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There's something about Mary

Press release   •   Jul 24, 2017 08:38 BST

Follow in the footsteps of the famous Scottish queen during the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

It has the makings of any gripping thriller, a story filled with betrayal, revenge, love and even murder, but far from a work of fiction, these are the dramatic events surrounding the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.

The turbulent life of the young monarch, which includes her forced abdication of the throne exactly 450 years ago this Monday (24 July 1567), has captured the imagination of visitors, historians and even TV producers, with the successful Netflix series Reign inspired by the life and times of the famous queen.

The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 offers the perfect opportunity to discover more about the life of Mary Queen of Scots and pay a visit to the many regional attractions that carry a link to her legacy.

A dedicated page on VisitScotland’s website is full of inspiration to help you embark on your own quest into the life of Mary Stuart, whilst this September 2-3, the Mary Queen of Scots Festival will take place in Kinross, celebrating the rich cultural history and heritage of the area, and most notably it’s famed connection to one of Scotland’s most famous royal figures.

Follow in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots

Mary’s story begins in Linlithgow Palace where she was born December 8th 1542 to Marie De Guise and King James V. The magnificent Royal Palace was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens. Today, the ruin is set in its own park and overlooks the stunning Linlithgow Loch. Nearby lies St Michael’s Parish Church where the infant Queen was baptised.

At just nine months old, following the death of her father, Mary was crowned Queen of Scots at the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle. The historic site was a haven for the Queen through some of her most turbulent years. You can get a feel for Royal life in 16th century Scotland with a visit to the Royal Apartment which bears the style and décor of life in that era.

For her own safety following a campaign by Henry VIII to force a marriage between Mary and Prince Edward, the young Queen spent time in Dunkeld in 1544 and later,Inchmahome Priory in late 1547.

Often used as a political pawn, Mary was just 5 years old when King Henry II of France proposed to unite Scotland and France through the marriage of Mary and his three-year old son, the Dauphin Francois, in exchange for military aid against the English. After the union was approved by the Scottish Parliament, Mary was moved to Dumbarton Castle which provided a safe ‘gateway’ to Paris. The formidable medieval castle is located in the ancient capital of Scotland and is spectacularly sited on a volcanic rock overlooking the River Clyde.

Having spent many years in France, Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 following the death of Francois, where she took up residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for the next five years. At the top of a 25-step steep spiral staircases within the Palace lies Mary’s Apartment and Bedchamber, considered by many to be ‘the most famous room in Scotland.

The young queen demonstrated her political acumen and often engaged in robust debates on religion. It was at the Palace of Holyroodhouse that Mary endured some of the most dramatic events of her life including her second marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, at Holyroodhouse in 1565 and the brutal murder of her Italian secretary, David Rizzio, by her husband the following year. The Outer Chamber of the Palace still bears a stain believed to be Rizzio’s blood on the floor. Following the murder of Rizzio, Mary fled to Craigmillar Castle. It was in the castle where the plot was hatched to murder Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley.

In June 1566, in a tiny room in Edinburgh Castle, Mary gave birth to her son who would go on to become James VI of Scotland and I of England. The nearby National Museum of Scotland includes over 200 objects connected to Mary Queen of Scots including the Penicuik Jewels. The gold necklace, locket and pendant, which is believed to contain miniature portraits of Mary and her son, were recently listed by VisitScotland among 25 objects that shaped Scottish history.

It was as part of an official tour in 1566 that Mary enjoyed a brief stay in Scottish Borders’ town of Jedburgh. It was whilst she was here she visited her secret lover Lord Bothwell in Hermitage Castle. The town still celebrates its Royal connections through the Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre. Situated within a 16th century towerhouse, the attraction explores the life of the tragic queen through paintings, textiles and objects associated with her.

Just three months after the death of Lord Darnley, who was believed to have been smothered in February 1567, Mary married Lord Bothwell at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The marriage with Lord Bothwell quickly became unpopular, sparking a rebellion which resulted in a military stand-off at Carberry Hill. Mary was forced to surrender and imprisoned in Lochleven Castle. Situated on an island surrounded by Loch Leven, Mary was confined to this small castle for almost a year and on 24 July 1567 she was forced to abdicate or die. Visitors can today take a boat ride over to the castle and visit the room where Mary was probably held.

With the help of castle insiders in May 1568, Mary was smuggled away from Loch Leven. She was first taken to Niddry Castle, then Cadzow Castle before forming plans to raise a 6000-men army to take Dumbarton Castle. Her army was intercepted enroute and Mary was forced to flee, seeking refuge in Dundrennan Abbey. The Abbey in Dumfries & Galloway, which is now a ruin, is where Mary would spend her last hours in Scotland.

On traveling to England to seek protection from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary was confined south of the border for 18 years before Elizabeth sanctioned her death warrant and she was beheaded. Mary died on 8 February 1587 in Fotheringhay Castle.

To discover more about Mary Queen of Scots and the places associated with her visit:

Notes to Editors

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  • 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
  • 2017 is the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism across Scotland.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology begins on 1 January 2017 and will end on 31 December 2017. It will build on the momentum generated by previous themed years in Scotland including the 2015 Year of Food and Drink, Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is supported by £570,000 of Scottish Government funding.
  • The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
  • For more information visit or join the conversation at #HHA2017