chapter  6
22 Pages

Textual Authority and the Making of a Model Prince: James I of Scotland and The Kingis Quair

In common with the texts by Machaut, Froissart and Usk examined in previous chapters, The Kingis Quair presents a significant conjunction between the authority of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and the narration of a history at once personal and political. Attributed to James I of Scotland in the only surviving manuscript, Bodleian Library MS Arch. Selden. B.24, the Quair is conceived as a first-person meditation on the king’s experience as a prisoner in a foreign land. The unnamed narrator’s account of his capture at sea and subsequent imprisonment, ‘Nere by the space of yeris twise nyne’, closely corresponds to events in James’s own early life: taken by pirates as he sailed for France in 1406, he remained a hostage in England until 1424, when he returned to Scotland as king (173).1 Allusions within the poem locate the narrator’s capture in March, consistent with James’s seizure on 22 March 1406, and the evidence of the manuscript implies that the Quair’s earliest known scribes and readers recognised the affinity between poetry and history, in making the identification explicit.2