Nichola (fool)

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Nichola or Nicolle (fl. 1560-1570), was a fool or jester to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Nichola was a French "fool" or servant entertainer of Mary, Queen of Scots. She seems to have arrived in Scotland with Mary in 1561. After Mary's abdication she remained at the Scottish court of Mary's half-brother Regent Moray. She was also known as "La Jardinière", the gardener or flower-vase.[1]

One of her keepers was a French courtier called Jacqueline Cristoflat. Other fools at court included Conny, Jane Colquhoun, Janet Musche, Foysir (a man), George Stevin, and James Geddie.[2] Nothing is known of Nichola's court role or her peformances, except the costumes that were given to her. The historian John Guy imagines that the queen "loved to banter" with Nichola "to indulge her wicked sense of humour."[3]

In October 1565 she had a new bed hung with green plaiding.[4] Mary gave her one of her old white gowns. In 1564 she was given a blue velvet bonnet, linen, and Jacqueline was given canvas to make her six smocks or chemises and coifs. The court tailor Compiegne made her a yellow and violet gown.[5] Servais de Condé recorded that one of Mary's bedsheets was cut up to make handkerchiefs for her.[6]

In January 1568 Regent Moray gave her forty shillings and in February gave her and her keeper £20 and 18 shillings. In May 1569 he gave her twenty shillings and black cloth for a gown. In December 1569 he paid for a costume for Nichola, including a grey gown with white, red, and yellow fabric, and grey hose. At the same time he paid £67 Scots for Nichola's and her keepers' expenses from February 1567 to 26 December 1569, and bought clothes for Nageir, Mary's African servant, who was known as a "Moor" or "Moir" and probably attended her horse with her lackeys. Nichola was given two gowns with hoods in February 1570.[7]

In August 1570 Regent Lennox gave Nichola £15 to travel to France.[8]

There are records of a fool called "La Jardinière" and the "fool of flowers" serving Catherine de' Medici in France from 1556 who was perhaps the same woman. Her keeper in July 1560 was Charlotte Mariel or Marielle. She was bought double-soled slippers and a gown with a tail of white miniver fur. An earlier note of payments to women in the household of Mary's mother Mary of Guise, dating from the years before she assumed the Regency of Scotland in 1554, includes money paid to a "Jardinnier" to go to France.[9] It has been suggested there were two French court entertainers both known as "La Jardinière",[10] and that "Jardinière" was a surname shared by Nichola and another fool, Catherine.[11]

The details of Nichola's life have suggested the theme of a novel for young adults, Queen's Own Fool: A Novel of Mary Queen of Scots (Penguin, 2000), by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris.


  1. ^ Charles Thorpe McInnes,Accounts of the Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1970), p. 401.
  2. ^ Joseph Robertson, Inventaires de la Royne Descosse (Edinburgh, 1863), p. lx.
  3. ^ John Guy, My Heart is My Own (London, 2004).
  4. ^ James Balfour Paul, Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, vol. 11 (Edinburgh, 1916), pp. 420-1.
  5. ^ Joseph Robertson, Inventaires de la Royne Descosse (Edinburgh, 1863), pp. 64, 142-3, 147.
  6. ^ Margaret Swain, Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots (1973).
  7. ^ Charles Thorpe McInnes,Accounts of the Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1970), pp. 93, 97, 159, 181-2, 186.
  8. ^ Charles Thorpe McInnes,Accounts of the Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 12 (Edinburgh, 1970), p. 208.
  9. ^ Auguste Jal, Dictionnaire critique de biographie et d'histoire (Paris, 1872), p. 602: NLS Adv. MS 29.2.5 f.61.
  10. ^ Beatrice K. Otto, Fools Are Everywhere: The Court Jester Around the World (Chicago, 2001), pp. 76-7.
  11. ^ Janet Ravenscroft, 'Dwarfs and a loca as ladies maids at the Spanish Habsburg courts', in, Nadine Akkerman & Birgit Houben, The Politics of Female Households (Brill, 2014), pp. 173-4.