King James IV (1473-1513) and the European Muurs
By Jide Uwechia
King James IV of Scotland came to the throne in 1488. He was an able and visionary monarch whose administration united and maintained order in the Scottish highlands and lowlands. He encouraged manufacturing and shipbuilding, and created a navy. James IV also renewed Scotland’s alliance with France, although in 1503 he took an English wife, Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England.
James was a popular, fun-loving king with many interests. Many persons of Moorish origins were present at his court. Those Moors were the leading lights of Europe in those days. Men of high ranking, being themselves indigenous black Europeans (the Nigri-latinis, Ibero-maurisians, and Romano-celts), they had for many hundred years held the torch of civilization on the continent since the time of Roman Empire. Many of those Muurs in the court of James were eminent scholars, astrologers, alchemists. There was a good helping of poets and musicians.
He enjoyed the company of many popular continental artists and singers, and his official records captured sessions of lively entertainment. Many of his Muurish musician friends were from Italy, which at that age had more European Muurs than virtually any other country in Europe.
The following entries are from King James’ Treasurer’s accounts:
To celebrate Shrove Tuesday in 1505, several [black Europeans] Muurs were present including including a ‘taubronar’ (drummer) and a choreographer were present in Edinburgh. Twelve dancers (including Italians) performed in specially made black-and-white costumes costing £13 2s 10d.
In 1504-5 the ‘Moryen’ taubronar was paid 28 shillings to allow his taubroun (drum) to be painted. James bought a horse at a cost of £4 4s for this Muurish drummer, who accompanied him whenever he toured the northern parts of his domains.
High Ranking Muurish Women of Europe
Muurish women were also mentioned in the Treasurer’s accounts. It is clear that they were persons of high rank and society, since they were pampared and showered with items such as gowns of satin, ribbons, slippers and gloves, paid for by the king.
Entries that refer to Moor women include:
‘Blak Elene’ or ‘Elen More’ was given five French crowns in 1512.
A ‘blak madin’ who attended Queen Margaret was given four-and-a-quarter ells (just over five yards) of French russet.
‘Blak Margaret’ was given a gown costing 48s in 1513.
‘Two blak ladies’ staying at the Scottish Court were presented with 10 French crowns as a New Year gift at a cost of £7.
In 1527, one item simply said ‘ to Helenor, the blak moir – 60 shillings’ .
After James IV’s death at Flodden in 1513 during the Franco-Scottish invasion of England, fewer references to Moors appear in the accounts……
For more on James IV and Margaret Tudor, see:
References and Further Reading
McRitchie, D., Ancient and Modern Britons, Los Angeles, 1884
Buchanan, P. Hill, Margaret Tudor: Queen of Scots, Edinburgh and London, 1985
Dickenson, T. (ed.), Lord High Treasurer’s Accounts – Scotland, vols II, III and IV, Scotland, 1503-13
Edwards, P. and Walvin, J., Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave Trade, London and Basingstoke, 1983
Fryer, P., Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain, London, 1984
The National Archives of Scotland http://www.nas.gov.uk
For the Indigenous black Europeans Nigri-Latinis see: