Performance at the Royal Courts of Scotland

Project Details


The larger project to which this leave period contributed involves a study of performance associated with the Royal Courts of Scotland before 1650, including drama, mask, dance, music, ceremonial and para-dramatic games and shows. The objectives of this particular period were: to identify and chart the archival sources of records of performance; to transcribe as many as possible of the records in one especially rich source, the Treasurer’s Accounts, (beginning in 1473); and to write a number of interpretative articles and conference papers exploring the findings.

Key findings

The project revealed how wide and varied a range of documentary material records performance activity. Pilot transcriptions were made from examples of heraldic narratives, panegyric, diplomatic letters, musical manuscripts and burgh records, as well as the Treasurer's and other financial accounts. This range of sources also revealed the complexity of 'dramatic' activity and courtly play itself. Scottish court performance involved music and dance, foolery, debate and flyting, religious, seasonal and political ceremonial, and quasi-theatrical games of masking and guising. In such a complex performance culture current definitions and assumptions about early drama may need to be modified. The study cast light on the role of performance in the political and social functions of the Scottish Royal Court. The records reveal how subtly yet vividly performance at the centre of power might be used to engage with contemporary political issues, to shape relations between court and country, and to act as a vehicle of cultural expression.
Effective start/end date1/01/0730/06/08


  • UK central government bodies/local authorities, health and hospital authorities: £32,244.00