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Introduction to the Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland

Introduction to the Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland: FOOTNOTES

1 “Scots Abroad,” “‘My bright buke,’” and “A Medieval Scottish Elegy.”

2 Poems of William Dunbar, ed. Bawcutt, 1:100, line 1. See also Bawcutt, “Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 11.

3 Selected Poems, ed. Hadley Williams, pp. 101–08.

4 For fuller biographies of Margaret see: Barbé, Margaret of Scotland; Champion, La Dauphine Mélancolique; Champion, Louis XI, 1:99–105, 175–82; ODNB, “Margaret [Margaret of Scotland] (1424–1445).” Also see the following earlier accounts: Duclos, Histoire de Louis XI, 3:20–50; Le Roux de Lincy, Les Femmes Célèbres, 1:447–53; Villet de Viriville, Histoire de Charles VII, 3:83–90; du Fresne de Beaucourt, Histoire de Charles VII, pp. 89–111.

5 Margaret’s entry to Tours is depicted in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 2691, fol. 93r (a manuscript copy of a chronicle of Charles VII by Jean Chartier).

6 For more on the manuscripts owned and copied by Jean and his brother, Charles d’Orléans, see Ouy, “Charles d’Orléans and his Brother Jean d’Angoulême”; Ouy, La librairie des Frères Captifs. It is possible that Margaret’s father, James I, shared periods of his captivity with Charles d’Orléans.

7 Duclos, Histoire de Louis XI, 3:42–43. Translation mine. The three women named were Margaret’s female attendants, discussed in further detail below.

8 Duclos, Histoire de Louis XI, 3:44. Translation mine.

9 The manuscripts are: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MSS f. fr. 9223, nouv. acq. fr. 15771, and fr. 1719, and Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett MS 78.B.17. The printed collection is Le Jardin de Plaisance, an anthology of mid-fifteenth-century verse first published by the Parisian printer Antoine Vérard c. 1502.

10 Higgins, “Parisian Nobles,” p. 171. See also Higgins, “The ‘Other Minervas,’” and Müller, “Autour de Marguerite d’Écosse.”

11 Wingfield, “‘And He, That Did it Out of French Translait’.” See also Clariodus, ed. Irving.

12 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Dupuy 762, fol. 53. Quotation in Higgins, “Parisian Nobles,” pp. 165 and 165n65. Translation mine.

13 Les Vigiles des Morts is a 1674-line octosyllabic poem in stanzas of six lines offering a vivid and didactic paraphrase of nine lessons from the Book of Job used in the Office of the Dead. In it, de Nesson places himself very closely at the level of Job and meditates, following his Biblical and liturgical models, on the transience of earthly life and death, suffering and riches, divine providence, predestination and free will, citing along the way various authorities such as Plato, Aristotle, Ovid, Boethius, and St. Augustine and drawing graphic descriptions of death itself. See de Nesson, Les Vigiles, ed. Collet. Margaret’s copy of the poem was described as extant in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century but its present whereabouts are unknown. See Delisle, Le Cabinet des Manuscrits, 1:91; Bryce, The Scottish Grey Friars, 1:51–52, and 52n1. In the latter reference Bryce refers to a book of Job by Pierre de Nesson containing an image of Margaret. Private correspondence with the most recent editor of Les Vigiles, Alain Collet, reveals that none of the surviving 25 witnesses of the poem match Deslisle or Bryce’s descriptions of Margaret’s copy.

14 Barbé, Margaret of Scotland, pp. 168–70.

15 For the most recent identification of the poet Blosseville, see the introduction to Une nouvelle collection de poésies lyriques, ed. Inglis.

16 Rondeaux et Autres Poésies, ed. Raynaud, pp. 108–09. See also p. 72 for another poem about Margaret by Blosseville.

17 The poem is printed in Barbé, Margaret of Scotland, pp. 173–74.

18 Further discussion will appear in my forthcoming monograph, Reading and Writing Scotland’s Queens c. 1424–1587, on the texts associated with the female members of Scotland’s royal family from Princess Margaret to Mary Queen of Scots.

19 Thiry, “Recherches sur la déploration funèbre française,” 2:9–23. I am grateful to Dr. Thiry for sending me a copy of his edition and for allowing me to quote from it. My thanks also to Erika Graham-Goering of the University of York for supplying me with a translation of the French.

20 I am again grateful to Erika Graham-Goering for providing me with a transcription and translation of the second French compaint.

21 Even though no direct parallels have been established, correspondences have been detected between the Scottish poet William Dunbar and the Grands Rhétoriqueurs. See Norman, “William Dunbar: Grand Rhetoriqueur” and Bawcutt, “French Connections?” The rich internal and external rhyme of the Rhétoriqueurs is also later exhibited by the sixteenth-century Scottish poet Alexander Scott (c. 1520–82/3).

22 For example, the poet writes: Chacun en soy dung tresbien humble vueil / Morne maintien de noir, portant le dueil, / Allant venant tousjours la lerme a loeil, / Et de joye ne fair nul recueil (“it is necessary for us each to make, / with a most humble will inside them, / sad display of black, wearing mourning, / coming and going always with a tear in the eye, / and make no gathering of joy,” fol. 41r).

23 Tyson, “Lament for a Dead King,” p. 374.

24 Liber Pluscardensis, ed. Skene. All Latin quotations and translations will be from this edition. The Complaint is given in 1:382–88.

25 Scotichronicon, ed. Watt.

26 Mapstone, “Scotichronicon’s First Readers,” pp. 34–35, 48n24. Mapstone’s dating, which I here follow, is slightly later than that of R. J. Lyall who instead positions the chronicle between 1449 and 1452. See Lyall, “Politics and Poetry,” pp. 18–20 and “The Court as a Cultural Centre,” p. 29.

27 Summary Catalogue, ed. Hunt, 2:775–76. This manuscript is internally dated to 1489.

28 Van de Gheyn, Catalogue des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque royale, 7:38.

29 Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, pp. 862–63. This manuscript comprises quires of mainly twenty leaves, lettered at the beginning and end and foliated (anew for each individual book of the chronicle) in a late fifteenth- / early sixteenth-century hand. The quire containing the initial two lines of the Scots complaint contains only fourteen leaves but a gap in the early foliation reveals that the manuscript did once contain a complete copy of the poem.

30 Liber Pluscardensis, ed. Skene, 1:391; 2:291.

31 Liber Pluscardensis, ed. Skene, 1:392–400. DRP survives in two manuscripts of the LP (the aforementioned MSS F and G) but breaks off in both witnesses at line 291, suggesting that the exempla for both manuscripts were faulty. The poem also survives as one of the texts printed by Scotland’s first printers, Chepman and Myllar, and as part of Maitland Folio Manuscript (Cambridge, Magdalen College, Pepys Library, MS 2553, pp. 96–105). One stanza from the poem was also commonly excerpted and appears in other Older Scots manuscripts. See Bawcutt, “A First-Line Index of Early Scottish Verse,” pp. 259–60; “The Contents of the Bannatyne Manuscript,” p. 109. It is perhaps worth noting that John Gower, following in the tradition that King David played the harp, designates harp playing as a requirement of good kingship (Mirour de L’Omme, ed. Macaulay, lines 22873–920).

32 In his edition of the Maitland Folio Manuscript, Craigie suggested that the chronicler and author of the DRP were the same, The Maitland Folio Manuscript, 2:72–73. In her 1986 Oxford D. Phil. thesis (“The Advice to Princes Tradition in Scottish Literature”), Sally Mapstone inclined towards the same opinion (pp. 15–16, 28, 30), but she subsequently modified her opinions, as outlined below.

33 Liber Pluscardensis, ed. Skene, 1:xviii–xxiii; Barbé, Margaret of Scotland, p. 81; Mapstone, “Scotichronicon’s First Readers,” p. 48n25; Calendar of Scottish Supplications to Rome, ed. Dunlop et al. 4:110, no. 456.

34 Hay, The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour, ed. Cartwright; Brown, “‘The Stock that I am a Branch of’.”

35 Mapstone, “The Liber Pluscardensis and De Regimine Principum,” p. 18.

36 He adapted the octosyllabic mid-fifteenth-century Scots advisory poem The Thewis off Gudwomen into decasyllabic verse and included it within The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour. See Saldanha, “The Thewis of Gudwomen.”

37 For a discussion of the role played by queens and princesses as advisors in Older Scots romance see Wingfield, “The Thewis off Gudwomen.”

38 Green, “An Epitaph for Richard, Duke of York,” p. 219; Hammond et al., “The Reburial of Richard, Duke of York,” p. 130.

39 van Dussen, “Three Verse Eulogies of Anne of Bohemia.”

40 Mapstone, “Was there a Court Literature in Fifteenth-Century Scotland?,” p. 413. See also work by Lyall, who suggests that the DRP was another royal commission: “Politics and Poetry,” pp. 19–20; Lyall, “The Court as a Cultural Centre,” pp. 29–30.

41 Bawcutt, “Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 6.

42 Bawcutt, “Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 10.

43 But notwithstanding there are eighteen more stanzas of this complaint and as many of Reason’s answer, this may suffice for the complaint is but a fictional (or deceitful) thing. But because the other part, which is Reason’s answer, is the very truthfulness, it is good to put more of it, which follows hereafter.

44 Bawcutt, “Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 7.

45 John MacQueen similarly suggested that the “style, versification and subject matter [of the DRP] come very close to the moralitates of the Morall Fabillis” of Henryson and suggested “there must . . . be a reasonable possibility that it is Henryson’s work.” Although the earlier date of the DRP precludes this suggestion, it remains possible that Henryson knew the DRP, along with the LP and Complaint. See MacQueen, “The Literature of Fifteenth-Century Scotland,” pp. 202–03.

46 Marsland, “Complaint in Scotland,” pp. 168–69.

47 In the Maitland Folio MS (Cambridge, Pepys Library, MS 2553, pp. 96–105) DRP is divided into two halves, separated by a rubric. Each half contains 22 stanzas (The Maitland Folio Manuscript, ed. Craigie, 1:115–25). Mapstone (“The Liber Pluscardensis and De Regimine Principum”) nevertheless cautions against seeing this arrangement as authorial since the “balance is achieved at the expense of the exclusion of four stanzas present in DRP’s earliest witnesses.”

48 For the quotation see Martin, Kingship and Love in Scottish Poetry, p. 93.

49 It seems to have taken the scribe of all three manuscripts some time to get used to the transition from Latin prose (for the chronicle) to ten-line vernacular stanzas. The poem’s first two lines appear in MS G as “He michti ma- / kar of the major munde / quhilk reuly rollis thir hevinly regiounis rownd” and in MS B as “The michti makar of the / major mond. Quhilk reu- / li reullis thir hevynli regiouns round.” The handwriting of lines 77–80 on fols. 188ra and 167–70 on 189ra of MS F also becomes noticeably smaller as the scribe attempts to accommodate one whole stanza at the bottom of the column.

The literary significance of Margaret, daughter of James I of Scotland, was first brought to scholarly attention by Priscilla Bawcutt in a series of articles: one about three daughters of James I, co-authored with Bridget Henisch; a second on women and their books in medieval and renaissance Scotland; and a third in which she identified for the first time the French source of the Older Scots Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland (NIMEV 3430) edited here.1 This poem deserves greater critical attention, not least because of the way in which it introduces, parallels, and anticipates literary traditions better known from late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Scottish literature. From a formal perspective, it anticipates Henryson’s use of the ten-line stanza form in Orpheus and Eurydice; in terms of subject matter it anticipates William Dunbar’s elegy for the Scottish French ambassador, Lord Bernard Stewart (“Illuster Lodouick, of France most cristin king”),2 and David Lyndsay’s poem on the death of the French princess, Magdalene (first wife of James V) (The Deploration of the Deith of Quene Magdalene);3 and thematically it accords with the far broader Scottish tradition of advice on personal and public governance.


James I’s eldest daughter, Margaret (1425–45), was married at the age of eleven to the French dauphin Louis (later Louis XI) (1423–83), following a protracted set of negotiations that began in 1428.4 Margaret arrived at La Rochelle on 15 April 1436 and traveled from there, via Poitiers, to Tours, which she reached on 24 June.5 She and Louis were married in a ceremony the following day, at which Louis apparently wore a sword that had previously belonged to the Scottish king, Robert Bruce (1274–1329). Most of Margaret’s Scottish entourage departed soon after, and she was placed in the care of her mother-in-law, Queen Marie d’Anjou (1404–63). Little is known of her subsequent public role, beyond her attendance at the marriage of Margaret of Anjou (1430–82) and Henry VI (1421–71) in 1444–45, and her accompaniment of Isabelle, duchess of Burgundy (1397–1471), during the latter’s residence at the French court. Evidence also survives of Margaret’s role in a court dance, found on the flyleaf of a manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 5699) that belonged to Jean d’Orléans, Comte d’Angoulême (1399–1467), who had just returned to France after 33 years’ captivity in England.6

Despite the very good relationship she apparently had with her father- and mother-inlaw, Charles VII (1403–61) and Marie d’Anjou, Margaret’s relationship with her husband appears to have been less than cordial, and her short life in France came to a sad conclusion when she died aged only twenty on 16 August 1445. Margaret had accompanied Charles on a pilgrimage to the church and shrine of Notre-Dame de l’Epine near to Châlons, and she caught a chill from which she failed to recover. At the subsequent inquest held into her death, extremely interesting information was revealed about her wider literary activities.

The dauphin’s chamberlain, Jamet de Tillay, suggested that Margaret had fallen ill through lack of sleep, caused by the long hours she spent each night writing rondeaux and ballades:
ledit Nicole lui demanda ce qu’elle avoit, & d’où procédoit cette maladie, & il qui parle lui répondit que les Médecins disoient qu’elle avoit un courroux sur le coeur, qui lui faisoit grand dommage, & aussi que faute de repos lui nuisoit beaucoup, & lors ledit Nicole dit que lesdits Médicins lui en avoient autant dit, & aussi dit plût à Dieu qu’elle n’eût jamais eu telle femme à elle! & quelle, dit-il qui parle? & lors ledit Nicole lui répondit Marguerite de Salignac; & il qui parle, lui dit, plût à Dieu, ne aussi Prégente, ne Jeanne Filloque! requis pouquoi il dit lesdites paroles, dit pour ce qu’il avoit oüi dire, que c’étoient celles qui la faisoient trop veiller à faire rondeaux & balades.

the said Nicole asked him what was wrong with her and what caused her illness, and he [Jamet] replied that the doctors said she had such anger in her heart, which did her great harm, and also that it was made worse through lack of sleep; and then the said Nicole said that the doctors had said the same thing to him, and also said, ‘Would to God that she never had such a woman with her!’ ‘Which one’, he [Jamet] replied, and the said Nicole answered ‘Marguerite de Salignac’; and he [Jamet] added ‘Would to God, nor also Prégente, nor Jeanne Filleul!’ Asked why he said these words, he [Jamet] said that he had heard that they were the ones who made her stay up late writing rondeaux and ballades.7
Questioned further about what he had said to Charles VII concerning Margaret’s death, Jamet reported:
le Roi lui demanda, d’où procéde cette maladie? & il qui parle, lui dit qu’il venoit de faute de repos, comme disoient les Médicins, & qu’elle veilloit tant, aucunefois plus, aucunefois moins, que aucunes fois il étoit presque soleil levant avant qu’elle s’allât coucher, & que aucunefois Monseigneur le Dauphin avoit dormi un somme ou deux avant qu’elle s’allât coucher, & aucunefois s’occupoit à faire rondeaux, tellement qu’elle en faisoit aucunefois douze pour un jour, qui lui étoit chose bien contraire.

the King asked him what caused this illness and he replied that it came from a lack of sleep, as the doctors had said, and that she frequently stayed up, sometimes more, sometimes less, and that it was sometimes almost dawn before she went to bed, and sometimes the dauphin had been sleeping for an hour or two before she came to bed, and often she was busy writing rondeaux, such that she sometimes made twelve in a day, which was not good for her.8
To date, no poetic compositions by Margaret are known to survive, and it is possible that those poems reportedly written by Margaret were lost when Louis XI ordered the destruction of his wife’s papers shortly after her death. However, it is also possible, as Paula Higgins has suggested, that Margaret’s work survives without attribution alongside the known work of her female attendants and others in her literary circle. Poetry by two of the women named in the inquest as Margaret’s fellow writers (Jeanne Filleul and Marguerite de Salignac) survives alongside verse by other contemporary royal and aristocratic French women and their attendants in a series of fifteenth-century French manuscript anthologies and one early sixteenth-century printed collection,9 where some poems appear in named form and others anonymously.10 That the work of these women survives both in named and anonymous form lends hope to the idea that verse by Margaret might also survive in anonymous form, perhaps in the same manuscript and printed anthologies.

As well as writing verse, Princess Margaret also owned a number of books. I have written elsewhere about the likelihood of Margaret’s having read the recently composed French romance Cleriadus et Meliadice (c. 1440–44), which her lady-in-waiting, Prégente de Mélun, borrowed from Marie de Clèves (1426–87), the wife of Charles d’Orléans (1394–1465),11 and she is also known to have had a chest (kept by another lady-in-waiting, Annette de Cuise) which contained un livre qui parle d’amours, et de chansons et ballades, et aucunes lettres d’estat (“a book about love, with songs and ballads, and other letters of estate”).12 In addition, she owned a verse paraphrase of the Book of Job, known as Les Vigiles des Morts, written by Pierre de Nesson, the uncle of another poet and female attendant in Margaret’s circle (Jamette de Nesson),13 and we know too that she gave a richly decorated book of hours to one Abbot Nicolas Godard as security for the debt she had accrued in commissioning the founding of a chapel at Saint-Laon in Thouars, where she had hoped to be buried.14


Margaret’s death appears to have inspired an outpouring of literary grief and five complaints about Margaret — four in French and one in Scots (edited here) — are extant.

1. The first poem about her death was written by the French court poet, Blosseville,15 and appears in a manuscript anthology (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, 9223, fols. 65v–66) alongside verse by other members of Margaret’s courtly circle.16 Beginning Vous qui parlés de la beauté d’Elaine, this poem of three eight-line stanzas and a concluding quatrain, refers to Margaret by the letter ‘M’ and lauds her as superior to worthy women from the Bible and classical legend such as Helen, Judith, Polyxena, Lucrece, and Hester; at the end of each stanza, Blosseville requests: Je requier Dieu qu’il en vueille avoir l’ame (“I pray to God that he guards her soul”).

2. The next set of memorial verses concerning Margaret (beginning La très-doulce Vierge Marie) survive at the end of a parchment books of hours dated after 1455 and commissioned by Margaret’s sister, Isabella (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS lat. 1369 [p. 446]).17 Four stanzas in the voice of the deceased dauphine are framed by two initial stanzas addressing the Virgin Mary and describing Margaret’s consciousness of her impending death, and a concluding stanza in which the writer prays for the redemption of his or her own soul. In the intervening stanzas the dauphine is imagined as bidding farewell to those she knew including Le Daulphin, son loial mary (“the Dauphin, her very loyal husband”), the très-noble roy de France (“very noble king of France”), her père, roy d’Escosse (“father, king of Scotland”), Dame Isabeau, noble duchesse de Bourgoigne (“Dame Isabelle, noble duchess of Burgundy”), and her sister, duchesse de Bretaigne (“the duchess of Brittany”).

3. The next anonymous French text, known as La Complainte pour la mort de Madame Marguerite d’Escosse, daulphine de Viennoys (“Lament on the death of Madame Margaret of Scotland, dauphine of Vienne”), has up until now been thought to survive just in one manuscript, Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 3523 (pp. 461–73), but I have discovered its presence in two further manuscripts: The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 71.E.49 (fols. 335r–40v) and Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 1952 (fols. 52r–61r).18 The only modern edition of the poem (from the Arsenal manuscript) forms part of an unpublished doctoral thesis by Claude Thiry.19 It comprises 36 stanzas, each of ten octosyllabic lines, and the poem is, furthermore, formally divided into two halves. The first half of the poem represents the complaint proper. In it the speaker requests that God make the natural world weep with him (e.g., Faictes aux nues espuiser / Toutes les mers pour plourer lermes / Avecques mes yeulx; “Make the clouds empty / All the seas so as to cry tears / Alongside my eyes,” lines 2–4) and asks the same of his nation’s princes and princesses, and the Scottish royal house:
Escosse, maison triumphant,
Venez lamenter vostre enffant,
En gemissant et nuyt et jour.
Vers France, qui de dueil a tant,
Par mer venez, vous embatant,
Amener des larmes secours.

Scotland, triumphant house,
Come to mourn your child
By groaning both night and day.
Come by sea to France, which has
So much grief, hasten in
To bring the aid of tears.
(lines 61–66)
He then proceeds to document Margaret’s virtues, such as her Bonté, doulceur, grace et humblesse (“Goodness, sweetness, grace and humility,” line 71) before, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Pierre de Nesson’s Les Vigiles, crying out against Nature and Death itself. The first half of the poem then concludes and is followed by a rubric: Cy après s’ensuit la responce et consolacion de la complainte cy dessus escripte (“Hereafter follows the response and consolation to the lament written above”). In the second half of the poem the voice of reason counsels the previous speaker to accept the inevitability of death rather than rail against it, and reminds him that God did not spare even his own son from death: Dieu son propre filz n’espargna (“God did not spare his own son,” line 251). The second section of the poem ends with a final prayer for Margaret’s soul:
Si lui prions à peu de plait
Que à celle dont cy l’en recorde
Face grace et misericorde

Thus to Him we pray with few words
That to her, of whom we have remembrance,
He give grace and mercy.
(lines 358–60)
4. In its third (and latest) manuscript witness, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 1952, the Complainte pour la mort de Madame Marguerite d’Escosse, daulphine de Vennoys is prefaced by another, hitherto unknown and therefore unpublished, Complaincte de feue ma dame Marguerite Descosse, daulphine de viennoys, faicte a Chaalon en Champaigne pour son piteux trespassement (“Lament for my late lady Marguerite of Scotland, dauphine of Vienne, written at Châlons in Champagne for her sad passing,” fols. 40r–52r).20 Comprising 45 mainly ten-line stanzas, and written in the elaborate rhyming style favored by the Grands Rhétoriqueurs, such as Jean Marot and Jehan d’Auton (e.g., Hee, Dieu! quel perte / Nous est ouverte / Et descouverte, / Durement verte, “Ah, God! What a loss / is presented to us / and revealed / cruelly unripe,” fol. 41v),21 the poem anticipates the sentiments of the better-known Complainte in its call for universal mourning,22 outcry against Death, and its extended praise for and cataloguing of the princess’ virtues and physical beauty.

This second complaint’s similarities with Blosseville’s verse, the seemingly genuine expressions of grief articulated in its concluding stanzas, (Toute ma joye cest destraincte, “All my joy has vanished,” fol. 52r), and the poem’s title would suggest that it was composed in Châlons, very soon after Margaret’s death, perhaps by a member of her courtly and literary circle, and the same might well be true of the first Complainte. We know that Margaret was associated throughout her life with court administrators and servants who combined their day-to-day activities with the production of verse. As such, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that those same courtiers were prompted to express their grief for Margaret’s death in a medium they shared with her on an apparently daily basis. In her analysis of medieval French complaints for figures such as the English kings Edward I and II, Diana Tyson concluded that these “laments were emotional effusions written soon after the subjects’ deaths, without much literary pretension but with sincere feelings of sorrow and loss,” and one suspects the same is true of the complaints about Margaret of Scotland.23 Some support for this proposal is found when one analyzes the Scots language adaptation of the Complainte pour la morte de Madame Marguerite d’Escosse, edited here.


Full versions of the Older Scots Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland, survive in two manuscripts of a mid-fifteenth-century chronicle, known as the Liber Pluscardensis (LP).24 This Latin prose chronicle of the history of Scotland, based on Walter Bower’s earlier chronicle (The Scotichronicon),25 was composed by an unknown author for the abbot of Dunfermline during the 1450s and completed by 1461.26 The two manuscripts are: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Fairfax 8 (SC 3888), fols. 188ra–89va (F)27 and Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 7397 (Van de Gheyn 4628), fols. 229ra–30va (B).28 The first two lines of the poem are also found in another manuscript of the Liber Pluscardensis: Glasgow, Mitchell Library, MS 308876, fol. 248v (c. 1489–1500) (G). This manuscript is written in the same hand as the latter part of MS B, and material evidence suggests that it once contained a full copy of the Complaint.29 Although the Complaint does not appear in all six surviving manuscripts of the LP, its appearance in three suggests that it formed part of the chronicle at an early stage of its history. As such, we can narrow down its date of composition to the period after Margaret’s death and the composition of the French Complainte (c. 1445) and before the completion of the LP (sometime between the mid-1450s and 1461). Accordingly, the Complaint was written in a fifteen-year interval between 1445 and 1460.

The Complaint is the first of two vernacular poems included within book 11 of the LP. The embassy arranging Margaret’s marriage to the dauphin is first recorded in Chapter 3, after an account of James I’s execution of political enemy, Murdoch Stewart, duke of Albany; the marriage itself is narrated in Chapter 4, followed by an account of James I’s vexed relationship with the Lord of the Isles, his children (Chapter 5), English attempts to break the old alliance between France and Scotland (Chapter 6), and James I’s Siege of Roxburgh (Chapter 7). Margaret’s death is lamented in the same chapter, and then marked by the vernacular Complaint that forms Chapter 8. The murder of James I is lamented (in Latin prose) in Chapter 9, before the gruesome punishment of his murderers is detailed in Chapter 10. At the end of this chapter the chronicler regrets that Scotland has been left in the hands of a minor (the young James II). He observes, however, that Sed quia in defectu justiciae multi periunt fame, quidam siciens et esuriens justiciam quandam instruccionem ignaris judicibus in vulgari nosto compilavit (“As, however, for want of justice many perish with hunger, a certain hungerer and thirster after justice has compiled in our vernacular a lesson for ignorant judges.”)30 A Scots poem, known variously as De Regimine Principum Bonum Consilium [DRP] or “The Harp,” then concludes the chronicle. Beginning with a metaphor of a good king ruling his kingdom as a harpist successfully maintains the harmony of his harp, this poem (written during the reign of James II, and perhaps especially between 1455 and 1460) calls for reformation of the contemporary justice system and relationship of king and counsel.31

The identity of the LP’s author and authorship of the Complaint and DRP remains unknown, nor is it certain that the three texts were written by the same individual.32 The chronicler states that he spent several years in France and that he knew Joan of Arc and Margaret. Of the latter he writes: “I, who write this, saw her every day alive, playing with the king and queen of France, and going on thus for nine years” (Nam ego qui scribo haec vidi eam omni die vivam, cum rege Franciae et regina ludentem, et per novem annos sic continuantem, LP, 1:381; 2:288). The LP’s nineteenth-century editor, F. J. H. Skene, suggested that the chronicler was Maurice Buchanan, treasurer to Princess Margaret who accompanied her on her journey to France, but this theory can be discounted since Buchanan was dead by 1438.33 It is nevertheless likely that the author of the chronicle was another member of Margaret’s entourage, and the same may well be true of the Complaint and DRP’s author(s).

Rather tantalizingly, Sally Mapstone has drawn a set of parallels between the LP, DRP, and the c. 1460 Scots romance, The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour (BKA), written by Sir Gilbert Hay. Hay was in France and associated with the royal court between 1421 and 1445, and, in addition to composing the BKA from a variety of French sources, he also translated (again from predominantly French sources) the Buke of the Law of Armys, Buke of the Ordre of Knychthede, and Buke of the Gouernaunce of Princis for William Sinclair, third Earl of Orkney and first Earl of Caithness (b. after 1407, d. 1480) who himself escorted Margaret on her journey to Scotland in 1436.34 Mapstone has written that “Hay should be given serious consideration as the author of the DRP” and that “if the author of the Liber Pluscardensis was not Hay himself, he was yet someone Hay knew pretty well, since both of them would have been at the French court together.”35 Similar comments might be made about the relationship between Hay and the Complaint. Although I would not go so far as to propose Hay as the latter poem’s author, Hay’s later literary career certainly demonstrates his prowess for adapting French material into Scots, and he was also capable of adapting octosyllabic verse into decasyllabic verse.36 This is significant since, as I discuss in further detail below, the French Complainte is octosyllabic, but the Scots Complaint is broadly decasyllabic. Hay’s BKA moreover contains several episodes of complaint both in the run up to and following Alexander’s death that combine, in a manner akin to the Scots Complaint, praise and lament for the loss of a royal figure with sober reflection on the transience of earthly life and need to make a good end. After Alexander’s douzepers have each lamented his passing, for instance, Aristotle concludes:
Sen it is sua that he is tane away,
And him for duile recover we no may,
I can not sie quhat is best to do þairfoir,
Bot hald him in perpetuall memoir,
And pray to Him quhilk well is of guidnes
To tak him in His mercie and His grace. Amen.
(lines 18808–13)
This juxtaposition of complaint and counsel mirrors the dialogue of complaint and reason first found in the original French Complainte and continued in the Scots Complaint. Further such verbal and thematic correspondences between the latter Complaint and works of Sir Gilbert Hay (listed in the explanatory notes) are intriguing; whilst not enough to prove shared authorship, they nevertheless suggest that the author of the Complaint was someone perhaps not far removed from Hay, and quite possibly known to him.

The LP chronicler writes specifically about Margaret in Chapters 4 and 7. In the first chapter he recalls Margaret’s marriage to the dauphin and emphasizes both the splendor of the entourage which accompanied her to France (which was in reality considerably scaled back) and her own beauty: “she was a girl of ten, clad in splendid apparel, most costly and gorgeous, and with a fine figure and very lovely face” (LP, 2:282). In Chapter 7 he highlights the affection in which she was held by the king and queen of France, and (less accurately) by the dauphin, and suggests that “while in the bloom of youth, [she] almost ruled the king and kingdom at will by her advice, with consummate tact and wisdom; whereby she was most thoroughly beloved and trusted by the king and queen of France, and her words were listened to” (LP, 2:288). As we have seen, there is no evidence to support the assertion that Margaret played an important role in contemporary political affairs but the LP author nevertheless follows chronicle and romance narrative tradition in suggesting that Margaret fulfilled the advisory role expected of a princess or queen.37

At the end of Chapter 7, the chronicler laments that “Death, who snatches all living things equally, without distinction of persons, snatched away that lady after a short illness” (mors, quæ cuncta rapit vivencia condicione pari, absque personarum differencia, eandem dominam . . . brevi langore eripuit, LP, 2:288, 1:381) and he recalls seeing Margaret “dead and embowelled and laid in a tomb at the corner of the high altar, on the north side, in the cathedral church of the said city of Chalons, in a leaden coffin” (mortuam ac evisceratam, et in casula plumbea in ecclesia cathedrali dictæ civitatis Calonensis, ad cornu magni altaris ex parte boriali, in quadam tumba posita, LP, 2:288, 1:381). He then introduces the Scots adaptation of the French Complainte which follows in Chapter 8:
Cujus epithapium sequitur consequenter hic, quod super ejus tumbam positum fuit post mortem in lingua Gallicana; modo hic in lingua Scoticana translata, ad præceptum inclitæ memoriæ regis Jacobi secundi, fratris ejusdem dominæ. (LP, 1:382)

Here follows her epitaph, which was placed upon her tomb after her death, in the French tongue; only it is here translated into the Scottish tongue, by command of that lady’s brother, King James II. of famous memory. (LP, 2:288)
Two features of this introduction are worthy of note. Of interest first of all is the description of the poem as an “epitaph” “placed upon [Margaret’s] tomb after her death.” Such texts did exist, a prominent example being a lament on the death of Richard duke of York, father of Edward IV, who died at the battle of Wakefield in 1460. Headed in one of its three surviving manuscript witnesses, “Epitaphium Ricardi ducis Eboracensis patris Ed. 4” (London, British Library, MS Stower 1047, fol. 217r), this poem is thought to have originally been “written to be displayed on the tomb itself” or “actually hung on the hearse” where it “stayed there long enough for people to admire and copy,”38 and the same is true of surviving Latin eulogies for Anne of Bohemia (1366–94), wife of Richard II, which were originally composed in England either for or very soon after Anne’s funeral, and later brought to Prague (the place of Anne’s birth) by a Bohemian ambassador.39 The heading in the Liber Pluscardensis manuscripts would indicate that the French Complainte on Margaret of Scotland might also have been displayed near her tomb.

A second point of interest is the sequitur’s suggestion that the Scots translation of the French Complainte was the product of a royal commission from James II — if true, this would be the only concrete example of such a literary commission being made by this king.40 A rubric at the head of the poem then follows: Incipit Lamentacio domini Dalphini Francie pro morte uxoris sue, dictae Margaretae (“Here begins the Complaint of the lord Dauphin of France for the death of his wife, the said Margaret”). Here the complaint is once again positioned as being authored by a royal figure, this time Margaret’s husband, Louis, but, as Bawcutt has written, it is unlikely “that the dauphin himself composed a funeral lament for his wife,” given what we know of their strained marital relations.41 Furthermore, none of the surviving French witnesses link the original Complainte to the dauphin. It is the Scots author alone, therefore, who associates the Complaint with not one but two royal figures, thereby hinting for the first time that this poem might not function solely as a lament for Margaret’s death, but also as a more advisory piece related to broader notions of good princely governance.

The Complaint is an adaptation rather than a direct and close translation of the original French Complainte. First of all, although there are a number of instances of almost direct translation (examples listed in the explanatory notes include lines 57, 58, 63–67, 71, 207 and 212), the vast majority of the poem translates the original French text much more loosely and there are a number of unique passages, including Scotticization of the natural landscape (lines 6, 11–12). The Scots Complaint is also written in irregularly decasyllabic lines rather than the octosyllabic lines of the original French, and comprises 23 ten-line stanzas rhyming aabaabbcbc, in contrast to the 36 ten-line stanzas of the French rhyming aabaabbbcc. This same stanza form was used later in fifteenth-century Scotland by Robert Henryson for Orpheus’ “songis lamentable” upon the death of Eurydice (Orpheus and Eurydice, lines 134–81, quotation from line 184). Notable, too, is the Scottish poet’s frequent use of alliteration (e.g., lines 1–2: “Thee myti Makar of the major monde, / Quhilk reuly rollis thir hevinly regions round”), and clearly conscious verbal patterning. Examples of the latter include lines 21–23 and 24–26 with each beginning with “Ger,” “And,” and “Turn,” the similar and refrain-like concluding line(s) of the first five stanzas, the strong mid-line caesura and anaphora of line 58: “Sic is thi det, sic is thi dwyte,” directly echoing (both in sense and structure) line 236 of the original French Complainte (C’est son devoir, c’est sa nature; “It is its duty, it is its nature”), and the chiastic construction of line 93: “Fra lyff to deed, fra deed to lyff agan.” Finally, as Bawcutt first noted,42 the Scottish poet introduces a number of quasi-proverbial statements into the second half of the poem. Examples include lines 113 (“We draw to deed and deis everilk day”), 161–62 (“warldis welth is al bot vayn glory, / And warldis wysdome all bot fyne foly”), 171 (“Quhat proffyt is it with fortoun for to flyt?”), and line 200 (“Sum ar heire crouss that thaire will syt full dum”).

From a broader perspective, the Scottish poem does maintain the two-part structure of the original French but the two parts are no longer equal in length. Rather, after an initial five stanzas of complaint in which the Scots poet follows the French in calling upon a notably Scotticized natural world to weep with him (“Fill burnis, wellis, reveris and fontayns, / Baith stankis and louchis and valeis of montayns, / Of cloudis of sorow, of angger and distres,” lines 11–13), a narratorial intervention declares (rubric):
Bot nocht withstandyng thaire is mare of this lamentacioun xviii coupill, and in the ansuere of Resoune als mekill, this ma suffyce for the complant is bot fenyeit thing. Bot becaus the tother part, quhilk is the ansuere of Resoun, is verray suth-fastnes, me think it gud to put mare of it quhilk folowis thus efterwarte.43
The Scots poet therefore omits much of the first half of the French Complainte including its stanzas addressing Princes (“Princes,” line 41), Princesses (“Princesses,” line 51), and Escosse, maison triumphant (“Scotland, triumphant house,” line 61), and its six-stanza apostrophe to Death (lines 121–28). As Bawcutt has furthermore observed, the intervening comment suggests that the translator saw “‘fenyeit thing’, or poetic fiction, [as] inferior to moral and religious truth, ‘verray suthfastnes.’”44 Such an opinion notably anticipates the assessment of “feinȝeit fables” (line 1) in Henryson’s Fables and Orpheus and Eurydice and, although Henryson’s narrator ultimately champions the educational (as well as entertainment) value of fictional tales, there are indeed a number of other notable parallels (verbal, thematic, and formal) between the Complaint and Henryson’s works (listed in the textual notes). We know that the LP itself was commissioned by an abbot of Dunfermline and that two of its manuscript witnesses (including MS F) were themselves associated with Dunfermline: MS F may have been copied in Dunfermline Abbey and was certainly there by the early sixteenth century since documents relating to the abbey are copied onto its end-leaves; another manuscript, Glasgow, University Library, MS Gen. 333, was definitely copied at Dunfermline for William Scheves, Archbishop of St Andrews. As such, it is entirely possible that Henryson — schoolmaster and notary public in Dunfermline — knew both the LP and Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland.45

Whereas the first half of the Scots Complaint contains fewer stanzas than the original French, the second half contains the same number of stanzas, but it nevertheless remains a rather loose adaptation. There are, as already noted, a number of instances of direct translation, and several more instances of paraphrasing or broad correspondence (e.g., 63–67, 91–93, 94–98, 138–40, 171–73, 194–95), but these lines more often than not are introduced in a different position or context (e.g. lines 53–55, 63–67). The increased relative length of the “Ansuere of Resoun” in the Scots version also has the effect, as Rebecca Marsland has observed, of privileging “the consolatory response over the original statement of grief”; “The foreshortening of the ‘Playnt’, so that the ‘Ansuere’ and its instructional theme comprise the majority of the lament, turns the poem into an actively exemplary piece. Not only are the virtues of Princess Margaret recounted in detail, but the occasion of her death is turned into an opportunity for moral reflection and teaching.”46 Thus a notable emphasis of the second half of the poem — and one again shared by the Older Scots poet, Robert Henryson — is the comparison of rational man to beasts and contrasting of reason and sensuality (e.g., lines 63–67). The second half of the Scots poem corresponds more generally to the French original in stressing the notion of life as a pilgrimage, ineluctable nature of Death, and need to prepare for it by virtuous living, but the sentiment of certain passages (e.g., lines 171–73) is notably more Boethian than the original French, bringing to mind the notably Boethian nature of Margaret’s father’s famous poem, The Kingis Quair.

Striking too is the Complaint’s use of legal and parliamentary language: Nature is thus described as God’s “lufftenand” (line 94) and Nature and Death as God’s “diligatis” (line 99); the soul is depicted “haldyn in us as it war in presoun, / Ordant for to purvay for the parliament” (lines 143–44); earthly “lordschip[’s]” are compared to the six feet of clay each of us is allotted in death (line 156); God is said to work like a monarch through “soverayn ordinance” (line 173); the acts of Death are “alowyt . . . at the parliament” (line 196); and Margaret has “assythit Deed of all his rentis” (line 207). Such language both Scotticizes the poem by echoing the wider legal and parliamentary discourse of fifteenth-century Scotland, and also looks forward to the much denser legal and parliamentary lexis found in the vernacular poem that appears shortly after the Complaint in MSS F and M: the aforementioned De Regimine Principum. The king addressed here, but never explicitly named, is James II and, although the poem does not correspond directly to contemporary political events, it nevertheless echoes throughout parliamentary discourse from the second half of James II’s mature rule (1455–60) as it advises the young king on the need to accept wise counsel and exercise a fair system of justice. Comparable advice on good (private and public) governance is woven throughout the Scots Complaint. Thus, in the first half of the poem Death is figured (lines 30 and 61) as a tyrannical ruler offering neither mercy nor legal redress and God is depicted (as already noted) as working through lieutenants and delegates (lines 94, 99); in the DRP the king is depicted as a divinely-appointed “gouernoure” of his subjects (line 26) and counseled to ensure that those he appoints as “deputis” (line 29) are virtuous and well-qualified in the law.

The Scots Complaint also contains a notably political stanza (lines 121–30) that functions both as a complaint against the times and warning about the fall of (even just) princes:
Thair is nocht heire bot vayn and vanité,                                                                 worthlessness and futility
Baith pompe and pryd, with passand poverté,                                                             Both; pride; exceeding
Weire and invy, with cankirryt cuvatis,                                                War; envy; malignant covetousness
And every man a lord desyris to be,
Quhilk has na lest; rycht now away is he                                                   which [position] has no durability
And efter hym another soun will rys.                                                        soon after him another will rise up
Wyykkyt are welth and wourthy men perys.                                           Wicked people are wealthy; perish
A man weill syt thocht he be kyng with crowun,                                                              well set even though
And he inclinde be for to do justis,                                                                            is keen to practice justice
Thai sall never ceiss quhill at thai bryng hym doun.                                                                cease until they
This stanza — and a similar complaint against the times at lines 153–55 — both anticipates the broad thematic focus on kings as proponents of justice in the DRP and parallels the stinging attack on the ever-imminent fall of arrogant social climbers in the moralitas to Henryson’s “Wolf and the Wether.” Within the wider context of the Liber Pluscardensis, its warning about the fall of even a just monarch anticipates the death of James I that is narrated in the very next chapter of the chronicle. Here, James is presented as a paragon of virtue who nevertheless suffers a proditoriæ tradicionis, (“treacherous betrayal,” LP, 1:389; 2:289).

As already noted, it is not clear whether the author of the Complaint is the same as the author of the LP, nor is there any evidence to suggest that the Complaint and DRP share an author (despite their shared frequent use of alliteration and the fact that in a later witness the DRP appears in two symmetrical halves in a manner akin to the Complaint).47 The juxtaposition of the two vernacular poems in MSS F and G is nevertheless appropriate; in its material context, both within the LP and alongside the DRP, the Complaint functions rather more didactically than might first appear to be the case as a statement that ostensibly articulates and “synthesizes the losses of two princes” for the person of Princess Margaret whilst simultaneously pronouncing on correct self- and public governance.48


In this edition, MS F (fols. 188ra–89va) is the chosen copy-text, but on several occasions variants have been adopted from MS B, chiefly on grounds of sense. Elsewhere, there are a few instances of conjectural emendation. Line 43 provides an instance of the latter. Where I here print “Owresyle the sone with myst and with merknes,” MS F has “Owre fyle” and B “Our fil.” The “f” of both manuscripts no doubt represents scribal confusion in earlier manuscript witnesses of f and long s.

The poem here appears divided into its ten-line stanzas, as in MSS B and F;49 in those two original manuscript witnesses, horizontal lines appear after the last line of one stanza and before the first line of another, and on fol. 229v of MS B the letters “cc” for capitulum are additionally written next to each stanza in the margin. I preserve the lineation of the intervening rubric in MS F.

Punctuation in MS F is limited to a virgule at the end of the first clause in the intermediary rubric (“Bot nocht withstandyng thaire is mare of this lamentacioun xviii coupill, and in the ansuere of Resoune als mekill /”) and hair-line virgules to indicate that a space should be inserted between words or phrases miscopied by the scribe (e.g., “na/day,” line 151 and “Quha/maist” (line 158). Punctuation in MS B is also limited, but more extensive. Punctus marks and virgules appear on several occasions throughout the poem, particularly in the intermediary rubric to separate subclauses, and elsewhere to mark mid-line caesurae (e.g., lines 63, 90, 93, 146, 151, 183, 200, 202, 208). Following METS policy, modern punctuation, capitalization, and word-division are introduced in this edition. Religious words and personal pronouns referring to Christ and God are also capitalized, as is Death where it appears personified or as an abstract noun. A final e has been added to the when it is a pronoun, to distinguish it from the article (i.e., thee rather than the, as in lines 67 and 69). Thorn and yogh are represented by their modern equivalents (th and y/z), as are i/j and u/v spellings. Contractions and marks of abbreviation have been silently expanded, as have strokes appearing at the end of words (particularly those with a penultimate r) which one would normally expect to end in final e. In many fifteenth-century manuscripts such strokes are considered otiose but they here appear so distinctive as to warrant expansion. I follow Skene and MS B in inserting an i before words ending -oun where it is lacking in MS F, but do not follow Skene in transcribing the rhyming words at lines 166–69 as “detestabile,” “veriabile,” and “lamentabile”; a tilde does appear over the final letters of the latter two words but not over all three, and as such I do not supply the additional i.

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