Under our first Stuart kings, the court fools revived in dignity. They were allowed serving-men to wait upon them, and some of these were pensioned for their good services. The author of Letters from the Mountains states that in some Scottish families of the olden time, down to the present century, was often to be found an individual who united in himself the offices of gamekeeper and warlock or wizard, and that in the latter capacity he in some degree resembled the court or household jester. There was a stranger combination than this in the person of the famous Archie Armstrong, official fool to James [VI.] and his son Charles. Archie was a sort of gentleman groom of the chambers to the first King, preceding him when in progress, and looking after the royal quarters.
“Two chiefs, I think one was MacLeod, sent their two fools to gather bait on the shore; and to settle a bet which fool was the best, they strewed gold on the path. One fool stopped to gather it, but the other said, “When we are at ‘golding,’ let us be ‘golding,’ and when we are at bait-making, let us be bait-making,” and he stuck to his business.”
At her coronation in 1540, “Item, deliverit to ye French telzour, to be ane cote to Serrat, the Queen’s fule,” &c.* Green and yellow seems to have been the Court fool’s livery; but Mary of Guise seems to have had a female buffoon and male and female dwarfs:- “1562. Paid for ane cote, hois, lyning and making, to Jonat Musche, fule, £4 5s. 6d.; 1565, for green plaiding to make ane bed to Jardinar the fule, with white fustione fedders,” &c.; in 166, there is paid for a garment of red and yellow, to be a gown “for Jane Colquhoun, fule;” and in 1567, another entry, for broad English yellow, “to be cote, breeks, also sarkis, to James Geddie, fule.”
[The Regent Morton] kept a fool named Patrick Bonny, who, seeing him one day pestered by a concourse of beggars, advised him to have them all burnt in one fire. ‘What an impious idea!’ said the Regent. ‘Not at all,’ replied the jester; ‘if the whole of these poor people were consumed, you would soon make more poor people out of the rich.’ – Jo. R. B. Hist.
So I am informed by my excellent friend, Mr Thomas Mason, the librarian, to whom my warmest thanks are due for facilities and assistance in examining this book, which there is reason to think was once in the collections of Wodrow, the unwearied recorder of the struggles of the Scottish Church. It is a large volume bound in calf, and containing 756 foolscap pages of stout paper, 12½ inches long by 81/4 broad. Many leaves are impressed with water-marks, the commonest of which are variant forms of the fool’s cap – a jester’s head, with bells radiating from the neck. This stands upon a line rising from three balls disposed pyramidically.
This is another I can’t wait to get into.