Mary Queen of Scots and Palace of Holyrood House

Poor Mary. Her father was not happy to have a daughter – even though she was a beauty. At only 5 years old, she was sent away to a foreign country. Mary was not lucky with her spouses either: Her first husband, a fragile young man, died soon after they were married. Her second husband, […]

Poor Mary. Her father was not happy to have a daughter – even though she was a beauty. At only 5 years old, she was sent away to a foreign country. Mary was not lucky with her spouses either: Her first husband, a fragile young man, died soon after they were married. Her second husband, and first cousin at the same time, was a jealous murderer who later killed himself. Her third husband got her sent to prison and he later died of insanity. Poor Mary Stuart. She did not practice the right faith. She was not allowed to see her son. Moreover, when she asked for help, her English cousin let her down. Another 18 years in prison. Finally, she died by the executioner’s axe. Poor Mary, Queen of Scots. Everybody was always jealous of her, but they had no reason to envy her for the life she lived.

Strong Mary. Less than a year old and a crown sitting on her head already. She stood her ground and kept practising her religion even though everybody was against her. Strong Mary Stuart. She knew and honoured her duties as a Queen. She kept calm, even in the face of death and the betrayal of her cousin. Finally, her son became King of Scotland and England. Strong Mary, Queen of Scots. Everybody will always know the story of her life which has become famous through various artists’ works of the past and the present.

Mary, Queen of Scots
Daughter of James V and Mary of Guise

Born 8 December 1542, Scotland
1543 crowned Queen of Scotland
1557 marries French Dauphin (Francis II)
1559 Francis II and Mary crowned King and Queen of France
1560 her mother and her husband die, returns to Scotland
1556 marries her 1st cousin (Lord Darnley)
1566 Darnley and Protestant nobles murder Mary’s Italian Secretary, David Rizzio, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, son James born in Edinburgh Castle
1567 marries Earl of Bothwell, Imprisonment at Loch Leven Castle for 11 months, son James crowned first Protestant King of Scotland
(James VI)
1568 travels to England to ask her cousin, Queen Elisabeth I of England, the Virgin Queen, for help, imprisoned for 17 years in different places across England
1587 accused to have participated in several plots for the murder of Elisabeth I, death sentence signed by Elisabeth I, execution
Died 7 February 1587, England

Palace of Holyrood House
“Holyrood is a house of many memories. Wars have been plotted, dancing has lasted deep into the night, murder has been in its chamber.”
(Robert Louis Stevenson, 1878)
Majestic. Impressive. Expansive. Filled with precious things. Best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), Palace of Holyroodhouse is seated at the very end of the history-charged Royal Mile in the heart of the old town of Edinburgh, surrounded by beautiful gardens. It was founded as a monastery by King David I in 1128 and has been the Royal residence for 500 years. Today it is the official residence of Scotland for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. She makes her way up to the palace each summer to carry out official engagements.

The facade of these marvellous old premises is symmetrically structured and has two towers at either end. The left tower is the oldest remaining part of the building. It dates to the 1530s – the time of James V. The tower on the right hand side was built in the 1670s, when Charles II ambitious remodelling of the entire palace took place. It was Charles as well, who gave the courtyard its contemporary appearance. The classical style is based on the architecture of the Greeks and the Romans, which is showcased in the traditional order of columns.

The magnificent state apartments can be reached via the great staircase. The rooms are preciously decorated and definitely worth visiting. The staircase marks the starting point of the “processional tour,” which leads you through the specific rooms. The inside of the palace is renowned for its splendid plasterwork ceilings and the large diversity of tapestries. Every single room is very interesting and special in its own way. Mary, Queen of Scots’ private chambers are arguably the most exciting attraction the palace has to offer, not least because of the thrilling story behind them. You can have a glimpse of Mary’s bed, which was given to her by her second husband, Lord Darnley, and at that time was £ 218.20, which would be about £ 20,000 today. If you walk up a narrow spiral staircase, you can enter Mary’s bed chamber. Across from the door sits a very decorative cabinet, adorned with hearts of red and black stone. It contains a lock of Mary’s hair and a purse that she made.

Further notable rooms would be the Great Gallery, hung with Jacob the Wet’s portraits of the real and legendary kings of Scotland, and also Mary’s Outer Chamber, which holds some private items that belonged to the different regents as well as the Holyrood Ordinal. When you step outside afterward, you directly come to the Augustinian Abbey of Holyroodhouse. It appears as a ruin today and the only remaining part is the main body. Mary Queen of Scots used to say her prayers under the stained glass window in her room that faced this abbey.

In 1688, the abbey was badly damaged. Ever since it has been unused, but it became an attractive spot for all kinds of artists. If there is some time left, you have the opportunity to visit the green and blooming gardens, which are nowadays used for garden parties, such as the Queen’s big annual festivity in the first week of July, where she hosts about 8000 Scottish guests. The Palace of Holyroodhouse is absolutely worth a visit, as it has not only a dramatic and fascinating history to offer, but also amazing architecture and decoration.
Team Edinburgh October 2009

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