In my quest to take in all the sites, associated with Mary Queen of Scots, around Scotland, we first travelled to Linlithgow Palace, the place of her birth today I continued on my quest by visiting Stirling Castle and on to Inchmahome Priory a round trip of just over 150 miles.
I was blessed with good weather all the way, and on arriving in Stirling (not to be missed on a tour of Scotland) – the last time I was here I drove over with my sisters Irene and Rita and before the renovation of the castle, so you know how long ago that was at least a decade.
I visited Inchmahome Priory before returning to Sterling arriving there at just after 11am so time to visit Wetherspoons for a ‘Full Scottish’ breakfast – which I’m sure will be the same as a ‘Full English’ breakfast south of the border, those cunning marketing men. However, at £4.50 and all the tea you can drink from their teapot of plenty, it was not only good value for money but very welcome indeed.
Our story so far
Following the death of her father James V, and fearing that the infant Mary would be kidnapped by Scottish lords that wished a union (in marriage) between Mary and Edward (son of Henry V111) the Treaty of Greenwich – however when Henry hears that the Scots were reneging on the agreement he sent troops into Scotland to burn, pillage and cause mayhem (then Henry always had a bit of a temper and like things his own way).
The time became known as the “rough wooing” to terrorize the Scots and obtain their agreement to the marriage.
“ Put all to fire and sword, burn Edinburgh, so razed and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what ye can of it, as there may remain forever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lightened upon (them) for their falsehood and disloyalty………and as many towns and villages about Edinburgh as you may conveniently.”
With English troops prowling the land, Mary’s mother felt compelled to move her daughter to the newly built renaissance palace within the castle, for her safety.
On September 9th 1543 at only nine months of age, Mary was crowned in the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle. The one we see today was built in 1590 for the coronation of James V1’s son Henry, the old Chapel Royal having been demolished to accommodate the new.
Mary and her mother were relatively safe in Stirling Castle whilst much of the southeast of Scotland and Fife were burned and laid to waste by the English troops.
The Great Hall
was restored on a grand scale, having to have its roof replaced. In fact, my brother was one of the consultants at that time and was sent off to Finland to see trees felled, cut and dried before testing, for strength and durability, before being shipped to Scotland. When you see these timbers in place it truly would have been a Herculean task (and very costly, it will take a lot of visitors paying their entry fees to pay for the renovations I’m sure). The Great Hall can sit 500 people for dinner and is the largest of its kind in Scotland.
This stair leads you into the palace proper and was known as the Lion’s Den – for it is believed that the king housed lions in these quarters.
The small lion statue crowns the four posts at the foot of the stairs leading up into the palace.
Inside the rooms are spacious, for the royals, with sitting rooms and bed chambers. The décor is spectacular (although not the original as close to original as possible).
What you do get from the windows of these rooms is panoramic views across to the Ochil Hills, and down the valley to the west.
After the invasion by an English army in 1547 and the massacre of the Scottish army at Pinkie Cleugh, (badly led by the Earl of Arran – he asked the Scots to leave their defensive positions and charge the English – they were cut down by artillery (much akin to “into the valley of death rode the 600, only on foot) when the fighting became intense Arran turned tail and fled the field, this provoked a major retreat of the Scots, they were fair game to the English cavalry and slaughters by the thousand.
Once more the young queen’s safety was in question, trapped in Sterling Castle. It was decided that the young queen be moved to France out of the reach of the English.
Mary was spirited out of the castle on a litter in the dead of night and sent to Inchmahome Priory, at the time an Augustinian priory on the small island in the Lake of Menteith, (the only lake in Scotland) the Lake of Menteith is only seventeen miles from Stirling Castle but it is very isolated at the foot of the Scottish Highlands. Had the English troops managed to find Mary the plan would have been to move her swiftly into the Highlands where she could be concealed and protected by the highland clans.
Mary would remain at the Inchmahome Priory for three weeks, the pillaging English army had by now left the area, so Mary could be moved back to Stirling Castle – however with English troops garrisoned in Southern Scotland, the only solution was to move the young queen out of the country. Mary was taken to Dumbarton Castle (situated in the estuary of the River Clyde) she would remain there for a further five months whilst negotiations went on between Scotland and France over Mary’s future.
Mary’s mother was a French aristocrat from the powerful Guise family, she was well connected to the French royal family and this must have helped with the negotiations.
The Scottish Parliament agreed that Mary would live under the protection of the French King, Henri 11, and when old enough would marry his son Francois, who was destined to become King of France.
The problem, this would give France control over Scotland, and create a permanent threat to England, French troops on her northern border, in the on-and-off war between England and France.
In August 1548 Mary arrived on French soil.
I could not go to Stirling and not visit the Holy Rude (the name holy rude simply means holy cross) church that stands close to the castle itself.
The original church was destroyed in the great fire of 1405 it was rebuilt over the following decades and that structure has survived for over 500 years and is the best preserved Medieval church in Britain. On the 29th of July 1567, King James V1 was crowned King of Scotland at Holy Rude Church, of all the churches that staged coronations, only Holy Rude and two others are still active today.
The sun’s shining now on this green field in France,
The soft wind blows gently and the red poppies dance,
The trenches are gone, long under the plough,
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now,
But here in this graveyard its still ‘No man’s land’
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand,
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
And a whole generation that was butchered and dammed.