Tuesday, July 30, 2019

1561: Mary Queen of Scots's return to Edinburgh – presented with the Bible and Psalms 'in Scots language'?

The extract above is from John Maxwell, 4th Lord Herries (1512–83) renowned Historical Memoirs of the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots. These were written in the 1500s and the manuscripts were published in the 1830s. Other references to Mary's return to Edinburgh don't specify that the Bible and Psalms she was presented with were 'in Scots languadge'. She had been in exile in France, and returned to a Reformed Scotland. John Knox's account of the same event says:

When the queen’s hieness was coming through the said port, the cloud openit, and the bairn descended down as it had been ane angel, and deliverit to her hieness the keys of the town, together with ane Bible and ane Psalm-buik coverit with fine purpour velvet.
Domestic Annals of Scotland, Robert Chambers quoting John Knox

As far as I can see there is no reference to this potentially linguistically-significant event in Graham Tulloch's comprehensive A History of the Scots Bible (1989).

Dumfries-born Maxwell was pro-Reformation but yet loyal to Mary Queen of Scots throughout his life. She knighted him in 1567 and he fought for her cause at the Battle of Langside in 1568.

Perhaps Maxwell was mistaken about them being 'in Scots language', but given his devotion to his Queen, it's unlikely that he would have recorded that specific linguistic detail wrongly. So, perhaps there are two remarkable dusty old volumes in a cupboard somewhere in Scotland, awaiting discovery, like these which were found a few months ago.

– More info on Maxwell here.
'Historical Memoirs' online here.