Mary Queen of Scots, CW’s “Reign”, historical accuracy and why I’ll watch anyway


Cast of Reign, premiering on the CW Network 17 October 2013

Pity the poor writers and producers of CW’s “Reign.” It has not yet hit TV screens in the US, yet the network is already defending the dramatic license they have taken with the series. (“Reign’ boss defends show’s relaxed approach to historical accuracy“).  The CW team, defending the series, keeps saying that they are “not the History Channel.”No really?   They need to come up with a response that has a bit more credibility. “We’re not the History Channel, so we can make up whatever we like” is not a real defense.  “We’re meeting a market need for a teenage, historical fiction drama and we chose to create a series about Mary Queen of Scots because  a) b) c) …”  might get them less flak and enable them to take their tin hats off.

I’ve already posted a couple of times my surprise that the CW would take huge license with the story of Mary, Queen of Scots.  Her life is replete with all the drama and scandal a series could wish for when told with detailed accuracy.  From the day she  escaped from the approaching English army and hid at Inchmahome Priory on Lake Menteith, Mary’s life was a rollercoaster of dazzling highs (crowned Queen of France) and humiliating lows (abdicating her throne; eventually being beheaded by her cousin Elizabeth I).  Who needs to make s*** up?  I could have given the CW years of great storylines on Mary and her posse (I’m still available for the asking, btw).  Skillfully handled, her story is amazing and heartbreaking.

I love the true life story of Mary Stuart.  I still have a copy of from the early 1970s of Lady Antonia Fraser‘s wonderful non-fiction biography of her, which I read when I was just eleven years old (and very precocious with it!) and captivated me.  I hate that her life is being brought to the small screen with less than great attention to detail and the real drama that was her life.  It is my hope that the creators of Reign have color just a little outside the historical lines, and not disregarded them completely.

But I get it,  I watch the CW from time to time.  OK.  Week to week.  I confess I have a wee addiction to the CW’s ‘Vampire Diaries‘ and have always thought that Ian Somerhalder would make the perfect Pierre de Bocosel de Chastelard (here’s my blog post on that sensational story).   I know, I’m probably the oldest CW viewer (it’s sad really).   There is absolutely nothing real about the Vampire Diaries, nothing at all and yet I love it.  Similarly, I watched Starz’s ‘DaVinci’s Demons‘ which, I’m guessing, bears not much more than a passing nod to reality, but I enjoyed it anyway.  Ditto both  The Tudors and The Borgias TV series.  In the CW’s defense,  its target market is probably the 18-24 year-old crowd who want fast-paced, slightly steamy entertainment (I’m guessing here, but I was in that age bracket once) and that target audience are not too worried about what is true and what is not.  The CW is great at marketing to its target audience, and I have to believe they know what it wants.

So if writers and producers make free with historical fact, but create really entertaining drama, should we complain?  Is the CW getting an undeserved kicking before the show even airs?  Perhaps.  For me, I have to see how far they’ve taken their creative license.  I mean, if teenage Mary Stuart starts having it away with, say Nostradamus (who I understand is cast as a young big of al’right played by Rossif Sutherland) I might complain.  But if they are making more of the relationship between Mary and the Dauphin Francis, her betrothed, then I could be OK with it.

One way or another I’ll be watching the series end-to-end when it premiers in October.   For one thing, I can’t imagine Megan Fellows as Henry II’s wife, Catherine de Medici.  It will take some great acting to make me see her as anyone other than Anne of Green Gables!  (Megan, I’m rooting for you.)

Here’s a link to a preview.  (Someone tell me why Mary, Queen of Scots, has an English accent? — People! The actress is Australian, surely they could’ve coached her?)

The Beginning of the End – Rizzio’s Murder at Holyrood

English: The Murder of David Rizzio, oil on pa...

English: The Murder of David Rizzio, oil on panel, Depicts the killing of David Rizzio, secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots, by a group of nobles including Lord Darnley (the Queen’s husband), Lord Ruthven and the Earl of Morton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today marks the 447th anniversary of David Rizzio’s murder in Mary Queen of Scots’ chamber at Holyrood Palace.  Rizzio’s gruesome murder on March 9, 1566 marked a watershed in Mary Stuart’s reign in Scotland.  One could call it the beginning of the end.  Rizzio himself was not all that important except as a focal point for the Protestant Scottish nobles, led by Patrick, Lord Ruthven and aided and abetted by Mary’s husband Henry, Lord Darnley.   The pact that sealed Rizzio’s death also sealed Darnley’s, though he could not have known it at the time.  Rizzio’s death was the first in a series of incidents that destabilized Mary’s reign.  Eighteen months later Mary was forced to abdicate in favor of her son James.

David Riccio di Pancalieri was born about 1533 to a well-known Piedmontese family somewhere near Turin, Italy.  He was employed by the Duke of Savoy as a valet and musician and traveled with the Duke’s ambassador, Signor di Moretta to Scotland in 1561.  He left the Duke’s employ to become one of Mary’s musicians – she needed a bass singer!  This was not a particular sign of favor, according to John Guy in The True Life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots Mary “always” had musicians and minstrels on her payroll including five viol players, three lute players, several pipers and a shawm (early oboe) player.  Most contemporary sources agree that David “Davy” Rizzio was ugly.  Lady Fraser, author of Mary, Queen of Scots reports he “extremely ugly by the standards of the time, his face being considered ill-favored and his stature small and hunched.

How did Rizzio go from a singer in a “band” to Mary’s private secretary?   Prior to 1564 Mary’s French secretary was Raulett, a cipherer who was also a retainer of the Guise family, her relations on her mother’s side.  He was the only person beside Mary who had the key to the black box that contained her secret papers.  In the run up to Mary’s marriage to Darnley, something must have happened to precipitate Raulett’s dismissal.  She replaced him with David Rizzio – a move that seems odd in that he does not, on the face of it, appear to have been qualified.

Not long after Rizzio took over Mary’s French correspondence, she took a shine to her cousin Henry, Lord Darnley—the great-grandson of Henry VII through his daughter Margaret.  By April 1565 she was crazy in love with Darnley, so much that the English Ambassador Randolph said she “whom ever before I esteemed so worthy, so wise, so honorable in all her doings” was now altered “to the utter contempt of her best subjects.”   But as Darnley rose in Mary’s opinion he was falling out of favor with the Scots nobles who thought him arrogant and unpleasant.

Rizzio was riding high in favor of both Mary and Darnley in 1565.  John Guy flat out says the two men were found in bed together.  Clearly no one mentioned this to Mary, but Lady Fraser suggests the Four Maries and the majority of Scots nobles were against the match. Fraser notes that Rizzio was the only person who really supported her marriage to Darnley.

Mary’s marriage to Darnley was a disaster.  It provoked the Scots nobles, notably Mary’s brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray into a rebellion, ostensibly because they feared the return of Catholicism to Scotland.  Darnley was a member of the Lennox Stewart clan and there was a not unreasonable fear that clan’s power would overwhelm the others—in particular Moray and others who were de facto ousted from their closeness to Mary.  Moray fled to England where he continued to stir the nobles.

Darnley expected to become King Henry by receiving the crown matrimonial.  Even before the bloom was off their marriage, which didn’t take long, Mary shied from granting him that power.  When Darnley took out his frustrations on Rizzio, who he began to feel had undue influence on Mary.   It was not difficult for dissatisfied Protestant Lords to convince Darnley they could kill Rizzio and put him on the throne.   They convinced Darnley that Mary was committing adultery with Rizzio and further suggested he was a spy for the Pope. (No evidence exists to suggest he was anything on than a singer who gained the trust of a sovereign.)

More than a dozen Scottish nobles conspired to kill Rizzio in the Queen’s presence.  They ambushed Rizzio’s in Mary’s supper chamber – a small narrow room (I’ve seen it, amazingly tiny)—at Holyrood and demanded Mary hand him over.  She refused and in response had a gun pointed at her — Mary was seven month’s pregnant at the time.  They stabbed Rizzio more than 50 times before throwing him down the staircase, stripped of his jewels and clothes.  He was buried within a few hours of his death somewhere in the grounds at Holyrood.

It is not clear to me how much real power and influence Rizzio had with Mary.  He certainly died with a large sum of money (over £2,000, which is a lot for a man who made just £80/year), so perhaps he was taking bribes and peddling influence.  It is clear he rose high, had few friends and far too many enemies.

Already Getting It Wrong: CW’s “Reign” about Mary, Queen of Scots

Already Getting It Wrong: CW’s “Reign” about Mary, Queen of Scots

History is not that hard to get right people!  I am sorry to see that the producers and writers of the CW’s new teen drama “Reign”- if this story (link above) is to be believed – are playing a bit fast and loose with historical fact.

Mary Stuart left Scotland for the Court of Henri II of France when she was 6, not 15 years old.  I’m not sure why the need to change it — unless budget constraints prevent flashback to the reasons for her departure.  But it is a material point:  Mary left France so young and became French in so many ways.  That she became more French than Scots was one of many factors that hampered her return to rule Scotland.

Mary had four friends, all called Mary — known historically as “The Four Marys” (and yes, they are the subject of my novel).  The CW has created three Marys — another budget decision?

Apart from that, hurrah for the casting…

I will still watch, but I can tell it is going to drive me nuts.

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

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.

On Mary Stuart’s Return to Scotland (and mine)

Inchkeith Viewed from Pettycur Road Kinghorn.

Inchkeith Viewed from Pettycur Road Kinghorn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary, Queen of Scots sailed into Leith Harbor on 19 August 1561, returning to her native Scotland after 13 years in France. She was just 19 years old.  One year earlier she’d been Queen of France, but the death of her husband —Francois II—left her a young widow and, for multiple reasons, she decided to return to Scotland.

Among Queen Mary’s companions were her four closest friends, nicknamed the Four Maries (Mary Beaton, Mary Seton, Mary Fleming and Mary Livingston).  The Maries fascinate me enough to write an entire novel about them and their loyalty to Mary, which withstood enormous strains, particularly upon their return to Scotland.  And that is why I am here—to do a bit of field research.

As I flew into Edinburgh this morning for my own return to Scotland after a long absence (19 years), some of my own experiences may have echoed Queen Mary and the Maries.  They arrived in Leith surrounded by fog, which obscured their first view of Scotland.  Similarly, low clouds shrouded my view of Scotland until a minute before landing, frustrating my eyes eager for a glimpse.  I’m sure Mary and the Maries felt the same sense of anticipation that I had and the same frustration with the weather.

I’m shortly to be enveloped by my mother’s family, scattered across Scotland but coming together this weekend.  We do not see each other very often, but we are family and the bond is close and deep despite our geographical distance.  I expect to laugh till I cry about things only others in my family find funny, like the phrase “there’s thousands at the beach,” which was my Nana’s battle cry as she kicked my siblings and I (“the Americans”) out of the house to find playmates.

The Queen and the Maries would also have been excited – they had grown up in France without their parents and most of their siblings, and while not unexpected for the time, they would surely have been pleased at the coming reunion.  They were likely thinking less about changes in their family–who had grown up, married, died, but like me, just glad to reconnect in person.

For me, it is all roses – two weeks to research and write and spend time with my family.  Not so for the Queen and the Maries.  First, or rather still, there was trouble with the English.  Elizabeth I had refused Mary safe-conduct through English waters and threatened her with warships.  When those warships came upon Mary’s two galleys and two accompanying ships, they saluted her.  But the reminder of that the English did not make for good neighbors may have stirred up childhood memories of fleeing in the night from Stirling Castle to escape the Duke of Somerset and of the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh—where Fleming’s father Alexander and Livingston’s brother John were slain.   For Queen Mary herself, she must have had some misgivings about the nobles she would rule, nobles who had rebelled against her mother, Mary of Guise, who had ruled Scotland as Regent in her daughter’s absence.

But they were young – all about 19 years old – and I have to believe their excitement would have overwhelmed most other concerns, at least on their arrival.  At 19, you have high hopes and the future almost always looks bright.  Certainly, chroniclers report Queen Mary’s high spirits, despite the weather and a decided lack of ceremonial welcome due to the ship being early. I feel her enthusiasm!  I did not, as I like to say, come to Scotland to get a tan, so no amount of rain or clouds will dampen my spirits.

As I said, my own return to Scotland comes after an absence of 19 years—hard to believe time has flown so much since we buried my maternal grandmother and I left to re-emigrate the US. Scotland is my home—or at least it is where my parents were born and raised (in Fife) and I spent so many summer months as a child in Kinghorn on the Fife coast, and as an adult many more weeks on holiday. I do still feel like it is home, though I am not sure many would call me a native daughter!

But then, I have always considered a bit of a foreigner in my native land. As a child I was “that American Lassie,” the US accent and cultural leanings branding me as “different” in the same way that Mary’s overwhelmingly French persona caused a stir—and some resentment—upon her return.  I am pretty sure I took more grief for my accent that Queen Mary did!  I was acutely aware that no matter how familiar everything felt this morning, even after such a long absence, that every time I open my mouth I am pegged for a foreigner, which I suppose only matters to you if you don’t feel in your heart that you are!

Tonight, I write from Kinghorn in Fife, with a magnificent view of the lights in Edinburgh and the flashing lighthouse on Inchkeith.  As a child, I used to look out my grandmother’s window at this view, dreaming big, praying hard, and wondering about life.  I’m long years away from that child, but tonight not so much.