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” existing “at the heart of government in Scotland”. 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, 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. Phillips was a zealous supporter of Queen Mary hence his name signed on the Treatise was not unbelievable.
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” 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.
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. Besides this decoration, the work as a whole is rather plain.
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 Aberdeen “following a purge of Catholic staff by the Earl of Moray” in 1569. He was entrusted to implement reforms at the University; being a zealous protestant and former student at St. Andrews and Bourges, 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.
Despite the expectation on Arbuthnott, no comprehensive plan to instigate reform at Aberdeen University was drafted until 1582, 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.” 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” to defend Queen Mary and the Catholic Church.
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 host other copies in Britain. Outside this, the Treatise exists in five European countries and in seven countries worldwide.
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.” 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 two years later.
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; 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. 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.
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” 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” 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.” 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” 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.” 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”, “the publication was prevented”. Leslie “aborted (his) attempt to publish in England (and did so in Liege which) would account for the year’s discrepancy.” 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.” 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.”
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. 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.” 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. 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”, 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.”
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.” 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” 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.” 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.” 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.”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
 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.
Margaret J. Beckett, ‘The Political Works of John Lesley, Bishop of Ross (1527-96)’, Scottish History Theses (2002), p. ‘abstract’.
 Beckett, p.100.
 David Pearson, English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800: A Handbook (Oak Knoll Press, 2005), p. 126.
David Stevenson, King’s College Aberdeen, 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution (Aberdeen University Press, 1990), p.25.
Steven Reid, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560-1625 (Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2001), p.95.
Sir Sidney Lee, Dictionary of National Biography, index and epitome (Elder Smith, 1903), p.27.
 John Durkan and Anthony Ross, Early Scottish Libraries (J.S. Burns, 1961), p.72.
 Stevenson, p.30.
 Beckett, p.257.
 English Short Title Catalogue, ‘John Leslie A Treatise concerning the defence of the honour of… Marie’.
 Worldcat Libraries Database, ‘John Leslie ‘A Treatise concerning the defence of the honour of… Marie’.
 Beckett, p. 62.
Ibid, p. 59.
 Beckett, p.58.
 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.
 Coles, p.278.
 Ibid, p.280.
 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.
 Ibid, p. 27.
 Beckett, p. 62.
 Coles, p. 273.
 Ibid, p. 278.
 Beckett, p. 88.
 Ibid, p.61.
 Ibid, p.142.
 Anderson, p. x.
 Beckett, p. 92.
 Ibid, p. 92.
 Ibid, p. 254.
 Ibid, p.252.
 Ibid, p.59.
 ‘The Royal Palace’, Sterling Castle, [https://www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk/discover/highlights/the-royal-palace/] accessed 13.11.2017.