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.
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.
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’
- Rossend, Scene of Mary, Queen of Scots Scandal with Chastelard and Falkland Palace, Her Favorite Hunting Lodge (thehistorylady.wordpress.com)
- I’m Sure Mary Queen of Scots Stayed in Kinghorn Too… (thehistorylady.wordpress.com)
- Historic St. Andrews; Queen Mary’s Great Escape from Loch Leven (thehistorylady.wordpress.com)
- On Mary Stuart’s Return to Scotland (and mine) (thehistorylady.wordpress.com)