Was My Field Research on the Queen and the Four Marys Just a Boondoggle?

Just a “few” guidebooks I picked up (which added 5 lbs to my suitcase weight)!

I’m back home, after an excruciatingly long flight from Scotland that involved at least eight hours of flight delays.  I was sorry we picked the day I returned to bring home our new puppy, because I was a weary mess.

The purpose of my trip was to see as many of the historical sites important to Mary, Queen of Scots and her Four Maries and kick off a fierce summer of writing with the goal of completing the first draft of my novel by the end of the year.  So how did I do?  What did I really accomplish?   And, was it even necessary in the era of Google Earth/Google Images?  Was I just on a big fat boondoggle? (What’s a boondoggle? It is when you go somewhere under the guise of doing work or business and in fact it is more party than anything else. Favorite American expression.)

Yes! I admit there was an element of boondoggle about my journey.  My parents are from Scotland (Fife) and I spent a lot of time there growing up.  Returning to see my cousins and old friends was fantastic, and I could have spent the two weeks roaming around seeing them.  As it was, I did not get to visit every relative and friend I had hoped to see.  Next time…

Could Google Earth have been a solid substitute?  I have a friend who writes romance novels and has written one set it Germany and England without ever having set foot in either country.  I thought she did a good job capturing England in the 1980s—and I was there at the time.  I’m writing about the 16th Century, which I can’t visit either.  So did being on the ground, viewing ruined castles help me write more detailed scenes?

I did a fair bit of research on Google Earth and Google Images and while it was helpful, there was nothing like being on site, or en route to a site.  I’d seen plenty of photographs of Hermitage Castle but nothing I saw prepared me for the sheer size of it tucked away in the lonely Borders.  No photograph can capture the pure joy I felt traveling through the Scottish countryside on a sunny day, or the miserable feeling I got when on a rainy day the relentless damp chilled my bones. My characters will feel that too.

As I went from place to place, photographing the ruins and researching what happened at each site, I was a little surprised at how being on the ground in castles like Loch Leven, Hermitage, Stirling gave me a greater appreciation for the chaos and strife of Queen Mary’s short, 7-year residence in Scotland during her reign.  I have known Queen Mary’s story since I was 12 and read Lady Antonia Fraser‘s biography Mary Queen of Scots (yes, I was a precocious child).  But knowing a story and feeling it are quite different.

Being on the ground here, I saw my characters a little differently, more deeply.  From the minute I hit the runway at Edinburgh airport I was more aware of the what it was like for five young women under 20 to return to their native lands and their families as almost foreigners.  They were, for all intents and purposes, French women but now expected to pick up a culture and life they had left behind 13 years earlier.  I could even liken their experiences to my own.

As I traveled to the sites and focused on what happened in the lives of Queen Mary or the Maries at each, it hit home how crisis-driven their lives became once they returned to Scotland.  I think of Queen Mary and her Maries as the “it” girls–the celebrities–of their day at the cutting edge of Renaissance culture and fashion. They caused comment wherever they went, whatever they did–and tabloid talk followed.  John Knox was like our on TMZ or News of the World. Queen Mary was a lightning rod for scandal—men fell deeply in love with her (John Gordon, Chastelard, Willie Douglas), never mind the men who wanted her crown (Darnley, Bothwell just for starters).

In that environment, I start to wonder what kept Queen Mary going?  Even after her low point, imprisoned at Loch Leven, she pulled herself together and escaped, rallied troops and went into battle.  She was no coward, no shrinking violet and neither were her Maries.  Seton was bold enough to join her at the Battle of Carberry, then body-double for Mary in her escape from Loch Leven, run with her to England, sharing her imprisonment.   Livingston likewise was at Carberry and she held onto Mary’s jewels and money even under duress from the Regent Morton as late at 1573.  Fleming and her husband held Edinburgh Castle in what can only have been diabolical conditions.

Queen Mary lurched from one crisis to the next, doing her best to manage each.  But with each crisis the stakes were raised higher and she finally lost everything.  Once Queen of France and Scotland, she spent half her life imprisoned.  And yet Queen Mary’s cause was not lost the day she fled to England–there were many, many in Scotland who remained loyal to her.  Not just Edinburgh Castle, but also Doune Castle and Dunbar held for her up until early 1570s, after she was under Elizabeth I’s eye.  Her Maries, their husbands and families all worked for her release and did not give up on it for a long time.  Queen Mary had been escaping from one sort of danger or another since her mother removed her from Linlithgow to Stirling in case she was abducted and taken to England at seven months old.  There was no reason to think once in England she would never see Scotland again.

For me, I can’t imagine writing this book without spending time in Scotland in the footsteps of my characters, seeing the worn stone steps in an ancient castle and knowing my characters helped with the wear and tear, or the fireplace where they would have sat and warmed themselves on a cold day, or following the route they took from one location to the next.

I admit I did not achieve everything I hoped to.  I could easily have spent another two weeks, or three, to really cover the ground.  And I might yet before it’s all done.  Remember, Queen Mary spent a lot of time in France…and England…Just sayin’.

In the meantime, I have journals and drafts and ideas floating in my head and a summer to get them all cohesively on paper. Carpe Diem!

Last day castle-hopping—Callendar House, Linlithgow Palace and Lennoxlove

View of the Forth from Burntisland

I made a last minute itinerary change and instead of heading into Banffshire to Portsoy to see the old castle where Mary Beaton and Alexander Ogilvy of Boyne would have lived, I decided to stay in the lowlands see Callendar House and Linlithgow Palace in Falkirk; and drive down the Lothian coast of the Forth to Lennoxlove House. I was blessed with the most glorious day for a road trip across the Firth of Forth.  The photograph at the left was taking on the A921 between Burntisland and Aberdour.  It was a spectacular drive.

My first stop was Callendar House in Falkirk, which was the home of Mary Livingston’s family.  Mary Livingston, nicknamed “Lusty” by Queen Mary and her fellow Maries—but steady on, this was about a zest for life, dancing, riding and not lusty as we know the term in the 21st Century! She was the daughter of Alexander, Lord Livingston—one of Queen Mary’s guardians.  Queen Mary visited Callendar many times, including just a few days before she married Darnley in July 1565, and a few days before he was killed at Kirk O’Field in February 1567.

Callendar House, Home of Mary Livingston

The land surrounding Callendar House has been owned by the Thanes of Callander as far back as the mid-12th century.  Today, it is a beautiful park and on the day I was there, it was mobbed by racers on a cancer walk-run.   I could see how Queen Mary and the Maries would have enjoyed a good hunt on a visit here.

The house today looks more 17th-19th century, but there are remains of a 14th century castle inside – a small four-story stone tower built in 1438.  Unfortunately for me, I was at Callendar House for 11 o’clock – the first stop on my day out but the house did not open until 2 pm—they swear this is on their website, but I didn’t see it.  I didn’t stay, because I’d have then missed the other two sites I really wanted to see, particularly Linlithgow Palace.  But, according to “Stravaiging Around Scotland” (a title that could accurately describe my own meandering adventures), “the tower had walls some 2.4 metres thick, and consisted of a single room on each level, spread over four floors.

The ground floor was a vaulted storeroom, accessed internally from the first floor. The first floor itself was entered via an external wooden staircase, and would have contained the main hall.  On the second floor was the laird’s chamber, and above that a garret level. This early castle is thought to have been surrounded by a courtyard wall and a moat…Probably in the late 15th century or early 16th century a new wing was added to the east of the tower, extending 16 metres and joined at the south gable, turning the tower into an L-plan building. The new extension included a scale-and-platt staircase, and the entrance was moved to the ground floor.”  This is how the house would have been in Queen Mary’s day.

Mary Livingston was exceptionally loyal to Queen Mary, as was the rest of her family.  Livingston stood by the Queen at the Battle of Carberry Hill, even though her father-in-law supported the other side.  Livingston’s husband John Sempill was equally loyal.  Though his father, Lord Sempill, was one of the Lords who signed the warrant for her imprisonment at Loch Leven, his son was active in early attempts to rescue the Queen from there.

Mary’s brother William, the 6th Lord Livingston tried to negotiate the Queen’s release from Loch Leven, fought with her at the Battle of Langside and joined her in captivity with his wife Agnes (sister of Mary Fleming) in 1568.  Four years later Agnes returned to Scotland and was an active part of a network passing message to and from Queen Mary, she was even imprisoned for it at Dalkeith Castle.[1]

View of Loch at Linlithgow

Linlithgow Palace, original East entrance.

My next stop was Linlithgow Palace, one of the favorite Stewart palaces.  When she first visited Linlithgow, Mary of Guise declared it a “very fair place” and said it could compare with any chateau in France and indeed, Linlithgow Palace must have been a showstopper in its hey-day.

Although the Palace was built originally in the 11th Century by David I but the building that exists today was really the work of a series of Stewart Kings beginning with James I and in particular Queen Mary’s grandfather James IV and father James V.  It was a favorite residence of James IV’s wife and Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor, as well as Mary of Guise, Queen Mary’s mother—not surprising then that their children, James V and Queen Mary respectively were born here.

One of the most beautiful features of the castle is the fountain commissioned by James V that sits in the middle of the courtyard. It is a beautiful, intricately carved piece of Renaissance sculpture.

James V’s Renaissance Fountain

Queen Mary lived at the Palace while she was an infant, but was moved to Stirling where she could be kept in greater safety.   When she returned to Scotland after 1561, she stayed here several times.  The day after her last visit on 23 April 1567 en route to Edinburgh she was intercepted by Bothwell, who she then married.   Two months later she was imprisoned in Loch Leven.

James I section of Linlithgow Palace

My last stop was at Haddington to see Lennoxlove House, once called Lethington.  I got there very late–10 minutes after the last tour, but was still shown the 16th Century portion of the house, which was the home of William Maitland of Lethington, Queen Mary’s Secretary of State often called the “Scottish Cecil.”  Maitland was the husband of Mary Fleming, Queen Mary’s cousin and one of the Four Maries.  Remember I mentioned Maitland held Edinburgh Castle along with Kirkcaldy of Grange for Queen Mary until 1573 – five years after she left for England.

The old tower at Lennoxlove, formerly Lethington and home of William Maitland Mary Fleming’s husband and Queen Mary’s Secretary of State

The Great Hall is really all that remains of the 16th Century tower, and I did not get to linger very long.  Two items of interest at Lennoxlove:  Queen Mary’s death mask and the silver casket said to have contained the famous “Casket Letters” said to have been written by Queen Mary (if you believe this and I don’t).

[1] Queen Mary’s Women—Female Relatives, Servants, Friends and Enemies of Mary, Queen of Scots, Rosalind K Marshall, 2006

Dunfermline Abbey-Beginning of the End of Queen Mary’s Happiness?

Somehow, I feel every blog post should start with a commentary about the weather, because in some ways it does drive the sight-seeing experience.  So today, I am happy to report it was a bit cold, but it did not rain!

The old Gibbons house in Bowhill

I spent the morning with my great-aunt Lena, who is in a care home in Glenrothes–and then met my cousin Ian for lunch in a very fine pub, the FettykilFox.  Chatting over lunch put us in the mood to go to Bowhill, a subdivision of Cardenden where our dads grew up and find the old house that our grandparents had.  Ian was too young to have stayed at 11 Daisyfield Terrace, but I remembered it.  The neighborhood has definitely suffered from years of economic downturn and unemployment — it was primarily a mining community.

Site of Granddad Gibbons’ Favorite Pub

We took a photograph, and then another of the old Bowhill Social Club where my Granddad used to spend a bit more time than my grandmother would have liked.  (I actually remember him taking my brother and I there to show us off to his mates when we were little, and swearing us to secrecy–but we ratted him out the minute we got home, so amazed were we by the pub!)

“The Bruce” Carved Atop Dunfermline Abbey, resting place of King Robert the Bruce

But to the purpose of the day, which was to visit Dunfermline Abbey, an 11th Century church that was the burial place of many Scottish Kings and Queens, including Robert the Bruce (think Braveheart).  I understand his tomb is very beautiful, but guess what?  There was a _______!  Yes, a wedding.  I am sure Historic Scotland gets well-deserved supplementary income from these events, but they don’t half put a cramp in your sight-seeing style.  The tomb will have to wait for another day…

Mary, Queen of Scots stayed here on several occasions while travelling through her kingdom; from 7 to 9 and again from 17 to 18 September 1565 with her new husband, Lord Darnley.  They were married in July 1565–you wonder if the honeymoon phase was already over and she figured out he was not love’s young dream?  Their son, James VI, was born in June 1566, so it is possible he was conceived in Dunfermline.

Interior of Dunfermline Abbey

Their real purpose for being in Dunfermline was part of the Chaseabout Raid, a failed rebellion by  Queen Mary’s half-brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray on 26 August 1565, over her marriage to Darnley.  Much as Henry VIII may have supported Protestant reformers in the murder of Cardinal Beaton, Elizabeth I supported Moray and others against Mary, because she was  angry about the marriage.

Ruin of Guest House next to Dunfermline Abbey, where Queen Mary and Darnley stayed

Mary and Darnley may have been united on the raid, but any happiness they did have was short-lived and though her life was never without controversy in Scotland,  the political heat definitely turned up from the Chaseabout Raid, and did not abate during her short reign.  Poor Mary!

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.

Little Queen Mary’s Hideaway on Inchmahome and a Wellie Wedding

Wellington Boots as Bridal Footwear on Inchmahome

Yesterday my cousin Karen joined me again on a day of castle-hopping, this time in the Trossachs.We headed west of Kinghorn for Inchmahome Priory in the Lake of Menteith, one of the sites I was most keen to see.  In September 1547 5-year-old Queen Mary and the Maries spent several weeks here before leaving Scotland for France.  The Scots had been defeated by the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh and Edward VI’s forces, led by the Duke of Somserset were burning and looting up the Forth and were six miles away from Stirling Castle.  For safety, little Queen Mary and the Maries were taken into hiding at Inchmahome Priory, an Augustinian priory founded in the 12th Century.

Did I say it was raining?  It was a cold and dreary damp Scottish day, better spent indoors–but as I like to say, I am not here for the weather! We carried on, in some good company as it turns out.  There was a wedding in Inchmahome Priory and we caught the bride just getting into the ferry, with her Wellies peeking out from under the wedding dress!

Inchmahome Priory where Queen Mary (age 6) stayed

Chapter House, Inchmahome

Inchmahome is beautiful and quiet, the entire island is covered in fragrant Scottish bluebells.  The ruins of the chapter house, where meetings were held and the bakehouse are in best shape, but we could still get a feeling for the lovely chapel that would once have been there.

After a quick lunch at the Buttercup Cafe in Doune (very much worth a visit) we headed through to see Doune Castle,  another hunting lodge Queen Mary used with a beautiful 14th Century courtyard.  It had an interesting banqueting hall and chambers–and Monty Python fans will appreciate that “Life of Brian” was filmed here and the tour audio is conducted by Terry Jones.

Doune Castle

We capped the dreichy day at Stirling Castle, by which time it was really, really raining and we were cold.  Stirling Castle sits high on a crag, surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. It is a strategic location and has been an important stronghold since the 11th Century, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth.  You can see the enemy coming for miles around. I wish the day had been clearer,  the photos don’t do it justice.  But this is Scotland and you get what you get when it comes to the weather and carry on!

Mary Stuart was crowned Queen of Scotland in chapel at Stirling–she was nine months old and cried the whole time.  She spent a good part of her early life here, with the Four Maries and her half-siblings.

Sheer cliff at Stirling

Stirling Castle has some beautifully recreated room from the time Queen Mary’s father – James V and mother, Mary of Guise.  The reconstructions go right up to recreating Unicorn tapestries (similar to those in the Cloisters in New York) to hang in the rooms.  The Castle has a lot of interactive exhibits, including one where you can try on 16th century clothing.

Mary of Guise rooms, recreated at Stirling

As you get in the corridor between Glasgow and Edinburgh there is so much to see, time is really the enemy.  I’m scunnered today.  That’s a good Scottish word that means, more or less, done in.  I’ve never done this much sight-seeing, or power castle-hopping!

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’

Historic St. Andrews; Queen Mary’s Great Escape from Loch Leven

St. Andrews Castle

It was a beautiful day for a drive, so I took the Fife Coast Road up through Dysart, East Wemyss up to historic St. Andrews.  Bit ashamed to admit this was my fourth visit to St. Andrews—I am even photographed at the St. Andrews Cathedral ruins with my grandmother when I was 18—but I felt today like it was my first visit.  Maybe because I have some context for the history there and so the ruins are now, well, more than ruins.  And no, my golfing friends, I did not—this trip—go to the Old Course, there just was not enough time.

Mary, Queen of Scots visited St. Andrews on her first progress through Scotland after her return on 17 August 1561.  According to John Guy in Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart (must read for Queen Mary fans), by the third week of September, Mary and the Maries amused themselves by “playing house, banishing the symbols of royalty and doing their own shopping.”  It is a cute story.

More interesting is the history of the Scottish Reformation at St. Andrews, in particular the uprising participated in by, among others, Kirkcaldy of Grange in retaliation for the death of religious reformer, George Wishart.

Wishart traveled Scotland denouncing the errors of the Papacy and abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, until he was seized on the orders of Mary Beaton’s cousin, Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews and burned at the stake on 1 March 1546.

Two months later, on 29 May 1546, the conspirators, including William Kirkcaldy of Grange, murdered the cardinal in his own castle of St Andrews, mutilating the corpse and hanging it from a window (nice).  The suggestion is that Henry VIII egged on the conspirators, because Cardinal Beaton was an obstacle to his Scottish policy—which was to marry Mary, Queen of Scots to his son, Prince Edward.

The murderers holed up in the castle at St. Andrews for nearly a year—until French troops sailed into the Forth and bombarded the castle.  John Knox, who had joined the defenders as a preacher, was among those arrested and sentenced to work on galleys.   As I stood on the wall facing the sea, I could imagine the French ships arriving and the sinking feeling of those inside the castle.

Cathedral of St Andrew, Fife

I spent more time today at the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, which in the day of Cardinal Beaton and Mary, Queen of Scots must have been magnificent.  Even in ruins, the sheer size is impressive.  I could understand how pilgrims looking to worship at the shrine of St. Andrews (supposedly holding relics/bones of St. Andrew) would be in awe.

Loch Leven Castle: Mary, Queen of Scots escaped in 1568 using Mary Seton as a body-double.

On to Loch Leven Castle in Kinross, down the North Fife Road through some spectacular scenery – the Lomond Hills and Bennarty Hill in the distance to the East.   I love driving through the countryside, which is so green and lush (from all that rain).  Every so often a field of bright yellow rapeseed or some deep golden gorse bushes break up the landscape.  Yes, it really is as picturesque as you see in the postcards.

Loch Leven Castle is the scene of a fantastic Mary, Queen of Scots story.  In June 1567, Mary was imprisoned there and forced to abdicate in favor of her son by several Protestant Lords, including her brother James, Earl of Moray.  The Castle was her prison, and pretty hard to escape from, being in the middle of a lake.   It is small castle, but then, they brought the big stones over the water so the building might have been slim for that reason.   Much of it is in ruin, but I did get the general sense of it.

Loch Leven Castle

Mary would have been imprisoned on the top floor.  It must have been the lowest point in her life—she lost her crown, her son James, had a miscarriage and was shut away from the world.  One of the few people with her in her prison was Mary Seton—and I love this story about Seton.  It is not clear who formed the escape plan, but at some stage Queen Mary formed a bond with Willie Douglas, one of the young men on the island.  Willie helped her escape by rowing her across Loch Leven, meanwhile Seton dressed up as Mary and walked around the upstairs window so people would think she was the Queen.   Mary escaped and met Seton’s brother on the other side…but no one says much about the hell Seton must have caught when they discovered she was not the Queen.

It was a great, great sightseeing day, though not without mishaps.  The Garmin GPS/SatNav Lady and I got on just fine, but my DSLR camera took it into its head to stop working (it is new, and really? now?) and I’m faced with finding a repair centre over in Edinburgh—or making do.  These photos were taken by my Lumix, which is a great camera—just not a DSLR.

I did buy some souvenirs — a contemporary thistle necklace by Aldona Juska in Artery Gallery, and a 16th Century map of Scotland at Loch Leven.