The advice to princes tradition in Scottish literature, 1450-1500
The regions of James II, III, and IV in the second half of the fifteenth century in Scotland saw a distinctive flowering of advice to princes literature. This is the first account of its kind to examine in detail the sources, arguments, and extent of political comment of each individual work. In particular it employs both literary and historical sources to reveal the largely unrecognized impact of continental, especially French, political thought, on a number of writers. The study opens with a consideration of the poem De Regimine Principum, a politically very forthright advice work, influential for a century or so after its composition. Chapter 2 deals with the writings of Sir Gilbert Hay, whose work shows clear influences from the continent, particularly in the Buik of King Alexander, which is also seen to have interesting links with De Regimine Principum. Chapter 3 discusses the romance Lancelot of the Laik, a poem less precise in its allusions, but clearly indicative of a number of recurrent preoccupations in Scottish advisory literature in the areas of justice and kingly minorities. The two following chapters examine The Talis of the Fyve Bestes, which gives a markedly nationalistic evocation of good kingship, and The Buke of the Chess, where Scottish advice to princes is seen at its least politically aware. In Chapter 6 advice appears in yet another genre, the devotional poem The Contemplacioun of Synnaris, where the wider associations of `kingship' with the nosce te ipsum tradition are apparent. Chapters 7 and 8 concern The Thre Prestis of Peblis and John Ireland's Meroure of Wyssdome, possibly produced around the same time, but presenting their advice in very different manners: the Thre Prestis adroitly worked and entertaining, the Meroure, highly theological and drawing strongly on continental writers, notably the sermons of Jean Gerson. In conclusion it is shown that through this context we can best appreciate the purpose and formidable execution of Robert Henryson's advice to princes fable lq The Lion and the Mouse.