On the 25th of April a statue of Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) was unveiled on Linlithgow Palace’s Peel. As a female monarch who led such tragic and interesting life, Mary’s tale has spawned many a film and soapy historical novel. Surprisingly, this much celebrated, and undoubtedly brave woman did not have a public monument in Scotland until now. This isn’t as surprising a fact as it should be, given that there is a general lack of public monuments to women in Scotland, with only 3 in Glasgow, our biggest city. I urge you to read a bit more about her life, it’s astounding what she managed to live through, and we can all sympathise with her at times, for instance she really had the very worst of luck with men.
The Marie Stuart Society, formed in 1992, have raised the funds for the creation of this memorial, and Historic Scotland has kindly granted their permission to situate the statue in a prominent position overlooking Linlithgow Palace and loch. This is a very fitting place for this bronze sculpture as Mary was born in Linlithgow Palace on 8 December 1542, and then Christened in the adjacent St Michaels church, completed in 1540. Linlithgow Palace and St. Michaels sit on a promontory overlooking Linlithgow Loch, and we know that a royal hunting-residence of some kind existed there since the 12th century. David I granted a charter for the establishment of a church in 1138, but it was the Stuart kings, James I, III, IV, and V, who really established and built the palace and landscape which we see today, with most of the works being carried out by James IV (17 March 1473 – 9 September 1513).
West Lothian Council contributed £1000 towards the erection of the statue, and Historic Scotland paid for the foundation and has pledged to maintain the memorial. Designed by sculptor David Annand it stands at 7ft tall on a stone pedestal. I personally love the care which has been given to the fine details of Mary’s clothing and hair, the bronze is beautifully textured, and Mary looks every bit the Early Modern Monarch. She holds her rosary beads in an outstretched hand, a symbol of her Catholic faith which would eventually play a major part in her downfall. The wonderful David Mitchell, Director of Conservation at Historic Scotland, who has had the misfortune of working with the History Girls in our professional capacity, told the BBC that; “What’s particularly interesting about this proposition – and we considered it very carefully- is it’s a very traditional statue and we insisted that it was undertaken using traditional construction techniques. Our apprentices have been involved. But it’s also been cast in the same way that statues have been cast for literally thousands of years.” So not only does this statue celebrate the turbulent life of one of Scotland’s most famous monarchs, but it also highlights the importance of traditional skills in Scotland going forward.
Make sure to stop by the statue and the Palace this summer! For more information on the Palace click here.