Rachel Porteous

Research title: The Continuity of Play during the Late Stuart Monarchies in Scotland, 1488-1567

Research Summary

A study of the transitions of court leisure and the concept of play in the courts of Mary, Queen of Scots (both in her French courts and in her Scottish ones) and the implications of these transitions on the cultural and religious status in Western Europe.

The topic of research posed in this study is most accurately described as a complex series of questions. The first is simple and the primary mission of this thesis. What forms of entertainment did Mary Stuart engage in and what implications did her choices have upon the political and religious culture of Scotland? What impact did her time in French courts have upon her choice of entertainment? Leisure was rarely entertainment for entertainment’s sake; it was a powerful force of political discourse in the Western European Renaissance. The following body of research hopes to begin answering the question of the extent to which Mary used her entertainment as a method of political rhetoric and international policy discussions and what effect they had upon her reputation, both during her life and posthumously.

This research is not limited to insights on Mary’s court alone; it begins to chip away at the immense topic of 16th century court life. Court entertainment is essential because it does more than create a relaxing space for play; it often defines human society. Johan Huizinga opened his book Homo Ludens by saying ‘Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.’ Without evidence of game play, there is often no other way to identify the spread of non-political ideas, interaction of culture[1] and the evolution of mankind as a species, because without play, culture would be measured exclusively by religion or politics, neither of which accurately reflect the popular climate of human society.


  • History 1A - Scotland's Millennium: Kingdom, Union and Nation, 1000-2014
  • History 1B - Europe Rising 

Additional Information


  • American National History Society (Phi Alpha Theta) – member