Skip to content

Response to Review no. 673

I would like to thank Julian Goodare for his favourable judgement of my book. In the hope of generating a more general debate, I will comment upon a few points in the review. I was somewhat surprised that one of the main themes running through the book did not receive more analysis from a reviewer who is an expert on the government of Scotland. The clumsy phrase ‘church-crown hybrid’ is not intended as a poor synonym for church polity, nor is it meant to be merely the commendator system writ large. Instead it attempts to describe and draw attention to the complex process by which the governance of the kingdom of Scotland was transformed between 1488 and 1587. During that century, the higher levels of the church and the royal administrations converged, merged, and finally, were separated. In addition to its impact upon the Church, this process had major consequences for how the kingdom was governed, how the crown was financed and how justice was administered. Religious reform and reformation followed its own chronological rhythm, and the hyphen was placed in the book’s title to alert the reader that the changes Scotland experienced were far more complex than a Protestant Reformation. It will be interesting to see if other scholars in the field think the ‘church-crown hybrid’ explanation holds water.

The historiographical context of the book was extensively covered in the review. I was grateful that it highlighted the attempt to give due weight to the long royal minorities and to draw parallels and comparisons between them. When the discussion moved to the interpretations of the ‘personal reigns’, I was puzzled to find the label ‘old-fashioned’ attached to my assessment of Mary, Queen of Scots. I have no objection to being called old-fashioned, but I was under the impression that the ‘traditional’ view of Mary had been broadly sympathetic and that it was challenged by Jenny Wormald in her study. Though I am a bit ‘softer’ on the Scottish Queen, I would place myself firmly in the Wormald camp.

Finally, I might be permitted a wry smile at the comments upon my prose style and copy-editing. The three ‘tics’ which Julian has identified are related to the efforts of previous copy editors who massacred my commas and semi-colons and cut a swathe through my ‘thats’. My mistake was trying to learn from such experiences! More time in the final stages of the book’s preparation, made difficult by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) deadline, would have caught some errors, such as the intended reference on p. 6 to Map 1.1 (p. 45), showing the English-Gaelic linguistic boundary, instead of Map I.1 (p. 5) marking the regions. It might also have restored the explanation that the index only contained names appearing more than once in the text. In the usual tussle between author’s wishes, publisher’s constraints and the need for series uniformity, Scotland Re-formed was treated relatively generously; for example, the long table showing the political fortunes of the five major families was included, though the picture of St Machar’s ceiling did not survive within the restricted number of illustrations. Despite his criticism of the publisher, as Julian Goodare also acknowledges, it is important to congratulate Edinburgh University Press and Roger Mason for commissioning this ten-volume series covering the history of Scotland.