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'The Gudeman of Ballangeich': Rambles in the afterlife of James V (The Beggar's-Benison, Scotland)

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This article concerns a corpus of legends in which James V of Scotland disguised himself as the 'Gudeman of Ballangeich' in order to enjoy amorous adventures. The traditions may or may not be contemporary, and equally there is not certainty about whether they reflect actual behaviour (although kings in general, including the Stuart kings, have been known to disguise themselves for a variety of reasons, including pleasure). However, in later centuries, allusions to the 'Gudeman of Ballangeich' were used by Scots to refer surreptitiously to a Scots king, by Jacobites to refer to a Stuart king, and members of The Beggar's Benison, an eighteenth-century libertine club, used tales of James V to evoke memories of a better, pre-Union, pre-Calvinist Scotland of cultural creativity and sexual liberty. The legends of James V helped maintain the positive, popular image of this monarch as the 'poor man's king' in the face of less kind judgements from contemporary elites and subsequent generations of historians.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-200
Number of pages14
JournalFolklore
Volume115
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004

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