Archie Armstrong Court Jester

Archibald Armstrong “Archie or Archy,” as his name suggests, came from the infamous Border Reiving clan and although originally he would ply his time in the family occupation of sheep-stealing, he later entered the service of James VI/I as a court jester and soon became his favourite.

Archie Armstrong court jester

Members of the court however, were not so taken and disliked his insolent, mischievous and presumptuous manner.

In 1611 he was granted a pension of two shillings a day, and his influence seemed to hold great sway.  He travelled with King James VI/I to Scotland and in 1623 accompanied Prince Charles to Spain, where he charmed the favour of the Spanish court.

When Charles I became king, Archie Armstrong remained in his post and by all accounts, accumulated a considerable fortune, including 1000 acres in Ireland, granted to him by the king.

In 1637 Archbishop William Laud became the butt of his malice and upon Laud’s complaint to the council, Archie was sentenced the same day “to have his coat pulled over his head and be discharged the king’s service and banished the king’s court.”

He is then thought to have settled for some time in London as a money-lender, with many complaints made to the privy council and House of Lords about his sharp practices, before returning to his estate and birthplace of Arthuret in Cumberland.

Arthuret Church near Longtown, Cumbria

Arthuret Church near Longtown, Cumbria

An unmarked grave
He married twice, his second wife was a Sybilla Bell. No record of any legal offspring exists, but the local parish register does note a baptism of a “base son” of Archibald Armstrong on December 17, 1643.

Archie died in 1672 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Arthuret Church on April 1.

Archie Armstrong’s publications
A Banquet of Jests: A change of Cheare, published about 1630.

A choice Banquet of Witty Jests … Being an addition to Archee’s Jests, taken out of his Closet but never published in his Lifetime (1660).

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