Thursday, October 16, 2008

Question from Martin - Mary referred to as "Queen of Scots"

Why is Mary Queen of Scots always referred to in this way? Is any other Scottish monarch referred to as "King/Queen of Scots"? Was she referred to in this way during her lifetime or is this a term used by historians.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've always assumed it was so there would be no confusion between her and Mary Tudor (ie, Mary Queen of England). I'm interested to hear what the experts say!

Foose said...

Referring to the Scottish monarch as "King of Scots" or "Queen of Scots" is pretty standard in a lot of 16th-century documents. It's a translation of the Latin, Rex Scotorum, "King of the Scottish people." In contrast, the King of England was Rex Angliae, King of [the country] England.

I would guess that before countries coalesced into more-or-less standard territories, rulers were often described as being the king or queen of the dominant or most numerous people/tribe/ethnic group. Most of the examples I have seen were for northern European countries. This method of nomenclature has a certain democratic ring to modern ears that I am not sure is justified.

Swedish rulers were the kings "of the Swedes, the Vandals and the Goths." The king of Denmark was Rex Danorum (King of the Danes) Sclavorumque (and the Wends) in the early Middle Ages, but by the Renaissance the title had shifted to a territorial designation, Rex Daniae. Matilda, Henry I's daughter, was never officially Queen of England but referred to as the "Lady of the English." The Emperor's heir was traditionally the "King of the Romans," signalling the importance of Rome in the Holy Roman Empire.

There was an interesting effort in the 19th century by Louis-Philippe to avoid the discredited title of "King of France" by calling himself "King of the French." It didn't take, though. I think he was trying to summon up some of the mystique of Napoleon, who was "Emperor of the French," as well as sound more democratic and in touch with the times.

Kristen said...

My general understanding is that reference to Mary as "Queen of Scots" is a contemperaneous colloquial (or poetic?) term. Another possibility is that the term arose after the 16th century to differentiate Queen Mary Stuart from Queen Mary Tudor. I'm sure phd historian or another poster could give a more detailed and articulate response.

Foose said...

If Scotland had remained an independent kingdom, perhaps the king's title might have evolved as the Danish king's did -- to King of Scotland. I think James I changed the overall title to "King of Great Britain," leaving out the question altogether.

But if the Scots nowadays were to successfully secede from the United Kingdom, but were still willing to recognize the present Queen as the monarch, perhaps nationalism might require her to become "Regina Scotorum" (Queen of Scots). Unless specifically mentioning Scots would be deemed politically incorrect, in which case she might become just Queen of Scotland...

TudorRose said...

Mary was reffered to as Mary Queen of scots and not just Mary because so the people of the world didn't get mixed up between the two Mary's. MaryIst of England and Mary the first blood royal Queen of scotland.

kb said...

When Mary Queen of Scots was growing up in France it was a matter of some pride and political savvy to refer to her as Queen of Scots. It reminded the court that she was already a queen, not just any other princess. It also provided the Guise brothers with prestige and power as uncles to a queen. Through their machinations (and several other factors including their sister's Mary of Guise) France would become an empire with the addition of Scotland. Emphasizing this 'auld alliance' which would in due course become a permanent relationship was an astute thing to do. The appellation stuck.

I also agree with foose about the standard nature of referencing a monarch with their kingdom. In Rome Henry VIII was called Henry of England. In the Low Countries Elizabeth I was Elizabeth of England. We're a bit myopic because we are only speaking/reading in English. Just my opinion

Foose said...

Rooting around in the Henry VIII section of Letters & Papers, I see Francis I referred to in several cases by English envoys as Rex Gallorum (King of the Gauls, i.e., the French). A cruise around the Internet reveals that Francis I and his son Henri II had the standard title Rex Francorum (King of the Franks, i.e., the French) as part of their official style. Both titles seem to have been translated into French pretty much as "roi de France" (a territorial, rather than tribal, designation) so I don't know what the differentiation was between Gallorum and Francorum, other than their historical references to the tribes occupying the territory of France.