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Scots Academic and Writer is Awarded one of Austria’s most prestigious honours
By David Thomson

On 22 June 2011 in Vienna, the President of Austria awarded a Scottish constitutional expert and writer the Cross of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic of Austria (Das Goldene Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um die Republik Österreich). The ceremony in the historic Congress Hall of the Ballhausplatz, where the Congress of Vienna was held in 1814/15, was attended by two British ambassadors amongst other VIPs. This was in recognition of his work in compiling the Austrian Foreign Policy Yearbook for 16 years, and his previous 15 years as editor of the government’s foreign affairs magazine Austria Today, as well as numerous special assignments, many of them still highly confidential, on behalf of the Republic.

Dr James Wilkie

Dr James Wilkie was born in Glasgow and brought up in Clydebank, Helensburgh, Garelochhead and Clynder. After working in local government for a time (libraries, youth and community and probation work), he studied at Strathclyde University and Jordanhill College before entering the teaching profession. He was simultaneously active in the Boys’ Brigade, becoming vice-president and secretary of the Clydebank and District BB Battalion.  He maintained a life-long love of mountaineering and sailing which eventually led to his climbing all of Scotland’s Munros as well as doing spectacular ascents in the High Alps.  This was put to good use in his 11 years as administrator of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, when he conducted all the silver and gold expedition tests personally. A later climbing companion was Professor Malcolm Slesser, with whom he often sailed off the west coast.  As holiday crew on a fishing boat he got as far as St. Kilda and other remote islands. 

His mother’s family contacts with the famous medical school of Vienna University, and also his wife’s connections there, led him to accept an offer in 1968 to study for a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Vienna, his chosen subject being constitutional history.  One of his seminar leaders at the university in 1970 was the newly elected Austrian Chancellor, Dr. Bruno Kreisky.  That led to a friendship between the statesman and his Scottish student.  Bruno later had Wilkie undertake recurring work for the Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry, where Jim’s bilingual skills in English and German were helpful in preparing diplomatically sensitive policy statements and speeches.

After receiving his doctorate Jim Wilkie returned to Scotland. He taught history at Allan Glen’s School in Glasgow and Camphill High in Paisley as well as resuming his outdoor and mountain leadership activities.  But opportunities were opening up for him in Austria and he returned there to undertake teaching and writing assignments. Dr Wilkie worked in broadcasting in Vienna in 1977 and assisted in some secondary schools, including residential skiing courses in the Alps.

In 1980 he was invited to become editor of the country’s diplomatic journal Austria Today, which was published in English, French and German editions, and which involved numerous special assignments for Chancellor Kreisky personally.  That work, based in the Hofburg palace, was to continue for 15 years, in three languages daily, despite his congenital deafness that eventually made classroom work impossible.  Austria Today published quality articles and papers on the country’s progress in science, industry, the arts, and diplomatic affairs, and circulated among the top people in 144 countries. 

His special assignments included a “fire brigade” action to assist the International institute for Applied Systems Analysis, after an espionage affair had caused considerable damage there.  He wrote IIASA’s 1985 and 1986 annual scientific reports, and remains a member of the worldwide IIASA Society.  He also, at Kreisky’s request, assisted the Palme Commission on Disarmament, the forerunner of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), now Europe’s largest political institution.

In 1988 Dr Wilkie, at the request of Foreign Minister Alois Mock, founded the Austrian Foreign Policy Yearbook, the official statement of foreign policy, based on the Foreign Ministry’s departmental papers, which he continued to edit for 16 years.  As editor of those journals Dr Wilkie attended many international conferences on security and regional cooperation, including EU and Council of Europe summits.

James Wilkie however, maintained his love for Scotland, to which he regularly commutes to engage in sailing and mountaineering as well as visiting family and friends. He was elected a member of both the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) and the prestigious Austrian Alpine Club (Österreichischer Alpenklub), which is twinned with the SMC, amongst many others.  Having studied piano at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, he also became a member of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. From 1973 to the present he has been a regular contributor to the Scotsman letters pages, and more recently to its Internet web pages. 

A growing interest in politics led to membership of the Scotland UN Committee and to attending United Nations meetings on their behalf. In cooperation with S-UN secretary John McGill of Kilmarnock he drafted the documentation for the Council of Europe that led to the restoration of the Scottish Parliament. With the devolution programme completed, he was asked to accept the position of Chairman of the Scottish Democratic Alliance (SDA), which researches the future governance, defence and other policies of an independent Scotland.  He is particularly active on EU fisheries policy in cooperation with the Scottish fishermen’s representatives.

Dr Wilkie was able to bring his Austrian and Scottish interests together in a project financed by Austria to make exact facsimile reproductions of a remarkable Scottish document, the Book of Hours of King James IV.  It had been produced in 1503, but was lost to Scotland after the death of James IV at Flodden. His widow, Margaret Tudor, passed it on to her sister Mary Tudor, who may have taken it to France. The Book of Hours then re-surfaced in the Habsburg collection in Vienna during the 17th century, and is now in the Austrian National Library. The new reproductions were a project by ADEVA, the Academic Printing and Publishing Institute of Graz.  700 copies were printed, containing the meticulously reproduced 480 full colour folio pages of this invaluable component of Scotland’s heritage.  Dr. Wilkie contributed the learned article on the historical background for the accompanying volume.

In its content, the Book of Hours of James IV resembles a medieval prayer book and calendar of religious feast days. It has magnificent colour and gold leaf decorated pages with intricate designs and reproductions of Biblical symbols, including the famous portrait of James himself wearing the pre-1540 Crown of Scotland, and the funeral of his father, James III. King James is believed to have financed its publication himself to commemorate his marriage to Margaret Tudor, a daughter of King Henry VII of England, who is also depicted in the book. 

Jim Wilkie went on to compile the official book on the Kaiservilla palace at Bad Ischl, the summer capital of the Habsburg Monarchy.  He is a close friend of the Habsburg family, with whom he regularly stays in Ischl.  His son, Dr. Alexander Wilkie, is godfather to the Habsburg heir, Archduke Valentin. 

In recent years Dr Wilkie has undertaken work for the United Nations UNIDO and UNOOSA organisations, and still retains his UN pass. For UNIDO he assisted the preparation of environmentally beneficial development projects in 8 African and 5 SE Asian countries.  Under the auspices of UNOOSA, the UN Office on Outer Space Affairs, he helped compile and edit satellite surveys of the world’s freshwater resources, its mega-cities, and the European woodlands, amongst others.  There was also a comprehensive satellite survey of Saudi Arabia, an archeological survey of Syria, etc.  On the strength of his Scottish teaching qualification he edited the world’s first initial training scheme for space technologists in cooperation with the Geospace organisation and the European Space Agency.

The rare award of the magnificent Cross of Honour in Gold for Services to the Republic, the highest order in the Ritterkreuz class, is a quite remarkable honour for a Scot.  James Wilkie is married to an Austrian, Claudia, whom he met some 40 years ago when she was a teacher in Bearsden Academy, and he has contributed significantly to Austria’s image and policies through his numerous publications as well as through his work with OPEC and with United Nations agencies in Vienna.  He well deserves the honour. 

As a reciprocal, he has worked quietly behind the scenes to obtain cooperation in and understanding of Scottish affairs, from the Republic of Austria and from other states in Europe and Scandinavia, whose representatives he meets through the Foreign Policy Association in Vienna.  In an astonishing career, for which the word unique borders on understatement, he has pioneered Scotland’s way back to Europe as a chapter in its long history closes and a new one opens.

The James IV Book of Hours
The Historical Background
By James Wilkie

Download an updated article about this book here

The Book of Hours of James IV, King of Scots, is rightly regarded as one of the supreme examples of late mediaeval manuscript illumination. Yet it is more than simply that, for it also documents a momentous event in the history of the Kingdom of Scotland, an event that was to have far-reaching effects on the course of history for centuries to come.

There is no identifiable reference to this book in the state treasurer’s accounts, and it is possible that James paid for it personally, and not out of public funds. The accounts do, in fact, mention works of this type that were ordered from Flemish artists, indicating that the artists had quite a flourishing trade in commissions for Scottish clients. It might be asked why this was the case, since some excellent work of this type had been pro­duced in mediaeval Scotland, especially in the monasteries with their fine tradition of Celtic art. The answer is to be found not only in the international reputation of the Netherlands school of book illumination, but also in the political background.

For two centuries the Kingdom of Scotland had been in continual upheaval due to the unceasing English attempts at military conquest after the takeover of England by the aggressive Norman dynasty in 1066. Having overrun Wales and Ireland, the English had turned their attention to Scotland in the late 13th century. There, however, they had met their match when, after two decades of guerrilla warfare, a huge English army was annihilated at Bannockburn in 1314 by a Scottish force only a fraction of its size. The English, after the greatest military defeat in their entire history, then tried to attain their ends by international diplomacy, which the Scottish leaders countered with their famous letter to the Pope – the then international authority – in 1320; now known as the Declaration of Arbroath, its most famous passage states:

For so long as a hundred of us remain alive we will never subject ourselves to the dominion of the English. We fight not for glory or riches or honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man will relinquish, except with his life.“

In 1328 the English were finally obliged to sign the Treaty of Northampton, acknowledging Scotland’s total independence and abandoning all English claims upon it. And still they did not give up their attempts at conquest. Time and again armies were sent into Scotland, attempts were made to set English puppets on the Scottish throne by force of arms, or to have the heir or heiress to the throne forced into a dynastic marriage with England.

All of these attempts were successfully resisted by the Scots, but at a price. The warfare and foreign depredations, with no really stable period of peace for several centuries, undoubtedly impoverished the country, economically and culturally. The huge price of ransoming national leaders from English captivity, the burning of monasteries and other economic and cultural centres by the English, or the “scorched earth” policy pursued by the Scots to deny the invaders any means of living off the land – all this not only hindered the development of an orderly agricultural system but also of the country’s fine mediaeval artistic tradition.

The result of this situation was that for almost 400 years Scotland’s economic and cultural links were predominantly with the continent of Europe, with the Baltic region, the Netherlands, and with France. Above all, the military alliance with France against England, with the promise of mutual assistance in the event of English aggression, put its stamp on the political situation for most of that period. The Hundred Years War, which ended with the failure of the attempts to bring France under English rule, took a certain amount of pressure off Scotland, since the English generally found it more attractive to pluck the rich French lily than to struggle with the recalcitrant Scottish thistle.

The Stewart dynasty came to the throne of Scotland in 1371, and was to rule until l714. Walter the High Steward, one of the great officers of state, had married Margery Bruce, daughter of the national hero, King Robert I, the victor of Bannockburn, and when the direct male line of succession failed it was their son who inherited the throne. The Stewarts were good and competent rulers on the whole, but the country was bedevilled by a succession of minorities when young children inherited the throne after the sudden deaths of their fathers. For example, in 1406 King James I, at the age of 12, was sent off to France for his safety, but was captured at sea by English pirates during a period of agreed truce and held captive in England for 18 years, the country being ruled by regents in his absence. He was eventually released by the English king on payment of a huge ransom by the Scottish parliament.

It is an illustration of the situation that, stung by the successes of the Scottish regiments fighting for the French against England, the English king Henry V took the captive King of Scots with him to France und made him witness the execution of a number of his captured countrymen, on the spurious ground that they had committed “treason” by fighting against their king. The Scottish regents and parliaments, for their part, not only pursued the war, but also carried on a vigorous diplomatic campaign to unite the often divided French factions in the common struggle.

One of these was the Duke of Burgundy, the ruler of a state that had originated as a feudal grant of territory to the younger son of a French king, but which through further territorial acquisitions was well on the way to becoming in its own right one of the major powers in late mediaeval Europe. At the height of its power, Burgundy extended from Lake Geneva to the north of Holland, and from the Black Forest to west of Boulogne on the Channel coast, including the whole of Flanders and the Netherlands. Its rich cultural life was largely founded on the prosperity of the trading cities in Flanders, where the Scottish merchants had their main export markets. The enormous wealth of the Burgundian ducal court enabled it to exercise a munificent patronage of the arts, which was seen in the court musical tradition as much as in Dutch painting and Flemish illuminated books.

Four of James I’s daughters made important dynastic marriages in Europe, one of them marrying the Dauphin of France, while another became Duchess of Austria. Their brother, James II, King of Scots, took a princess of the rich and powerful House of Burgundy as his queen consort in 1449. Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, with the concurrence of King Charles VII of France, arranged the marriage of his niece, Mary of Guelders, to the Scottish monarch. This was a union devoutly desired by the Scots, with their important commercial interests in the Low Countries. It was no less desired by the Burgundians and French for obvious strategic reasons, above all the need to maintain a ring of steel around the English. The clause in the marriage treaty that provided for perpetual friendship and alliance between Scotland and Burgundy was one that allowed Scottish merchants a favourable status in all the Burgundian dominions. The Scots made full use of their preferential rights.

James II, a capable and popular monarch, died an unusual death. While besieging Roxburgh Castle in 1460 in order to drive out the last remnants of the English invaders, he ordered his artillery to fire a salute to mark the arrival on the scene of his queen, Mary of Guelders, with the result that he was killed when the heavy siege cannon next to which he was standing burst and he was hit by shrapnel. His army recaptured Roxburgh and drove the English out, but Mary of Guelders had to govern Scotland together with a regency council in the name of her young son James III. This had administrative drawbacks, but the preferential Scottish commercial and cultural links with the Burgundian empire in the Netherlands naturally remained unimpaired.

The links with Burgundy continued even after James III made a dynastic marriage with Princess Margaret of Denmark, and thereby gained the Orkney and Shetland Islands for the Kingdom of Scotland. Mary of Guelders continued to exert her own and Burgundy’s influence, most notably after the so-called Wars of the Roses broke out between the rival claimants to the throne of England, and the Duke of Burgundy supported the Yorkist cause.

This time it was the turn of prominent English royal fugitives to seek asylum in Scotland. The Burgundian influence was documented in the altar portraits of James III and Margaret of Denmark by Hugo van der Goes for the Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity in Edinburgh. Now in the National Gallery of Scotland, this altarpiece very obviously influenced the artist who did the James IV Book of Hours.

A new age dawned in 1485 when the Wars of the Roses in England ended with the victory of Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth, with the assistance of French and Scottish military forces. The Norman ruling dynasty was at an end, for Tudor was a Welshman, of Celtic blood, with the will to establish peaceful relations with Scotland. A large Scottish delegation attended his coronation as Henry VII, King of England, and for the first time in two hundred years the kings of Scotland and England were prepared to sit down together and discuss common problems. James III had two matters he wanted to discuss with Henry.

The first one was the question of the town of Berwick on Tweed, Scotland’s major seaport, through which much of the trade with the Netherlands was carried on, and which had been occupied by an English army toward the end of the previous regime. The other was the matter of dynastic marriages for himself – Margaret of Denmark having died in the meantime – and his son James, Duke of Rothesay, the heir to the Scottish throne. He was not granted time to do either.

There were factions in Scotland who were not happy about having Scotland’s richest town freed from English occupation only to strengthen the king’s position. James’s heavy-handed methods of asserting the royal authority over the powerful nobility had made him many enemies, and now that there was unaccustomed peace on the frontier with England many of those who had spent their whole lives in military service found themselves at a loose end. In March 1488 an insurrection broke out against James, with the 15-year-old James, Duke of Rothesay, as the figurehead of the rebel lords. It came to an open battle at Sauchieburn, near Stirling, with the crown prince’s forces flying the royal standard against the king, his father. James III survived the defeat of his forces, but was killed by an unknown hand after the battle. His son carried an iron belt or chain about his waist for the rest of his life, in expiation of the crime against his father.

The reign of James IV was nevertheless one of the most brilliant high points in the long history of the ancient Kingdom of Scotland, but it was to end in dreadful disaster. James, born in 1472, reigned from 1488 to 1513. This internationally highly regarded renaissance prince was an educated, imaginative and energetic ruler in the patriarchal tradition of the Scottish monarchy.

He succeeded to the throne at the age of 15. James, however, took a firm grip of his kingdom, quelled all intrigues, and for 25 years ruled in harmony with parliament and people. His court, possibly influenced by his Burgundian family connections, was the cultural centre of the land, where literature and art experienced a golden age. James introduced printing to Scotland, the University of Aberdeen was founded in 1494, and the Royal College of Surgeons in 1506. In 1496 the Scottish parliament passed the first compulsory education act, which laid down that the children of the barons and freeholders had to attend school. His efforts to protect the Christian religion led Pope Julius II to present James in 1507 with the Scottish Sword of State – which can still be viewed along with the Scottish Crown and the other regalia in Edinburgh Castle, including the State Sceptre presented to James by Pope Alexander VI in 1494. James passionately desired to lead a European crusade to the Holy Land, but the age of crusades had already passed and his early death eventually ruled out any such proposition.

Unfortunately, however, there existed barely-concealed hostility between James and Henry VII of England – not surprisingly, in view of Henry’s previous good relationship with James’s murdered father. The various truces with England did not prevent James from maintaining the traditional alliance with France, and leading his army over the border on a number of occasions in support of his French allies, or of a pretender to the English throne. Nor did they prevent unofficial Scottish-English warfare at sea. By this time there were Scottish commercial colonies in Veere, Bruges and other trading towns of the Netherlands, and a considerable trade with the rich Burgundian provinces, which had by now come under Habsburg rule after Maximilian of Austria, later Holy Roman Emperor, married the heiress Maria of Burgundy in 1477. In order to protect Scotland’s vitally impor­tant trading routes across the North Sea, James maintained a small but powerful navy, including his gigantic flagship, the “Great Michael”, which with a crew of 1,300 men was by far the largest ship in the world at that time. Clearly, the Burgundian connection was still one of the major factors in Scottish domestic and foreign policy.

James IV was astute in using his own marriage prospects as an asset in domestic and foreign politics. Matches had been suggested with an infanta of Spain or the daughter of Emperor Maximilian, but James was in no hurry. He had two brothers to assure the succession, no lack of mistresses, and already a number of illegitimate children. His advisers, on the other hand, were becoming impatient, and James’s latest paramour, Margaret Drummond, died mysteriously after eating a suspect breakfast. James had already contemptuously rejected a mere countess offered to him by Henry VII, and when, after an ominous armed skirmish on the Scottish-English frontier during a period of truce in 1498, an English emissary had a private audience with him at Melrose Abbey, he made it clear that his prior condition for peace and friendship with England was a marriage between himself and Henry’s elder daughter, Margaret, then aged nine years old.

Henry VII, an astute statesman, was well aware that such a match could enable the Scottish ruling dynasty to succeed to the throne of England, but, as he put it to his councillors, in that event the greater country would always predominate in such a union. History was to prove him right.

The marriage contract was signed in London on 24 January 1502, when the bride had attained the age of twelve. Margaret Tudor was to receive lands and castles in Scotland worth 2,000 pounds sterling annually, and James was to receive a dowry of 10,000 pounds sterling. A separate treaty of perpetual peace accompanied the marriage treaty between Scotland and England, the first one since the Treaty of North­ampton in 1328.

Margaret’s journey north for her wedding was a regal progress, when she was met at the border by a delegation of the highest nobility of Scotland and escorted to Dalkeith Castle, where James was waiting to receive her. Four days later they made their state entry into Edinburgh amid an ostentatious display of pageantry. The marriage took place on 8 August 1503, in Holyrood Abbey, and was followed by five days of festivities in James’s new palace of Holyrood House. The poet William Dunbar composed a famous ode celebrating the marriage of “The Thistle and the Rose”, the national flowers of Scotland and England respectively.

James spared no expense for his wedding. His new gowns cost more than ₤600 each and the wine bill exceeded ₤2,000 – incredible figures for the time. It is against this back­ground that one must view the ordering of a Book of Hours that would adequately reflect the importance of the occasion – and not least convince the representatives of a large and powerful country that their princess had made a match worthy of her status in the smaller neighbouring state. That the book was ordered from Flanders is least of all surprising in view of James’s family connections there through his grandmother, and the massive Scottish commercial interests in the Low Countries. At any rate, until the death of Henry VII in 1509, the relationship between the kingdoms of Scotland and England was one of friendship and cooperation, so that one might reasonably have been led to believe that the hatred of centuries had been forgotten.

Unfortunately, however, the dynastic marriage did not lead to lasting peace between Scotland and England, especially after Margaret Tudor’s unscrupulous brother ascended the throne of England as Henry VIII. He resumed the long-standing English attempts to conquer France, whereupon the French appealed to the Scots for assistance. Under the terms of the alliance James could not refuse. There was considerable resistance among the Scottish national leaders, but they eventually gave way, and James marched his army against the English. At Flodden, just over the border, he made a stupid tactical error, and for the first time in his life he lost a battle. He lost a good deal more, for he himself fell in the front row of his troops.

That was in 1513, ten years after the brilliant dynastic wedding. Margaret Tudor, now a widow, did not go back to England. She remained in Scotland and married for a second and third time among the Scottish aristocracy. The beautiful Book of Hours, however, she gave as a present to her younger sister Mary Tudor. From this point on the book disappeared from the records until it turned up during the 17th century in the Habsburg collection in Vienna. In a sense it had gone home, because the Habsburgs were of course by then the rulers of the Burgundian empire, including what was to become known as the “Austrian Netherlands”, later Belgium and Luxembourg.

It was half a century later that the first dynastic effect of the marriage was seen. The tragic story of Mary Stuart (the French spelling of the name, which she always used) is known worldwide, and has been immortalised in numerous masterpieces of literature and music. Mary I, Queen of Scots, was titular monarch since the death of her father, James V, King of Scots, in her birth year 1541. She ruled Scotland personally from 1561 till her enforced abdication in favour of her son in 1567, after which she was held captive in England for almost 19 years. Her not unjustified claim to the English throne, which she constantly attempted to realise, stemmed from the dynastic marriage between her grandparents, James IV and Margaret Tudor. After several conspiracies against England’s Queen Elizabeth, whose opponents regarded her as illegitimate, Mary was condemned to death and beheaded.

The “Marriage of the Thistle and the Rose” had lasting dynastic consequences exactly one hundred years later. When the Tudor dynasty in England died out in 1603 with the death of the child­less Elizabeth, the heir to the English throne was none other than James VI, King of Scots, son of Mary I and great grandson of James IV and Margaret, who united both crowns in a purely personal union. It took another century, however, before the constitutional union of the crowns of Scotland and England took place, when the new United Kingdom of Great Britain was formed in 1707. By then, however, the Book of Hours of James IV and Margaret Tudor, that magnificent object of the Scottish national heritage, already formed part of the Habsburg Court Library in Vienna, later incorporated into the Austrian National Library, where it remains to this day.

See for a description of the book.

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