The Tudor Society

Expert answer – What does “round machine” refer to in this quote?

Thank you to Tudor Society member Stephanie for asking this question about something written by Estienne (Étienne) Perlin with regards to Mary, Queen of Scots, France and Scotland. Stephanie asks:

"In the following quote do you know what the 'round machine" refers to:

“How happy oughtest thou to esteem thyself, O kingdom of Scotland, to be favoured, fed and maintained like an infant, on the breast of the host magnanimous King of France, the greatest lord in the whole world, and the future monarch of the round machine, for without him thou wouldn’st have been laid in ashes, they country wasted and ruined by the English, utterly accursed by God.”

I found that this was taken from Perlin's book Description des royaulmes d'Angleterre et d'Escosse. Now, it struck me straight away that it must mean the world/globe, but I wanted to check the original French, which can be read at and it says "le plus grand seigneur de tout le monde et monarque futur de toute la machine ronde". I looked up whether "la machine ronde" is an actual phrase, and it is. states that it is "An old expression, encountered in La Fontaine's Fables, which means: the Earth". I looked up that reference and found:

"Quel plaisir a-t-il [le Pauvre bûcheron] eu depuis qu’il est au monde ?
En est-il un plus pauvre en la machine ronde ?
Point de pain quelquefois, et jamais de repos. — (Jean de La Fontaine, Fables, La Mort et le Bûcheron)"

Now Jean de la Fontaine was 17th century, whereas Perlin was writing in 16th century, but I think it means the same thing. Perlin is using it as emphasis: The King of France, Henry II, is the greatest Lord of the whole world and future monarch of the whole earth, perhaps referring to the known parts of the world and then the parts as yet undiscovered. That's my reading of it anyway.

I'd love to hear your comments.

In Perlin's biography on Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, L L Ford explains:

"Perlin's text alternates between potentially useful social observation, for instance in comparisons of the coinage and of the prices of goods in England and France, and lectures on the superiority of French political and social systems over English ones. The frequency with which noblemen were executed in England, he observes, has no parallel in France. His perceptions of Scotland focus particularly on that country's usefulness as a means of attacking the English, and he claims that France could conquer England easily by using Scotland for access. Perlin's Description is not only valuable as a source for the minor details of mid-sixteenth-century life in England and Scotland; it also adds another, and a different, voice to those describing the great events taking place in Britain at that time."

There are 2 comments Go To Comment

  1. S

    Thank you so much for the research that went into finding an answer to my question. I had searched everywhere without success and was truly stuck. Within the context of the quote, your explanation makes perfect sense.

    1. C - Post Author

      It’s a pleasure! I do love researching this type of thing.

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Expert answer – What does “round machine” refer to in this quote?