Margaret Fleming, Countess of Atholl (with Lucy Hinnie)

It’s a slightly belated Halloween super special/ continuation of the Mary, Queen of Scots saga this week! We’re talking about Margaret Fleming, Countess of Atholl: older sister of one of the Four Marys and also a witch who was never arrested or punished for it.

Our guest is Lucy Hinnie, an Early Career Researcher, Wikimedian and digital humanist. She is currently Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, and a Digital Skills Wikimedian for Wikimedia UK.

Learn more about Lucy and her work at

Get all the tea about Lucy’s time working at Holyrood Palace in The Vulgar History Aftershow on Patreon!

Eleanor Janega’s blog about why you are (probably) not the granddaughter of the witches they couldn’t burn


Queen Mary’s Women: female relatives, servants, friends and enemies of Mary, Queen of Scots by Rosalind K. Marshall

The Scottish witch-hunt in context edited by Julian Goodare

Here’s the “A Catte” pillow designed by Jan Jupiter avail in the merch store

Get merch at (best for US shipping) and (better for international shipping)

Get 15% off all the gorgeous jewellery and accessories, including the Anne Boleyn pendant, at or go to and use code VULGAR at checkout

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Vulgar History Podcast

Margaret Fleming, Countess of Atholl (with Lucy Hinnie)

November 1, 2023

Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster and before we get going, I just wanted to share something with you. This is adapted from a statement from Jesse who does the Jesse’s Girl podcast which I really recommend – he talks about his favourite girl groups and it’s a really fun time. Anyway, he posted this, and it really resonated with me, and it really said what I was hoping to communicate to all of you. Basically, I wanted to acknowledge the immense privilege that I have to be able to record this podcast in the midst of global turmoil. The aim of releasing any sort of content right now is to provide some fun and some joy, to be a refuge/escape for anyone listening, anywhere in the world. I know that there are listeners all over the place, including places that are being very profoundly affected right now by global events. I hope that you know that my thoughts are with all of you and all of your loved ones, and everyone that you care about. I know and trust that the tits-out brigade are always engaging civically, thinking critically, and leading with empathy. I’m really grateful for all of you and I just really wanted to clarify that I hope this podcast is a nice balm for you to vibe out and have a nice tits-out time.

With that being said, today’s episode is our… I was going to say annual Halloween Spooktacular, but I was looking through past episodes and I’m like, last year the internationale season was so intense that we didn’t even get to do a Halloween Special. So, this is this year’s Halloween Special, arriving on November 1st, except for people on Patreon who get it several days early. Anyway, I was like, okay I want to do a Halloween Super Special and I also wanted to bring fun vibes and a nice story.

So, the Halloween spooky adjacent things we’ve talked about before on the podcast are people who are being covered by other wonderful history podcasts right now; people like Elizabeth Báthory who, you know, there are these rumours that she was this vampire or whatever – she wasn’t, she was a victim of the patriarchy. There are other people, witches like La Voisin, there’s the Salem Witch Trials, some people have suggested that there be a Vulgar History podcast about that. If you listened to the interview I did with Heather Redmond where she reveals to all of you that one of the victims from Andover during the Salem Witch Trials scenario was named Ann Foster, so I’ve always thought, should I do an episode about Ann Foster? But those stories aren’t fun in the way that I want this podcast, as much as possible, to be a good time for you and to share stories that… I don’t want to tell stories about some woman, or person, or anyone who was just victimized by powerful men and then executed. I was like, who can I talk about? I’ve done Mary Shelley, I’ve done Elizabeth Woodville. Who is someone else witchy whose story doesn’t end with them being killed?

And here’s the thing, it all came together so beautifully. So, one of my neighbours has one of those signs up… I have several neighbours who go all out for Halloween decorations, which I love. I love that Halloween decorations have become such a thing in the last, I don’t know, ten years or so, it’s great. She has one of those signs that says, “We are the descendants of the witches that you failed to burn,” or whatever, which is interesting. I’ll put a link to this article in the show notes if you’re in an academic era and want to read this, but a historian named Eleanor Janega posted a blog about how that is her pet peeve, how she finds that phrase, and it is, it’s very dismissive of the actual people who were killed during the witch trials who were generally not witches, they were just victims of people who wanted their property, or whatever bullshit was going on. Anyway, so it’s like, uhh, we’re the descendants of the people who burned those people but also those people were mostly hanged.

Anyway, then I was like, wait a minute! There is one witch who famously was not burned, and we talked about her in the Mary, Queen of Scots season which is why this is the Halloween special/bonus follow-up to the Mary, Queen of Scots season because we’re talking about the one and only Margaret Fleming who was the older sister of Mary Fleming of the Four Marys. She was present during the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots’s son James, Baby BJ, “Avenge me, oh Lord,” et cetera, and she was there in a witch-like way and I’m pretty sure that’s part of why she was never, we get into it in this episode, she was never prosecuted for witchcraft. James’s paternity was always in question, there was a whole thing about, was Rizzio the father, or whatever. So, he couldn’t afford to get rid of a person who was present at his birth because she was a witness to it all. So, she was being a witch her whole life. We’re going to talk about all the stuff she got up to.

And I really want to say that this all came to my attention because of a member of the tits-out brigade, who we do mention in this episode, who is a descendant of Margaret Fleming. So, this listener is, and any other descendants of Margaret Fleming, are the only people I think who literally are able to use a mug or wear a sweatshirt that says, “Descendant of the witch you failed to burn,” because in fact, they are. Margaret Fleming was, whether there was magic involved or not, she was fully a witch and she thrived and did amazing and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

My guest is Lucy Hinnie. We talk about this in the episode too, I’m just really priming you for what you’re about to hear. Couple of things about Lucy, first of all, she’s great. Secondly, she’s Scottish. Thirdly, she lived for a short amount of time in my city, Saskatoon, because she was doing some work at the University of Saskatchewan, U of S, which is in the city of Saskatoon, which is how I met Lucy. She was giving a public talk about Mary, Queen of Scots and I was like, that’s not a thing that happens much here in Saskatoon. That was before I even started the podcast, before this was a dream, glint in my eye. So, we’ve stayed in touch, and I was really excited when I was looking up information about Margaret Fleming, that it seemed to coincide with some of the work that Lucy has been doing on manuscripts from that era. Anyway, it’s so great to talk to her, I know you’re going to love hearing from her. So, please enjoy this talk, this Halloween special/Mary, Queen of Scots bonus episode about the witchy ways of Margaret Fleming.


Ann: Okay, so very excitingly, I’m joined by Lucy Hinnie, who is the first person I’ve ever had on this podcast who I’ve met in real life. [chuckles]

Lucy: Ahh! [laughs] Amazing.

Ann: Yeah! In fact, I will let the listeners know that right now, I’m sitting at an IKEA table that I bought from Lucy when she moved out of Saskatoon.

Lucy: I did. I think my partner, Peter, actually painted that table as well, we were talking about it today. He was like, “I’m sure I painted that in the summer,” and I’m like, yup, yup you did. [laughs]

Ann: Yeah, it’s got a dark brown stain. Anyway, that’s my main table I use, this is where I record everything. So, nobody knows but Lucy, you’re… [laughs]

Lucy: I’ve been a part of this. [laughs]

Ann: Of all this, this whole time. Exactly. So, you’re joining me today, it’s actually technically coming out on November 1st but it’s our Halloween Special. When I was looking for someone to talk about for that, because the last couple of years I’ve done a Halloween special, but I was like, okay, I don’t want it to be a bummer. And when you’re looking at anyone who is accused of witchcraft, generally the stories end in the same bummer way of their execution, right? I’m just like, that’s not what I want. My neighbour has one of these signs up that’s like, “We’re the descendants of the witches you couldn’t burn.”

Lucy: [laughs] Yup.

Ann: Actually, Eleanor Janega, who is a historian, just posted a blog post, it’s her pet peeve, she hates that phrase, and she was explaining why it’s so disrespectful to the people who were killed. Anyway, I was like, are there people who…? [chuckles] Were there witches who weren’t burned? And in fact, there’s this one. And in fact, when I was going back through my stuff, I realized that she was brought to my attention first by one of her descendants, a woman named Miranda. So, thank you Miranda for bringing Margaret Fleming to my attention. Miranda herself says that she has bought some of that merch that says, “The descendent of witches you couldn’t burn,” and I was like, “Miranda, you can wear that. Other people, no.” But if you’re a verified descendant of Margaret Fleming, yes. [laughs]

Lucy: Yes, I agree. I think that is legit, definitely. [chuckles]

Ann: That is the one person who if you’re descended from, that statement is true. This is her whole thing, and I talked about her a bit when I was doing an episode about the Four Marys because she’s a sister of one of the Four Marys. But Lucy, can you explain your connection, where you’ve heard of her, where you’ve encountered her?

Lucy: Absolutely. So, I did my PhD research on a manuscript from the 16th-century Bannatyne Manuscript. It dates roughly from 1568, it was compiled by a young man, I mean, he was only 23 when he did it called George Bannatyne, who was a young Edinburgh burgess from a good family. The reason he compiled it, or the context in which he compiled it is that at that point, Edinburgh was hit very badly with the plague, it had rolling incidences of the plague over the 16th and 17th centuries, but this was quite a bad one. So, Bannatyne was cast out of the city to quarantine with his family, essentially, we think they probably owned land on the outskirts of the city. So, he had three months of nothing to do and he compiled this manuscript, which is like, over 400 poems that otherwise may not have been… I would say maybe about a quarter of them are poems that exist elsewhere. A lot of the others though are the only witness to a poem or the only example that we have of a particular one. What’s really cool about his manuscript is he divides up into five little sections. So, he has theology, morality, comedy, love, and fables. Usually, with manuscripts miscellaneous from the late medieval and earlier, it really is miscellaneous; there are medical texts, there are love poems, there are dirty limericks, there is all this stuff together. But Bannatyne is quite like, “These are my chapters, these are my headings. This is where everything is going.”

What’s interesting about the manuscript is 1568, he’s really keen for people to think that it is finished in 1568. It’s written in a couple of places in the manuscript just like, other dates are crossed out and 1568 is written there and he does this cute little poem in the end where he’s like, “And it was completed in the year 1568.” And a lot of critics argue, and I tend to agree, that the reason he’s keen on that date is because the poem actually might have started life as a collection of love poems for Mary, Queen of Scots and Darnley when they got married, but obviously as listeners know, that relationship went downhill pretty fast and all of a sudden, Bannatyne is like, “I have this collection of poems that I can’t really publicize anymore because they are love poems for a marriage that is irrevocably broken. She might have murdered him, and nobody wants to talk about her anymore because essentially, we all hate her.” So, then he kind of pads it out and creates this big collection. That’s one theory that I quite like.

So, the influence of Mary and people connected with Mary like Margaret Fleming on the manuscript is quite interesting because Mary is not really mentioned. The love section is very concerned with talking, essentially, about why women are terrible. It has a game attempt at trying to level it out. There’s one tiny section about “Fals Vicius Men,” there are under ten poems in it, and the rest are essentially, women are terrible. It’s very much connected to, I think the French call it the Querelle des Femmes, which is this argument about women, whether they’re worth anything, whether they’re good or not. So, Bannatyne is engaging quite strongly with that.

In the comedy section, there are three poems that deal with specific named women and the specific named women that are the subject of really quite vicious satirical poems are women called, it’s written “Jonet Reid” but it would be Janet Reid, Crissell Sandals, or Sandilands, it’s one of those names that is translated in different ways, and Margaret Fleming who gets an absolute horrific poem written about her by a poet called Robert Sempill, who was virulently anti-Catholic, very anti-Mary. The poem is called, “I half a litiill Fleming berge” which essentially means, “I have a little Fleming ship.” The poem is ostensibly about the ship and the ship is leaky, loads of sailors have been on it, it’s not very reliable, it needs a good man to look after it. It’s essentially a really vicious attack on Margaret Fleming for, I think, for the main reason that she’s associated with Mary. And Sempill, I mean, he really loves, really loves getting stuck into these women. It’s largely anti-Catholic and there’s this collection of his work included a set of poems called “Satirical Poems of the Reformation” which comes out in 1891, edited by a man called Cranstoun. Of the 38 poems in this collection, 12 of them are by Sempill and he contributes these three poems collected in the Bannatyne. Cranstoun notes that these poems probably would have been circulated around about the time that Mary was in disgrace.

Ann: So, they would have been circulated in the form of pamphlets, sort of thing?

Lucy: Yeah, by chapmen and pedlars, so chapbooks. So yeah, wee kind of pamphlety chapbook things that would have been passed out, similar to what John Knox would have used to get his anti-Mary sentiments around.

Ann: What I was going to say was also just that this does remind me quite a bit of John Knox’s whole vibe, the whole “Women are terrible. We hate Mary. Catholics are awful.” Do you know of any connection… It sounds like every man in Edinburgh went to John Knox’s incel, live podcast recordings.

Lucy: 100%. I think there’s a parallel that I will definitely draw on Vulgar History which is I think we look back on the Reformation and think everyone suddenly went from being Catholic to being Protestant and there was definitely a large part of that religious reformation. What’s really interesting about Bannatyne’s audience is there were probably a couple of like, fairly well-known families that were Catholic or had Catholic sympathies, but they would have kept it quieter. It’s sort of like in the 1930s when families like the Mitfords and some of the high society families would dabble in risqué things like fascism, the Mitfords went fully in for that, some of them did and then the others went to communism. So, I think there was a bit of people dabbling in sort of extremes of both religions.

In terms of John Knox, John Knox as you well know, famously hates Mary. I’ve just been writing about the two of them actually for my book, about the antipathy between the two of them. I think someone like Sempill, Cranstoun characterizes him, I thought this was a really good quote, as “A vigorous supporter of the cause of the Reformation who fought its battles with a willing and unsparing pen.” So, he’s like a John Knox fanboy I would say; he’s agreeing with it, he’s like, “I’m going to take what you’re saying and go further, talk about just how terrible this woman is.” I think that’s something that he takes real pleasure in, so he’s like, absorbing what Knox is saying and thinking, “Yeah, and you know what? I’m going to make it even better because I’m going to write innuendo-laden poems about it that people are going to think are hilarious.” Whether or not they did, I don’t know, I don’t know what the reception was. [Ann laughs]

It’s pretty filthy. There’s a lot in it. The first stanza, it’s about ten stanzas long so I won’t read the whole thing, but the first stanza reads, and this in older Scots, which I have no idea if how I pronounce it is correct, but I will do my best. So, it starts with:

I haif a littill Fleming berge,

Off clenkett work bot scho is wicht; 

Quhat pylett takis my schip in charge

Mon hald hir clynlie, trym and ticht,

Se that hir hatchis be handlit richt

With steirburd, baburd, luf and lie,

Scho will sale all the winter nicht

And nevir tak a telyevie.

So, what that means is:

I have a little ship, 

she’s made of riveted work but she’s strong. 

What helmsman takes control of the ship, 

he needs to hold her cleanly trim and tight 

and see that he handles her hatches right, 

on starboard larboard, love and lie, 

and she will sail all the winter night, never pitching over. 

So, it’s about men handling a ship properly and then in stanza three, it goes fully, like, you can tell a man wrote this. It’s like:

To calfit hir oft can do non ill

And talloun quhair the flud mark flowis

Bot gif scho lekkis get men of skill

To stop hir hoilis laich in de howis

For falt of hemp Tak Hary towis

W’ stane ballast w’owttin vder

In monele nichtis It is na mowis

Except ane stowt man steir her ruder.

And this is like, full innuendo:

To caulk her often can do no harm, 

mark with tallow where the flood mark flows. 

But if she leaks get men of skill to stop her holes leaking, 

flap in the house. If there is a defect of hemp, 

take hairy tows with stone ballast, 

Penis imagery

without other. 

In a moonless night it is no sport to steer her rudder, except for a stout man.” 

So, there’s a lot in this poem about plugging up holes. It’s not subtle. It’s all about, often at this point, women are seen as being inconstant or unreliable. It’s actually a professor from U of S, David Parkinson, who is who I was working with when I was in Saskatoon, he’s written about this poem and he’s like, “The unreliable leaky vessel of women.” And as far as we know, Margaret Fleming, her crime in Robert Sempill’s eyes was being in Mary’s circle, that was it. It was just three women who just happened to be near her.

Ann: Which is really interesting. Also, the fact that this is who he chose, he didn’t choose one of the Four Marys, maybe because their husbands were more influential or something. He just chose this random woman. He didn’t choose Mary herself, he’s just like, “Okay, I’ve got this hilarious idea for a poem about women as a ship,” and he randomly chose a name, it seems like.

Lucy: Yeah, he’s just like, “Who is in that social strata that I can poke fun at?” And it’s just… I mean I couldn’t believe it the first time I read it. I was like, are you kidding me? I thought Margaret Fleming must not be a real person and then I looked it up and I’m like, “Oh no, this is real.” And the fact that Bannatyne is including it– He’s an interesting editor because he’s not, even though I would say the collection is quite, it’s adapted to not be a pro-Mary collection because that would be career death at that point, it would be like, “Hey, here’s my collection of poems that are really all about how great Mary is,” but it’s not overtly anti-Catholic, it’s not like a John Knox-approved Richard and Judy Book Club thing– Sorry, Richard and Judy are two morning TV presenters in the UK and they [inaudible] because the Oprah Book Club. So, it’s not the John Knox book club. But these are included as just funny poems, these three really vicious attacks on these specific women. It wouldn’t be like Bannatyne to take a massive risk so they must be widely circulated funny poems that people like. It’s very strange. [laughs]

Ann: Yeah. So, I’ve put together some information about the actual Margaret Fleming herself which…

Lucy: I would love to know more about her, I’m so psyched about this.

Ann: Here’s the thing. I first heard about her from Miranda who is this descendant of her.

Lucy: [gasps] That’s incredible.

Ann: She told me some details that we’re going to get into. And then I was like, I want to learn more about her, and I have a couple of books, I’ll say what my sources are. The two books I got, they’re academic books and there’s like one sentence in each one about her but I’ll just cite them just because it’s a great title. Queen Mary’s Women: female relatives, servants, friends and enemies of Mary, Queen of Scots by Rosalind K Marshall.

Lucy: Oh, Rosalind Marshall is great!

Ann: Oh yeah, yeah! It’s a great book about various people and there’s a book called The Scottish Witch-Hunt in Context edited by Julian Goodare. So, two books that I got a bit of information from but honestly, I got most of my information from Wikipedia and a site called WikiTree, which is for genealogists. The people out there doing the work are the people researching their own family trees.

Lucy: Genealogists are incredible. I work for Wiki now. My non-academic job is that I work for Wiki and often we work with local history groups and genealogy groups. They are incredible! The amount of information they have is unreal.

Ann: Yeah, I was talking last week, the listeners will have heard it last week I think, with John Guy and Julia Fox who have just written a new biography of Anne Boleyn.

Lucy: Oh, incredible.

Ann: And they were saying, in this book, which is really good even if you’re like, “I know the story of Anne Boleyn,” it’s like, “No, you don’t.” They got new sources that no one has ever written about before and a lot of it was from these local genealogy groups, from local historical societies. They went and found these letters and journals that no one had ever found before but these groups, these people do it. My impression is just that the UK is just full of these little, small towns where people have these little gems of information and they put it all together.

So, here’s what we know about Margaret Fleming. Her last name is Fleming, she was the older sister of Mary Fleming from the Four Marys. She’s quite a bit older, 14 years older than Mary Fleming. I don’t know if you have the Google Document in front of you Lucy but I’m going to try and say some Scottish place names and you can correct me.

Lucy: Excellent.

Ann: So, she was born around 1528, around 14 years before Mary Fleming and Mary, Queen of Scots. She was born in Boghall Castle, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Lucy: Yeah, all good. In fact, there’s a Biggar, Saskatchewan as well, I believe. [laughs]

Ann: There is. The tagline is something like, “New York City is big but we’re Biggar!”

Lucy: [laughs] I love that, that’s amazing.

Ann: Biggar, Saskatchewan. Her mother was Janet Stewart and I’m going to hold, pause, Janet Stewart. She was the woman who was the governess of Mary, Queen of Scots and then she went over and had the illegitimate child with the French king.

Lucy: I think that is correct, yeah.

Ann: So, she’s quite a cool, interesting person herself. So, Janet Stewart was the daughter of James IV of Scotland so all of the Scottish Jameses, up to James I/VI had so many illegitimate children.

Lucy: Like, ludicrous numbers. Ludicrous. [laughs]

Ann: Every other person in Scotland, from what I can tell from reading, had the surname Stewart and was the illegitimate child of a king, whose name was James. But this gives this family, and this gives Janet, because the Scottish thing, different from other countries, was he would recognize these illegitimate children and they would get titles and things. So, this was a noble family because she was illegitimate.

Lucy: Yeah, it was way less of a… Game of Thrones has given us this idea that illegitimates were the spawn of the dead. But honestly, one of Mary, Queen of Scots’s closest advisors was an illegitimate brother, a half-brother.

Ann: Yeah, her brother. I don’t know how much of the podcast you’ve heard, but James Stewart, who we call on my podcast, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart.

Lucy: [laughs] Excellent, excellent.

Ann: To differentiate him from the 75 other men called James Stewart in that story.

Lucy: It’s so frustrating, honestly. Any family tree in Scotland you’re like, oh good, another John. Oh good, another James. Oh, a Robert, wonderful.

Ann: Yeah, and then all the women are called Janet.

Lucy: Yes!

Ann: For me, researching this, the amount of notes I have, that’s why I give everybody a nickname. So, Janet Stewart, she was great; she went over with Mary, Queen of Scots, she was the governess, she had an affair with the king, that got found out and she was kicked back to Scotland, she also had legitimate children. Her husband was Malcolm Fleming, the 3rd Lord Fleming. So, Margaret, we’ll go through the saga.

Margaret Fleming, in 1545 she married her first husband, so she was just a bit less than 20, so it’s one of those arranged young people family alliance type marriages. She married her first husband, Robert Graham, Master of Montrose and then he died at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

Lucy: [giggles] Which is a real thing, the Battle of Pinkie. That always cracked me up.

Ann: Thank you because it always cracks me up and it’s talked about very seriously because a lot of people died. Can you remind everybody which battle that was?

Lucy: Oh, the Battle of Pinkie, you know, Ann, you might be better placed on this than I am. It was very important in Mary, Queen of Scots’s story, isn’t it?

Ann: Marie de Guise war, I think.

Lucy: That’s the one. I think it sits at the start of when people are getting really unsettled about the prospect of Mary, Queen of Scots, it’s quite pretentious in that way. And it’s called the Battle of Pinkie which always cracks me up.

Ann: This was the last pitched battle between– I’m looking at Wikipedia, I love that you work for them because I respect them, and I use them as a source, and I have no problem with it. So anyway, it’s the last pitched battle between Scotland and England. Oh, it was part of the Rough Wooing.

Lucy: That’s it! The Rough Wooing, which is when Henry VIII is trying to…

Ann: To get baby Mary, Queen of Scots married to his son, yeah.

Lucy: It’s interesting because I now live in York in England and in the Rough Wooing, Henry VIII decimates lots of land throughout the country, but York remains relatively untouched, essentially because Henry is like, “Oh, I can go there on holiday, I quite like that.” So, King’s Manor in York is intact because Henry is like, “Oh yeah, I’ll use that as a holiday home.” [Ann laughs] I just find that… I’m like, imagine having that BDE where you’re like, “Yeah, I’ll just keep it as a holiday home.” But yeah, a lot of history from that time in Scotland is lost in the Rough Wooing because cathedrals and so on are ransacked or damaged beyond repair because of Henry’s tactics and yeah, Battle of Pinkie sits in the heart of that at this point where Henry is really aggressively throwing his power around and trying to secure that match which would solve problems for him but… [chuckles]

Ann: Oh yeah, for sure. I was just going to say, I think the Battle of Pinkie, I know I came across it in the backstories of a lot of the people I talked about. I think a lot of peoples’ dads died in the battle, I think the Four Marys, some of their fathers died in this battle. It says here that this was “A catastrophic defeat for Scotland that became known as Black Saturday.”

Lucy: It’s interesting because in 1513 there was the Battle of Flodden, which is similar. In fact, I think one of the Jameses dies at that battle, where it essentially wipes out a whole generation of nobility. So, they’ve just generationally recovered from that and then the Battle of Pinkie happens and it’s sort of history repeating itself in terms of, like you say, loss of fathers and husbands and men in their lives.

Ann: Yeah. So, Margaret’s father, Janet’s husband, dies in this battle which is, I don’t know, it reminds me of World War I or something where it’s like, a generation of young men all die. So, that is why Janet is single and ready to mingle with the king of France, one year later. Anyway, so Margaret Fleming, 14 years older than Mary Fleming. So, she’s getting married at around the same time that Mary, Queen of Scots is being born so it’s kind of a generation earlier, but not quite a generation. So, she got married and then he died two years later in the Battle of Pinkie. Margaret’s father also died in the Battle of Pinkie, her brother-in-law died, every man in Scotland died, basically.

She did give birth to a son, I think he died and then she gave birth so it’s a bit of a Margaret Beaufort situation in the sense of, you’re a teen widow giving birth to the baby of your dead husband. So, she had numerous children, honestly, none of them matter except that one of them is Miranda’s ancestor so they matter in that way. [Lucy laughs] In terms of our story and Halloween and the witchiness of it all, she had various children. So then, she next married Thomas Erskine. Is that still a popular last name in Scotland?

Lucy: Erskine, I don’t know many, but we have the Erskine Bridge which is one of the main ways you can cross over into Edinburgh from Perthshire, so there’s Erskine Bridge and there’s a place called Erskine– No, sorry that’s absolute nonsense, the Erskine Bridge is near Glasgow and there’s a River Erskine as well, so it’s around. It’s not the most popular. You still get Stewarts and Grahams, but Erskine, not so much.

Ann: So, her second husband is Thomas Erskine, they were married… Let me see. She married in 1545, two years later, so she married two years after the death of her first husband, she married Thomas Erskine in Erskine. [both laugh] Thomas Erskine of Erskine, Midlothian. Her dowry was paid by Marie de Guise. So, I think because of the Fleming connection to the Stuarts, would be my guess. So, god okay, all the King James… So, Marie de Guise was married to James V…?

Lucy: Yeah. I think so.

Ann: [chuckles] Fifth. So, if Janet Stewart was the daughter of James IV… Anyway, they’re related. Through the Stewarts, they’re related.

Lucy: It’s like V, V incesty. Well, not incesty but it’s incestuous at this point. [laughs] Everyone is related in some way.

Ann: I think Marie de Guise, like us, I think she’d just be like, “God damn, another Stewart, illegitimate. I’ll pay the dowry, whatever. Who is this? I don’t know.” [Lucy laughs] But that just shows the family’s connection. Also, it’s interesting about her having this poem making fun of her. Maybe that’s part of why she was chosen, she was connected to Mary but also had the Stewart lineage so it’s a way to make fun of Mary without making fun of Mary, because she had the Stewart… Anyway, then she married Thomas Erskine and then I’m not sure what happened. Well, he died clearly because then she married John Stewart.

Lucy: Another one. Another one. [laughs]

Ann: No relation, some relation. The 4th Earl of Atholl. How do you say that?

Lucy: Atholl, yeah. Atholl.

Ann: This becomes the surname she was best known as. So, they were married, this was 1557. So, she’s born, god, okay… She’s like 29 on her third husband.

Lucy: Wow, that is incredible. [laughs]

Ann: Yeah. And kind of par for the course, I would think, for Scottish women, just in terms of how many battles all the men are doing.

Okay, let me see, then we skip ahead. 1557 she’s married. He’s the Earl of Atholl which makes her the something, the Countess?

Lucy: Countess, yeah. Earl and Countess.

Ann: Countess of Atholl, yes. So, this one sticks. She doesn’t marry again. Now the years go by. So, about ten years later, James, Mary, Queen of Scots’s son James is born and this is where Margaret Fleming comes on the scene in a big way. You wrote a note here. Richard Bannatyne, a secretary of John Knox recorded a story about her, and I was like, “Oh, the Bannatyne Manuscript!” But this is not the Bannatyne Manuscript.

Lucy: It’s not the same one. I went and looked at this and again, everyone’s got the same bloody names, but I had a look, it’s mostly regarded that he’s a relation of George Bannatyne but it’s not 100% clear what that relationship is. I think it’s likely that they’re cousins. They’re definitely not brothers from what I can tell. So, the Bannatynes are a high-flying family at this point, they tend to be lawyers, secretaries, educated men. So, they definitely would have been related in some way, I think, but it’s not a close familial relationship in the sense of, it’s not a brother or a father-son situation, as far as I can tell. I need to go and double-check that because he writes, you’re quite right, he writes the Bannatyne Memorials. So, it could be his father, but I would need to double-check that. It’s certainly not his brother and it’s certainly not George Bannatyne himself. There’s a little bit of distance there but the family is in common.

Ann: What’s hilarious about that is that when I was reading this stuff about Margaret Fleming, I’m like, okay I’m going to do this episode. I came across the name Bannatyne and that he wrote some stuff and I’m like, “Oh, Lucy! [both laugh] This must be the thing that she studied!” And it’s not even.

Lucy: Yeah, I’m looking at the Clan Bannatyne page because apparently, they’re a clan, which I find really funny. I don’t know much about the clan terminology. So, George Bannatyne is listed, he’s from to 1608 and Richard Bannatyne dies in 1605. So, that makes me think that it’s probably not his dad unless his dad lived to a good old age. There will definitely be an in-depth genealogy of this somewhere. I’m just having another quick look at the National Archives as well. You know those things where you’re like, I really should know more about this than I actually do and knowing who Bannatyne’s relationships are…

One of the things I’ve been doing lately, which is a cute little, it’s not cute actually, some of the stuff in it is quite horrifying, is looking at the links between the Bannatyne Manuscript and essentially, colonial history and who held the manuscript. One of the reasons it stands out so much is because it didn’t get lost, we always knew where it was, we always knew who had it and it ended up in the Advocates Library in the 18th century and almost everyone who held the manuscript ends up being connected to the Bank of Scotland in its early days or the Baronets of Nova Scotia. This is quite interesting in the sense that this is a group of people a group of links that tie in with most of Scotland’s overseas interests that then end up being awful endeavours that cost a lot of human lives but there’s this coterie of people back in Scotland just passing around this manuscript and looking at it saying, “Aren’t these jolly stories?” Yeah, it’s a strange thing to think about, where it physically was.

So, in short, yeah, Richard, a relation of some kind, accounts vary on which. Certainly, for me, it seems likely that they were cousins. It could have been his father, but the date of death makes me think it might not have been as simple as that. The one person who has written extensively on the Memorial book of Bannatyne is an academic called Theo van Heijnsbergen, who was my master’s supervisor, he did a really interesting book, a really interesting study of a lot of the people we’re talking about today and the Bannatyne called the Prosopographical Context of the Bannatyne Manuscript, which looks at both the manuscript and the memorials. So, I’m just having a wee look here, it is important to note that George Bannatyne’s mother gave birth to 22 other children. George Bannatyne was one of 23…

Ann: Jesus.

Lucy: … which is absolutely wild. So, it could be that he was his brother but just, by a far distance. I’m just having a quick scan of some of the other biographical information here.

Ann: 22, that’s like…

Lucy: I mean she must have just been consistently pregnant. Like, oh my gosh, awful. And Bannatyne’s uncle and his cousin both died at the Battle of Pinkie. I’m just looking to see if Theo mentions Richard at all because it’s just not a name that comes up that frequently. I’m just going to have a quick check because I don’t want to be quoted as saying it’s absolutely definitely not his father or brother and then it turns out… It’s definitely not his father because his father’s name is going to be John or James, isn’t it? There’s no other names in Scotland at this point in history.

Ann: That’s a challenge to have 22 children in Scotland in this era, how do you think of 22 different names? There aren’t 22 different names.

Lucy: Honestly, it must have been a heck of a lot of James. James I, James II, James III, James IV. [laughs] But I believe his father was also a James, I’m just having a look to see… Yeah, so if I had to put money on it without going deep into the genealogical annals, I would guess that it is at closest, a younger sibling but I think it’s much more likely that it’s a cousin. George’s father, James, was part of the Bannatyne dynasty and as we know from records from the Battle of Pinkie, there were other Bannatynes in that generation. So, it would surprise me if they’d never met one another. I think they would be familiar; I think there would be family connections, but I don’t think they’d necessarily be siblings. But it’s interesting because the manuscript is so well known, that Bannatyne is this connection to Mary as well, Mary and to Margaret. Yeah, there are just so many people and so many connections at this point that it becomes a very confusing Agatha Christie.

Ann: It really does. Can I tell you, just in terms of everyone being called James… I’m going to be, later today, doing this YouTube live discussion of the Mary, Queen of Scots movie, the Saoirse Ronan one from 2018. Did you see that?

Lucy: Yeah, I have just literally finished a chapter about James VI and queerness in which I talk about that film quite a lot because there’s quite a lot of interesting stuff happening there with sexuality and gender.

Ann: Do you remember the part of the movie where Mary is pregnant and she’s making amends with her brother, Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart, whose name is James. So, she’s like, “I’m going to call my son James,” and then he starts crying like, “Oh my god, you’re naming your son James after me. This is such a peace…” It’s like, James, this is the only name!

Lucy: This is the only name! [laughs]

Ann: What other name is there? He’s crying in the movie! He’s crying at the tribute that she’s calling her son James and it’s like, there’s not another option! That’s the only name there is, James.

Lucy: That’s it, there are only Jameses, only Jameses. Only James in this country. James and at best you might get an Alexander but it’s unlikely. It’s probably going to be a James. [laughs]

Ann: It was a highlight of the movie to me.

Lucy: I love that, I love that. That’s hilarious.

Ann: Okay, so here we’ve got this other Bannatyne, a relation to your, I’m going to call him your Bannatyne.

Lucy: My Bannatyne, my George.

Ann: So, there’s a Bannatyne… What’s it called the Bannatyne Manuscript is what you’re…

Lucy: Yeah, that’s what people generally refer to as, yeah.

Ann: But then this other Bannatyne, Richard Bannatyne, the secretary of John Knox had his own thing that was, what was it called, the Memorials?

Lucy: Yeah. So, George Bannatyne writes, I think it’s a memorial book where he accounts for a lot of the people around him and who exist in that era. Bannatyne never does another literary endeavour, the next thing he does is this memorial book of all the people he’s related to and it’s kind of a who’s who. But it seems that Richard Bannatyne, secretary of John Knox, also did some history writing and I don’t know if it’s called the Memorial or not, I’m just clicking to find out what it’s called but he’s also doing recounting. He does memorials of transactions in Scotland from 1569 to 1573. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, “it has been inferred that he was of the same family with George Bannatyne,” but there’s nothing concrete known about him.

So, I wonder if… I don’t know, my headcanon, I’ve decided, is that he’s the extremist cousin who people are like, “Yeah, we don’t really talk to Richard so much but he’s around. He sometimes comes for Christmas, but he sometimes goes on his weird rants so we’re just going to not associate with him that frequently.” So that’s my canon and I’m sticking to it. [laughs]

Ann: And this is who we know. So, Richard Bannatyne, as secretary of John Knox, so you just think like a big Joe Rogan fanboy, gross, terrible person, he in his writing recorded a story and this is the main thing anyone knows about Margaret Fleming, but I don’t know, you know, sources, who is right? Who is wrong? This is a great story and we’re just going to take it that it’s true. Based on what else we know, I think it is true.

He recorded a story that when Mary, Queen of Scots was in childbirth, Margaret Fleming was one of the people tending to her. I talked about this in the Four Marys episode; Mary, Queen of Scots famously had the Four Marys but then the Four Marys all had sisters and their sisters were kind of like the outer circle, they were also involved. And their sisters were all called Margaret.

Lucy: The four Margarets, I love that. [laughs]

Ann: The four Margarets are the four older sisters. So, Margaret Fleming was apparently there, on the scene, when James was born and she was called upon to magically transfer Mary’s labour pains to someone else, ironically to Margaret Beaton who I assume was the older sister of Mary Beaton. This was a thing! This is like, I heard from, I don’t have the message in front of me right now but another listener who, when I was talking about this briefly in a previous episode, she was saying, yeah, this is midwifery, the connection between midwives and magic and whatever, it’s like, this is a thing. So anyway, she was called upon to transfer the labour pains to someone else. Guess what? Didn’t work. But she tried.

Lucy: Oh, you’d be so bummed out. You’d be like, oh no! [laughs]

Ann: And the other woman was like, “No really, you can do it.” So, at this point, she was clearly known to be a person who had some magic powers, one might say, a witch. So, Bannatyne was, okay… Richard Bannatyne was the enemy and political opponent of Margaret Fleming’s husband. He described her husband as an “idolator and depender on witches.” So, you know, he had his own reasons for wanting to share the fact that she maybe was a witch but I’m going to be honest, she was a witch. [laughs]

Lucy: She 100% was, yeah.

Ann: Exactly. So, she was called upon in this situation. And this is where, we’re going to talk about this in a minute, but she lived for decades and decades and when James I/VI became king and he was going crazy persecuting witches, he never went after her and it’s because she was present at his birth. He couldn’t call into question his legitimacy so he could never go after her. But I love that she was at his birth, as a witch.

Lucy: Oh yeah. And James is, I mean… Man, yeah.

Ann: His whole deal was just like going after witches, but he could never go after her and this is why she was the witch who they couldn’t burn.

Lucy: That got away, the one they really couldn’t burn.

Ann: Not just because of her pedigree, her relation to the family but she was present at his birth, he could never go after her because he needed those witnesses. So, he’s born. Three years later… So god, everything happened so quickly for Mary, Queen of Scots.

Lucy: So flippin’ quick, isn’t it?

Ann: So, at this point, Darnley’s been blown up, she’s potentially on the run. Anyway, actually can I tell you one more thing that I enjoyed in the Mary, Queen of Scots movie?

Lucy: Of course.

Ann: So, do you know, I assume you know the famous drawing of the murder of Darnley that’s like a one-panel graphic novel of everything happening all at once that William Cecil’s person had draw? Do you know what I mean?

Lucy: Yes, mm-hm. And there’s the part of that, in the upper corner, it’s baby James and he’s saying, “Avenge my cause, oh Lord,” and it’s hilarious because he’s a baby.

Lucy: [laughs] I love a baby in a kind of late medieval-early modern painting, just wonderful. They always look so strangely old and wise.

Ann: And the fact that he’s saying, “Avenge my cause, oh Lord.” In the movie, the Saoirse Ronan movie, the baby is shown screaming a couple of times and I’m just like, [through laughter] “What he’s trying to say, this baby…”

Lucy: Subtitle: “Avenge me! [laughs] Avenge my cause!”

Ann: Another highlight to me in that movie. Okay, so 1570, all the shit has happened with Mary, Queen of Scots, basically. So, there’s a guy called… Actually, can I ask you, do you know many people with the surname Douglas in Scotland?

Lucy: Yeah, Douglas is still a pretty common surname I would say, yeah. And a place name as well.

Ann: Yeah, they’re all over this story, it’s just like, everybody has the surname, Douglas. And what I find entertaining is that their battle cry is, “A Douglas! A Douglas!”

Lucy: [laughs] I have a friend called Douglas; I don’t know if he knows this. “A Douglas! A Douglas!”

Ann: You need to tell him. When they went to the murder of Rizzio, apparently, they were all like, “A Douglas!” It’s like, “Oh my god, who is doing this? Oh, the Douglases?”

Lucy: Who could possibly be doing this? [laughs]

Ann: And then the part where Darnley is stabbed outside of his exploded house, he’s like, “Don’t do this to me, my kinsman.” How did they know it was a kinsman? Were they yelling “A Douglas! A Douglas!” in the dark? [Lucy laughs] They can’t not yell this constantly.

Lucy: Subterfuge is just not a Douglas thing. [laughs]

Ann: No, no. But they have their battle cry, and they cry it constantly. Okay, so this is complex, but this is the story, so I’ll tell you. So, October 1570, Mr. Archibald Douglas– and I have encountered people in this story called Archibald Douglas. Archibald Douglas was one of Margaret Tudor’s husbands, this is not him, this is a different guy. It might be a person who I nicknamed on my show, A. Douglas. So, he “obtained a jewel that had been made for Mary, Queen of Scots as propaganda for the Scottish succession to the English throne. He showed it to the English diplomat Thomas Randolph,” who I call Randy Randolph because he was so horny for the Four Marys and wrote so much about them, about how much he was attracted to them. Randy Randolph, he wanted to marry one and then he couldn’t, so he was like, “I didn’t want to marry you anyway.” He’s also in the Saoirse Ronan movie. I was like, “Oh my god, Randy is in the movie!” I was excited. [Lucy laughs]

Anyway, so he gave it to Randy. Randy is just lingering around Scotland, so Randy sent the jewel to London to be like, “Oh my god, look at this treason jewel.” And I love how much the Mary, Queen of Scots story has, like, symbolism of embroideries and things. So, if you go to a court of law to be like, “This means this and this means this.” It’s like, does it?

Lucy: She was so expressive. One of the things that always fascinates me about her is that she used the “soft arts” of embroidery and poetry, and they became simultaneously her strength and her downfall. It’s very interesting, it was something that was very looked down upon but was also a source of her femininity as well as her queenship and I find that really interesting. So yeah, treasonous jewel, symbolism, this definitely means this. It’s so interesting.

Ann: The whole thing is so interesting because now it’s like, what the intent of it was, what people took it as, and then what we now, today, interpret it as. A lot falls through the cracks of, what did this actually mean?

Lucy: Yeah, what does it actually stand for? What does it mean?

Ann: So, this jewel was said to be shaped like an antler and a “hart horn herse.”

Lucy: Hart horn herse.

Ann: Hart horn herse, so a heart-shaped… Anyway, it’s shaped like antlers. And this jewel, I’m like how big is this jewel? How can a jewel show all these things? So, this jewel shows “Mary enthroned with two fighting lions with the inscription, ‘Fall what may, Fall the Lion shall be Lord of All,’ with a motif of intertwined roses and thistles.”

Lucy: Mm, interesting. So, is James the lion? I don’t know because there are two lions. Oh, that’s interesting.

Ann: Mary enthroned, so Mary on a throne with two fighting lions. Is it saying that the lions are fighting… I don’t know, even to me I’m just like, that’s treason adjacent jewellery. I don’t know a lot about symbolism, but this is like, okay…

Lucy: It’s at least mild treason. [laughs]

Ann: I would be concerned. So, Randy was “horrified by the implications of this treason jewel which he said was a token to be sent to Mary. The jewel was conjectured to have been commissioned by the witches of Atholl,” which is Margaret Fleming and her daughters, the witches of Atholl.

Lucy: Interesting.

Ann: So, I’m like, it’s a treason jewel but also casts an evil magic spell? Okay.

Lucy: Interesting. A cursed jewel of treason.

Ann: And it’s by the witches of Atholl. In that book, I mentioned that was like, the history of the Scottish witch hunts or whatever, witch of Atholl is a thing that comes up. It’s just like, Margaret Fleming was AKA the witch of Atholl, everyone is just like, she just is, that’s the witch, she’s Margaret Fleming, here’s what’s up. She’s a witch taken for granted. So, this jewel did exist. “The clerk of the Privy Council, Alexander Hay, mentioned the jewel in a letter to the Scottish regent after speaking with [Randy] about it.” But again, Randy was like, “I saw this jewel,” it’s like, does this jewel exist Randy or did you just make it up?

Lucy: Did you just describe something that is in fact, not real? [laughs]

Ann: He said that Margaret Fleming sent it to Mary, but it fell into Elizabeth’s hands.

It was no bigger than the palm of a hand and in the shape of a hierse of a harthorne and well decked with gold and enamelled. According to Hay, the design included the royal arms of Scotland and an image of Mary in royal robes, with a lion fighting a leopard and the motto.

Anyway, “Hay wrote that this matter was kept ‘daintie,’” which I think means secret, “but it was known, Elizabeth was not pleased. Richard Bannatyne also described this jewel.” I feel like something happened, but I also feel like Randy was prone to hyperbole. So, to make a jewel with literally Mary, Queen of Scots’s image on it, saying she will take over the country, is not anyone’s style in this period. It’s more like, this is a picture of Aesop’s Fable.

Lucy: Uh-huh. And it’s interesting because one of the big things at Holyrood Palace that they still have in the collection is the Darnley jewel or the Lennox jewel which was given to Mary I think before their marriage. It was commissioned much earlier, but it was given to Mary, it was held by her prior to their wedding, I believe. It’s interesting that they would pick something like a jewel knowing that that was something that was associated with Mary. I don’t know. It’s very strange. Yeah… Huh. It’s like they took a bit of it and made it wrong.

Ann: I don’t know. I’m not going to get into this right now, but it reminds me a little bit of the Casket Letters where it’s just like, “Oh yeah, I saw these letters and they said this and this and this,” and someone is like, “Can you show us the letters?” And they’re like, “Uhh, I’ll show you a copy of the letters with no dates on them,” where it’s like everyone really wants evidence that Mary is scheming but she was too– Anyway, I was going to say Mary, Queen of Scots was too good to do something like this but Margaret Fleming, chaos, she would have done it, she doesn’t care. [Lucy laughs] She made a witch jewel.

Lucy: She could do that, I believe it.

Ann: Yeah, exactly. What was the year that you said your Bannatyne Manuscript, when was that?

Lucy: 1568.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. So, this is after that. So, she’s already, she’s just like, “You’re going to write this sexy poem about me, put it on pamphlets? Fine. Here’s what I’m going to do. Treason jewel.”

Lucy: Treason jewel, boom.

Ann: Yeah, so Margaret’s daughter, Jean, because everyone is called Jean/Janet, she married Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy, and then Margaret’s husband, the Earl of Atholl died at Kincardine Castle. [pronounces it as Kincar-deen]

Lucy: [pronounced Kincar-din] Kincardine but to be fair, that’s a weird way of saying something that does look like Kincardeen, but yeah, Kincardin.

Ann: Kincardine near Auchterarder. [pronounced as Oct-or-arder]

Lucy: Yeah, nice! Auchterarder, yeah, 10 out of 10!

Ann: Thank you, thank you. So, her husband, Margaret’s husband died soon after attending a banquet at Stirling Castle. Margaret Fleming was also unwell. So, “A rumour started that they had been poisoned at the request of various people.” So, Annabell Murray is the Countess of March, and she was the sister-in-law of Margaret Fleming, or potentially they were poisoned by Regent Morton, who we call for various reasons, Councilman Jeremy Jam from Parks and Recreation.

Lucy: [laughs] They got jammed. [laughs]

Ann: Basically, Margaret got sick, her husband died, and it seems like they were poisoned. Here’s what I’m going to say, a lot of people were poisoning a lot of people at this time, they probably were poisoned. So, one of her sisters-in-law wrote… It sounds like Margaret Fleming herself was maybe accusing Annabel Murray of having poisoned her. Her sister-in-law wrote to Annabell being like, that’s not true, we know you didn’t really poison her. “Margaret Fleming also appeared in person before the Privy Council to petition for her son’s rights,” regarding what? I’m not sure.

Lucy: Interesting.

Ann: But her life is not dull.

Lucy: Yeah, she’s advocating for her family, that’s incredible.

Ann: And she’s maybe being poisoned by Jeremy Jam. The Earl’s will mentions the tapestries, we did a whole episode about Bess of Hardwick so I’m all in on tapestries of this era.

Lucy: Excellent.

Ann: She had 186 stones weight of new wool,” I don’t know what that means exactly, “in the wardrobe of Balvenie Castle.”

Lucy: Balvenie, listeners may know it because of the whisky. It’s up in the northeast of Scotland, very near where I grew up. It’s now basically adjacent to the grounds of Glenfiddich Distillery. So, it’s quite rural and at that time, you’re talking about maybe a three-hour drive from Edinburgh now so yeah, quite far north. Yeah, that’s really interesting, I didn’t know she had a connection to Balvenie at all. It’s still standing, it’s ruins, but it is still there.

Ann: I think if you’re going to be the witch of Atholl you want to be in a rural, remote area. You want to be not in the city centre.

Lucy: It’s interesting, and this is total conjecture on my part, finding out about her links to Dunkeld and Blair, you know, Macbeth is going to come out in the next 50 years or so and the witches there are Dunkeld and Birnam, or “Birnam wood has come to Dunsinane,” there’s connections to that part of the world as well. I wonder if Shakespeare had that in mind when he was thinking of those witches or if he was going for more historical records about Macbeth himself. But it seems like, I don’t know, there’s a resonance there with James VI/I preoccupations with it as well.

Ann: That’s so interesting. I imagine that’s Shakespeare trolling him a little bit to be like, “I’m going to make the witches live in this place where your aunt, a witch, lives today.”

Lucy: [laughs] L-O-L. Boom. Jammed.

Ann: And you can’t do anything about it.

Lucy: You cannot do anything. You’re a patron of the arts. [laughs]

Ann: James could never do anything. I love that Margaret Fleming was so untouchable. Entirely because she was present at his birth and there was the whole thing about, was the father actually Rizzio. So, he had to always be– Anyway, I love this. She had this home in Balvenie Castle, it says that was her main home, that’s where she kept her 186 stones weight of new wool, what she’s doing with it, I don’t know. Wool is not heavy.

Lucy: No, that’s a lot of wool. Balvenie’s not big, that must have been a fair amount. [laughs]

Ann: What do you do with all that wool? Magic things.

Lucy: Magic.

Ann: Their other homes were at Dunkeld and Blair, which are also, you were saying, sort of far away from Edinburgh, rural areas.

Lucy: Yeah, so there’s this road that goes from Edinburgh, Glasgow. You go north to Perth, which is about an hour north of both places, then there’s this road called the A9 which takes you all the way up to Inverness and it’s got a lot of historical sites on it and Blair Atholl and Dunkeld and places like that are all on it, so it would have been one of the main routes up north as well. So, it makes sense that she would maybe have Dunkeld as a halfway house and then head on up to Balvenie. It’s the way I often drove home so yeah, it’s a handy route.

Ann: You didn’t know, you were following in the footsteps of a famous witch!

Lucy: I didn’t know, if only I had known I would have taken power from it.

Ann: Exactly, exactly. Okay, 1583 she’s in credit trouble, owing Edinburgh tailor, John Young, money. So, I’m going to guess this has to do with the wool.

Lucy: [laughs] I’m going to take a stab and say the ridiculous amount of wool might have cost her a bit of money. Yeah, I would back you on that.

Ann: Yeah, yeah. So, she was in credit trouble. “Her goods, widow’s terce and income were assigned to David Lindsay.” I wanted to mention that in the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, there was a person called Lindsay, he appeared a few times and it was exciting because his name wasn’t James, his name was Lindsay. And we remember Lindsay because he’s married to Euphemia.

Lucy: Ah, Lindsay and Euphemia.

Ann: So, this is not Lindsay from Lindsay and Euphemia. This is a different Lindsay, just so everybody knows. But anyway, this Lindsay, like Lindsay from Lindsay and Euphemia, was also a supporter of Hollywood icon Jimmy Stewart at this time. Anyway, so she has some money trouble, although I feel like, I don’t know, maybe she could increase her witchcraft activities to make some more money, put some curses on some people? I don’t know.

Lucy: Open up an Etsy shop Margaret, what are you doing? It’s a gig economy. Hustle. [laughs]

Ann: You have all this wool you’re a witch, just make some dreamcatchers or something.

Lucy: Get felting. [laughs] It’s not hard. I mean, it might be hard, I don’t know, I’ve never felted.

Ann: She has all these children; she can get them to do it.

Okay, this is where it all comes back to Mary, Queen of Scots. So, Margaret wrote to Mary, Queen of Scots from her lodging in the Canongate of Edinburgh in March of 1585, so this is shortly after the credit trouble situation. She’d been away from the town because of the plague. Oh, do you know what this is, the Canongate of Edinburgh?

Lucy: So, the Royal Mile, which stretches from Holyrood Palace up to Edinburgh Castle has lots, it’s made up of lots of different streets. The Canongate, which is where I think it must be to do with monks because of canon, is one of the parts of the Royal Mile nearest Holyrood, so it’s near the bottom of the Royal Mile, so it would have been very adjacent to the royal palace at that point.

Ann: So, she was staying somewhere fancy.

Lucy: Well, it’s funny, yes and no. So, at that point in time, the new town hadn’t been built so Edinburgh was getting rapidly overpopulated, which is why things like plague were happening. So, in the Canongate, what would happen was they’d build up rather than outwards because of the city walls. So, you could live in very nice lodgings on the Canongate, but piled on top of you could be like ten to eleven floors of slum housing. So, it was the OG skyscrapers, with people throwing shit out of the window and stuff like that. But on the bottom floor, you would be more stable, you would have bigger rooms, you might have some windows, that kind of thing. So, the rich and the poor were quite mixed in together at this point, but within that, there were different styles and sizes of dwelling houses that may have been better or worse. But it’s worst on the Royal Mile; you would have these rickety ass skyscrapers that were prone to collapse and filled with disease.

Ann: Well, I was just going to say, when you’re talking about ten storeys of slum housing in 16th-century Edinburgh…

Lucy: Not good.

Ann: The stability of these structures would not be…

Lucy: Terrible. Yeah, terrible. One of the reasons they kept getting the plague was because sanitation was just, like, throw it out the window and hope for the best. You know, there’s a lot of things about how and why plague spread and how that connects to beliefs about witches and things like that. But I would say the Canongate, because of its proximity to Holyrood probably had some of the better lodgings but it is also likely that there would have been… In fact, would the Canongate have been outside of the walls at that point? There’s a point halfway up the Royal Mile where there’s a pub called the World’s End and that’s where the toll booth of entry to the city would have been. So, it may have been slightly nicer than some of the bits further up the hill, but it certainly wouldn’t have been palatial necessarily by any stretch.

Ann: And if she’s used to living in castles in any way, this is not the vibe.

Lucy: Absolutely. Not the vibe, it’s just not the one. [chuckles]

Ann: No. So, she was in litigation, and I love how much, having just done this Bess of Hardwick episode, I love a woman who is constantly suing people because at least we know what she was doing, otherwise, there’s no record. So, she was in litigation with her son, and I don’t know if that means she and her son against somebody else or she was in litigation against her son. Unclear. This is from WikiTree, the genealogy website. Anyway, so those people who did this research, they knew that she did this. “She mentioned that the Scottish court, ‘changes manners’ meaning that at present…” because this is still baby King James, he’s a young child.

Lucy: He’s an infant king, isn’t he, yeah.

Ann: So, she’s saying “At present, the young king’s advisors did not favour Mary, although,” she claims that the child kind, “had great affection for her.”

Lucy: The kid probably doesn’t know who she bloody is at this point, but sure. [laughs]

Ann: But this is what she’s saying because she’s writing to Mary, Queen of Scots saying, like, “Your son is great, I wish that you and he could be together one day. Also, can I come to England and be your lady in waiting and can I bring my daughter with me as well? Thank you!” She just needs a job, basically, so she’s sucking up to Mary.

Mary, Queen of Scots at this point in England, she’s obsessed with news about her son, she remembered her, this was her lady in waiting from back in the day, and she needed a new companion so she’s like, “Great, I’m all in favour of this.” But guess what? It’s not Mary’s choice, she is in house arrest. Queen Elizabeth would not allow this to happen and so this is maybe because Elizabeth didn’t allow anything good to happen to Mary, Queen of Scots but it’s also allegedly because Elizabeth remembered the treason jewel and she’s like, “That’s that bitch who made the treason jewel.”

Lucy: [ laughs] “Not today bitch, not today.”

Ann: I have a long memory and hell no.”

Lucy: Absolutely not. “

Ann: So, she was not able to go and tend to Mary, Queen of Scots which I think was, I’m guessing, she’s living in Canongate, she’s sewing somebody, potentially her son, I think she just needed to get away from it all and a new job but that didn’t work. Anyway, Mary was upset at this decision, obviously, she wanted her to come, and she wasn’t able to. “Queen Elizabeth thought that the respect for companions was suspicious,” but, you know, everyone is suspicious. Anyway, that’s kind of the last that we know. That was 1585. Two years later, she died, she was around 59 years old, and she died in Auchterarder in Perthshire in Scotland.

Lucy: Wow. What a life.

Ann: Can I just say, her children were Catherine, Jean, who was I think we mentioned, she married Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy, Grizel.

Lucy: Yup.

Ann: Grizel.

Lucy: Grizel, Crisel, they’re all kind of variations on almost Crystal, but yeah, you get Grizels and Crisels at this point which is… It hasn’t endured. I have yet to meet a Grizel in real life but it’s popular at this point.

Ann: I think that’s the name of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters in, like, the OG Disney Cinderella, it’s Grizelda.

Lucy: Grizelda, yeah!

Ann: I was excited to see, again, when you’re having numerous children, you can’t call them all Jean. You have to come up with a new thing.

Lucy: You’ve got to keep it real, keep it fresh.

Ann: Oh, this just ties something else. Remember when she was in credit trouble, owing money from all of the wool to the tailor? Her money was all assigned to this guy, David Lindsay. David Lindsay is Grizel’s husband.

Lucy: Son in law, oh boom! What a use of power. [laughs] “Can you bail my mom out? She spent all her money on wool again.” [both laugh] I love that.

Ann: So then, she also has a daughter called Mary, wife of Francis Hay the 9th Earl of Erroll, and then her son John and this is the one who she was in the courts either with or against. So, he became the next Earl of Atholl. When he died in 1595, so like ten years after her basically, “the earldom in default of male heirs reverted to the crown.”

Lucy: Oh, so none of them had sons.

Ann: Yeah.

Lucy: Interesting. Oh, that’s some strong female energy, yeah!

Ann: The daughters that you couldn’t burn. [laughs]

Lucy: Oooh! And how does our friend of the podcast link into all this?

Ann: Let me look up my message from Miranda because she had said…

Lucy: Miranda, that’s right.

Ann: Let me look her up. And again, I love… What an interesting life but also the fact that, like… So, she died in 1586, 1587. When did… James was about 20 years oldish when she died.

Lucy: Yeah, he would be almost exactly that, 21. And Mary, did she not get executed that year as well? Let me just double-check.

Ann: I think it was around then, yeah.

Lucy: Yeah. I think it’s at Fotheringhay just a couple of months later. Let me just double-check. Literally a month later, 8th of February 1587. So yeah, that’s incredible. Very close together.

Ann: Let me see. Miranda says her 14 times great-grandmother was Janet Stewart.

Lucy: That is incredible.

Ann: “Her daughter, my 13 times great-grandmother, Margaret Fleming was known as the greatest witch in Scots courts, rumoured to have been the real person behind the North Berwick witch trials but never arrested or accused. There’s a story that says she was so well known as a witch that when her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth, she was asked to be in the room to put the birthing pains onto a lady-in-waiting so Queen Mary would have a smoother labour and not die.”

Lucy: That is incredible. So, I wonder which child that links her to.

Ann: Well, I hope Grizel, just because.

Lucy: Yeah, I hope so too. I’m rooting for her. After everything David went through bailing his mom out of fashion jail, I think that’s yeah, definitely. [laughs] Incredible. Four daughters and one son, that’s amazing.

Ann: That’s why I like that it said… What was it? I think it was, yeah, “The jewel was conjectured to have been commissioned by the witches of Atholl, meaning her and her daughters.” I like that she and her daughters formed a little coven.

Lucy: A little coven, that’s incredible. [laughs]

Ann: So, that’s Margaret Fleming. And then she also has this sexy poem written about her.

Lucy: Yeah, really kind of salacious, degrading, but also quite entertaining poem that was being… I love, I didn’t realize that after that she hadn’t shied away from it. I had this image of her as like, “So, you’ve been publicly shamed by a pamphlet, what next?” But no, she kept doing it, she kept living her life. That’s amazing. That makes me feel very warmly toward her.

Ann: It’s like, “What am I going to do? I’m going to amass such quantities of wool…”

Lucy: [laughs] “To make my little voodoo dolls of John Knox.”

Ann: Yeah! Sell those on Etsy. Yes.

Lucy: You’d need a lot for the beard, so that makes sense. [chuckles]

Ann: You would. That’s also going to be discussed later today when we do our film discussion, David Tenant and the quantity of hair.

Lucy: Incredible. Who is coming on to discuss? I can’t wait to hear what you all think.

Ann: So, it’s going to be Allison Epstein and Lana Wood Johnson. On Patreon usually, we do these movie reviews, so this is going to be like a live movie review but there’s, yeah, there’s a lot to discuss.

So, you mentioned a few times that you’re working on a project, you’re working on a book. What is that?

Lucy: So, my book is turning my thesis into a monograph, so it’ll be all about the Bannatyne Manuscript and the depictions of women within it. I’m also going to be looking a little bit at the afterlife and the colonial legacy. But I just finished a chapter for an invited collection called Life at the Margins, that will be coming out next year, in which I wrote about James VI/I and queerness, his life, and how historians have circumvented his sexuality and his queerness. The other thing that I’m kind of arguing in it is that a lot of the mythology around James about him being this good, stable king is because people are so tired and fed up after Mary and Darnley that they don’t want him to repeat his parents’ mistakes so…

Ann: I was not aware that anyone thought of him as a good and stable king.

Lucy: In historical accounts in Scottish history, academics of the 20th century, there’s definitely a tendency to smooth him down into being like, “He did a lot for culture. He was pretty stable after Mary, really, it could have been worse. His mom was a total piece of work, and he seems normal.” My theory is that that is why a lot of stuff about his sexuality is swept under the rug and like, “We’re not going to touch that.” It was normal at the time to have favourites; he wasn’t doing anything untoward.

But I think there’s a bigger question about how we flatten Scottish history and say this really interesting guy, who did some… You know, a lot of the faults and problems that Scotland inflicted upon the world with their colonial agenda come directly from James and from Elizabeth. A lot of the problems we have with, you know, witchcraft or things that happened with that kind of nervousness around female power in the 1600s come directly from him. I think it’s so unimaginative in previous historical research to say that it doesn’t really matter who his mom was, what we have to do is look at his reign and think about XYZ. And I’m like, it matters hugely! At the heart of it, you’ve got this kid who didn’t really have a mom because she was in prison, amongst other things, for murdering his dad. He has this really wack relationship with his godmother, who is also his mom’s cousin, who is also responsible for his mom dying, and he has these really intense passionate relationships with men in his court. It’s really interesting to me. So, I kind of tried to reclaim that a little bit.

We’ll see how it’s received when it comes out, I don’t know if it’ll be any good or not. It’s definitely outside of my usual comfort zone. But I read a great book actually, I was thinking of you, it’s called Bad Gays: A Homosexual History. 

Ann: Yeah, yeah!

Lucy: Yeah, and it has a great chapter about James in it where it’s like, “Essentially, he just loved Twinks.” [laughs] That just made me laugh, I was like, I’m definitely quoting that. So, it’s about sort of, unsmoothing the James narrative and starting to pick holes in it, like a tapestry almost and saying well, why aren’t we talking more about that? Why are we so keen to make it just like, “It happened, it’s fine. It was better than his mom. It was a union, the union went okay, let’s keep going.” And it’s like, didn’t really. He was a wack job, especially if you were a woman.

Ann: And the continuing influence of the King James Bible on everything.

Lucy: Literally everything that has happened that is terrible can be attributed back to the King James Bible. That’s a vast exaggeration but in terms of colonial agenda, yeah absolutely.

So, I don’t know, my attention is wandering more toward what happens after the Bannatyne now and I’m sort of thinking, well yeah, what are the impacts of that? And then this research into the Baronets of Nova Scotia has been really interesting in terms of, like, who was literally holding it, who was doing what and how was it related to other people. So, there’s a lot to unpack with it but I enjoyed writing about James and about queer theory because the argument I was really making was that people have always been averse to saying he was a gay man, he was a bisexual man, he was a heterosexual man who had affairs with men. And I’m like, why don’t you just throw all of that out the window and just accept this label of, like, queerness and say, if we take a queer lens on James’s court and his life, what do we learn from it? What do we learn about this person who was the product of a very dysfunctional marriage, a very dysfunctional family setup and see where that takes us next? So yeah, I don’t know. I can send it to you if you’d like because I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Ann: I would love to read it! I feel like many listeners would like to read that too. So, if people want to keep up with what you’re up to, including that, you’re on… I don’t know. What social media is there?

Lucy: I’ve evacuated the hell site, but I am now on Bluesky and I’m on as Yclepit. I have a website, I also podcast. You can catch me on The Cast of Us, which is a zombie pop culture podcast which is currently covering the Daryl Dixon show and we’re about to start a rewatch of all of The Walking Dead. So, that’s the kind of stuff that I do at the moment but yeah, I’m coming to a point where I don’t actually know what my next project/job is going to be so I’m excited to see, but those are the places you can usually find me.

Ann: That’s wonderful. I’m really happy to bring you into the fold of the whole Vulgar History situation.

Lucy: Oh, any time, I’ve been a huge fan for so long. One of my greatest sorrows is that because of when the pandemic hit, we were deprived of cool hangs time in Saskatoon. I feel like there was this whole year where nobody could hang out and then we, for various reasons, moved back to the UK and I’m just like, always sad that we didn’t get that time to chat in person and have a coffee and whatnot, so this is lovely.

Ann: I want to let the listeners know as well that when we finish this conversation, Lucy and I are going to do a special, just a little quick recording for Patreon because you used to work at Holyrood Palace.

Lucy: I did, yes, I did. That was my student job.

Ann: I can’t imagine. Well, I’m about to learn all about it so that’s going to be on Patreon. We’re going to do an After Show where I’m just going to ask you lots of questions and one of my questions is going to be about the David Rizzio blood stain on the floor. I don’t know how much you’re allowed to say [Lucy laughs] but that’s going to be behind the paywall so the people on Patreon can hear that, we’re going to record that next. But thank you so much, Lucy, this was such a treat.

Lucy: Oh, this was so fun, anytime. This was great. Thanks, Ann, for having me.


And so, speaking of Mary, Queen of Scots and all of it, so I have recorded, I think I say in this I was just about to do the YouTube Live, that’s all happened. It went great, we had such a good time; myself, Allison Epstein and Lana Wood Johnson were talking about the 2018 Mary Queen of Scots film starring Saoirse Ronan. There was a fun time in the chat, everybody had opinions. We were all angry, the chat and the three of us about several omissions of characters. Nobody in the movie says, “A Douglas,” you know, just egregious things like that. Anyway, if you weren’t able to watch the YouTube Live, you can still find it, the recording is up there on my YouTube page. Did you know I had a YouTube page? There are two things on it, both of them are live-stream recordings. If you look up “Vulgar History” on YouTube and then click on Live, you’ll find the Mary, Queen of Scots Live, it is three and a half hours long because we had a lot to say. There’s another live recording there too if you are just like, “I can’t get enough of watching these three peoples’ faces,” we did a previous live stream about the Lady Jane Grey movie as well.

Speaking of Allison Epstein, I wanted to just let you all know, if you didn’t already know, that Allison’s new book, Let the Dead Bury the Dead, has been published. You can get it from wherever you get your books from, from your favourite bookstore down the street. Side note, there is a bookstore down the street from me, it just opened, life goals. Anyway, go to your bookstore or go to your library, place a hold. If your library doesn’t own Let the Dead Bury the Dead by Allison Epstein, there’s always a form on every library website where you can suggest the library buy a book, so you can do that, lots of ways to get this book.

Once you have it and start reading it you can join the first-ever Vulgar History Book Club. The way that this is working is that I’m putting up separate posts, there are a couple up so far because the book was just published, I respect that not everybody has read the whole thing yet, if you’ve even gotten your copy yet. So, there’s a post where it’s like, “Chapters 1 through 5” so you can jump in and talk just about those chapters, don’t worry about spoilers, you don’t have to finish the book to take part. The next post is like, “Let’s talk about Chapters 6 through 9” so you can kind of read along with each other and talk about the plot twists as they happen. The main question that I have from the first part of the book is, is this one character an ageless immortal witch or not? And that’s what a lot of my discussions are about. Anyway, I hope you are able to get a copy of Allison’s book and are enjoying it and take part in the book club. You can take part in it by going to and everything is there, how it all works. It’s all there,

Oh, I have another announcement, actually. Last week when I was talking with Allison, speaking of, about Empress Elisabeth of Russia, we were talking about the Jewelled Tortoise Award, which was given to Alexei, Empress Elisabeth’s long-time super-secret sexy husband and we were talking about Tunga the buffalo herder who was from the episode last year from the internationale season with Rani Didda. If you will recall, Tunga the buffalo herder, AKA the Golden Maknae like Jungkook from BTS, was amazing at everything he tried to do, and like Alexei was for Empress Elisabeth, he was really always there for her and supported her in a great way. So, I threw it out to you, the tits-out brigade, do you think he should get an elevation?

He was already in the Lady Jane Seymour Memorial Award for Outstanding Supporting Performance, but we both felt like, I think he’s in Jewelled Tortoise territory. So, I asked, I did an Instagram poll. 61% of people said yes, he should go up. And if you’re like, “49% said no?” No. Most people said, “Not sure.” Most people say yes and that’s what’s in my heart, so Tunga the buffalo herder, no surname, don’t know anything else about him but we do know that he was a really good friend and partner to Rani Didda so he has now joined the ranks of the Jewelled Tortoise Award category.

Some other things that I want to mention to you, for instance, I have a website, which is, where if you go there, you can find transcripts of the most recent episodes. If you like to read podcasts, you can find those there. My partner, Aveline Malek from The Wordary is working at those, sort of from front to back, so the newest ones first working backwards. If there’s an older-ish episode that you’re hoping for a transcript for, that will come in time. Anyway, you can find those at There’s also a form there where you can contact me if you have suggestions for people to talk about in the next season. You can also message me at

I was going to tell you… I’ll tell you one thing which is that I do have a plan for next season. So, I was looking back through my past episodes today for various reasons and I saw that I often took three or four months off between seasons, before I found ways to keep having episodes, by doing interviews and things like that. So, there’s going to be weekly episode while I work on what I’m going to say is my most ambitious season to date. It’s combining everything that I’ve gotten, all the information I’ve gotten directly and indirectly from all of you, what you like in the podcast, what you’d like to see in the future, it’s going to be sort of a combination of the Mary, Queen of Scots season or the Lady Jane Grey season where it’s a season where you talk about a bunch of people and in so doing, you learn about one main person. So, there will be a main person.

But there’s also going to be an internationale component to it. This is what I’m planning, and this is why it’s taking a bit longer than sometimes to plan because I really want to talk about this person, who I won’t reveal who it is, although I will say, it’s no one anyone has ever asked me to talk about. So, yeah, eliminate anyone you’re thinking of right now, it’s someone no one has ever suggested to me. But it’s a person whose life was at a really interesting time, a lot of interesting events happened to this person, this person had interesting relatives and stuff. But also, in the world at the same time, there’s lots of stuff going on. So, what I’m looking at doing is talking about this person, the people who directly affected them but also, what was going on in the world at the same time.

So, it’s going to be this combo, internationale, mixed with Lady Jane Grey or Mary, Queen of Scots season and what I’m hoping to be able to do is just do it from front to back. If I can plan enough ahead and get all the research done, we’ll just do all the episodes all in a row, without taking breaks in between like I did during the Mary, Queen of Scots season. There’s also going to be, hopefully, a good mixture of episodes where it’s just me talking and also episodes where I have guests because some of these topics, I really need to bring in an expert. Anyway. Please note that that is all in the works and I’m excited and as I have more that I can share with you about that, I shall share more about that with you.

If you want to keep up with what I’m doing and other random polls I’m doing or whatever, I’m basically, at this point, with the way social media is right now, I’m almost entirely only on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod where I post an awful lot in the Stories. I’m also in other places. I check for my mentions on TikTok, where I’m @VulgarHistory, on Instagram and Threads I’m @VulgarHistoryPod, I’m on Bluesky, god knows. But basically, Instagram is where I mostly live and that’s where you can find me.

I’ve also got, coming out soon, a new design of merch so stay tuned for that but also all the other merch, if you’re doing some holiday shopping or whatever, If you live not in the US, go to because that’s going to save you a little bit of money on shipping.

We also have a Patreon which is This is where if you pledge at least one dollar a month you get early ad-free access to all episodes of Vulgar History podcast. If you pledge $5 or more a month, you get access to the early, ad-free episodes but also bonus episodes including Vulgarpiece Theatre. Most recently I’ve just posted the episode this week actually, where Allison Lana and I were talking about Chevalier, the movie about the Chevalier Saint-Georges, not the Chevalière d’Éon, a person who I really wish there was a movie about, and I hope there will be soon. Also, bonus episodes of things.

I did at one point say that when I get 500 Patreon members I will do a So This Asshole… episode about John Knox and as I speak, I’m at something like 460 members so that’s getting close and I’m just like, you know, it’s going to happen at some point. If you want to contribute to that by joining the Patreon, which you can actually now do for free as well because that’s where the book club is hosted for free. It’s just when you join the Patreon for free, there’s a chat you can do there where we talk about all the episodes, and you can join the Book Club. So, if you want to take part in it but you’re not in a place where you’re able to donate money, totally fine. I just want to say, this podcast is always going to be free. This is the main thing that’s happening and I’m happy to be doing this with all of you.

I think that’s nearly everything I want to say. I think that’s everything I want to say. So, thank you so much for listening and there will be another new episode next week and until then, keep your pants on and your tits out and have a happy Halloweeeen!

Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster and edited by Cristina Lumague.

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at


Queen Mary’s Women: female relatives, servants, friends and enemies of Mary, Queen of Scots by Rosalind K. Marshall

The Scottish witch-hunt in context edited by Julian Goodare

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