Background on Howe the Douty Duke of Albany

Connected Background


Introduction and Background to

The only print witness of this text is found in Workes (STC 22608) published in 1568. Scattergood assumes that the text has been written shortly after 3 November 1523 as the events in the poem were considered “tidings newe” (l. 3). These new tidings refer to the retreat of the Duke of Albany. The second Duke of Albany, John Stewart, besieged the castle of Wark in early November in 1523. After several days of battle and heavy losses, Albany retreated his army to the monastery of Eccles – six miles from Wark – as he feared the flooding river. Then, when word got out that Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, was nearby with an army, the Duke fled to Edinburgh (Scattergood 513-4). Skelton’s description of the Duke in the prologue thus offers a painful reminder of his actions: “lyke a cowarde knight, ran awaye shamfully with an hundred thousande tratlande Scottes and faint harted Frenchemen” (before l. 1).