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CELTIC-L  July 1993

CELTIC-L July 1993

Subject:

Scots/Languages spoken by Scottish monarchs

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Mon, 12 Jul 93 15:28:54 GMT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (103 lines)

I'm posting the following *very long* excerpts to ALBION and CELTIC because, I
must confess, I have forgotten which list was discussing what.
 
On 6-JUL-1993 Chip Clark ([log in to unmask]) wrote:
 
>What about the Scottish Monarch's - Mary obviously spoke French as that's
>where she spent most of her childhood.  James the IV was educated in England
>as was James the V but did they speak English, French, Gaelic or Scots?
>I did read this weekend that James the IV was fairly educated before the
>Renaissance hit Scotland and could speak Gaelic - but what was the language
>of the court?
 
_The Lion of the North_ by John Prebble (Penguin 1977, 1981):
      "By the year of Malcolm Canmore's accession [1057] all Alba probably
spoke a coalescence of Gaelic and Pictish, with the former largely
predominating, and it was slowly replacing the original tongue of the
Scandinavian settlers in the north and the isles.  It was spoken in
Strathclyde too, among the Gallgaels and Alban settlers, to be fused with
Cumbrian Welsh and surviving into the last century as a philologist's
curiosity.  But the Northumbrian rulers of Lothian, the settlers of the
eastern Lowlands, spoke an English that would soon become the language of
Scotland and its kings.  Gaelic would be left to the mountain people, a
barrier between them and the south, jealously preserved for as long as they
inhabited their hills.  The Scots of Dalriada gave the land its name and its
kings, the spirit of its history and the substance of its dreams, but their
language would die with them." (pp. 29-30)
 
_The Royal House of Scotland_ by Eric Linklater (Sphere Books, 1972):
"Two cultures existed in Scotland, separated from each other by frowning
hills, stormy seas and the Gaelic tongue." (p. 50)
 
      "But when [James IV] resolved to face in the west a persistent danger,
and resolve a recurrent problem [unrest in the Isles], he made a bold decision
and undertook a major work.  In his favour was the fact that he was the sort
of man whom the islanders were inclined both to like and respect.  He was a
gallant figure--lively and strong and recklessly brave--and he spoke Gaelic:
not very much, it is probable, but enough to impress the outlying clans who,
since the days of Robert the Bruce, had seen no Scottish king in their stormy
seas.  But despite his gifts of learning and nature, James, in the next six
years, had to make as many visits to the truculent subjects whom he flattered
by his acquisition of a few words of Gaelic." (p. 53)
 
Erasmus, who tutored James IV's natural son, Alexander (later became
Archbishop of St. Andrews and died with his father at Flodden), said of the
James IV.  "He had a wonderful intellectual power, an astonishing knowledge of
everything, an unconquerable magnanimity, and the most abundant generosity."
(p. 46)
 
_Mary, Queen of Scots_ by Antonia Fraser (Delacorte Press, 1969):
"...Mary was able to express her pleasure [on returning to Scotland in 1561]
to her subjects in their own language, for she had not lost her Scots despite
the thirteen years spent in France.  On her arrival in France as a child, she
had indeed been able to speak nothing else, but she soon, by all accounts,
learnt to speak French as well as a Frenchwoman, and it was the language which
she habitually wrote and presumably thought in.  Nevertheless the presence of
Scots attendants such as Lady Fleming, her nurse Jean Sinclair or even the
Maries must have enable Mary to practise her Scots...Although Mary's Scots
letters show that she never became fluent in the written language, Knox's
history confirms the fact that she was able to converse freely and
colloquially in Scots from the time of her first arrival in the country." (p
150.)
 
      "In the 16th century the Scots language (as opposed to the Highland
Gaelic, which Mary did not speak, since there was no way for her to have
learnt it) was generally thought of a being about as different from English as
two dialects of the same language: the difference was variously compared to
that between Aragonese and Castillian, or the respective dialects spoken in
Normandy and Picardy.  As one authority puts it, 'any intercepted letter [in
Scots]...could be read by an educated Englishman (although today of course the
transcription of documents in this language presents considerable
difficulties).  Mary only spoke English very limpingly before the period of
her captivity, but was able to learn it quickly then." (p 150, footnote.)
 
I surmise from all this that Scots was the language of the court of the
Scottish kings (not French during Mary's reign as I suggested).  James IV and
James V probably spoke French, James IV having initiated the embassy to the
French and James V having had two French wives.  Chip is probably right in
suggesting that the Scots nobles spoke or understood French considering the
close Franco-Scottish ties.
 
>I am picking up a copy of QMary's poetry (probably a translation, but) it
>should have some information about how she thought and what the original
>language was.
 
Please send more information! (title, publisher, etc.)
 
>In ref: to the casket letters (which I would love to get a copy of BTW) what
>language were they originally written in?
 
My source for the Casket Letters is _Mary, Queen of Scots_ by Antonia Fraser
(chap. 20)
 
On 24-JUN-1993 Denise Inglis ([log in to unmask]) wrote on CELTIC-L:
 
>All of the 8 or so letters were originally written in French and then later
>translated into English or Scots by various clerks.  In the appendix of
>Antonia Fraser's book there is the English and Scottish version of the
>second letter:
 
Denise Inglis
[log in to unmask]
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