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Domat, the Liber Pluscardensis, and the Sainte Chapelle at Vic-le-Comte, 1519-1529

the author translator.47

In the introduction to the illuminated genealogy, Domat makes his intention clear. He stresses that it was written to ‘clarify and resolve the very illustrious and ancient lineage of Scots to that end that every noble prince descended from this line may apprehend the true source and origin of their lineage’, emphasising that few kingdoms can claim such an ancient line of descent as that of Scotland, which was traced back 330 years before the advent of Christ.48 The iconography employed in the Sainte-Chapelle, viewed in relation to the genealogical manuscripts, suggests that Albany was concerned with illustrating the importance of a union between a descendant of the kings of Scotland and of the Capetian kings of France. This was a joining of bloodlines which had occurred previously, and which is highlighted in the Hague Manuscript by the earlier marriage of Mary, the youngest daughter of Malcolm Canmore and St Margaret of Scotland, to Eustace III, Count of Boulogne.49

The principal iconographie focus of the programme of decoration in the Sainte-Chapelle is the Tree of Jesse, adorning the axial window, below which kneel the donor figures, Albany and Anne de la Tour.’0 The inclusion of Albany and his wife kneeling below this scene integrated the founders’ earthly lineage into this sacred genealogy. The aims and ambitions set out in Albany’s manuscripts paved the way for his grand architectural foundation: the Sainte-Chapelle. The chapel represents an earthly treasury of prestige and self-accomplishment, while simultaneously acting as a conduit for spiritual redemption. At the time that Albany was planning the foundation of the Sainte-Chapelle, his position as governor of Scotland must have been at the forefront of his thoughts. The foundation and its decorative programme stressed lineage, kingship, and the joining of illustrious bloodlines. Thus, the foundation gave visual form to Albany’s concerns regarding his status in France, advertising his illustrious royal lineage, and demonstrating his magnificence and political power.

The Paris manuscript is an important example of an international transfer of political ideas. In the Mitchell Library in Glasgow is a copy of the Liber Pluscardensis in Latin, MS 308876.51 Skene pointed out in 1877 that some of the notes on the flyleaf of this manuscript suggest that it had been in France in the early sixteenth century and that it may have been the manuscript Domat used for his translation.52 An examination of this manuscript confirms that this was likely the case. It contains the preface and prologue now found in only two other manuscripts. It also appears to have been in the possession of the French Roi d’Armes, Montjoie, and contains lines of verse related to those that were added by Domat to the Paris Manuscript. The inscription J(?) [...] albinie’ on fol. Ir of MS 308876 perhaps also relates to this episode. The French Roi d’Armes, Montjoie, Gilbert Chauveau, certainly visited Scotland in 1506, and, as a figure involved in Venetian politics and crusading diplomacy, was likely well known to Albany.53

The example of the Paris Manuscript and MS 308876, therefore, provides evidence for the transfer of literary material from Scotland to France. The translation of that material into French and its reworking into an illuminated genealogy is crucial for understanding Albany’s motivations during this period. Albany’s patronage of literary and visual material evidently influenced the program of decoration employed in his grand ecclesiastical foundation, the Sainte-Chapelle, and his interest in the Liber Pluscardettsis was both in promoting the prestige of Scotland on the Continent and in enhancing his own illustrious reputation.

A sketch by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and a eulogy by Desmontiers, c.1525-1538

As noted above, Albany was concerned with updating the fortifications at his principal residence in Scotland, Dunbar Castle. Evidence also survives detailing Albany’s continued interest in such matters later in his career. In the Utfizi Gallery, Florence, are a large collection of architectural drawings attributable to the Sangallos, an influential family of Florentine architects and military engineers. Among these is a rough sketch in brown ink on paper that shows proposals for the modernisation for a typical late-fifteenth-century fortress, by the addition of a ravelin and caponier (U1051A).’4 A line of text on the sketch notes: ‘Fortezza e opinione del Duca dalbania’ (‘fortress and opinion of the Duke of Albany’). A note on the verso states: ‘Forteze; openione delducha dalbania’. That Albany’s opinion regarding a matter of military science should have been sought by such an eminent Renaissance architect and engineer is important. The drawing appears to show a description provided by Albany of the fortress at Sakes, or a similar example of transitional military architecture from this period, and in this respect it shows that Albany was perhaps used by those close to the Medici family as a source of military intelligence.55 The drawing also indicates that Albany’s opinion was highly regarded by Sangallo. Albany’s ties of kinship to the Medici family go some way to explain this, but there is more to be said here. Key to this is Albany’s broader reputation in matters of military science. Again, a literary work, this time by Jean Desmontiers, is enlightening.

Desmontiers wrote his text on the origin, topography, and marvels of Scotland around 1538, initially for presentation to Madeleine of Valois. After Madeleine’s death, however, the work was redirected to Catherine de Medici. Although the work takes much of its detail from Hector Boece, via Bellenden’s translation, it also contains original topographical information, which suggests that Desmontiers may have visited Scotland himself earlier in his career. In the centre of the text is a eulogy to Albany:

Also in this province is the strong castle of Dunbar: well known by the memory of the late very virtuous and very magnanimous prince M. Dalbanie father of Scotland: of whom the virtues have already been put [written about] in so high & eminent place, that it is impossible for me to reach that level. Because I am compelled to withdraw from the place where I had wished to go: and yet I shall dare to say, according to my little power, that neither Aristides, Themistocles, Pericles, nor Brasidas in all the virtues, in which each of them particularly excelled, do no work that was beyond the high and noble deeds of this prince: for, besides the prowess and military science which he was as renowned for as Alexander, or Caesar: and the love of his country which exceeded that of Deces and Horace Codes, he has deserved to be immortalised: like Ceres or Dionisius for the extreme work he had to render most of all of Scotland fertile, and workable/cultivatable: which was previously barren and fallow.’6

The declaration of Albany’s prowess in matters of military science, mentioned in relation to his stronghold at Dunbar, is interesting. Desmontiers’ text allows us to see that Albany cultivated a reputation in matters of military science, and part of this was based on his fortifications at Dunbar.

The regard with which Albany’s opinions were held by Sangallo the Younger, therefore, reflects both his reputation in matters of military science and his elevated social standing in Rome. In 1530, Albany was appointed French ambassador to the Holy See, acting as the chief negotiator for the marriage of his niece, Catherine, and the duc d’Orléans. Albany’s status at this time appears to have caused some difficulties in papal ceremony, given that dukes outranked ambassadors.57 His family ties to the Pope evidently afforded him special privileges, as illustrated in November 1530, when he was responsible for carrying the papal train, and in Christmas 1531, when the ambassadors were ranked, in reverse precedence, Venice, England, Imperial, Duke of Albany.

The note hastily scribbled on Sangallo’s sketch indicates that Albany was employed as a conduit for military information from elsewhere in Europe to Italy. He was evidently considered an important figure by his Medici kinsmen for his contacts and for the information that he was, therefore, party to. Albany’s reputation in military science was likely based, at least in part, on word of his military enterprises in Scotland. Whether the reality of his developments at Dunbar lived up to this reputation was of little concern, as few would actually travel to Scotland to see them: what mattered was his reputation and that of his fortress, as documented in the work of Desmontiers.

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