Historical Scottish Clothing Project
Elder's Letter to Henry VIII

by Sharon L. Krossa

Last updated 27 Sep 2003  

John Elder was a Highlander who wrote a letter to King Henry VIII of England in 1542 or 1543 proposing the union of Scotland and England in which he also described Highland clothing.


According to Dunbar: History of Highland Dress, the letter is "now in the British Museum" (p. 26).

Dunbar: History of Highland Dress

Dunbar, John Telfer. History of Highland Dress. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1962. Order hardcover from Amazon.com (used)

Dunbar indicates "In his letter ... he describes himself as a "Reddshanke" and goes on to explain the term:" (p. 26)

Original Scots/English:

"Moreover, wherfor they call us in Scotland Reddshanckes, and in your Graces dominion of England roghefootide Scottis, pleas it your Maiestie to understande, that we of all people can tolleratt, suffir, and away best with colde, for boithe somer and wyntir, (excepte whene the froest is mooste vehement,) goynge alwaies bair leggide and bair footide, our delite and pleasure is not onely in huntynge of redd deir, wolfes, foxes, and graies, wherof we abounde, and have greate plentie, but also in rynninge, leapinge, swymynge, shootynge, and thrawinge of dartis: therfor, in so moche as we use and delite so to go alwaies, the tendir delicatt gentillmen of Scotland call us Reddshanckes. And agayne in wyntir, whene the froest is mooste vehement (as I have saide) which we can not suffir bair footide, so weill as snow, whiche can never hurt us whene it cummes to our girdills, we go a huntynge, and after that we have slayne redd deir, we flaye of the skyne, bey and bey, and settinge of our bair foote on the insyde therof, for neide of cunnynge shoemakers, by your Graces pardon, we play the sutters; compasinge and mesuringe so moche therof, as shall retche up to our ancklers, pryckynge the upper part therof also with holis, that the water may repas wher it entris, and stretchide up with a stronge thwange of the same, meitand above our saide ancklers, so, and pleas your noble Grace, we make our schoois: Therfor, we usinge suche maner of schoois, the roghe hairie syde outwart, in your Graces dominion of England we be callit roghefootide Scottish; which maner of schoois (and pleas your Highnes) in Latyne be callid perones, wherof the poete Virgill makis mencioun, saying, That the olde auncient Latyns in tyme of warrs uside suche maner of schoos. And althoughe a greate sorte of us Reddshanckes go after this manner in our countrethe, yeit never the les, and pleas your Grace, when we come to the courte (the Kinges grace our great master beinge alyve) waitinge on our Lordes and maisters, who also, for velvettis and silkis be right well araide, we have as good garmentis as some of our fellowis whiche gyve attandaunce in the court every daye." (p. 26)

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