Leisure, pleasure and recreation

Claire Hawes
Friday 22 April 2016

This posting is the fifth in the series on themes that will be addressed at a conference held in St. Andrews on June 16 and 17 this year. While much of the historical analysis of the relationship between Flanders and Scotland focuses on the more traditional commercial and political aspects there is another dimension – that of leisure, pleasure and recreation – that merits review.

Dr. Christine McGladdery examines a unique jousting tournament that took place in Scotland in 1449 with a Burgundian champion participating.  Continuing with the sporting theme Robin Bargmann looks at the case for a Flemish influence on early games in Scotland with a special emphasis on golf and curling. Finally Morvern French discusses the pleasure and standing that James IV derived from his importation of Flemish luxury goods. 


Session overview 

‘The sport of diplomacy’: the Scoto-Burgundian tournament of 1449

Dr Christine McGladdery

This paper will consider the tournament held in the presence of James II at Stirling in February 1449 from a number of perspectives. The detailed accounts that survive offer intriguing insights into perceptions of a chivalric encounter that appears to have been intended to showcase the skills of the Scottish challenger, James, Master of Douglas (brother and heir presumptive of William 8th earl of Douglas) against the great Burgundian champion of the period, Jacques de Lalain, but consideration will be given also to the extent to which such occasions could serve a diplomatic as well as sporting agenda.

Has there been a Flemish influence on early games in Scotland?

Robin Bargmann

The origins of golf and curling are two of the most hotly debated issues in the history of Scottish sport.  This paper will review the evidence for a Flemish influence on the development of these two games.  Regarding golf – or colf as the early version of the game was called – the establishment of the game in Fife and Lanarkshire in the medieval period, coinciding with the migration of Flemish craftsmen to Eastern Scotland, provides compelling circumstantial evidence for a Flemish influence.  There is similar evidence pointing to a possible Flemish origin for the game of curling.  The paper also touches on the origins of tennis especially in the light of the fact that the court at Falkland Palace is the oldest surviving tennis court in the world.  The game was originally known as caets spel in the Low Countries and caichpulle in Scotland (etymologically connected to caets spel).

‘Ostentatious by nature’: Flemish Material Culture at the Marriage of James IV and Margaret Tudor

Morvern French

This paper will look how James IV (1488-1513) employed material resources to convey his splendour, power, and lineage at his 1503 marriage to Margaret Tudor. Anglo-Scottish relations had, prior to the signing of the marriage treaty, been characterised by hostility and mistrust, with James supporting the pretender Perkin Warbeck in 1496-7. 1503 signalled a renewal of friendly relations, but it also prompted James to display his standing as a powerful European ruler through the use of material culture.

For this he looked primarily to Flanders, Scotland’s principal trading partner and the home of the Northern Renaissance, where luxury objects representative of the top level of design and quality were produced. The gold and silver plate, chairs of estate, tapestries, textiles, and a lavishly illuminated book of hours, imported from Flanders for the wedding, were a statement of James’s ability to command the finest material resources and of his equal standing with the king of England. As the pinnacle of late medieval luxury, Flemish material culture was used by James IV to assert his position as a Renaissance prince on an international stage.


Session participants 

Dr Christine McGladdery is a senior teaching fellow in Mediaeval Scottish History at the University of St Andrews, and has published the recently fully revised monograph, James II (Edinburgh, 2015). 

Robin Bargmann, a graduate of the University of Leiden, has an interest in the history of the early game of golf in the Low Countries and Scotland. He is the author of the book Serendipity of Early Golf and of numerous other articles and essays. He is member of the British Golf Collectors Society and the European Association of Golf Historians and Collectors. 

Morvern French is a third year PhD student at the University of St Andrews and a contributor to the Scotland and the Flemish People project.