Scots, A Masque of

Anon. (1604)

Historical Records


Correspondence of Dudley Carleton

15 January 1604. To John Chamberlain.

The twelfe-day the French Ambassador was feasted publikely; and at night there was a play in the Queen's presence, with a masquerado of certaine Scotchmen who came in with a sword dance, not vnlike a matachin, and performed it clenly.
(The National Archives, SP 14/6, f. 53v; cf. Lee 54)

Correspondence of Arbella Stuart

18 December 1603. To Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.

The Queene intendeth to make a mask this Christmas to which end my Lady of Suffolk and my Lady Walsingham have warrants to take of the late Queenes best apparell out of the Tower at theyr discretion[.] Certein Noblemen (whom I may not yet name to you because somm of them have made me of theyr counsell) intend another. Certein gentlemen of good sort an other.
(Steen 197, citing Longleat House, Talbot Papers, Original Letters 2, fols. 210–11)

10 January 1604. To Gilbert Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.

This bearer having leave for a short time to visit the north, and not giving me time sufficient to write the description of the .3. maskes besides 2 playes plaid before the prince since my last advertisement of these serious affaires, I must beseech your Lordship to pardon the shortnesse of my letter…
(Steen 200, citing Longleat House, Talbot Papers, Original Letters 2, fols. 216-17)

Correspondence of Juan de Tassis, Conde de Villamediana

20 January 1604. To Philip III.

In sum, to give the said ambassador some satisfaction it was resolved to invite him for lunch on the day of Epiphany, which was held at midday in public, with the same ceremony as had been accorded me, though some things were missing, such as the guard, which was all in order and formation the day of my invitation. He also stayed to dine with the King and Queen in private to watch some sword players, but not being satisfied with all this he was constantly trying and urging to be included in the Queen’s masque; but as she had made up her mind and decided she would give it but for me, his efforts were in vain.
(Cano-Echevarría and Hutchings 247, citing Archivo General, Simancas, document E 842, fols. 147–50)

The French ambassador Christophe de Harlay, Sieur de Beaumont, had objected to his exclusion from the Queen's masque, Samuel Daniel's The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, which was originally set to be performed on 6 January. Beaumont believed that Twelfth Night was traditionally reserved for the greatest entertainments and thus to attend them represented the season's highest honor; he objected that the Spanish ambassador alone was to receive the privilege of attending the January 6 festivities. As a result, the performance of the Vision was delayed and the "Masque of Scots" substituted to appease Beaumont.

Correspondence of Christophe de Harlay, Sieur de Beaumont

23 January 1604. To Henry IV.

et ainsy je mangeay avec luy [i.e. James], la Reine et Monsieur le Prince de Galles courus la Bagne apres diné assisté tout le soir a vn Ballet d'ecossois et au festin de confitures.
(Sullivan 14n, quoting British Library, MS Kings 124, fol. 706. Cf. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Français 3505, fol. 13v)


Journal of Sir Roger Wilbraham

The first Christmas of worthy king James was at his court at Hampton Ao 1603: wher the French, Spanish & Polonian Ambassadors were severallie solemplie feasted: manie plaies & daunces with swordes: one mask by English & Scottish lords: another by the Queen's Maiestie & eleven more ladies of her chamber presenting giftes as goddesses. These maskes, especialli the laste, costes 2000 or 3000l, the aparalls: rare musick, fine songes: & in iewels most riche 20000l, the lest to my iudgment…
(Scott 66)

The original manuscript of Wilbraham's journal may have been destroyed when Lathom House was demolished (Hartley xxvii).

Extant Music?

Two manuscript partbooks transcribed by Nicholas L'Estrange include music for "Hampton Court Masque" (British Library, MS Additional 10444, fols. 23r [treble], 76r [bass]). The music is normally attributed to The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, although it may just as likely have been performed for either the present masque or the "Masque of the Knights of India and China."

Theatrical Provenance

Performed at Hampton Court on 6 January 1604 by "[c]ertein gentlemen of good sort" before an audience that included the King, Queen, and the French ambassador Christophe de Harlay, Sieur de Beaumont. It was preceded by a play, although apparently not one performed by a professional company. The performance represented a last-minute substitution for Samuel Daniel's The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses, which was rescheduled to avoid upsetting the French ambassador.

Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

Scottish sword dances were a traditional form of seasonal entertainment, although the performance reminded Carleton of the English matachin, which was sometimes associated with the morris dance. In both Scotland and England, there were precedents for sword dances appearing in royal entertainments. In 1590, a sword dance was performed in Edinburgh as part of the festivities to welcome Queen Anna; the dance was performed by twelve men who wore white shoes and hats ornamented with flowers (Emmerson 58). In England, Lord Strange's servants performed a matachin for Queen Elizabeth on New Year's Day 1583, and a four-person matachin was included in "Phyllida and Corin," performed for Queen Elizabeth on 26 December 1584 (Feuillerat 349, 365). In later entertainments, Jonson may have incorporated a sword dance into The Haddington Masque: while Jonson's published text describes a "subtle capricious dance," John Chamberlain's description of the event specifies that Cupid "with his companions Lusus risus and Iocus, and fowre or fiue waggs more were dauncing a matachina and acted yt very antiquely" (National Archives, SP 14/31, fol. 97r; cf. McClure 1:255). In Webster's The White Devil (1612), when Lodovico enters with the line "We haue brought you a Maske," Flaminio replies "A matachine it seems, By your drawne swords" (L4v).

In perhaps the closest analogue extant text to the "Masque of Scots," John Clavell (whose The Soldered Citizen was performed by the King's Men) wrote "An introduction to the Sword daunce at Christmas 1632" to be performed at the Earl of Barrymore's household in Ireland (Fletcher 310–13, transcribing Clavell's holograph in Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, 865/502). In Clavell's masque, a terrified Peace rushes in to seek protection of the Countess and is soon confronted by "the Maskers for the sword dance" whose strength Peace has stolen. They are about to attack her in retribution when Mars intervenes for her protection and, after ushering Peace offstage, leads the dance:

Here Mars leades on the sword dance into which they all ioyne that finished Mars goes upp to the cheife Lady layes his Sourd att her feete and takes her out to dance The rest follow by his example laying poynt to hilt, hauing dancd some few dances they taking vp their sowrds they daunce their warlike maske done with many prety changes

Clavell's Introduction is brief, only 86 lines in manuscript, serving mostly to give a narrative and thematic frame for the sword dance, which is the central part of the entertainment. It may be that the 1604 "Masque of Scots" was similarly structured, perhaps drawing on the same themes of war and peace or else stressing the traditional Scottish origins of the sword dance.

References to the Play

Ben Jonson Ejected?

In his discussions with Drummond, Ben Jonson recalled "That Sir John Roe loved him; and when they two were ushered by my Lord Suffolk from a masque, Roe wrote a moral epistle to him which began, 'That next to plays, the court and the state were the best. God threateneth kings, kings lords, and lords do us'" (lines 113–16). The complete poem was first published in the 1635 edition of Donne's Poems under the title "To Ben. Iohnson, 6 Ian. 1603." (sig. O6r-v), and the same date of 6 January 1604 is associated with the poem in two earlier manuscripts as well (Huntington Library, MS EL 6893, fol. 31, and British Library, MS Lansdowne 740, fol. 102). If the date is accurate, then the masque in question would have been the "Masque of Scots," although Roe's references to queens masquing may be more germane to Daniel's masque, which was performed on 8 January (Butler 35); on the other hand, Jonson may have been more likely admitted to the "Masque of Scots" through his friendship with Esmé Stewart, Lord Aubigny (Butler 381n).

Critical Commentary

Butler suggests that the sword dance may have been arranged by Duke of Lennox, who sponsored the "Masque of the Knights of India and China" (360n).

For What It's Worth

(Information welcome.)

Works Cited

Butler, Martin. The Stuart Court Masque and Political Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008.
Cano-Echevarría, Berta, and Mark Hutchings. "The Spanish Ambassador and Samuel Daniel's Vision of the Twelve Goddesses: A New Document." English Literary Renaissance 42 (2012): 223–57.
Donne, John. Poems. London, 1635. STC 7046.
Emmerson, George S. A Social History of Scottish dance: Ane Celestial Recreatioun. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 1972.
Feuillerat, Albert, ed. Documents Relating to the Office of the Revels in the Time of Queen Elizabeth. Louvain: A. Uystpruyst, 1908.
Fletcher, Alan J. Drama, Performance and Polity in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2000.
Hartley, T. E., ed. Proceedings in the Parliaments of Elizabeth I. Volume III: 1593–1601. London: Leicester UP, 1995.
Jonson, Ben. Informations to William Drummond of Hawthornden (1619). Ed. Ian Donaldson. In The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson Online, ed. David Bevington, Martin Butler and Ian Donaldson. Cambridge: CUP, 2012.
Scott, Harold Spencer. The Journal of Sir Roger Wilbraham, Solicitor-General in Ireland and Master of Requests, for the Years 1593–1616. London: Offices of the Royal Historical Society, 1902.
Steen, Sara Jayne, ed. The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994.
Sullivan, Mary. Court Masques of James I. New York: Putnam's Sons, 1913.

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