That Skelton was in one sense or another a “court poet” has been the corner-stone of most accounts of his life and work.
But quite what that term impliesis not always immediately clear. As what follows will suggest, the early moderncourt was a complex and amorphous phenomenon: a mansion of many rooms.Consequently the notion of “court” or “courtly” poetry needs to be treated withcare if it is to be of value for an understanding of Skelton’s career. This chapter will examine Skelton’s engagements with the royal court, both in his poetry andduring his career as a writer and scholar, as he gained and lost royal favour andthe place close to the centre of political affairs that such favour brought with it.In the small space available here it will not be possible to offer detailed readingsof all the relevant texts, but it should be possible to offer suggestions for futureresearch and reflections upon the “courtly” context of the poet’s work. We willbegin, however, with a brief account of the early Tudor court itself, which dem-onstrates the need for caution and clarity when discussing even such seemingly uncontentious questions as what were the limits of the court?, who had a placethere?, and who could claim to influence its culture