Tabloid Scandal of 1566–Queen Mary’s Jaunt to Hermitage from Jedburgh


There is a scene in the 1971 film Mary, Queen of Scots (starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I) where she is at Hermitage Castle (if memory serves) with Bothwell, and yells defiantly down to her brother and other rebels while Bothwell escapes through the back door.  Yesterday, I got to see Bothwell’s home for myself.  It was a long, long drive – a good 2.5 hours from Kinghorn on some verrry tiny roads that take two-way traffic but are really built for one.  This would have been a challenge but the road to Hermitage Castle from Hawick(pronounced HOYCK) is about 12 miles long and pretty deserted with it, so we had the road to ourselves.  My cousin Karen and I really thought the Garmin SatNav lady was taking us to the middle of nowhere.

Hermitage Castle–Massive, forbidding and gorgeous

And indeed, in the middle of nowhere lies Hermitage Castle.  It is a massive place, suitably forbidding for its location on the Scottish-English Border where for hundreds of years raids and battles were fought for possession of the area.  Once you were inside Hermitage, I have to believe you’d be really safe.

The big story about Mary, Queen of Scots and Hermitage is that she was holding court in Jedburgh, about 25 miles away, when she heard Bothwell was injured in a Border raid.  Concerned, she went to be by his side, creating the modern-day equivalent of a tabloid scandal.

Just like today, the tabloid rumor-mongering got it only partially right. Mary didn’t exactly gallop full-tilt boogie across the Borders to be with him.  She waited a week, finished her business at Jedburgh and only then went to pay him a visit.  He was a Privy Councillor, it was not inappropriate.  And, Mary brought the Court with her, including her half-brother (and nemesis) the Earl of Moray.   I’m never convinced Mary was as taken with Bothwell in a grand romance.  He was capable, loyal–but a handful.

Lambing season in the Borders near Hawich

We made our way back from Hermitage via Jedburgh through some beautiful scenery, including a long narrow road with signposts “Speed kills lambs” — sure enough, hundreds of wee lambs leaping around the fields and in the middle of the road.  This little guy was very bold.

At Jedburgh we stopped for lunch in view of Jedburgh Abbey–magnificent even in ruins.

The real ‘find’ came when the server at lunch suggested we go see the “Mary, Queen of Scots House,” which was where Mary stayed for a month in 1566.  It was from here that she held her Justice Ayres, road out to visit Bothwell and returned–and promptly fell sick.

Of the curious artifacts on display two caught my attention — one, a lock of Mary’s hair, still red-gold and a high heel, possibly Mary’s, that looks remarkably like a Donald Pliner shoe I owned in 1995.  Just sayin’

10 comments on “Tabloid Scandal of 1566–Queen Mary’s Jaunt to Hermitage from Jedburgh

  1. Britannia says:

    I believe that Mary also lost a pocket watch on her way to see Bothwell.It was said that her horse stumbled near a small ditch and the watch fell from her skirt. Apparently it was found only recently by local farmers. Could be in a minority here but I think Mary was in love with Bothwell, certainly in the throes of a passionate affair at the very least.

  2. Susan Abernethy says:

    Great story. I’ve always wondered what her “illness” was. Wish there were more medical records.

    • Hi Susan – From what I’ve read, she had a lot of stress-related illness, and let’s face it, she had a lot of stress from the minute she decided to return to Scotland. If you overlay that with any cold/flu/stomach complaint…but then her mother died of dropsy I think, and there is some suggestion of porphyria in the family. But you’re right, we’ll never know. Thanks for the follow. Geri

      • Susan Abernethy says:

        Just saw something recently where Mary ordered certain herbs from France that were known antidotes to poison. Could she have been suffering from poisoning? Catherine de Medici has been accused of poisoning many people. Another interesting theory.

      • Interesting! If you find the link again, or the journal, I’d love to read it.
        G

  3. Steve Weitzenkorn says:

    The shoe is a real find! Very little information (at least that I have been able to find) is available about Elizabethan shoe fashions. I understand most women’s shoes were unfashionable and utilitarian since they were hidden by long skirts. Many women, of all classes, wore chopines. These were clunky Renaissance-era platform shoes designed to elevate the leather or cloth slipper above street muck. Of course, Queen Mary might have little need to worry about that.

    • Ah Steve, you know more about the shoes than me…I understand the high heel may have been invented in the reign of Catherine de Medici? If so, Queen Mary would have been right there to give them a try. But she was 5’10” or 5’11” — so she was a bit like Princess Diana and really needed to wear flats!

  4. lisa says:

    God I love that Hermitage Castle–very stark beauty about it. Or massive, forbidding and gorgeous 🙂 So eager to know what it was like inside…tell me there was expannsive bed with big feathery pouf on it…and a chalice nearby, full of red wine.

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