( England and Scotland: c. 1585- 1672)
Archy (properly, Archibald) Armstrong was the court fool of James I ( 1566 1625) of England and of his son Charles I ( 1600-1649). In the course of his career, Armstrong unwittingly illustrated the political power of satire and also its limits, for it was his practice to test these limits on every occasion. After his fall from favor, he moved his career in a new direction by capitalizing on his notoriety in a way that has a particular resonance in the late twentieth century.
Armstrong was born of Scottish parents toward the end of the sixteenth century. Although J. Doran reports that he was a native of Arthuret, Cumberland (196), he may have been born in Scotland. At any rate, he was raised in Scotland. A youthful reputation as a sheep rustler brought him to the attention of King James VI of Scotland, who made him one of his company of court entertainers. At first he seems to have specialized in physical comedy and horseplay, but when James inherited the English throne in 1603 and became James I of England, Armstrong became bolder in addressing satirical barbs at members of the court, and the scope of his influence became more pronounced, perhaps because of a peculiarly Scottish perspective he provided on English affectations. At any rate, the king gave him the official position of court jester with a permanent place in his personal entourage.
Armstrong's skill in puncturing the pomposity of courtiers was the result more of his own sense of self-importance than of any special insight. At least, he seems to have been quite as arrogant as any of the courtiers he attacked and oblivious of the degree to which his license depended on the grace and favor