Information on A Ballade of the Scottyshe Kynge

Connected Background




Introduction and Background to

The poem appears in the binding of a French romance printed in 1513 by Fakes. According to Scattergood, the printing was a hurried one, as Fakes’ print contains many mistakes.

In 1882, John Ashton published his edition of the poem, in which he describes the discovery of Fakes’ printed version (Ashton 8-9). Furthermore, Ashton presents the poem as the earliest printed ballad written in the English language. Scattergood dates the poem between 9 and 22 September 1513, as the events described in the poem describe the situation after the battle of Flodden Field. Ashton’s edition contains a full historical background on King James IV and his war against France and Scotland, collectively known as the Auld Alliance.

In 1842, Agnes Strickland linked the violent nature of Skelton’s verse to the later behaviour of his pupil, Henry VIII:

Skelton breaks into the most vulgar taunts on the unconscious hero, ‘who laid cold in his clay’, abusing him as ‘Jemmy the Scot’ with a degree of virulence that would have disgusted any mind less coarse than that of his master [i.e. Skelton]. […] How probable is it that that the corruption imparted by this ribald and ill-living wretch laid the foundation for his royal pupil’s gravest crimes (Strickland qtd. in Edwards no. 42).

In the revised version associated with the later date, known as Agaynst the Scottes, Skelton presents factual knowledge which he previously did not have (Scattergood 421). The poem uses source material on the Scots from Hall’s Chronicle, and displays prevalent stereotypes associated with the Scots. Also, Skelton incorporates flyting about the Scots, which he presumably found in Fabyan’s chronicle, Lawrence Minot’s poetry, and William Dunbar, who all use the same ‘rough-footed Scotsman’ stereotype.