas Wilson (John Day: London, 1571), Sp Coll Mu6-h.6

[2]Euing Collection, (Glasgow University Special Collections: Glasgow, 1847), accessed 20/11/2017 https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/specialcollections/collectionsa-z/euingcollection/#d.en.119369

[3] Murray Collection, (Glasgow University Special Collections: Glasgow, 1927), accessed 20/11/2017 https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/specialcollections/collectionsa-z/murraycollection/

[4] “Google Pixel” All Versions, GAMArena, accessed 19/11/2017  https://www.gsmarena.com/google_pixel-8346.php

[5]English Short Title Catalogue, S106062, (British Library), accessed 8/11/2017 http://estc.bl.uk/F/EF9PLA9AIUUHDQPJEPRB2BAGHT2MJHIA4P4JFIJF8NP8TPL9X3-19968?func=full-set-set&set_number=013605&set_entry=000001&format=999

[6] Peter Lake, (London: Oxford University Press, 2016) 44.


[7] “Goatskin”, Bibles, Cambridge University Press, accessed 19/11/2017 http://www.cambridge.org/bibles/about/leather-binding-materials/goatskin/#Qo0MfV6uAuiQaGkD.97

[8]“Ex libris: bookplates in the archives”, Kings College, Cambridge, (2012) accessed 19/11/2017


[9] “An Overview of Principal Styles of Bookplates in Britain 1600-2000” , The Bookplate Society, last modified 2008, accessed 19/11/2017 http://www.bookplatesociety.org/styles.html

[10] “Key to the City of New York”, Office of the Mayor Commission for the United Nations Consular Corps & Protocol, (The City of New York, 2011), accessed 19/11/2017 https://web.archive.org/web/20111114110402/http://www.nyc.gov/html/unccp/html/protocol/key.shtml

[11] “Buchanan, George (1506–1582),” D. M. Abbott in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. David Cannadine, May 2006, http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/3837 (accessed 14/11/2017).

[12] ibid

[13] David Sabrio, “George Buchanan and Renaissance Latin Poetry”, Explorations in Renaissance Culture 7,  (Jan 1, 1981): 42, accessed 13/11/2017 http://ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/docview/1311898830?accountid=14540.

[14] ibid

[15] D. M. Abbott, George Buchanan

[16] Sir James of Halhill Melville, Memoirs of his own Life, (Bannatyne Club: Edinburgh, 1827) 262.

[17] D. M. Abbott, George Buchanan

[18] James Mackay, In My End is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen of Scots, (Mainstream Publishing: Edinburgh, 1999), 197.

[19] ibid, 175.

[20]ibid, 177-180.

[21] ibid,177.

[22] ibid, 178.

[23] ibid, 180.

[24] ibid, 186-187.

[25] ibid, 195.

[26] ibid, 176.

[27] ibid, 175.

[28] ibid, 206.

[29] ibid, 200.

[30] ibid, 202.

[31] ibid, 178.

[32] “Wilson, Thomas (1523/4–1581),” Susan Doran in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. David Cannadine, January 2008, http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/29688 (accessed 17/11/2017).

[33] Doran, Biograpghy.

[34] Thomas Wilson, Wilson’s Arte of rhetorique, (At the Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1560), Kelly- University of Toronto, accessed 19/11/2017,  https://archive.org/details/wilsonsarteofrhe00wilsuoft

[35] Doran, Biograpghy.

[36] ibid

[37] ibid

[38] John Wagner, Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britian, Ireland, Europe and America, (Routledge: New York, 1999) 262.

[39] “Day , John (1521/2–1584),” Andrew Pettegree in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. David Cannadine, January 2008, http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/7367 (accessed 12/11/2017).

[40] ibid

[41] ibid

[42] John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, (John Day: London, 1563), The Unabridged Acts and Monuments OnlineTAMO(HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011). http//www.johnfoxe.org (accessed 13/11/2017).

[43] Pettegree, Biography.

[44] ibid

[45] Wagner, 261.

[46] ibid, 262.

[47] ibid

[48] Alison Wier, Mary Queen of Scots: And the Murder of Lord Darnley, (Vintage Books: London, 2008)493.

[49] ibid

[50] ibid

[51] ibid, 494.

[52] ibid

[53] “Murray Collection”, University of Glasgow, Special Collections, accessed 13/11/2017 https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/specialcollections/collectionsa-z/murraycollection/

[54] Pettegree, Biography.

[55] ibid

[56] ibid

[57] ibid

[58] Murray, UoG.

[59] Pettegree, Biography.

[60] Murray, UoG.

[61] ibid

[62] George Buchanan: Rerum Scoticarum historia (Antwerp, 1583), Murray. Mu50-a.5, http://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b1554486

[63]CBS Television Studios , Reign, 2013-2017. (accessed 20/11/2017) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2710394/

[64] “Mary Queen of Scots” Thomas Imbach, (Pathé, 2013)

Los Doze Libros de la Eneida, 1557.

Our eight blog of the 2017-18 class is written by Catriona MacLaughlin, and is a fascinating Spanish translation of the Aeneid, previously believed to have been owned by Mary Queen of Scots. 

Printed in 1557, the existence of this Spanish translation of the Twelve Books of the Aeneid is testament to the continued popularity of classical texts during the Renaissance. This small book, rebound in the 18th century, contains a signature purporting to belong to Mary Queen of Scots. Whilst the authenticity of this signature is uncertain, it would sit comfortably on the shelf among other books known to belong to her. The importance of this text to Mary is likely to have been similar to the importance it held for many others during the Renaissance, including humanists, as it was part of the revival of the culture of antiquity underway at the time.

This text was printed by Ameet Tavernier in Antwerp, 1557, a man not only well-known as a printer and punch cutter, but also for his typefaces, particularly his arabesque fleurons which were used until the late 18th century.[1] He has used more than one font within this text, with the preface in standard Roman font and the subsequent translated text in Italic. The page numbers of this preface are handwritten, among some of the only marginalia in this book, whilst the rest are printed in Arabic numerals. The translator was equally well-known: Gregorio Hernández de Velasco, a renowned translator of classical texts, including some of Virgil’s Eclogues, into Castilian. In terms of its physical composition, this duodecimo edition is small to handle, measuring only 12.6cm x 7.5cm x 3.3cm. It contains 12 leaves per gathering, with signatures of A8 B-Z12 aa-ee12 ff4 and horizontal chain lines, consistent with the standard construction of a duodecimo book. This edition is not a stand-alone, with nine other copies being held by libraries across Europe, five of which are in Spain. Although probable that it was rebound in the 18th century, the current binding is likely goat skin over board, with a double border of gold tooling. The tooling continues in a zigzag pattern along the fore edge, with further ornamentation along the spine, which is decorated and divided into five sections by raised horizontal hubs. This style of expensive binding suggests that this copy was highly valued, added to by the existence of hand-drawn red lines around each page intended to make it appear as a manuscript, and therefore more expensive.

Within the book the paste down is covered in abstract marbled patterns, matching the red of the page edges, with a sticker and reference number of the Hunterian Library Collection. This reference is repeated, handwritten, on the fly leaf. There is also a green bookmark ribbon, presumably dating from the same time as the binding.

The book has suffered remarkably little damage considering its age – the top edges of the pages are discoloured, presumably storage damage, and the title page has two small holes above the stamp where handwritten letters have been obliterated. Unfortunately, even with the use of an ultraviolet light machine, the obliteration is too great for the writing to be deciphered. There is a small piece of marginalia on the right hand side of the page, possibly numbers for a price, but their exact meaning is unclear.

The most intriguing feature of this book is the supposed signature of Mary, Queen of Scots, written landscape across a final fly leaf. Its authenticity as her signature is doubtful however, as historians such as John Durkan surmise, although it is contemporary to the time.[2] Upon comparison with two other texts, known to have Mary’s actual signature, the dissimilarities between this supposed signature and the definite are clear. The first example (image 1) is from an informal correspondence between Mary and her mother, written in French, where she has signed her name ‘Marie’.[3] The possibility that this was merely her informal signature, and that this book demonstrates the formal is false, as confirmed by the second example, an official paper ratifying lands which shows her name again signed as ‘Marie R’ (image 2).[4] Both of these are completely unlike the signature in Los Doze Libros de la Eneida, which is signed in Latin and not French, as ‘Maria Scotia Regina’ (image 3). The uncertainty that surrounds Mary’s ownership of this text is matched by the scarce evidence of known owners. Between its publication in 1557 and its presence in the catalogue of the Hunterian Trustees’ Records taken at the time of Hunter’s death in 1783, its provenance is unknown. [5]

Despite this uncertainty, Los Doze Libros de la Eneida would have had a significant place within Mary’s library. Amassing around 243 books during her reign, her collection was far greater and more wide-ranging than both her mother’s and Elizabeth I’s, which ‘paid little attention to foreign literature’.[6] There are a number of inventories of her library, which indicate a broad range of subjects, more developed than some universities of the time. Sharman’s inventory, which incidentally contains another copy of her signature again dissimilar to the one in Los Doze Libros de la Eneida, was compiled from two catalogues. The majority of Mary’s books were divided between Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle, where catalogues were taken in 1569 and 1578 respectively. Whilst these inventories are detailed in places, there is an element of incompleteness, as her library was further divided among several people and institutions. Additionally, as a result of the tumultuous political uncertainty, many items were removed by individuals over fears for their safe-keeping and some did not reappear. The University of St. Andrew’s was gifted a number of texts, intended to extend its small library, whilst other volumes were given to those Mary had a close relationship with, such as Mary Beaton. [7] Therefore, the process of recollecting all of these volumes was not straightforward. As mentioned, some texts never reappeared at all, with John Wood of Tillydovie recorded has having possession of around 90 volumes, but ‘less than half’ being returned.[8]

Mary’s library contained a wide range of texts in different languages including: Latin and Greek classical texts, contemporary French and Italian romances, technical volumes on the French legal system, dictionaries and poetry – as well as a small number of Spanish books. Whilst Los Doze Libros de la Eneida is not listed, there were many similar either in language or in content, including a French edition of Deux Livres d’Eneide. Although Sharman asserts that these were ‘collected by her, and for her alone’, it is more likely that the contents of her library were a conglomeration of her own interests, a slim number inherited from her mother, texts she was expected to have an understanding of and gifts from those around her. [9]  It may be correct to assume that the addition of some books into her library was to ‘press[ing] her to read along certain lines’.[10]

As a monarch during the Renaissance, there would have been certain expectations that Mary would be required to fulfill.  With the high sophistication of the French court in which Mary grew up, mastery of multiple languages was expected, as well as more ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek. The recording of several dictionaries supports this, including one Italian-Latin. Of the Romance languages it was not simply linguistic comprehension which was expected, but also understanding of literatures and histories of countries other than her own, such as neighbouring Spain, so as to demonstrate her awareness and engagement with the wider world.[11] ‘More embittered and severe’ theology was another area Mary was expected to be well-versed in, as well as command of classical texts for their virtuous and moral instruction.[12] All aspects of the Renaissance, ‘music, painting and architecture filled the very buildings’ of the French court in a manner which was probably inescapable, and so the subject matters of these texts are to be expected. [13]  Additionally to her patronage of poets, Mary proved her linguistic capabilities in composing sonnets of her own in both French and Italian.[14] The number of Spanish texts recorded within her library was quite low, but despite the argument that this may prove her understanding of Spanish was rudimental, Spain’s ‘Golden Age’ of literature was not yet fully underway and so the production of texts was lower than that of other countries.  Furthermore, it was common for classical texts to be used as cribs and reference points to aid learning of Romance languages.[15] For this reason it would be useful for Mary to own such a book as Los Doze Libros de la Eneida.

As previously mentioned, classical Greek and Roman texts were looked to for moral instruction – history was regarded as a ‘treasure house’ of models of good virtuous behaviour. [16]  Whilst the numerous classical texts recorded in Mary’s library demonstrate that she did read them for this reason, so too did a large amount of the populous during the Renaissance.

Although popularised by the humanists, the inclusion of classical texts in education existed prior to their peak – during the Middle Ages. At this point in time, the focus within classical texts was on the grammar. Virgil in particular was considered to be an undoubtable authority on the accurate and proper use of grammar, to the extent that even when mistakes were identified in his work, they were attributed to it being unfinished, or dismissed as being ‘inevitable errors that afflict even the greatest men’.[17] Even through periods of stylistic change Virgil was still thought of as an exemplary grammarian.

For the humanists however, the attraction of the writings of Virgil and other classical authors was the morals and virtues that the characters exemplified, which could be drawn out in the form of memorable proverbs. The way in which these texts were read began to change from the perspective of the Middle Ages: moving from a focus on looking only for excellent grammar and notable phrases, to alternatively for allegorical, as well as literal meanings. One reason for why texts were consulted through a different perspective is the increased awareness humanists had of their place in history. They aimed to re-establish the classical texts in the contexts that they were written in, not only in the events, but the ‘ethos of the first century BCE’.[18] In doing so, the humanists would have a better understanding of how to combine the pagan ideals of these texts with the Christian value system of their current society.

This formed a crucial part of moral philosophy education in schools. Considered a means to communicate ideals, the way in which literature was interpreted tallied with the geographic and cultural spheres that the interpreter existed in. It is partly for this reason that Virgil’s Aeneid was such a popular source for moral insights, as Aeneas was believed during the Renaissance to be the pinnacle of virtue, a morally perfect man. It was also admired for the structure which was perceived to exist throughout the books, mirroring man’s moral development as Aeneas ‘comes to understand the implications of his actions […] grow[ing] to wisdom and ethical maturity’.[19] The cult of popularity which existed around Aeneas stemmed largely from the high and constant praise given to him by Virgil. As well as this praise however, he is also condemned for any vices which he displays. This praise and blame method became one which teachers used with their students, being both complimentary and critical of them, but not to the extent to which they would be dissuaded from their studies.

The relationship between poetry and morals developed to become so closely entwined that there arose a constant expectation that the author would always be intending to communicate, whether literally or allegorically, moral virtue. Although the humanists were concerned largely with contextualising these works, they came to agree with the readings of the Aeneid of their contemporaries. Whilst very early commentaries were extremely rare one by Donatus, discovered by Niccolò Niccoli, merged with the views expressed by their contemporaries.[20] With the interpretation of Aeneas as the perfect model of praise and virtue so accepted, Virgil and his contemporaries formed a considerable part of education, particularly in Italy, but across the whole of Europe. In Venice for example, those who taught in the publicly funded sestiere schools were ordered by the Venetian senate in 1567 ‘to teach Cicero in the morning, then Virgil, Terence, or Horace in the afternoon’.[21] These teachers read the classical texts, paying close attention to neatly phrased proverbs which encapsulated a moral or virtuous action and then divided them into categories, which could then be used to build up into commentaries in the form of supplimentaries. These were often then reprinted alongside the original text, forming a textbook which could be used in the classroom. Evidence of this can frequently be seen in marginalia, or in commonplace books of students. This shows a strong focus on dividing important speeches into manageable and understandable phrases, frequently to emphasise rhetorical structure and argumentation.[22] Whilst these classical texts were heralded for their structure and grammatical flair, they were more-so for the moral instruction – condemnation of vice and accentuation of virtue producing ideals which could be applied to their everyday lives.

The very existence of Los Doze Libros de la Eneida therefore, whether or not actually a possession of Mary Queen of Scots, is a prime example of the broader revival of antiquity fuelled by the humanists but beginning in the Middle Ages. For Mary, as for students, teachers and everyday people alike, classical texts and particularly the Aeneid provided a blueprint of morals which they could build into their lives. With Aeneas praised as ‘a morally perfect hero’, interpretations centred on how his actions exemplified the ideal virtues of man, through a rhetoric of what was believed to be the most sophisticated standard. [23] Whilst Mary’s ownership of this text remains undecided, the broader importance of classical texts to give moral instruction to the people of the Renaissance is undoubtable. The effects of Virgil are felt even today, when Latin is no longer considered a vital component of education.

As this text is still important today, it should be displayed in a way which would engage the public. Although the signature is likely a forgery, it is still an interesting element of the book, as is the front page and the decorative letters which begin each book. I would propose that this book is part of a digital interactive exhibit, so that the book itself would be preserved and sustain no further damage. This could happen on a large interactive screen, simulating a portion of a bookshelf. The public would be able to see the titles of the surrounding books, giving them an impression of the broad variety of texts in Mary’s library, giving it some context among other the books she possessed for religious, linguistic and leisure purposes. As well as this, the physical size of the books would be more tangible, as the public would be able to clearly see how they differ greatly between that of folio and duodecimo. Ideally they would then be able to open the book on screen, and then particular areas of interest would be highlighted with additional information. The signature would be one of these, as well as the Hunterian sticker which is another point of interest for the local public as the collection is held by the University of Glasgow. Some information on the text itself should also be given, possibly highlighting and translating particular proverbs to show prime examples of the morals and virtues sought after by those in the Renaissance. Presenting Los Doze Libros de la Eneida in a way like this would allow the public to engage with the book – its connection to Mary and her extensive library – as well as its importance to the Renaissance as a centre of moral guidance, helping them to understand why more than 1,500 years after it was written, the Aeneid was still considered a crucial text.


Primary sources:

‘Letter from Mary, Queen of Scots, to her mother, Marie de Guise, the Queen Dowager, commending M de Breize [Arthus de Maillé-Brézé], sent from the King of France to the Queen Dowager with news (SP13/71)’, National Records of Scotland Catalogue <https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/catalogues-and-indexes&gt; [accessed 1st November 2017].

‘Private Papers (GD105/83A)’, National Records of Scotland <https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides&gt; [accessed 1st November 2017].


Secondary sources:

The Oxford companion to the Book, eds. Michael F. Suarez & H.R. Woudhuysen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Baston, K. & Gardham, J., William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues: Transcription of Museum Records 3, Trustee Catalogue of Printed Books, 1785. (Glasgow: online, 2017) < http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/151114/> [accessed online 8th November 2017].

Braund, Susanna, ‘Translations’ in The Virgil Encyclopedia Vol.III, eds. R.F. Thomas, J.M. Ziolkowski (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2014) pp. 1285-1290.

Carranza, Paul & Gilbert-Santamaria, Donald, ‘Spanish Literature’ in The Virgil Encyclopedia Vol.III, eds. R.F. Thomas, J.M. Ziolkowski (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2014) pp. 1199-1203.

Durkan, John, ‘The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’, The Innes Review, 38: 38 (2010), pp. 71-104.

Kallendorf, Craig, In Praise of Aeneas: Virgil and Epideictic Rhetoric in the Early Italian Renaissance. (Hanover, UK: University Press of New England, 1989).

——–, ‘Renaissance Literature’ in The Virgil Encyclopedia Vol.III, eds. R.F. Thomas, J.M. Ziolkowski (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2014) pp. 1072-1074.

——–, ‘Virgil in the Renaissance Classroom: From Toscanella’s Osservationi . . . sopra l’opere di Virgilio to the Exercitationes rhetoricae’ in The Classics in the Medieval and Renaissance Classroom: The Role of Ancient Texts in the Arts Curriculum as Revealed by Surviving Manuscripts and Early Printed Books, eds. J. F. Ruys, J. Ward and M. Heyworth (Belgium: Brepols, 2013) pp.309–328.

Martindale, Charles (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Virgil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Schwartz, Ariane, ‘Humanism’ in The Virgil Encyclopedia Vol.II, eds. R.F. Thomas, J.M. Ziolkowski (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2014) pp.626-628.

Sharman, J, The Library of Mary Queen of Scots (1889; repr. Charleston SC, United States: Nabu Press Publication, 2010).

Universal Short Title Catalogue, <http:// http://ustc.ac.uk/index.php/search&gt; [accessed 1st November 2017].

Usher, Phillip J., ‘French Literature’ in The Virgil Encyclopedia Vol.II, eds. R.F. Thomas, J.M. Ziolkowski (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2014) pp. 503-510.


[1] Michael F. Suarez & H.R. Woudhuysen, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Book, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) p. 1194.

[2] John Durkan, ‘The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’, The Innes Review, 38: 38 (2010), p. 80-81.

[3] ‘Letter from Mary, Queen of Scots, to her mother, Marie de Guise, the Queen Dowager, commending M de Breize [Arthus de Maillé-Brézé], sent from the King of France to the Queen Dowager with news (SP13/71)’, National Archives of Scotland <http://catalogue.nrscotland.gov.uk/nrsonlinecatalogue/overview.aspx?st=1&tc=y&tl=n&tn=n&tp=n&k=&ko=a&r=sp13%2f71&ro=s&df=&dt=&di=y&gt; [accessed 1st November 2017].

[4] ‘Private Papers (GD105/83A)’, National Records of Scotland, <https:www.nrscotland.gov.uk/files//images/library/AAA00635Watermark.jpg> [accessed 1st November 2017].

[5] K. Baston & J. Gardham, William Hunter’s Library: A Transcription of the Early Catalogues: Transcription of Museum Records 3, Trustee Catalogue of Printed Books, 1785. (Glasgow: online, 2017) <http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/151114/> [accessed online 8th November 2017] p. 398.

[6] Durkan, ‘The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’ p. 74.

[7] John Sharman, The Library of Mary Queen of Scots (1889; repr. Charleston SC, United States: Nabu Press Publication, 2010) p. 9.

[8] Durkan, ‘The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’, p. 73.

[9] Sharman, The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’, p. 6.

[10] Durkan, ‘The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’, p. 71.

[11] Ibid, p. 75.

[12] Sharman, The Library of Mary Queen of Scots, p. 16.

[13] Durkan, ‘The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’, p. 75.

[14] Ibid, p. 78.

[15] Craig Kallendorf, ‘Renaissance Literature’ in The Virgil Encyclopedia Vol.III, eds. R.F. Thomas, J.M. Ziolkowski (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2014) p. 1072.

[16] Durkan, ‘The Library of Mary Queen of Scots’, p. 81.

[17] Craig Kallendorf, In Praise of Aeneas: Virgil and Epideictic Rhetoric in the Early Italian Renaissance. (Hanover, UK: University Press of New England, 1989) p.3.

[18] Ariane Schwartz, ‘Humanism’ in The Virgil Encyclopedia Vol.II, eds. R.F. Thomas, J.M. Ziolkowski (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2014) p.626.

[19] Kallendorf, In Praise of Aeneas, p. 6.

[20] Ibid, p.14.

[21] Craig Kallendorf, ‘Virgil in the Renaissance Classroom: From Toscanella’s Osservationi . . . sopra l’opere di Virgilio to the Exercitationes rhetoricae’ in The Classics in the Medieval and Renaissance Classroom: The Role of Ancient Texts in the Arts Curriculum as Revealed by Surviving Manuscripts and Early Printed Books, eds. J. F. Ruys, J. Ward and M. Heyworth (Belgium: Brepols, 2013) p. 310.

[22] Ibid, p.318.

[23] Kallendorf, In Praise of Aeneas, p. 9.


Analysis of the Contract relating to the Parish of Govan after the Nova Erectio (BL-419) Munimenta, vol. 1, item 65

Our seventh blog of the 2017-18 class was produced by Gareth Luke, and examines an important contractual arrangement between the parish of Govan and the University of Glasgow in the late 1570s which played a key role in keeping the university solvent following the disruption of the protestant reformation. 

The Scottish Reformation in 1560 challenged the Catholic consensus of the nation’s three ancient universities: St Andrews, Glasgow, and King’s College Aberdeen. The Reformation necessitated that each university abandon its medieval, scholastic teachings in favour of an innovative Protestant curriculum, and in the years following 1560 the position of each University was destabilised.[1] Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the case of Glasgow, which had been narrowly avoiding bankruptcy since the untimely death of its founder, Bishop William Turnbull, in 1451.[2] The University continued to narrowly avoid extinction until James VI granted the University with the Nova Erectio in 1577 which, among other reforms, granted the University with a vital source of income.[3] The Contract relating to the Parish of Govan after the Nova Erectio sets out how the University would come to receive the incomes of Govan. It also pledges that, in return, the principal of the University of Glasgow would be obligated to perform a regular Sunday service for the parish of Govan.

The Contract was written in 1578, and bears the signature of James MacGill, who drafted the document on behalf of Andrew Melville, the principal of the University since 1574.[4] The Contract is included in the University of Glasgow’s Blackhouse Charters, which comprises the holistic set of records for the University detailing its progression from its beginnings as a Catholic institution to its revival post-Reformation. The document is abbreviated in the Charters as BL-419, and has been identified using this format since 1712, when Robert Alexander of Blackhouse – who gave the Charters their namesake – originally catalogued the documents. A transcription of the Contract is provided in the University of Glasgow’s Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis, which comprises transcriptions of all administrative records which pertain to the institution pre-1727. This transcription can be located by searching for Item 65 in Volume One of the Munimenta, and is available to be viewed on-line by the public via the University of Glasgow Archives’ website.  The sole physical copy of the Contract is stored in the University of Glasgow Archives. The contract has been in the possession of the University since its creation, and is available to the public upon request.


Front of BL-419

A forensic analysis of the document reveals several interesting features. The Contract is approximately 56 centimetres long and 30 centimetres wide, and its text is written on paper (as opposed to the more typically employed parchment). As the document is over four centuries old, there are obvious signs of wear. The original paper, although seemingly of a decent quality, has in particular deteriorated over the years, and as a result the Contract has been bound to modern paper to support the piece. Further, it appears that the document was historically a victim of poor custody. The piece has been folded in numerous ways, and has likely remained in a folded state for long periods of time. This treatment has proved particularly damaging along the central horizontal fold, where there are so many tears that, had the document not been bound to modern paper, it appears likely that it would have eventually been torn in half. The document is also slightly impaired by blotches which are most apparent in the final lines of the Contract, and are likely either a result of acid seeping or water damage. Neither the tears nor the blotches substantially hinder the clarity of the text.

Evidence of marginalia and underlining on BL-419

The Contract also exhibits several interesting textual elements. It is written in black ink using a secretary hand, a form of handwriting prized for its readability and referred to by Simpson as “a handwriting for the ordinary man”.[5] By modern standards, however, the font is anything but ordinary: the author begins the piece with a decorative capital, and his competent use of attacking strokes is indicative of his mastery of the secretary hand.[6] Hence, the font is likely to impress 21st century observers. There are also examples of both marginalia and underlining in the document. The two appear to complement one-another, as the small plus-sign located in the margin just below the central horizontal fold is adjacent to the two lines of text which have been underlined. In both cases, a much lighter ink is used. This addition certainly does not date to the original text, and hence it is likely the work of a clerk at a later date.


Reverse of BL-419

There are also several interesting features to be observed on the reverse of the Contract.  At the top of the Contract, paper of a lower quality has been later wrapped to the piece in three places. Each addition includes handwriting which serves to catalogue the document. The oldest addition, written at an angle to the original text, provides the title of the Contract written in vernacular Scots in a lighter ink to the main text. Below this, and in a darker ink, the dates ‘1578’ and ‘1579’ are somewhat noticeable. In both cases, secretary handwriting is employed. In the final piece of text in this addition, there is evidence of strikethrough and the number ‘419’ – the document’s classification since 1712 – is clearly visible. It appears likely, therefore, that this latest contribution is the work of Robert Alexander of Blackhouse himself. The remaining two additions to the reverse of the text include one in which the word ‘contract’ can be made-out, and another where ‘15.M.S.S.’ is written. Both, therefore, appear to follow the example of the first in that they serve to provide archival references for the document. Thus, these three paper additions are interesting in that they provide an insight into the University’s evolving archival techniques from the document’s creation in 1578 to the work of Robert Alexander of Blackhouse in 1712.

An analysis of the Contract’s terms illustrates the impacts which the document had on the University. The Contract begins by stating the two parties involved. On the side of the University are the “Masteris”, who include the principal, Andrew Melville, as well as other key figures such as the “regentis” of the institution.[7] On the other side is Archibald Beaton, who held the title to the parish of Govan prior to the ratification of the Contract. The document is split into two sections: the first and longer section details how the University would be transferred the rights to the Parish, and includes other payments Beaton has agreed to cover for the University. The second, briefer part states the reward Beaton would receive in return for the relinquishing of his right to the incomes of Govan. There are several key details to be noted in the first section of the Contract. Firstly, the Contract states that the University would receive “the gift of the parsonage and vicarage of Govene” “for evir”.[8] The significance of this passage is two-fold: first, it guaranteed the University’s right to ownership of the parish, confirming its access to a source of income. Second, this passage also introduced the underlying condition that, as a component of ownership of the vicarage, the University was obligated to provide some form of spiritual leadership to the parish. Next, the Contract notes that, following confirmation from both parties, the University would receive possession of the parish “instantlie”, confirming that there would be no time delay between the ratification of the Contract and the transfer of ownership.[9] The final component of the first section explains that Beaton would cover a cost of six-hundred marks for the tack duty of the parish from 1577 to 1578, as well as other minor costs including the cost of “ten pund… to the Vicar Pensioner of Govan”.[10] The second section of the document explains what Beaton would receive in return for the relinquishment of his title to Govan.  Here, it is stated that Beaton will receive “ane new tak”, lasting for “fyftein yeiris”.[11] The Contract concludes by explaining that the new tack is not transferrable to heirs or assignees.

The significance of the Contract is elucidated when the context of the University of Glasgow post-Reformation is provided. The Reformation in 1560 marked the de jour transition of the national faith to Protestantism in Scotland, outlawing worship of the Catholic faith.[12] In practice, however, the conversion of Scotland’s three universities to Protestantism lagged, owing to their reputations as beacons of Catholicism since their foundations by papal bull.[13] The University of Glasgow had struggled to avoid bankruptcy since 1451 when its founder, Bishop William Turnbull, died before he could officially grant the institution a substantial source of revenue.[14] The Reformation, therefore, hit the University especially hard: when it became apparent that the institution would have to align itself with Protestant teachings, the Catholic members of staff – which constituted the majority – opted to desert the University rather than convert.[15] A visitation by Mary, Queen of Scots in 1563, in which she stated that the University of Glasgow “apperit [to] be the decay of ane universitie”, illustrates the severe conditions in which the institution was left post-Reformation and, despite attempts by Mary to expand the University’s source of income, there was little improvement.[16] The University continued along this downward trend until nearly a decade and a half later, when King James VI issued the University with its most pivotal post-Reformation charter, the Nova Erectio, in 1577.[17] Arguably, the most important reform made by the Nova Erectio was that it provided the University with “the parsonage and vicarage of the parish church of Govan, with all teinds, fruits, rents, profits, emoluments, dues, manses, glebe, [and] kirklands”.[18] The Contract Relating to the Parish of Govan after the Nova Erectio clarifies how this arrangement would exist in practice. It explains how the University would be provided with a source of income from Govan and, in return, the document promises that the principal of the University of Glasgow would deliver weekly sermons to the people of the parish of Govan. Therefore, the inclusion in the Contract of costs as low at ten pounds, though ostensibly insubstantial, was central in that it established beyond doubt that the University would receive the financial security it had been starved of since the untimely death of its founder over a century prior.

Under analysis, the Contract appears to have been instrumental in its capacity to revive the University of Glasgow. The people of Govan dutifully followed the terms of the agreement as decreed in the document. The revenues of the parish were paid to the University in ‘chalders’ of crops, which provided the university both with a source of food and a commodity which could readily be sold at market prices, should the institution require a more liquid medium of exchange.[19] The annual revenue provided by these ‘chalders’ has been estimated to have had a contemporary market value of around £480, signalling that the University’s finances benefitted substantially from the institution’s relationship with Govan.[20] Considering this, the significance of the Contract to the University of Glasgow is evident. The philosopher Thomas Reid described the Nova Erectio as “the modern constitution” of the University.[21] Further, Reid has argued that the transfer of Govan’s revenues was the “most important boon” granted by the Nova Erectio,[22] Rather than merely illustrating the Nova Erectio in practice, therefore, the Contract Relating to the Parish of Govan after the Nova Erectio is a crucially important document in that it displays arguably the most substantial reform introduced by the Nova Erectio, which is itself possibly the most important document pertaining to the University since its foundation.

Although the Contract provided the University with instant financial relief, it likely took longer for the parish of Govan to receive the weekly service which it was promised. Per the terms of the Contract, it was agreed that the principal of the University of Glasgow would hold a weekly service for the people of Govan. It is unclear, however, whether this agreement was honoured by the principals of the University. Andrew Melville, the principal of the institution from 1747 onwards, was a renowned humanist scholar, and the Protestant curriculum he introduced at Glasgow is described by Holloway as “innovative”.[23] Clearly, then, Melville would have made an exceptional minister for Govan. However, it is unclear whether Melville fulfilled his obligation to these parishioners. The historiography regarding this subject is unclear: whilst Reid suggests that there is no evidence to prove whether Melville did or not preach at Govan regularly, Holloway asserts that Melville was a “regular preacher in the church of Govan”.[24] When evaluating the significance of the Contract, it is disappointing that this information is not clear one way or the other. Had Melville upheld his end of the agreement it could be concluded that, under his principalship, the people of Govan received adequate recompense for the value of their revenues. On the other hand, had Melville decided not to act as the minister for Govan, it could be concluded that the Contract may have had a negative impact on the parish in the years immediately following the Nova Erectio. The absence of university records to confirm or deny the question in this period was not irregular, however, and there is an equal lack of evidence to suggest whether Melville’s successor, Thomas Smeaton, was a regular parishioner for Govan. However, Reid argues that it is unlikely that Smeaton, whose principalship lasted merely three years, fulfilled his role as minister of Govan as his tenure at the University was marked by controversy.[25] Thus, from the Contract’s creation in 1577 to the end of Smeaton’s Principalship in 1583, it appears likely that the parish of Govan was not rewarded with the weekly service it was promised. However, from the beginning of Patrick Sharp’s principalship in 1585, to 1621 under the principalship of Robert Boyd of Trochrig (when it was declared that the principal would no longer be obligated to serve weekly as the minister for Govan), the principals of the University of Glasgow diligently fulfilled their duties as stated in the Contract.[26] Thus, while the Contract benefitted the University hugely – to the point of saving it from the brink of bankruptcy –  the parish of Govan was often at the mercy of the principal regarding whether the terms of the Contract would be honoured.

There are several groups which may be interested in learning more about the Contract. Primarily, those wanting to learn more about either the University or the history of Govan are most likely to be interested, owing to the document’s lasting impacts on both. Moreover, the Contract may also be interesting to those inquisitive about the Scottish Reformation, Scotland’s ancient universities, King James VI, and so on. The number of people who may have an interest in the document is large and hence difficult to categorise. Given this information, it is difficult to recommend a strategy regarding how to best present the Contract. Firstly, the document is written in Scots and in an unclear form of handwriting, which makes it imperceptible to the typical modern reader. Beyond satisfying mere curiosity, therefore, it seems unlikely that provision of the original document would provide much utility to many of the document’s stakeholders. Moreover, given the Contract’s physical properties, where the size of the text is small and the paper itself is large, it would be difficult to read the document at any distance. Consequently, it appears unlikely that the Contract would thrive in a typical museum setting behind a glass case. Lastly, most groups with only a vague interest in the Contract would likely be more interested in viewing the Nova Erectio itself, which summarises the terms of the Contract as well as mentioning a plethora of other reforms which were to be made to the University.

It is possible that the most effective way to present the Contract would be by including it as one of the key documents in a smaller scale project. As the Contract is currently available to the public upon request, one of the most effective ways to present the document may be to provide the physical copy to small groups, under the supervision of a member of the University’s Archive staff. This form of presentation would be most effective if a translation of the Contract was also provided. This way, those viewing the Contract would be able to appreciate its physical properties, whilst the translation would provide the contents of the document in a much more accessible format. Regarding the optimal environment in which the Contract could be presented, it is likely that the document would be well suited in a thematic exhibition. For example, it could be placed in a more niche project exploring the University of Glasgow’s impact on its surrounding settlements. Alternatively, the document would likely be well received by a group with a specific interest in the history of Govan. For example, perhaps the University could arrange for the Contract to temporarily be granted to the Friends of Govan Old, an organisation which lists amongst its aims a desire to ‘contribute to the development of the cultural heritage of Govan’.[27] This may be an effective method with which to engage those interested in Govan’s history, and it is further beneficial in that this would allow the University to engage a group which otherwise may not have the means to access the relics of their post-Reformation history.

Thus, the Contract is a document which is key in its capacity to symbolise the turbulent history of the University of Glasgow. It had a lasting impact on the institution, to the extent that the University was brought from the brink of bankruptcy owing to the Contract’s terms. However, there are several challenges regarding how best to present the document to the wider public. Perhaps the most effective way to present the document would be to engage the groups most likely to show an interest in the Contract, however small they may be.

Word count: 3246

[1] David Stevenson, King’s College, Aberdeen, 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990) p. 7.

[2] Steven J. Reid, The Parish of Govan and the Principals of the University of Glasgow, 1577-1621 (Govan: The Society of the Friends of Govan Old, 2012) p. 2.

[3] Ernest R. Holloway, Andrew Melville and Humanism in Renaissance Scotland, 1545-1622 (Leiden: Brill, 2011) p. 179.

[4] Steven J. Reid., Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2010) p. 32.

[5] Grant G. Simpson, Scottish Handwriting, 1150-1650 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1998) p. 14.

[6] Simpson, Scottish Handwriting pp. 32-33.

[7] Cosmo Innes, Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis: Records of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation till 1727 (Glasgow: Maitland Club, 1854) vol. I, p. 124.

[8] Innes, Munimenta, vol. I, p. 124.

[9] Innes, Munimenta, vol. I, p. 125.

[10] Innes, Munimenta, vol. I, p. 125.

[11] Innes, Munimenta, vol. I, p. 125.

[12] Stevenson, King’s College, p. 7.

[13] Reid, Humanism & Calvinism, p. 15.

[14] Reid, The Parish of Govan, p. 2.

[15] Reid, The Parish of Govan, p. 5.

[16] Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, p. 32.

[17] Holloway, Melville, p. 179.

[18] John Durkan & James Kirk, University of Glasgow, 1451-1577 (Glasgow: University of Glasgow Press, 1977) p. 439.

[19] Reid, The Parish of Govan, p. 8.

[20] Durkan and Kirk, University of Glasgow, p. 283.

[21] J. D. Mackie, University of Glasgow,1451-1951 (Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1954) p. 73.

[22] Reid, The Parish of Govan, p. 6.

[23] Holloway, Melville, p. 159.

[24] Reid, The Parish of Govan, p. 12.; Holloway, Melville, p. 166.

[25] Reid, The Parish of Govan, p. 13.

[26] Reid, The Parish of Govan, pp. 13-21.

[27] ‘Friends of Govan Old’, Govan and Linthouse Parish Church <https://govanlinthouseparish.wordpress.com/opening-times/friends-of-govan-old/&gt; [accessed 22 November 2017] (para 2).


Durkan, J. and Kirk, J. University of Glasgow, 1451-1577 (Glasgow: University of Glasgow Press, 1977)

Govan and Linthouse Parish Church <https://govanlinthouseparish.wordpress.com/opening-times/friends-of-govan-old/&gt; [accessed 22 November 2017]

Holloway, Ernest R. Andrew Melville and Humanism in Renaissance Scotland, 1545-1622 (Leiden: Brill, 2011)

Innes, Cosmo. Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis: Records of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation till 1727 (Glasgow: Maitland Club, 1854) vol. I.

Mackie, J.D. University of Glasgow,1451-1951 (Glasgow: Glasgow University Press, 1954)

Reid, Steven J. Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2010)

Reid, Steven J. The Parish of Govan and the Principals of the University of Glasgow, 1577-1621 (Govan: The Society of the Friends of Govan Old, 2012)

Simpson, Grant G. Scottish Handwriting, 1150-1650 (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 1998)

Stevenson, David. King’s College, Aberdeen, 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990)

Apologie ou defense de l’honorable sentence et tres-juste execution de Marie Steuard

Our sixth blog of the 2017-18 class is written by Dina Aidehwho is assessing one of the many tracts that were written to endorse or condemn the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in England for treason in 1587. 

The anonymous work, titled Apologie ou defense de l’honorable sentence et tres-juste execution de Marie Steuard, describes the legal justification for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. The book contains the first French edition from 1588, which has been translated from the original English version of 1587. Published in France a year after Mary’s execution, the book reflects the context of the tumultuous political situation at the time before and after the Scottish Queen’s execution. The rulers of France and England were eager to maintain order and prevent the publication of print that directly insulted the monarchs, particularly Queen Elizabeth and her choice to execute Queen Mary. However, public opinion differed from that viewpoint and despite the censoring, the years of 1587-88 experienced an increase in the number of prints, relating to Mary’s execution, and criticism towards the governing bodies of France and England [1]. Printed responses to the Queen of Scots’ execution were typically French and Catholic, and the Apologie ou defense was the only Protestant text that sparked any notable interest around Mary’s execution [2]. Thus, it will be argued that Apologie ou defense acted as a tool for the English government to control and affect public opinion in France.

The Apologie ou defense justifies the execution of Mary Queen of Scots by providing historical examples and including specific evidence such as Babbington’s letter. Much of the content corresponds to the proceedings in Parliament in November 1586. In a speech to Parliament, Sir Christofer Hatton accuses Mary of conspiring to overthrow Elizabeth with the Duke of Norfolk and later Babbington in order to force foreign invasion [3]. The speeches highlight Elizabeth’s merciful nature towards Mary, and likewise the justification in Apologie ou defense it asserts the legality of Mary’s execution as she plotted against the Queen, and thus the law of hospitality could not apply anymore. On the title page of the book, it states ‘Ulpian’s maxim’ and below it in French it reads: ‘L’exsecution du droit ne fait tort à persone’ (the enforcement of the law does not harm anyone). This summarises the intention of the author writing a legal text that are based on classical reasoning as Uplian was a Roman jurist. Another interesting thing about the book is that no author is mentioned. It is presumed that Maurice Kyffin wrote it as he produced other works celebrating Queen Elizabeth. On the title page of the book it only mentions the publisher Jean Ouinted of the original English version, ‘A defence of the honorable sentence and execution of the Queene of Scots’ from 1587 [4]. However, mentioning Jean Ouinted can provide evidence of how likely Kyffin wrote it. Ouinted’s English name was John Windet, and he was a London-based publisher, who in 1588 also printed another of Kyffin’s books namely The blessedness of Brytaine, or A celebration of the Queenes holyday [5]. Besides this evidence, not much else exists to prove who wrote Apologie ou defense. Nevertheless, the Universal Short Title Catalogue suggests that text was based on the Queen and her Parliaments’ declarations and requests in Richmond, 12 and 24 November 1586 and that information was printed by Christofer Barker in 1586 [6]. Christofer Barker was also a printer who held royal patent, thus he was associated with the government. Therefore, it can be concluded that Apologie ou defense was partially based on Parliament proceedings and presumingly Maurice Kyffin edited and added more information to compile the book.

The physical appearance of the book is a small format, measuring 15.6 x 10.3 cm and its signatures are A6 (A6 left blank as a result of the printing method) B-T8 V2. Gathering V2 has been inserted between A3 and A4 and seems to be notes regarding subjects for certain pages. The pages consist of text written in Roman font with marginalia in the same font but smaller, and some patterns to divide the chapters (see photographs 1 and 2 above). In view of that, the pages of the book appear have no unique features and seem to have been cheap and easy to produce in larger quantities. However, the marbled calf skin binding strikes one as a personalised binding, especially with marbled handpainted papers on the inside of the book and the golden armorial on the front of the binding (see photograph 3 above). The book spine also includes golden leaves and a raised band which reads a shortened title of the book (see photograph 4 above). Two clues can be found on the binding in terms of the ownerships of the book. The first is in the binding which is likely French and from the 1760s. With ultraviolet light, it was discovered on the title page that the name of an owner had been inscriped, reading ‘Colleg. Paris. Societa. Jesu.’ (see photograph 5 below), which refers to the Parisan Jesuits. The Society of Jesuits were founded in the 16th century and focused particularly on education. However, it was suppressed in 1762 by the King of France and thereafter, the libraries were sold off [7] and the items that were auctioned are recorded in the catalogues of Collège de Clermont [8] and Maison Professe[9]. Our book was not found in these catalogues, but similar books relating to Queen Mary were recorded, and the binding of the catalogues gave a striking resemblance to our book. The material was similarly marbled calfskin and the interior handpainted papers also give the impression that the binding was done by the same hand (see photograph 6 and 7 below). Thus, it suggests that College of Jesuits in Paris was in charge of the binding, and upon the dissolution of Jesuits’ society our book was possibly sold to an unknown buyer. Since the book provides no more clues to the provenance of this period it is impossible to conclude on the exact dates of Jesuit ownership. Nevertheless, it appears interesting that Jesuits would hold a copy of the Apologie ou defense as it is defending Protestant Queen Elizabeth’s decision for executing the Catholic Queen Mary. Mary was used as a symbol of martyrdom for Catholics [10] , mainly by the Catholic League in France who felt displeased with the French king’s policy of tolerance and keeping amity with England. During the 1580s, Catholics also became traitors by English law which resulted in an increase of missionary Jesuit priests arriving in England from the Continenet. For example the Jesuit Robert Persons declared his support for the Stuart claim to the throne and warned of civil unrest in the case that Mary was harmed. [11] Therefore, the Jesuits’ relation and association to the martyred Queen Mary demonstrates why the Jesuits would have owned the copy of Apologie ou defense, and although the book represents the enemy’s view, it was possibly used by the Jesuits to refute the view that Mary was justly executed.

Photograph 5: Title page. See right side of the page for the Jesuit inscription

Another clue to the provenance of book is located on the front of the binding. The armorial was added after the Jesuits’ ownership and belongs to Charles Stuart, baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779-1845). The dimensions of the armorial are 55mm x 43mm and the blazonry illustrates the ‘Arms or a fess checky azure and argent within a double tressure flory counterflory a mullet for difference Order Collar of the Order of the Bath’. [12]Besides the apparent reason that Charles Stuart would own a copy of the book because of his distant relations to Mary, Queen of Scots, through the linage of King Robert II, another explanation could be that he was the ambassador at Paris from 1815-1824 and reappointed again in 1828-1831. Paris was the centre for collectors and there was evidence of Charles buying several items here [13]. Thus, Charles Stuart appears to have bought the book during his diplomatic time in France from a Parisian buyer, who could possibly be the missing link who bought it from the Jesuits libraries sale. After Charles’ death in 1845 his collection was put on sale and on 31 May 1855, with the evidence of the Sotheby and Wilkinson catalogue [14], Apologie ou defense was purchased by William Straker, who was a bookseller from London. The evidence then point to Straker’s aim being to sell the book on, as it was sold to William Euing (1788-1874) on 16 June 1858. On the page next to the title page of Apologie ou defense a cursive handwritten date of 16/6-58 and the price of 15 shillings has been written down along with the word Straker. This is likely Euing’s handwriting, which marks the price, date, and seller upon acquisition. Aditionally Euing seems to have purchased other books from Straker [15] which confirms the evidence that the book was sold to Euing. William Euing was an insurance broker from Glasgow who collected books and musical manuscripts. He was interested in literature and his purpose for owning particularly this book could be a general interest on Scottish history as the nineteenth century was a time of romanticising the past, and with the ascendancy of Queen Victoria, Scottish history and Mary’s tragic story became more popular. [16]

Upon Euing’s death in 1874, Euing bequeathed a collection of 10,000 volumes to the University of Glasgow [17]. According to a sticker on the binding of Apologie ou defense, the book entered the University of Glasgow Library’s special collections in 1875 through the Euing collection (see photograph 8 below). Its current catalogue number is BG 49-m. 27, and it is preserved among other important books relating to Mary, Queen of Scots and Scottish history, as for example George Buchanan’s Detection [18]. In his book, Buchanan defends the choice of the Scottish nobility to depose Mary, but it appears that the motive behind this edition originated from the English Government. John Staines suggests that William Cecil edited and added text to Buchanan’s original Latin version and produced this vernacular edition, in order to ensure that Mary would not become Queen[19]. Apparently, it was also distributed across Europe by anonymous authors, which made the French ambassador complain to Elizabeth who denied any involvement with it [20]. Similarly to Apologie ou defense which also appears to be based on English government thought and motives, both texts can be viewed as examples of English government propaganda aiming to make the manipulate the public into having negative thoughts of Mary.

Photograph 8: Sticker showing the date of acquisition.

The French translated edition also exists in multiple copies found for example in the National Library of Scotland, the British Library, and Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Of all the 26 available copies in the world, 19 of them are held by British, French and Scottish libraries, which illustrates the importance of the book in the countries that had immediate relations to Mary’s execution [21]. In addition to the copy owned by Glasgow University Library, the Hunterian Museum also holds a copy of the original English edition. Thus the broader significance of the book reflects that it was widely circulated, but mainly in the countries that would have an apparent connection to the history behind the contents of the book.

When taking into account the political context of the book, Apologie ou defense was produced in a period of turmoil and used by the English to control the effects of Mary’s execution. The audience of the book were the French public, who did react negatively to Mary’s execution. Much print was produced in France regarding Mary’s execution but it was mainly the Guises and Catholic League’s objectives to discret King Henri III of France and enhance their popularity [22]. Henri III had been cautious in his reaction towards Mary’s imprisonment and execution as he believed that diplomatic relations between England and France mattered more than Mary [23]. Considerable prints were published by anonymous writers, just as Apologie ou defense was, and buying books of anonymity was encouraged as it inspired resistance to the belief that print should not offend monarchs. These prints contributed to the French public insurgency on the Day of Barricades in 1588. Earlier examples of printed polemical texts include the Reveille-Matin book which put Mary in the centre of conspiracies and blamed her for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre as she was related to the Guises [24]. Thus, French public opinion seemed only concerned with Mary when she could be used for propaganda or linked to another event.

The tragedy of Queen Mary continues to stir excitement and interest amongst the public and historians. Scholars such as Roderick Graham use an approach of pathos and focus on Mary’s life as an accidental tragedy, where most events were not her fault [25]. His view makes Mary a bystander of her own fate which can be debatable as Mary did make a few decisions. Alternatively, it could be argued that her decisions were to remain passive which then suggests that she was a bad ruler. Jenny Wormald chooses a negative approach to describe Mary as a failure, rather than a tragedy. Wormald argued that Mary lacked an ability to rule and despite the burden of the troubles in Scotland, it did not imply that she faced greater issues than her contemporary rulers and therefore she appears to be a bad ruler [26]. In addition to the general significance of Mary as a historical figure and the recent historiography, it is also necessary to cover the contemporary opinions regarding the execution of Mary. Hence, Apologie and defense proves an important piece in understanding the motives and situation around her execution, as well as clues to Mary’s own failures. From the English point of view the Scottish Queen was executed due to her obsession with the English succession, and this led her to engage in conspiracies against Queen Elizabeth. Therefore, to the public of today, this book could be fascinating due to the exceptional story of the execution of a female monarch, whose reign consisted of failure upon failure. Popular writing and TV shows, such as ‘Reign’ which is quite historically incorrect, also sustain the public interest of Mary, and thus, a public exhibition on the Queen would indeed improve the interests in Queen Mary, and with a more accurate and fresh approach to her reign and the material surrounding it, it would benefit the public in a more suitable manner.

For the exhibition of the book, I would suggest the use of interactive learning, which should be both instructive and enjoyable, in order to appeal to a wider audience. The main theme of the interactive activity would involve ‘playing a detective’ as historians examining older books usually engage in a form of detective work. The activity would include an example of a duplicated copy of the book, which would be filled with certain clues for example in the marginalia, that together with the guide would take the ‘detective’ through different steps in deciphering the author, provenance and intention of the book. One step could cover an activity of using the ultraviolet light to highlight an erased inscription which would lead to a name of the author, which is similar to what was done in the real analysis of the book. The example of the book would not be the exact to Apologie ou defense as it needs to be stimulating, so a bit of fiction can be added such as the result of the investigation will lead to the notion that the book was original written by William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s chief advisor as a piece of propaganda. It is important though to make it clear to the public of what has been fabricated. This interactive exhibition would then be aided by a guide on a screen or by an on-site member of staff, that would advise on how to deal with the book. Furthermore, the exhibition will also feature a traditional display, which exhibits the book, preferably open on the title page. Because of the frailty of the original book it will not appear in the interactive exhibition; instead it will be shown in a display case accompanied by a plate, which includes a brief passage on the history behind the publication and provenance of the book, along with a few images of the binding and pages. Additionally, the passage supplementing the book should follow a more engaging approach that will leave the spectator thinking about the issues regarding historical interpretation. Instead of merely stating the context of the book, the passage should for example deal with the difficulties of identifying the author of a book, and thus, create a link between the passage and the interactive exhibition.

[1] John D. Staines, The Tragic Histories of Mary Queen of Scots, 1560-1690 (Surrey: Ashgate, 2009). p. 96.

[2] Alexander S. Wilkinson, Mary Queen of Scots and French Public Opinion, 1542-1600 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 100-102.

[3] T.E. Hartley (ed.), Proceedings in the Parliaments of Elizabeth I, vol. II 1584-1589 (London: Leicester University Press, 1995), pp.214-220.

[4] English Short Title Catalogue: A defence of the honorable sentence and execution of the Queene of Scots. <http://estc.bl.uk/S108326>  [accessed 22 November 2017].

[5] English Short Title Catalogue: Maurice Kyffin. <http://estc.bl.uk/S108160> [accessed 22 November 2017].

[6] Universal Short Title Catalogue, Maurice Kyffin, Apologie ou defense. <http://ustc.ac.uk/index.php/record/5986> [accessed 23 November 2017].

[7] Robert Maclean, Glasgow Incunabula Project (2012). <https://universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/glasgow-incunabula-project-update-31112/> [accessed 23 November 2017].

[8] Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Catalogue des livres de la bibliothèque des ci-devant soi-disans jésuites du Collége de Clermont, dont la vente commencera le lundi 19 mars 1764 (Paris: [s.n.], 1764).

[9] Maison professe des Jésuites, Catalogue des livres de la bibliothèque de la Maison professe des ci-devant soi-disans jésuites (Paris: [s.n.], 1763).

[10] Staines, p. 89.

[11] Paulina Kewes, ‘The earlier Elizabethan succession question revisited’, in Doubtful and dangerous: The question of succession in late Elizabethan England, ed. Susan Doran and Paulina Kewes (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), p. 34.

[12] British Armorial Bindings, Stuart, Charles, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779 – 1845) (Stamp 4). <https://armorial.library.utoronto.ca/stamps/ISTU002_s4>   [accessed 22 November 2017].

[13] Robert A. Franklin, ‘Stuart, Charles, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2015). <http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/view/article/26698>  [accessed 22 November 2017], paragraphs 4-5.

[14] Sotheby and Wilkinson, Catalogue of the valuable library of the late Right Honourable Lord Stuart de Rothesay, including many illuminated and important manuscripts (London: [s.n.], 1855).

[15] Glasgow Incunabula Project: Incunabula provenances booksellers index, Straker, William (2009). <https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/incunabula/provenancesbooksellers> [accessed 22 November 2017].

[16] Jayne Elizabeth Lewis, Mary Queen of Scots:romance and nation (London: Routledge, 1998),  p.172.

[17] University of Glasgow Special Collection, Euing Collection. <https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/specialcollections/collectionsa-z/euingcollection/#d.en.119369> [accessed 24 November 2017].

[18] George Buchanan: Ane detectioun of the duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes (London, [John Day?], [1571?]).

[19] Staines, 27.

[20] Ibid. 37.

[21] Universal Short Title Catalogue, Maurice Kyffin, Apologie ou defense

[22] Wilkinson, 127.

[23] Ibid. 62-63.

[24] Robert M.Kingdon, Myths about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, 1572-1576 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 78-79.

[25] Roderick Graham, An accidental tragedy: The life of Mary, Queen of Scots (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2008).

[26] Jenny Wormald, Mary Queen of Scots: A study in Failure (London: George Phillip, 1988), p.105.


Primary sources:

Main source: [Kyffin, Maurice], Apologie ou defense de l’honorable sentence & tres-juste execution de defuncte Marie Steuard derniere Royne d’Escosse ([S.I.], 1588).

Buchanan, George: Ane detectioun of the duinges of Marie Quene of Scottes (London, [John Day?], [1571?]).
Hartley, T.E., (ed.), Proceedings in the Parliaments of Elizabeth I, vol. II 1584-1589 (London: Leicester University Press, 1995).

Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Catalogue des livres de la bibliothèque des ci-devant soi-disans jésuites du Collége de Clermont, dont la vente commencera le lundi 19 mars 1764 (Paris: [s.n.], 1764).

Maison professe des Jésuites, Catalogue des livres de la bibliothèque de la Maison professe des ci-devant soi-disans jésuites (Paris: [s.n.], 1763).

Sotheby and Wilkinson, Catalogue of the valuable library of the late Right Honourable Lord Stuart de Rothesay, including many illuminated and important manuscripts (London: [s.n.], 1855).

Secondary sources:
British Armorial Bindings, Stuart, Charles, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779 – 1845) (Stamp 4). [accessed 22 November 2017].

CERL Thesaurus: Maurice Kyffin (-1599). [accessed 22 November 2017].

CERL Thesaurus: John Windet (1584-1611). [accessed 22 November 2017].

English Short Title Catalogue: A defence of the honorable sentence and execution of the Queene of Scots. [accessed 22 November 2017].

English Short Title Catalogue: Maurice Kyffin. [accessed 22 November 2017].

Franklin, Robert A., ‘Stuart, Charles, Baron Stuart de Rothesay (1779–1845)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2015). [accessed 22 November 2017].

Glasgow Incunabula Project: Incunabula provenances booksellers index, Straker, William (2009). [accessed 22 November 2017].

Graham, Roderick, An accidental tragedy: The life of Mary, Queen of Scots (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2008).

Kewes, Paulina, ‘The earlier Elizabethan succession question revisited’, in Doubtful and dangerous: The question of succession in late Elizabethan England, ed. Susan Doran and Paulina Kewes (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014), pp. 20-38.

Kingdon, Robert M., Myths about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, 1572-1576 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988).

Lewis, Jayne Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots: romance and nation (London: Routledge, 1998).
Maclean, Robert, Glasgow Incunabula Project (2012). [accessed 23 November 2017].

Staines, John D., The Tragic Histories of Mary Queen of Scots, 1560-1690 (Surrey: Ashgate, 2009).
Universal Short Title Catalogue, Maurice Kyffin, Apologie ou defense. [accessed 23 November 2017].

University of Glasgow Special Collection, Euing Collection. [accessed 24 November 2017].

Wilkinson, Alexander S., Mary Queen of Scots and French Public Opinion, 1542-1600 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Wormald, Jenny, Mary Queen of Scots: A study in Failure (London: George Phillip, 1988).