Livery and dule : dressing life and death in the late medieval Scottish royal household

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis examines the use of meaningful and symbolic dress at the late medieval Scottish royal court, arguing that group displays of colour-coded clothing, exemplified by livery and mourning dress, played key political roles both in the day-to-day functioning of the court and royal household and at large-scale ceremonial events. The discussion takes an interdisciplinary approach to a wide body of source types, and considers evidence from the fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth centuries, concluding with the funeral of James V in 1543. Although a number of Scottish historians have considered the political implications of individual sixteenth-century monarchs’ wardrobes, there has been little focused discussion of the dress of the wider household and court before the mid-sixteenth century. This thesis shows that dress was employed throughout the late medieval period and the early sixteenth century as a means of visually defining the structures of the household and parts of the court, the roles of the people within them, and their relationships to each other and to the monarch. It argues that clothing’s ability to express constructed meaning and identity made it a powerful and versatile tool. Examinations of livery and heraldic dress, funereal dress and textile displays, and mourning dress are used to explore the employment of clothing by the Scottish crown, nobility, and household officials. These discussions culminate in three case studies of the finely-tuned displays of liveries and mourning that were organised for the funerals of Scottish monarchs Madeleine de Valois, Margaret Tudor, and James V. By showing that meaningful dress was a core element in the expression of interpersonal and political discourse at all levels of court life, and by making the technical definitions, forms, functions, and associated meanings of late medieval Scottish dress more accessible, this thesis seeks to facilitate the wider integration of dress evidence into Scottish historical research.
Date of Award1 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorMichael Hunter Brown (Supervisor) & Katie Stevenson (Supervisor)


  • Dress history
  • Court culture
  • Clothing
  • Pageantry
  • Royal administration
  • Funerals
  • Scottish kingship
  • James IV
  • James V
  • Margaret Tudor
  • David Lindsay of the Mount

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 3rd March 2026

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