The True Law of Kingship: Concepts of Monarchy in Early-Modern Scotland

The True Law of Kingship: Concepts of Monarchy in Early-Modern Scotland

The True Law of Kingship: Concepts of Monarchy in Early-Modern Scotland

The True Law of Kingship: Concepts of Monarchy in Early-Modern Scotland

Synopsis

`Fear God, honour the king'. Sixteenth-century people were supposed to do both. But what was the king entitled to command? And what if he ordered one thing and God's law said another? In this fascinating and original study, James Burns examines these questions by focusing on a neglected area of study: the Scottish experience. The Scottish response to monarchical government not only provides a microcosmic view of European thinking on the subject, it also contributes substantially to our understanding of the Scottish element in the new `British' polity which was emerging at the end of the period.

Excerpt

This book is, in one sense, a sequel to my 1988 Carlyle Lectures, published in 1992 as Lordship, Kingship, and Empire: The Idea of Monarchy, 1400-1525. The respective subtitles indicate a measure of common ground and a degree of chronological overlap between the two enquiries. In another aspect, however, The True Law looks back much further, to the beginnings, almost half a century ago, of my interest in the ideas with which it is concerned. While writing it, I have had on my desk the dissertation on 'The Theory of Limited Monarchy in Sixteenth Century Scotland' for which I received the degree of Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen in 1952. It would be neither credible nor, perhaps, creditable to suggest that the book is a revision, after all these years, of that thesis. None of the eight chapters in the present text corresponds at all closely to any chapter in the earlier work; and at least half of the material examined now played no part then. Yet I may owe it to my former self to say that some at least of the conclusions reached in the 1940s and 1950s have survived in the 1990s, relatively unscathed amid the demolition and reconstruction of much else.

It is proper, at all events, that this preface should express my gratitude to the University of Aberdeen and to my colleagues there between 1947 and 1960 for the richly rewarding first phase of my professional life, and that a special word of thanks should be said for the access I enjoyed to the rich resources of what was then the library of King's College, where I first read the works of John Mair and struggled to read the manuscript of John Ireland's commentary on the Sentences. Had it not been for the availability of those texts, what has been a lifelong interest might never have germinated.

In more personal terms, this preface enables me to acknowledge another debt which goes back to the very beginning of my work in this field. To John Durkan I owe more than I can adequately express for over forty years' friendship and for constant access to his unequalled knowledge and expertise in the intellectual history of Scotland (and not only of Scotland) in the . . .

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