John Tennent

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Not to be confused with John Tennant (disambiguation).

John Tennent of Listonshiels (died c. 1549) was a servant and companion of James V of Scotland. He kept an account of the king's daily expenses which is an important source document for the Scottish royal court.[1]

Tennent's court positions were pursemaster and yeoman of the wardrobe. He was given livery clothes as a servant in the king's chamber in 1529.[2] As pursemaster he daily accompanied the king, paying his small debts and handing over the sums the king gave in alms or as tips to workmen and beggars. At St Andrews, on 19 May 1540, James gave 44 shillings to two Dutchmen who played and danced for him on the shore.[3] James twice paid out for farm animals killed by accident with a culverin, a new portable gun.[4] John was also yeoman of the crossbow.[5]

Tennent's other main rôle was yeoman and master of the wardrobe. The wardrobe was a large establishment which officially employed almost 40 individuals over the personal reign. There were embroiderers, tailors, a laundry, tapestry men, and carts to transport the clothes, tapestries, and cloths-of-estate between the king's palaces.[6] Tennent was in charge of the Honours of Scotland and ordered a new case to be made for a sword in March 1539.[7] This may have been the sword sent by Pope Paul III in 1537, now lost.[8] He was appointed keeper of the palace and park of Holyroodhouse in November 1540.[9]

When James V went to France in 1536, he first met a prospective bride, Marie de Vendôme, daughter of Charles, Duke of Vendôme, at St. Quentin in Picardy. It is said that at their meeting James instructed Tennent to pretend to be him and they exchanged clothes.[10] This story appears in four sixteenth century chronicles. Adam Abell[11] and George Buchanan mention the disguise; only John Lesley names Tennent; Lindsay of Pitscottie's version is the most elaborate but does not identify the servant.[12] As Lesley's translator put it;

"he takis on the habit of his servand and cumis to the place quhair sche was, for he finyet himselfe Johne Tennantis servand, quhom in this iornay the king with him had his servand."[13]

Tennent was on the French trip, and his one diplomatic errand was not a success. James sent him from Compiegne with letters and a verbal messages for Henry VIII of England and Cromwell on 24 February 1537.[14] Margaret Tudor complained that he was not well received.[15] She wrote to her brother, Henry VIII;

"plesit Zoure Grace to wit, thare is in this realme ane grete wourde that thare wes ane servand of the King my sonnis come to Zoure Grace, quhome thai call Johnne Tennand, quha wes not wele tane with, as thai say."[16]

James came back from France with Madeleine of Valois as his queen: Tennent brought their trunks from Leith to Holyroodhouse.[17] He was a signatory to the instrument made at Falkland Palace at the king's deathbed which David Beaton used to attempt to claim the regency.[18] After the death of James V, John carried out the instructions of Regent Arran and Cardinal Beaton, and dispersed numerous items from the king's wardrobe and armoury to their favourites.[19]

John Tennent married Mause Atkinson (Mavis or Marion Acheson) who had been the king's laundress since 1516.[20] Listonshiels was in the parish of Kirkliston. It belonged to Torphichen Preceptory and as a reward for his services, John paid a reduced feudal rent; "listonschelis, set to iohne tennent be the kingis command in feu for £6 of maile allanerlie", £6 rent only. Another servant, Robert Hamilton, enjoyed a similar privilege at Briggis.[21] John and Mause had no surviving children, and Listonshiels passed to John's brother Patrick by 1549.[22] Patrick Tennent was married to Elizabeth Hoppar, whose sister Katrine Hoppar was married to the Edinburgh merchant Andrew Moubray (III) who built Moubray House in Edinburgh.[23]


  1. ^ The original accounts are kept at the National Archives of Scotland, NAS E30/9, 'pursemaster account of John Tennand.' They were edited and published by Athol L. Murray in 1965.
  2. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 5 (1903), 382.
  3. ^ Murray, Athol L., Pursemaster's Accounts, Miscellany 10, SHS, (1965), 21, 50.
  4. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 6 (1905), 96: Murray, Athol L., Pursemaster's Accounts, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vol. 10 (1965), 44.
  5. ^ Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, John Donald (2005), 26.
  6. ^ Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, John Donald (2005) 229–230.
  7. ^ Murray, Athol L., (1965), 16.
  8. ^ Reid, John J., 'The Scottish Regalia', PSAS, 9 December (1889), 28.
  9. ^ Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, vol. 3, no. 2216.
  10. ^ Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, John Donald (2005), 23.
  11. ^ Cameron, Jamie, James V, Tuckwell (1998), 131 & note 6, (suggests merely a veil of secrecy)
  12. ^ Lindsay of Pitscottie, Robert, History of Scotland, Edinburgh, vol. 2 (1814), 363–364.
  13. ^ Lesley, John, The Historie of Scotland, vol. 2, Scottish Text Society (1895), 234.
  14. ^ A letter from Lord Borthwick to Cromwell, dated at Compiegne 23 February 1537 survives; Tennent must have been the bearer, "weil giffin to ye verite," Letters & Papers Henry VIII, vol. 12 part 1, no. 496, 23 February 1537, which refers to Paul III's sword.
  15. ^ Murray, Athol L., (1965), 15.
  16. ^ State Papers Henry VIII, vol. 5 part 4 cont., London (1836), 74–75, 24 April 1537.
  17. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 7 (1907), 23, 25.
  18. ^ HMC 11th report part 6, Duke of Hamilton Mss, 219–220.
  19. ^ Harrison, John G., Wardrobe Inventories of James V, Kirkdale Archaeology / Historic Scotland (2008)
  20. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 6 (1905), 429: Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, John Donald (2005), 230.
  21. ^ Cowan, MacKay, Macquarrie, ed., The Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland, Scottish History Society (1983), 11: (Murray, Athol, (1965), 16, has parish of Kirknewton, Auldliston was an 'island' remote from both parishes)
  22. ^ Murray, Athol L., Miscellany 10, (1965), 17.
  23. ^ Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, 1513–1546, (1883), p.548 no.2394

Further reading[edit]

  • Harrison, John G., "Wardrobe Inventories of James V" (PDF).  Kirkdale Archaeology/Historic Scotland (2008)
  • Murray, Athol L., 'Pursemaster's Accounts', Miscellany of the Scottish History Society, vol. 10 (1965), 13–51.
  • Thomas, Andrea, Princelie Majestie, the court of James V, John Donald (2005)