Instructions of Henry VIII to Raulf Sadler, 1543, with John Scot of Scotstarvit, The staggering state of the Scots, 1650.

Scope and Content

ms1017: The Instructions given by King Henry the Eight [sic] of England to Raulf Sadler his Ambassador in Scotland with his letters of state during his negotiation [sic] there in anno 1539 et 1543. Comprises copies of diplomatic instructions to Sadler together with his replies to the king and to members of the privy council, reporting on the situation in Scotland. Almost all the material relates to 1543.

ms1018: John Scot of Scotstarvit, The staggering state of the Scots statesmen this last 100 years bygone viz fra the year 1550 till the year 1650. A biographical list of the Chancellors, Treasurers and Secretaries of Scotland, their deputies and other officials of the state, recording their rise to power, how they then 'staggered' and fell from grace, including himself as an example. The latest date, 1663, records the death of Sir Archibald Johnstone.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ralph Sadler (1507-1587), ambassador to Scotland, was educated by his patron Thomas Cromwell, becoming his secretary. He was noticed by the king and made a gentleman of the king’s privy chamber. He was employed on a diplomatic mission to Scotland to secure a rapprochement with James V, and later to promote religious reform, directed especially against Cardinal David Beaton, archbishop of St Andrews, said to be a tool of the pope. He became principal secretary and privy councillor, and increased his power through gathering the evidence which led to the execution of Katherine Howard. He was sent again to Scotland after the death of James V in 1542 to arrange a marriage between Mary, queen of Scots, and Henry’s son Edward, and then to support James Hamilton, earl of Arran, as regent in Scotland against Beaton and his pro-French party but Arran eventually joined the Cardinal. Sadler had favoured peaceful means to introduce the reformation to Scotland but Scottish hostility to the prospect of subjugation by England forced Sadler into military forays with the earl of Hertford. He was made master of the great wardrobe, giving him experience of running the royal household, was assistant to the guardians of Edward VI after Henry’s death and served as an able administrator. Sidelined during the reign of Mary I, he returned to prominence on the accession of Elizabeth, joining her privy council, and later becoming chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He was active in opposing the conspiracies surrounding Mary, queen of Scots, eventually acting as her gaoler. His involvement in Scottish affairs continued as did his duties as financial advisor and military administrator. He never gained the highest political office but remained a loyal and efficient royal servant. His public activities gained him huge wealth, becoming a major landowner.

John Scot of Scotstarvit (1586-1670), Lord Scotstarvit, was a judge and writer, and an important patron of Scottish literary and scholarly works. He studied at St Andrews University, bought the lands of Tarvit in Fife and called himself Scot of Scotstarvit. He was interested in scholarly pursuits, writing Latin verse and endowing a chair of Latin at St Leonard’s College, St Andrews. He was brother in law of the poet William Drummond. He was also involved in politics, serving on the privy council of Scotland from 1622 and seemed to relish the constant political infighting, helping to bring down the earl of Mentieth. He also became a lord of the court of session. From 1632 however he took a back seat in politics, concentrating on two publishing projects with the Amsterdam publisher, William Blaeu. One was to produce a volume of contemporary Latin verse by Scotsmen, which featured some of his own compositions, and the second was to publish and expand on the maps of Scotland drawn by Timothy Pont in at the end of the sixteenth century, both as parts of a series of volumes planned by Blaeu. Scot joined with the rebels against Charles I in 1637 and signed the national covenant the following year. For his actions he was removed from his post in the chancery and spent the rest of his days trying to get it back. His own writings were a response to his removal from office and his feeling of abandonment.


Single item

Access Information

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Acquisition Information

The volume carries an eighteenth century classmark of the University library.


Call numbers used to be ms1017, ms1018

Other Finding Aids

Individual Manuscripts and Small Collections database available as part of Manuscripts Database.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Binding: eighteenth century, calf on boards with embossed decoration on spine in gold and imprint of title on spine King Hendryes Instruction. Paper: 18.3x29.6cm

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on material from the Manuscripts Database

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Manuscripts. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.



Related Material

St Andrews University: For another manuscript version of ms1018 see GB227 msDA765.S3 (ms808).


A text of ms1017 is printed as parts 1 to 4 of A Clifford (ed) State Papers and Letters of Sir Ralph Sadler, King's Banneret, 2 Vols, Edinburgh, 1809.

ms1018 is probably the University of St Andrews ms referred to in Walter Goodal, The Staggering State of the Scots Nation for one hundred years viz from 1550 to 1650 by Sir John Scot of Scotstarvit Director of the Chancery, (Edinburgh, 1754), reprinted by Charles Rogers under the same title in Edinburgh in 1872.