One of the Four Maries at the Lang Siege of Edinburgh Castle


Yesterday I took a break from driving and caught the train to Edinburgh, a familiar routine from my childhood days when we’d head to Princes Street for “proper” school clothes before flying back to the US. (I swear if my mother could have had me in a school uniform, she’d have been in heaven.)  Love the train, wish we had more of them in the US.

It was another dreichy day to be out and about, but I was determined to see the Castle and Holyrood Palace, both of which I’ve visited before, though like my visit to St. Andrews the memory has dimmed with time!  For example, I’d forgotten just what a hike it is up to Edinburgh Castle!  But once there, you can pretty much ignore throngs of tourists and with an audio guide to wander at your leisure.  Confess these photos do not do it the Castle justice, and I’m missing my Sony DSLR, broken since day 4.

Edinburgh Castle

Portcullis Gate at Edinburgh Castle

I was particularly interested in the early castle, of which not a lot remains.  Mary, Queen of Scots did not spend a lot of time at Edinburgh Castle.  Apart from giving birth to her son, James VI, she was only at the Castle on two other occasions during her reign.  But, one of her Maries — Mary Fleming – was here with her husband, the Queen’s Secretary of State William Maitland of Lethington, during the “Lang Siege” between May 1571 and May 1573.  Note – this was long after the Queen fled to England and was imprisoned by Elizabeth I.

Edinburgh Castle

Fleming was Mary’s cousin as well as her chief Lady in Waiting and one of her Maries.  Like the others, she was loyal to the bone to the Queen.  It is hard to imagine what life within the Castle would have been like during a siege — shortages of food and fuel, limited mobility…and it is damp and cold!  Yesterday was just a cold spring day–I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the dead of winter.  When I finally got into St. Margaret’s Chapel after a 90 minute wait (another wedding) I could easily picture Mary Fleming kneeling in prayer for comfort, endurance, hope…

St. Margaret’s Chapel 12th C

But Scots forces under the Earl of Morton, aided by the English, broke the siege and hanged the key rebels, notably Kirkcaldy of Grange.  Fleming’s husband William Maitland was to hang as well, but he died–say some-“the Roman way” and escaped the noose.

A lot of Queen Mary’s biographers talk about Mary Seton as the most loyal Marie, because she accompanied her into England and stayed with her for most of her captivity.  The remaining three Maries–Beaton, Livingston and Fleming–continued to support Queen Mary’s cause after she went to England.  Certainly Fleming lost her husband to the Queen’s cause and after the Lang Siege Fleming tried, but was denied permission by Elizabeth I, to go to Queen Mary in England.

I left Edinburgh Castle and walked down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, only to find that it was closed while the Scottish Assembly meets through 28 May.  Drat and double drat. Drenched and cold, I made for Marks & Spencer’s Food Halls on Princes Street, and Lush for some bath salts and headed back across the Firth.

2 comments on “One of the Four Maries at the Lang Siege of Edinburgh Castle

  1. Rachel says:

    You are really doing this trip right. Even from thousands of miles away, I feel as though I am being sucked back in time. Every time I read one of your posts the edges of the present get a little hazy.

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