Archibald Armstrong, called 'Archy', was a native of Scotland or of Cumberland, and according to tradition first distinguished himself as a sheep-stealer; afterwards he entered the service of James VI, with whom he became a favourite. When the king succeeded to the English throne, Archy was appointed court jester. In 1611 he was granted a pension of two shillings a day, and in 1617 he accompanied James on his visit to Scotland. His influence was considerable and he was greatly courted and flattered, but his success appears to have turned his head. He became presumptus, insolent and mischievous, excited foolish jealousies between the king and Henry, Prince of Wales, and was much disliked by the members of the court.
In 1623 he accompanied Prince Charles and Buckingham in their adventure into Spain, where he was much caressed and favoured by the Spanish court and, according his own account, was granted a pension. His conduct here came more intolerable than ever. He rallied the infanta on the defeat of the Armada and censured the conduct of the expedition to Buckingham's face. Buckingham declared he would have him hanged, to which the jester replied that "dukes had often been hanged for insolence but never fools for talking". On his return he gained some complimentary allusions from Ben Jonson by his attacks upon the Spanish marriage.
He retained the post on the accession of Charles I, and accumulated a considerable fortune, including the grant by the king of 1000 acres in Ireland. After the death of Buckingham in 1628, whom he dared the "greatest enemy of three kings", the principal object of his dislike and rude jests was Laud, whom he openly vilified and ridiculed. He pronounced the following grace at Whitehall in Laud's presence:, "Great praise be given to God and little laud to the devil", and after the news of the rebellion Scotland in 1637 he greeted Laud on his way to the council chamber at Whitehall with: "Who's fool now? Does not your Grace hear the news from Stirling about the liturgy?" On Laud's complaint to the council, Archy 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 settled in at London as a money-lender, and many complaints were made to in the privy council and House of Lords of his sharp practices. In 1641 on the occasion of Laud's arrest, he enjoyed a mean revenge by publishing Archy's Dream; sometimes Jester to his Majestie, but exiled the Court by Canterburie's malice. Subsequently he resided at Arthuret in Cumberland, according to some accounts his birthplace, where he possessed an estate, and where he died in 1672, his burial taking place on the 1st of April. He was twice married, his second wife being Sybilla Bell. There is no record as any legal offspring, but the baptism of a 'base son' of Archibald Armstrong is entered in the parish register of the 17th December 1643.
A Banquet of Jests: A change of Cheare, published about 1630, a collection chiefly of dull, stale jokes, is attributed to him, and with still less reason probably 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).
Being the entry for ARMSTRONG, ARCHIBALD in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.