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Written like a 'gwd' Scotswoman: Margaret Tudor's use of Scots'.


Despite the significance of her life and times as the first princess of Tudor England and later as Queen of Scots, Margaret Tudor (1489-1541) continues to occupy a precarious place in narratives of early modern Britain. In both popular and academic discussions she has generally been obscured by the grotesque shadow of her younger brother, Henry VIII, and his cronies; (2) but it was of course through Margaret - namely via her great grandson James VI and I--that the Tudor lineage was perpetuated beyond the reign of Elizabeth I, and her father Henry VITs more specific diplomatic vision of uniting the crowns of England and Scotland was realised. Nor was her life dull. She was positioned centrally in Scotland as Queen Consort to James IV during what was arguably the height of the Scottish Renaissance (c. 1503-1513), as well as twice Queen Regent during the socio-political turmoil that was to follow the Battle of Flodden in 1513 into her son, James V's minority (1513-1528). She married three times: once royally (James IV; 1502/3), once rather desperately and diplomatically (Archibald Douglas, sixth earl of Angus; 1514), and once clandestinely, seemingly out of love (Henry Stewart, originally her treasurer; 1528). Margaret is also the first queen of Scotland or England for whom more than a few scraps of writing survive in her own hand. Indeed the turbulence of Margaret's life amidst such a crucial period across borders is undoubtedly why hundreds of her letters can be found in the State Papers; the first surviving letter from her was written in 1503 and the latest dates from the year of her death. And while there is not yet any edition or handlist for her correspondence, there is a sizeable cache in the Cotton Manuscripts held at the British Library, which I will be drawing from for the current study. (3) The extent of this archival corpus is particularly inspiring for questions of historical linguistics, especially given the fact that Margaret was brought up at the early Tudor court in England, but relocated to Scotland at the age of thirteen, at a time when 'English' spoken in Scotland was first consciously marked out as the language of the Scottish nation vis-a-vis 'English' of the English nation (hereafter Scots and English, respectively; See McClure 1981 for the best discussion of the complex attitudes attached to language labels in sixteenth-century Scotland).

Historian Maria Perry suggested that Margaret 'adapted to Scottish expressions and, from the spelling of her letters, to Scottish pronunciation, since the age of thirteen' (1998: 121). Perry's linguistically non-expert suggestion was based on unspecified features, but reference to the original manuscripts confirms that much of Margaret's holograph writing does indeed reflect contemporary Scots forms. It is therefore the purpose of this essay to document the nature, and discuss the potential significance of such usage within its historical moment.

There are numerous ways the historical linguist might approach Margaret's epistolary language--e.g. as evidence for second dialect acquisition, code-switching (debatable, according to how one characterises the Scots-English distinction), or from a sociolinguistic perspective as holograph evidence for an early Tudor woman's language (of which we have relatively little compared with the period before and after Margaret's lifetime--see Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 2003:46-8). But my primary interest here lies in the socio-familial (and thus in this instance 'political') pragmatics of dialectal variation, i.e. whether or not there is any evidence for Margaret using Scots for particular communicative purposes beyond the more general point of dialect acquisition. In order to do so, I will approach Margaret's epistolary language as evidence for a written idiolect in specific pragmatic contexts. Idiolect is an object of investigation that has recently been explored by Evans in a detailed variationist study of Margaret's better-known niece, Elizabeth I's language. Evans defines idiolect as 'a (singular) linguistic system specific to an individual speaker', and goes on to state that 'the idiolectal data, it is hoped, will capture the intersection between social identity and linguistic meaning, and thus offer a new window from which to perceive and understand Elizabeth's sociolinguistic position in the sixteenth century' (2013: 2).

Such is my interest in Margaret Tudor, generally speaking. Yet unlike Evans, the qualitatively orientated discussions in the sections that follow are not directed at addressing issues of change in the context of specific features (i.e. variationist sociolinguistics), but are primarily focused on linguistic variation as a means of exploring the pragmatic possibilities of employing dialectal forms in epistolary writings across the early sixteenth-century English-Scottish border. In particular, in a period that predates standard spelling, when the languages of the English and Scottish courts not only sounded different in speech, but used different writing systems, Margaret's situation as a princess of England and Queen of Scots begs the question, to what extent did she acquire Scots forms of language into her idiolectal repertoire after moving there at the age of thirteen? And following, is it possible to ascribe communicative significance to her use, or non-use of Scots in her writing at different points in her life given the specific socio-familial and political context(s) of her writing at those junctures? In order to address these questions, the greater part of this paper will consist of a chronological series of qualitative textual analyses that explore the possible correlation between linguistic form (i.e. early modem Scots and/ or English) and pragmatic context (e.g. affiliation with England or Scotland) in letters from Margaret to the English court.

I should stress at the outset that this study is meant to serve as a preliminary investigation of Margaret Tudor's long-neglected letters. Thus in this first instance I will be limited to drawing from a mini-corpus of c.35 letters that I have diplomatically transcribed from manuscript facsimiles of the Cotton manuscripts. (4) Of course this means I will not be able to talk definitively about Margaret's language in terms of all of the evidence, but instead will be selectively discussing features in a qualitative manner. (5) This is fitting though, as my orientation is pragmatic, and a selectively qualitative method is therefore appropriate to my questions and mode of analysis. My rationale for selecting letters is based (apart from the limitations of evidence that survives, of course) on life events, and particularly Margaret's movements between Scotland and England, and her role and stance as a leader in Scotland. I will examine Margaret's first surviving letter, from Edinburgh in 1503; scribal letters from Margaret during her years as Queen Consort (1503-1513); Scots holograph letters immediately following Flodden, during her first regency; holograph letters written during and shortly following her return to the English court (1515-1517) that witness a change back to English forms; then Scots holograph letters from around the time of a significant political realignment (away from the English court, in 1519) and into her second regency (1524-1525); and finally what appears to have been a final shift back to English forms once her role as regent had ended (evidence for which survives in letters written in the 1530s) (for further summary of Margaret's life, see Eaves 2004).

Non-linguistic readings of pre-standardised languages often make the jump from writing directly to speech, but it goes without saying that historical linguists are much more cautious about 'hearing' earlier states of a language via spelling alone; and epistolary language is at best 'speech-like' (Culpeper and Kyto 2010: 17), but actually writing in a particular genre, or type of communicative space (e.g. see Williams 2013: 221). Thus, even though many of Margaret's spellings do indeed suggest significant things about her speech, I will for the most part view Margaret's language as evidence for the sociolinguistics of writing--a field which has only recently been fully articulated in modern sociolinguistics as worthy in its own right, and not just as a poor substitute for the 'holy grail' of spoken language (Lillis 2013). I will focus on spellings and lexemes that clearly evidence Margaret shifting between Scots and English forms in letters written at different points in her life. For example, words that might involve palatalisation (as evidenced in <k>/<ch> spellings of Northern English/ Scots kirk and English church) are especially telling, e.g. Margaret's English spelling of 'which' <vysche> and 'much' <mosche> versus her Scots spellings for the same, <vylke> and <mykyl>. And while I will discuss other orthographic and lexical distinctions as 1 move though the evidence, I will return to these <ch> versus <k> spellings as one of the most frequent and salient benchmarks of English versus Scots usage in Margaret's dynamic idiolect. It is hoped that by discussing the idiolectal-pragmatic connections, this evidence will also be made to speak to larger questions linked to the nature of Margaret's queenship (especially in terms of'Scottishness'), and our understanding of a crucial period in the history of Scots and English.


Unfortunately, as far as the author is aware, there are no writings that survive from Margaret before her arrival in Scotland in 1503 at the age of thirteen; and thus there is little potential for comparing writing practices before and after her original relocation. However, we are fortunate to have what is almost certainly Margaret's first letter from Scotland, written to her father King Henry VII, from Edinburgh very soon after her arrival in 1503. Given the functions of letter-writing for an early modern princess, it is likely that this was one of the first actual letters she ever sent; as Margaret's childhood (only then coming to an end) at the English court would have produced few, if any occasions for which she would have needed, or indeed been allowed to correspond on her own behalf via courtly channels of epistolary communication. Realistically, the most likely issue that would have warranted writing from an adolescent princess with a living father (Henry VII), mother (Elizabeth of York) and two brother-princes (Arthur and Henry) was her marriage arrangements. But of course this was negotiated and carried out under the strict surveillance of Henry sVII. Yet this is not to say that Margaret would have had no experience in writing before she left for Scotland. She must have had some practice in letter-writing, perhaps even specifically in preparation for her forthcoming long-distance relationship with the English court; and indeed Margaret's expletive recognition of the communicative significance of writing in one's own hand when she writes, 'for godes sak syr oulde mea escwsyd' ('for God's sake, Sir, hold me excused') because she did not write the entirety of this early letter herself assumes she had some experience--however provisional--with epistolary communication.

Approximately two-thirds of this letter was written for Margaret by a scribe, and the remainder in her own, then still relatively unpracticed hand, which reads:
   for godes sak syr oulde ['hold'] mea escwsyd that I wryt not my
   sylf to yowr grace for I hau no laysyr thys tym bot wyt a wishse I
   would I wer wyt your grace now and many tyms mor wan I wold and syr
   as for thys that I haue wrytyn to your grace yt ys wery tru bot I
   pray god I may fynd yt wel for my welef erefter ['welfare
   hereafter'] no mor to your grace at this tym bot our lord hau you
   en ys kepyng wrytyn wyt the hand of your hu[m]ble douter margaret

The scribal section was clearly written by someone from Margaret's English court train (as opposed to later scribes, who wrote for Margaret in Scots) and was most likely the chamberlain mentioned in the letter itself. Linguistically speaking, the entirety of the 1503 letter is in early Modern English as it would have been written at the Tudor court (keeping in mind there is no fully-fledged standard for English or Scots at this point; cf. Kopaczyk 2013 for Scots; and see Schaefer 2012 and Moessner 2012 for Middle and Early Modem English). And while the number of constmctions, and therefore opportunities for linguistic variation, are limited due to its relative shortness (95 words), Margaret's holograph section of text in this letter certainly does not contain any contemporary Northern features.

The content of this letter is also telling of Margaret's first communicative events at the Scottish court. She tells her father that she has been frustrated by the fact that despite his efforts to 'speak better for my part', her chamberlain has been silenced by the earl of Surrey who was then in great favor with the Scots king and 'hath such words with [her chamberlain] that he dare speak no further'. Not for the last time in her life Margaret was clearly feeling sidelined (despite the ceremonies and pageants associated with her arrival (Carpenter 2007 and 2013; Barrow 2004)). One cannot help but wonder to what extent, if any, her socio-political alienation in the early days of her arrival in a new country may have been compounded by the linguistic difference she came into contact with at the Scottish court. For example, there is clear evidence for 'h-dropping' in the holograph section of the 1503 letter (a feature occasionally, but less frequently witnessed in her later writing). Namely, we find <oulde> for 'hold', <erefter> for 'hereafter', and <ys> for 'his'. Milroy (1983) has argued that 'h-dropping' in earlier periods may have been a marker of 'more cultured speech'; but as 'h-dropping' has never been a characteristic of Scots, features such as this would have made Margaret sound different from those at her new home.


Although it is clear from later letters that Margaret's idiolect changed through the course of her teenage years (evidence for this is discussed in the following sections), there are very few letters known to survive for her between her first letter in 1503 and the Battle of Flodden in 1513. What is more is that none of those that do survive are holograph compositions, and none are in Scots or English. (7) This is unfortunate, for Margaret's decade spent as Queen Consort saw her as a celebrated figure at the center of the artistically vibrant Scottish court, queen to one of Scotland's most colorful and seemingly popular kings (see Fradenburg 1991 for court culture; and Macdougall 1989 on James IV). Holograph letters would have provided a more personal glimpse into Margaret's court experience, and also allowed for a more nuanced view on the development of her written idiolect over time. But of course the fact that this was a relatively stable period in Margaret's life would have meant fewer occasions when she would have needed to write for herself. For the most part neither kings nor queens conducted epistolary diplomacy in their own hands, and in this sense it would have been odd indeed if Margaret's letters to other European courts were holograph; thus the scribal letters written for Margaret in the 1510s are by secretaries. We know of a correspondence in Latin between Margaret and John of Denmark (there is a letter from John to Margaret in 1507, and one from Margaret to John in 1510); and there is also a Latin letter from Margaret to Ferdinand, King of Aragon in 1512. In both of these contexts, Margaret was acting as an intermediary (between John of Denmark and James IV; and then between Ferdinand, Henry VIII and James IV). Thus these epistolary networks witness Margaret's influential position as the Queen of Scots in the politics of early modern Europe, but they do not provide evidence for Margaret's acquisition of a Scots dialect alongside or instead of her original English.

Yet despite this lack of evidence, we can be fairly certain that Margaret's position in Scotland would have involved linguistic pressures to be the queenly voice of the nation (or 'realm' as she herself refers to it throughout her letters); and the fact that Margaret was surrounded by Scots speakers would have almost certainly influenced her speech, but also the (now lost) holograph writing she was undertaking at this point (Treasurer's Accounts in 1504 record what was perhaps one of Margaret's first letters to James IV (see Green 1857: 108)). From the time she arrived in Scotland Margaret would have been subject to a transformation not just ideologically, in terms of the 'arts of rule' (Fradenburg 1991), but also in a more everyday sense, linguistically as a member of a speech community whose system of communication was markedly different from that of her upbringing at the English court. Furthermore, given her relatively young age and the fact that Margaret seems to have always been in Scotland for her decade spent as Queen Consort, it would be surprising if she did not to some extent change her own system, or at least develop a new idiolect when speaking with particular groups. In other words, Margaret would have been prone to linguistic accommodation (Giles and Ogay 2006; see also Llamas et al. 2009 on present-day dialect accommodation in the Borders), wherein she would alter her own usage to become more like those Scots speakers that surrounded her at the Scottish court. Furthermore, its literary prestige in Scotland, and the overt recognition of Scots as a 'national' European language during this period (Horsbroch 1999) would have been a significant influence on Margaret's convergence with new-dialect forms. (8) Certainly its cultural currency was on par with that of English.

The first patriotic reference to Scots as distinct from English appeared just months before Flodden in Gavin Douglas's prologue to his verse translation of Virgil's Aeneid, where alongside a critique of Caxton's 'perverted' prose version in Tnglys gros' (138-39; 144-45), he explains writing his own verse version in 'our langage' (40) or 'our tung' (362), 'the langage of Scottis natioun' (103) as he 'kepand na sudron' (111; i.e. he 'keeps [uses] no Southern'; translations from Scots are here and throughout my own). Douglas's prologue has been noted as a landmark in the history of Scots, and McClure refers to it to describe how 'Scots' was at this point becoming a 'national adjective' with all the larger political and nationalistic identity implications attached to conscious usage, i.e. 'Scots is for the Scots, English for the English' (2010: 101). In such a context the usage of particular forms is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by contemporaries. And the fact that Margaret was closely affiliated with Douglas, especially via her second marriage to the Earl of Angus (Douglas's nephew), and for a time highly favored him, makes it even more unlikely that she should have been unaware of his translation of Virgil and his views on language varieties (see Emond 1988: 15-16 on Margaret's attempts at promoting Douglas in 1514).

But of course Douglas was not the first or only Scots writer to be producing literature of high prestige in the 'langage of Scottis natioun'. By the time that Margaret arrived in 1503 there were a number of Scots poets, or makars working at James IV's court, and of course writing in Scots. William Dunbar in particular wrote a substantial amount of occasional verse explicitly in honour of Margaret during her time as Queen Consort. In poems such as Dunbar's 'The Thrissill and the Rois' (celebrating the marriage of Margaret and James IV), 'Gladethe, thoue queyne' (written after the birth of Margaret's first child) and 'Blyth Aberdene' (describing the welcome pageants Margaret received upon her arrival in Aberdeen in 1511), 'Margaret becomes the instrument by which Scotland will prosper, through the injection of Tudor power and vitality into the Stewart royal line' (Honeyman 2012: 191). Margaret is: 'pleasand, cleir and quhit, / Moir blitht and bricht na is the beriale schene' ('pleasant, pure and white / More happy and bright than shining crystal'; 'Gladethe', 33-34). Elsewhere Dunbar appeals to her role as a peace-maker, and makes the 'commoun voce' of the birds from 'The Thrissill and the Rois' praise her as 'Our peax, our play, our plane felicite' ('Our peace, our delight, our true happiness'; 181). The extent to which Dunbar's occasional verse would have been read (or sung) before an audience is an intriguing question, but what is clear is that such panegyric was intended to function in participation with undeniably public pageants and interludes (Carpenter 2013). Thus Margaret was not only inundated with Scots language on a communicative, everyday level (i.e. at the Scottish court, and not the least with her husband) but powerfully nativised in the prestigious register of Scots court poetry.

And while the Stewarts may have welcomed the Tudor connection, one must also remember that the early Tudor court at which Margaret was raised was fraught with anxiety associated with the Wars of the Roses. Margaret's father was after all a usurper with very tenuous connections to any legitimated lines of the English monarchy, and his reign was plagued by public suspicion, as well as a number of subsequent usurpation plots (for a summary see Gunn 2004). Margaret's husband, on the other hand, clearly belonged to an ancient lineage of Scottish kings, and was arguably one of the most popular and charismatic Stewart kings to ever sit on the Scottish throne (again, see Macdougall 1989). Thus it is easy to imagine that Margaret would have taken on royal confidence not just, or primarily as a princess of England, but as Queen of Scots. Certainly, it is clear from letters preceding Flodden that Margaret, in conjunction with James IV, was proud in her position and confident with regard to her own honor despite Henry VIII's withholding her inheritance following the death of Henry VII. For example, in a scribal letter sent to Henry directly before Flodden Margaret writes that 'We can nocht beleve that of 30ure mynd or be 30ure command we are sa fremdly [i.e. 'unfriendly; like a stranger', Scots] delt with in oure faderis Legacy', but goes on to assure her brother that despite his shameful dealing with her 'we lak na thing; our husband is evir the langer the better to ws'. The fact that this Scots-language letter was 'Geven under oure Signete at oure Palace of Linlithgow' and employs majestic pronouns pragmatically inscribes social distance, and the overall effect is an independent stance vis-a-vis England, regardless of sibling familiarity. Clearly Margaret was entirely comfortable to have her epistolary voice represented in Scots. Furthermore, as stated earlier, early modem Scots was on par with early Modem English at this point in terms of cultural currency and prestige--e.g. both were used to produce forms of high art (especially poetry) and employed by their respective monarchs. Given this context for the sociolinguistics of writing, it is unsurprising that Margaret herself appropriated markedly Scots forms. Presumably this would have happened gradually over her decade as Queen Consort, but the holograph evidence that survives appears abruptly, almost immediately after Flodden in letters to the English court.


Margaret's position in Scotland following the death of James IV was troubled from the outset, and her first regency lasted just over a year (from September 1513-September 1514). James IV's will stipulated her regency valid only as long as she did not remarry--and she married Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, on 6 August 1514 (Emond 1988: 23). And while they were soon to become estranged, Margaret's affiliation with the Douglases (then perceived to be politically aligned with English interests --notwithstanding the preface to the Aeneid) further exacerbated other Scottish lords' animosity towards her rule. In effect, Margaret was suspiciously English, whereas many favored stronger alliance (specifically that Auld Alliance) with France as a safeguard against further English incursions. Specifically, rival factions looked to John Stewart, the second Duke of Albany as a Scot with royal blood and strong connections to the French king and court: Albany was a cousin of the late James IV, but had spent almost his entire life at the French court. One of the reasons Margaret begins writing so often in her own hand from this point onward is to do with control and the personal agency that was threatened in the context of this political rivalry. In a letter to Henry in November 1514, for example, she intimates being forced to write and/or sign letters against her wishes; so she has devised a way of encoding her subscriptions:
   giff my party aduersare counterfettes ony letteris in my name or
   giff yai compell me to write to 3u for concord ye subscripcion
   salbe bott yus Margaret R & na mare / & traist yt sic writing Is
   not my will (9)

This letter is entirely scribal, save the 'Margaret R', which Margaret herself inscribes, and then the subscription that reads '30ur louing systar Margaret R' (presumably the 'loving sister' is what is meant to signal her approval in contrast to simply 'Margaret R & na mare'). The writing is very clearly Scots, e.g. even in the short extract above we find <giff> 'if', <sal> 'shall', <sic> 'such' and vocalic spellings such as <na mare> with <a> that reflect Scots spoken realisations and would have contrasted to 'Southern' English at this point (see Macafee and Aitken 2002: '6. Phonology'); and Margaret explicitly endorses her Scots-language scribe to be writing in her own voice, or at least according to her will. But even more significant is the fact that Margaret's holograph letters from this period are also written largely in Scots.

The earliest known holograph letter from Margaret following her first in 1503 is a letter to Henry VIII in July 1514 (opening lines): (10)
   deryst brother ye kyng I recomend me to zou vyt all my hart It Is
   not vnknawne to zou yat balthasar stwerd orator to our haly ffader
   ye pape and berar heroffe has bene in Scotland yis lange tyme quham
   I hafe founde euer a specyal frende als wele be his report &
   writings to rome for me as be his gud & diligent sruice [sic] &
   labor yt he has done in yis cuntrey in labouringe for ye pece of
   bathe ye realmys to hys powere quhilk I trast now Is broht to an
   ende (11)

In many respects this letter is linguistically closer to letters written by Scots-language scribes for Margaret (as in the letter from November 1514, above) than her original letter to her father a decade previously. The characteristically Scots use of yoghs and y-thorns now predominates in places where either of Margaret's siblings, Henry VIII and Mary Tudor (Brandon), would use <y> or <s>, or <th>, respectively (for examples of Henry's spellings in manuscript facsimile see Stemmler 1988; and for Mary, Sadlack's original-spelling transcriptions (2011)). Also conspicuously Scots are the <qu> spellings for the relatives <quham> 'whom' and <quhilk> 'which' (also note for the latter the characteristically Scots use of <lk> vs. the more clearly palatal <ch> which would have been reflected in speech in the two varieties), as well as the related forms <quhen> 'when' and <quharfor> 'wherefore'. We have numerous examples of Scots <a> for English <o> (e.g. <pape> 'Pope'). Verbal inflections are also in-line with contemporary Scots usage, and inflections for the third-person which would have most likely elicited a -th ending in English court usage are written by Margaret with the Northern -s form (for quantitative data on the regional replacement of -th by -s in sixteenth-century letters, see Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg 2003: 178). She also writes the past participle ending -it in a fashion similar to her Scots scribes, e.g. <causit>. The most significant context to this letter is Margaret's first regency, her desire to rule in Scotland and (as she writes here) effect 'pece of bathe ye realmys' (again note <a>; cf. example of 'both' later on).

Although I have argued that it seems unlikely that Margaret would have been unaware that her writing practice reflected Scots language, one might also argue that much of Margaret's personal interaction with writing would have been mediated by letter bearers or ambassadors (e.g. from the English court) or by Scots-speaking members of the Scottish court who would have read any letters from England (either to her, or previously to her and James IV jointly) aloud upon reception. Indeed the practice of having letters read aloud as opposed to personal reading to oneself was very common, particularly in courtly-diplomatic contexts (Daybell 2012: 24). If this was the case, Margaret's exposure to English written forms would almost certainly have been very limited; and in some cases English writing addressed to her may have been read aloud for her hearing in Scots pronunciation. Margaret's most personal correspondence in her decade as Queen Consort presumably would have been with James IV, and possibly courtiers such as Dunbar (although no letters to/from either survive from/to Margaret) --and if these were read by Margaret herself, they would have provided exposure to Scots writing. Equally, if Margaret was proofreading writing by her scribes, she would have been reading words in her name written in Scots. In other words, it is likely that most of Margaret's post-1503 engagement with writing would have been in Scots, and in such an instance her knowledge of written forms may have been limited to the Scots ones to which she was then accustomed, and less of a stylistic choice on her part. The lack of surety here means it is difficult to attach any specific idiolectal-pragmatic significance to Margaret's use of Scots in the first post-Flodden letters (although the fact that she has clearly acquired Scots features is interesting in itself). But that she soon loses these forms following her relocation to England early in September 1516 is undeniably conspicuous, and seems to correlate with an increased effort on Margaret's part to affiliate with the English.


Whereas immediately before Flodden Margaret assumed a confident, indeed defiant epistolary stance alongside James IV and at least initially struggled to maintain some semblance of autonomy within Scotland during her first regency, following Albany's seizure of James V Margaret became set on fleeing to her brother's court in England, realising that 'the chances of her supporters in Scotland being restored to positions of power and influence were very slim' (Emond 1988: 90). The fact that she was pregnant and married to a man not of royal blood at this point also greatly disadvantaged her ability to appropriate traditionally patriarchal politics in Scotland. So she fled, and was in England from September 1516--May/June 1517. Other than delays due to her pregnancy en route, she spent most of this time at the English court. We know that she spent some of this time in the company of her brother, the king, and we also know that Henry arranged for courtly festivities in Margaret's honour (Streitberger 1984). Up until this point Margaret's closest court companions (in addition to her husband and her Scots-writing secretaries) had most likely been Scots speakers. (12) It seems that this intense reintroduction to English-speaking court culture also had some effect on her own language--at least it coincides with a markedly dramatic shift in Margaret's written performances.

As Margaret and Henry would have had direct access to one another for spoken conversations, it is unsurprising that there are no known letters from Margaret to Henry that survive from when she was at the English court. There is however a letter from Margaret to Wolsey, written during the Christmas period of 1516. The general purpose of the letter is to do with securing money for Christmas preparations (extract):
   my lorde ye knaw the tyme of crystmas Is nere and part of thngs I
   vyl nede both to me and my saruants and I trust to get part of
   monee owt of Scotland for ze may see thay ar owand mosche and sayth
   thay vyl cawse me to be payd vysche and It be not I haue s[o] gret
   vrong as Is posbyl [...] (13)

The pragmatic content is for the most part deferential and supplicatory, and Margaret frames her request with the apology T am verry sorry to put the kyngs grace to soo gret cost', while also suggesting that the main reason for requesting the money is so that she 'schuld be lyke hys syster to hys honowr' (i.e. so that she will be appropriately appareled for the holiday as becomes a sister to the King). Furthermore, the Scots features that were salient in the letter to Henry during her first regency have almost completely disappeared. Note the contrasting use of <o> in 'both' versus Margaret's Scots spelling <bathe> from the 1514 extract above. In terms of graphemes, the latter used yogh for all seven forms of the second person pronoun and the letter to Wolsey uses <y> in all but one of the fourteen instances of 'you'. The earlier letter also contained repeated occurrences of y-thorns (for 'the', 'that' and 'this', but also for 'things' spelt <yengs>) but this letter has none, and uses word-initial <th> instead. The <qu-> and <-ilk> spellings have also disappeared in this letter, and instead we find 'which' spelt <vysche>. (14) With regard to inflections, we might note 'thay ... sayth' (not Scots 'say'). And other forms which will become conspicuous next to those witnessed in Margaret's Scots letters are the five <sch-> spellings of 'shall' and 'should' (vs. Scots <s-> spellings for these words), and two instances of <mosche> 'much' (vs. Scots 'mickle', discussed below).

This newly Anglicised repertoire remained in Margaret's writing for some time after she left the English court to return to Scotland. In a holograph letter to Henry directly before her arrival back in Scotland (written from York, the 3rd of June, 1517), there is little to suggest that Margaret ever wrote in Scots (extract):
   I may thanke your grace and no nother or eells It had not bene
   bescheng your grace as hwmbly as I can now syn he [i.e. Albany]
   doth depart to loke veel apon It for my swrte and that he may not
   com to trobyl me after as my specyal trwst Is In your grace for he
   porposyth to com agan In to Scotland syr I am swr the dwke hath
   vryten to your grace how he hath orderd ewery thyng now at hys
   departyng [...] (15)

Pragmatically speaking this letter is highly affiliative while also paying respect to Henry as a superior. For example, Margaret uses the address terms Sir (familiar affiliation in the case of the king as few would have been able to address him with this form) and your grace (deferential and more generally acceptable for addressing the king). In particular, it is clear that Margaret is concerned with being perceived as using what we might refer to as her 'Englishness' for the benefit of Anglo-Scottish relations. More specifically, she asks Henry to remember their discussions when she was at Windsor earlier that year, and in all matters of negotiation for the truce, so 'the pesse myght be contynwd', to let her have information before any others, and especially before Albany--in the hopes that 'I may know be foor hym [i.e. Albany] vhan It Is contynud soo that I may haue the thanke of Scotland'. Margaret frames her requests in this letter deferentially, asking that Henry and his advisers 'not be dysplesyd for I say It not for no dysplesur to your cownsel'. She promotes intimacy by promising that, as for any information she receives, 'I vould not schw thys to non but your grace besecheng your grace to contynv good and kynde brother to me'. We might also describe the language as affiliative in that it is relatively free from Scots forms, and therefore appears to be accommodating to its addressee. For example, as in the letter to Wolsey discussed above, 'shall' is always <schal>, 'which' is <vysch>/<vysche> and 'much' <mosche>. A sustained affiliation with England is witnessed in her request in a letter of 1518/19(?) wherein she writes to her brother: 'I haf no nothar to helpe me bot you [...] I besche your grace to helpe me and to gyf me lycens to com In to your rawlme'. (16) In this way Margaret's continued use of English features in these letters coincides with her sense of insecurity and alienation in Scotland, and eventually a literal desire to return to England again.

Yet Margaret was not granted a second leave to return to England and such sentiments, and the corresponding linguistic realisations, were to change rather abruptly around 1519, in what Emond summarily, and perhaps unfairly describes as a 'logical progression of her mind to try to obtain the best of everything for herself' (1988: 233). Judgments of her behavior aside, it is clear that Margaret had been trying desperately to secure her conjunct fee via English influence, but realising this was fruitless, and then denied leave to return to the English court, she performed what might have appeared as 'an astonishing volte-face' by aligning herself with the Duke of Albany and supporting his return to Scotland, 'to the disgust of the English'(1988: 233).


Albany returned to Scotland in mid-November 1521. Upon his arrival, he and Margaret effected a 'a public indication of the new relationship' which involved a back-and-forth exchange of the keys to Edinburgh Castle (where James V was then being kept) wherein 'Albany handed the keys to Margaret, signifying that she had free disposition of the control of her son; Margaret immediately gave them back to Albany, symbolising her trust in his rule' (Emond 1988: 289-90). Margaret's new stance in defiance of English directions (e.g. instructions received in letters from her brother's advisers) is also clear in the change of pragmatic tone evidenced in letters from the period. Thus in a letter written by Margaret in Edinburgh, December 1521, she tells Henry how Albany has come (and unlike her English connections in the past) 'vol cawse me to be obayd and answard of my lyfeng'. Here Margaret confidently positions herself as the key to Scotland (extract):
   I beseke you to axsept the gwd mynd and vyll that the dwke of
   albany gowamar of thys rawlme hath toward your grace and that I may
   labor a gwd and loweng vay betwxt you vylke vald be to my gret
   honowr and I trast salbe to your plesur for thys rawlme may be be
   [sic] ryght stedabyl to you as I trast It sal be and It be your
   plesur and otharvays It volbe ryght effe to me and troblos
   consyderng the tene of them Is my brothar and the tothar Is my son
   and therfor I beseke your grace to pardon me that I vryt so playnly
   for It toches me rght nere and be ther not kyndnes betwxt your
   grace and the sayd dwke of albany It volbe gret ocasyon to hym to
   tret me tho var [i.e. 'worse afterwards'] vylke I trast ze vol
   neuer dw to me your systar (17)

Markedly Scots spellings here include the <w> in <gwd> 'good' and <dwke>, as well as the <a> in <gowamar>. This extract also evidences Margaret's wholesale shift from the English <sch/sh-> forms for 'shall' back to Scots <s-> spellings (seen also in <suld> for 'should' elsewhere in this letter) as well as her reversion to the Scots pre-palatalised spellings for 'which' and 'beseech'. Also significant in this period into her second regency is the use of clearly Scots lexemes--e.g. 'steadable' in the extract above, as well as the phrase 'tho var', which employs Scots adverbial tho ('then'; 'afterwards') and adjectival var ('cruelly'; 'worse'). The -th inflection on 'hath' may be to do with the fact that it is a frequent grammatical word, and would have been reproduced in a formulaic fashion--and in the same extract Margaret also writes 'It toches' with Scots -s. Indeed hath and doth remain in English until the late Modern period, and are described by Nevalainen and Raumolin-Brunberg as 'the most resistant forms' in the change from -th to -s endings (2003: 67). (18)

This change back towards Scottish usage continues; indeed the most strikingly thorough use of Scots forms appear in letters written during, or closely around the time of Margaret's second regency in Scotland (i.e. June 1524--February 1525). The tone of these letters is in the large notably more confident and less supplicatory (especially in letters to Henry VIII); and Margaret herself often qualifies her more direct and forthright usage through superficial apologies for writing 'plainly' (as also seen in the letter extract directly above). At this point Margaret had severed her previous alliance with Albany (which only lasted a number of months in the end) as it had become clear he was fixed on going to war with England--a course of action Margaret never promoted. Yet her independence and sense of personal agency remains--now in a high position of officiated power as Queen Regent (again). She is certainly unambiguous in a letter to Henry in June 1524 (extracts):
   vhat dolor and dysplesyr I swfar and has tholyt ['tholed'; i.e.
   'suffered'] thraw the veer ryngand ['war reigning'] betwxt your
   grace and the kyng my son sen the begyng of the sam as I schulde
   haf vylke Is mothar to the eer [sic] and systar to the tohar
   ['other'] your grace may consydar vhat dyscontentyng and dyspleswr
   It Is to me to se syk gret sclawhtars brynyngs herschipys and
   othars In estymabyls sketh ['such great slaughters, burnings,
   hardships and other inestimable harms'] as ar dayly dwn on the
   subgets of beth the rawlmys and as to me your grace and thay that
   has atorykte ['authority'] and gydyng onder the sam may wel
   consydur and knaw gyff I as sche that schuld be medyatryce In thyr
   matars vald at all tymes hafe stopyd and pwt remed ther In tyl as
   far as I myght [...] vyth helpe of god I myght labor an gwd end of
   pece to be had betwxt thyr tway rawlmes vylke vol be gret plesur to
   god and to my gret honowor that Is your systar that your grace vald
   dw se mykyl for me and for the wel of the kyng my son [...] lat me
   knaw your mynd vyth gret dylegens for the langar delay and the mar
   trobyl thar Is It voll be the var to stanche (19)

Even in the short extract above the Scots element of Margaret's writing is markedly clear. For example, we find a continued preponderance of 'non-palatalised' spellings in <syk>, <beseke> and <vylke>, as well as the related <mykyl> as opposed to Margaret's use of <mosche> evidenced in her more English letters. She also uses <tway> for 'two', <tyl> for prepositional 'to', and employs the Northern/Scots <sketh> 'harm'. The plural marking on the modifier in 'others inestimables' is also a notable Scots feature. And, like Margaret's scribe in 1514 (discussed previously), vocalic spellings with <a> in words such as 'more' and 'long' suggest influence from the Scots unrounded pronunciation in these contexts. Other examples that evidence this trend around the time of Margaret's second regency include lexical items such as 'allutterly' ('wholly'), 'bam' ('child') and the verb 'ken' (e.g. 'It Is wel kend ovr all thyz rawlme', 1524). We also find morpho-syntactic evidence for the Northern Subject Rule, particularly in the second regency years: e.g. from above, 'I swfar and has tholyt' ('I has suffered') and 'thay that has atorykte' ('they that has authority').

In conjunction with linguistic form, the pragmatic stance at this time contrasts to previous stances performed in her letters to Henry. Now Margaret is making an effort to orientate others' perceptions of her as the Queen of Scots at the center of Scottish government and influence next to her son, James V (whereas in previous letters she felt sidelined in Scotland and begged Henry to let her return to the English court). It is also worth considering the possibility of Margaret's memory of Albany's sociolinguistic position in Scotland, as his previous position of power would have been complicated by his lack of knowledge of not just Scottish customs, but also 'the language of the nation' (see Emond 1988: 49). In this sense, we might speculate on the distinct advantage Margaret would have had in speaking for Scotland in that it seems she was capable of doing so in Scots. In earlier periods we might not have made much of such linguistic detail, however, given the context of Scots at this point becoming recognised as the language of the nation, such a dismissal would seem to miss something potentially quite important. This I think is especially true if we consider letters as highly public documents which although perhaps having a single addressor and addressee often had a much wider audience, particularly in courtly contexts. In this sense, by adopting Scots in her letters, Margaret was linguistically signaling her appropriateness in ruling (here to an English audience, and any Scots ambassadors, bearers or interceptors privy to the content of her letters). In other words, it seems likely that Margaret's own consciousness of 'Scots for the Scots' would have been influenced by experience not just with Scots courtly life and literature, but also observances and possibly even discussions regarding the importance of language in the arts of rule. Certainly such conscious reflection, or at least subconscious recognition on Margaret's part would go some way towards explaining the significant increase in the regularity of Scots spellings and vocabulary in letters written during the 1520s, and especially in the second regency year(s).

One argument against the pragmatic significance of Margaret's increased use of Scots is that it might be attributable merely to the fact that Margaret was in Scotland during this time, and that this would have affected her writing practice. However, this seems unlikely if we consider the way in which the uptake of Scots features is markedly close to her original 'volte-face' in 1519, and that the 'Scottishness' of her written idiolect is most apparent during her first and second regencies. Furthermore, a brief examination of her post-regency letters (which begin to appear in the Cotton manuscripts in the 1530s) reveals that once again, as we saw upon her return to England, the Scots features lessen in favor of English forms and usages. And again, a change in written idiolect coincides with pragmatic stance; for example in a letter to Henry in 1537 (extract):
   ryght excelent hy and myhty prynce and my deryst brothar the kyng I
   recommand me In my most humbyl and hartly mannar to your grace vhom
   plesyth to vyt I haue resayved your hartly and lufeng vryteng vy'
   credens sent to me vy' your gracys socret sarwand raff sadlar the
   vysche Is gretly to my comfort that grace standeth In so good mynde
   towart me your systar [...]

      I prayd your grace that ye void byd my lord secretar that he dyd
   noht lat no scotyssman vyt of any matars consamyng me and for thys
   cavse your grace schal vyt that mastar adam [ottarbams] sayd to Me
   that my lord secretar had hym say to me that vhare I desyrd to com
   In the ravlme of Ingland that vy' owt good vyl and consent of the
   kyng my sun that I schwld not com thayr and herfor deryst brothar I
   thoutht It ryht strange that ony scotyesman schwld know bot that I
   var velcom vhan I desyrd to com [...] (20)

The highly conventionalised deference in the opening section, in which Henry is 'right excellent high and mighty prince' before 'dearest brother' is absent from earlier letters, and clearly formulates Henry in the superior position. And again we see how Margaret (having now surrendered power in Scotland to her son, James V) writes of her desire to return to England. Likewise, Scots forms are much less frequent, and (as witnessed in the extracts above) most of the text is markedly more English--e.g. <vysche>, <schal>/<schwld>, <good>, and frequent employment of the -th inflection. Given that she remained in Scotland following the end of her second regency, and the fact that Scots continued in written correspondence even after Margaret's death (from others; e.g. in letters to Margaret's daughter-in-law, Mary de Guise, and in the correspondence of Margaret's granddaughter, Mary Queen of Scots (see Smith 2012 for linguistically annotated examples)) there is little internal explanation for Margaret's repeated shift in usage.


For this paper, I have limited myself to a sampling of Margaret's letters, but a more quantitatively robust study would help to make the conclusion suggested here more convincing. Furthermore, Margaret's life was, to the say the least, complicated in terms of shifts in the political climate and her affiliation with particular places and individuals. Again, for this paper I have only briefly discussed a few of the more significant events in her life in order to assess how her idiolectal variation may have been linked to the socio-political and pragmatic context of her writing. Thus the present study has not definitively answered why Margaret used Scots--indeed any definitive or simple answer to such a question is not possible. But assuming there is a why, what this study has shown is that the how and when of Margaret's use of Scots suggests: 1) That she did significantly change her writing system after her arrival in Scotland in 1503, but 2) the extent to which she used Scots varied greatly and in conjunction with life events tied to her queenship and socio-political position.

Following this preliminary investigation, 1 would argue that Margaret's use of Scots, or, probably more accurately, varied incorporation of Scots features in her writing system (and probably her speech) would have reflected her experience not just as any individual moving across dialectal boundaries, but specifically as a late medieval/early modern queen writing, and sometimes moving physically across what is today the most significant isogloss in Britain (see e.g. Aitken 1992). In one of the most detailed studies of the 'arts of rule' in Margaret and James IV's Scotland, Louise Fradenburg (1991) has described Margaret's coming to Scotland as being not just a transference, but most importantly a transformation of the ruling court identities represented by Queen Margaret, first Tudor princess of England, and her husband, King of Scots. Such a transformation was intended as public communication of rule with an eye on the future, full of peace and also the power that came with union--so goes the iconography expressed in the more commonly recognised arts of rule: wedding pageants, split coats of arms, court poetry, and in Margaret's illuminated Book of Hours. Given past scholars' non-linguistic interests and their often only partial engagement with the manuscript letters, it is perhaps not surprising that previous studies have not addressed what is undoubtedly one of the most significant public displays of identity: language, and any 'transformations' thereof.

When Margaret was asked back to Scotland after fleeing to England in 1515, it was stipulated that 'she will return and come in Scotland, and be a good Scottish woman, as accords her to do' (from Green 1857: 219). Save any forthcoming discoveries of meta-linguistic evidence, wherein Margaret or a contemporary comments on her language use (which is, given the early stages of this research, still a possibility), we will never know to what extent she was consciously making linguistic choices to represent herself as a 'gwd' Scotswoman and/or 'good' Tudor princess. Having said that, given the context of what was happening in terms of the politico-linguistic situation, it seems highly unlikely that Margaret would have been unaware of her language, or its potential for socio-political interpretation. Throughout her life Margaret would have been intensely aware of the message she was sending via expressions of her identity, including her linguistic one; and as we have seen, this involved Scots at a time when the significance of Scots first came to the fore as the Tangage of the nacioun'.


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(1) Thanks to Dr. Joanna Kopaczyk, Dr. Chris Montgomery, and the anonymous reviewer for their comments on an earlier version of this article.

(2) The most recent full-length study devoted solely to Margaret is Buchanan (1985); but this is for the most part a poorly referenced reiteration of nineteenth-century biographies. Green (1857) remains the most useful (in terms of manuscript sources and referencing), although its perspective is typically Victorian and moralistic in focus, which leads to what we would now deem to be largely unacademic discussions of Margaret's temperament, her motherhood, etc. Strickland (1850) is similarly dated. Treatments of Margaret can be found in Chapman (1969) and Perry (1998), but both of these are framed around narratives of Henry VIII. A revisionist account of 'Margaret Tudor and the Historians' can be found in Fradenburg (1998). What has been written on Margaret in the last few decades is primarily to do with the marriage festivities in 1503 (e.g. Carpenter 2007 and 2013; Honeyman 2012; Barrow 2004).

(3) Elizabeth Helen Newsome is currently creating a diplomatic edition of Margaret Tudor's letters as part of her doctoral dissertation in the School of English at the University of Sheffield.

(4) In particular, most of Margaret's letters can be found in Cotton Caligula mss. BI, BII and BVI.

(5) Future research into Margaret's usage might be put into the context of research in the From Inglis to Scots (FITS) project currently underway at University of Edinburgh

(6) British Library, MS Cotton Vespasian F.xiii.61

(7) Given the fact that there is no handlist for Margaret's manuscript letters, and no edition or recent biography devoted solely to her, it is entirely plausible that there are caches of Margaret's letters that have survived, but are up to this point obscure and unknown to previous writers, as well as to the current author. Newsome's forthcoming edition (see footnote 3) will remedy this.

(8) Trudgill (2004: 113) has argued that in situations of mutually intelligible dialect contact, minority speakers converge towards majority forms; in which case Margaret would be expected to converge with Scots speakers when she moved there in 1503. However, this explanation remains somewhat controversial in sociolinguistics and does not fully account for the type of conscious, pragmatic agency I will be arguing for later on.

(9) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula B.i.164

(10) The BL calendar suggests 1517 as the date for this letter, but considering that the content makes it clear that it was written in Scotland when Balthazar was present, it must have been written before September 1514 (when Margaret fled to England). The linguistic evidence strongly supports this.

(11) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula

(12) It would seem that some of Margaret's original ladies (from 1503) did remain in Scotland, but how long they did so and what their positions were thereafter are questions that have not been pursued here.

(13) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula B.ii.283

(14) Arguably the initial <v> for<w> is more typically Scots at this point in general orthographic practice, but the new spelling remains undeniably less marked that Margaret's previous <quhilk>; and <v> spellings for 'which' are attested in Southern varieties of Middle English.

(15) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula B.ii.278

(16) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula B.i.232

(17) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula B.i.187

(18) Margaret's use of the -th verbal inflection varies, but remains present to some extent throughout her life. Interestingly, however, her syntactic knowledge of its use deteriorates in the later letters, wherein we find its employment attached to the first and second person. I have been unable to locate such usage elsewhere in period letters (e.g. in the Parsed Corpus of Early English Correspondence) but Margaret's 'error' strongly suggests she was not in regular contact with English speakers. I would suggest that Margaret perhaps perceived this as a marker of register more than of dialect. Such employment is evidenced throughout James I's much earlier Kingis Quair, but is absent from the writing of Dunbar--save the imperative in the 'Gladethe thoue queyne' poem.

(19) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula B.i.174

(20) British Library, MS Cotton Caligula B.i.160b

Graham Williams

University of Sheffield
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Date:Jan 1, 2016
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