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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Linlithgow Would Know

by Angelyn Schmid

Linlithgow Palace, Scotland

Burned out and abandoned in 1746. So what's the attraction?

Some will argue Linlithgow is the sole remaining witness to the moment Scotland began her irrevocable journey toward union with England. It was the night of April 23, 1567 at this palace when the Crown of Scotland forever lost its sacred value and became a naked pawn to be sold by the nobles who should have served it.
The night James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, plotted to kidnap Mary, Queen of Scots. But Bothwell and Mary were lovers, were they not? Did they not plan her abduction in advance, secretly, so that they might retreat to Dunbar Castle, thus paving the way for their marriage. Aye?

If walls could talk they would tell of a plan so secret that others knew of it.
Earlier that day of April 23rd, Mary's father-in-law wrote a letter. He was the Earl of Lennox, parent of her murdered husband, Lord Darnley. His letter communicated a curious warning to his wife, the formidable Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor. He advised her that Bothwell was about to kidnap their sovereign, the Queen of Scots.
In far away England, that perennial servant to the House of Tudor, William Cecil, advised: "Scotland was a quaqmire. Nobody seems to stand still; the most honest desire to go away; the worst tremble with the shaking of their conscience."
Yet April 23rd had begun so innocently. That morning Mary kissed her son good-bye in Stirling, not knowing she would never see him again. She planned to journey as far as Edinburgh, but had to stop along the way, at the place she was born--Linlithgow. She could travel no farther, for the pain in her side that had plagued her since girlhood had become insupportable. Some said then it was an ulcer, some say today it was a genetic malady called porphyria.
But all might have passed unnoticed except that there was another following her. Bothwell approached Linlithgow now cloaked in darkness and rode into the palace courtyard while the moon was high. Mary's retinue had since retired, but perhaps in her pain the Queen remained awake. Perhaps she might receive him where he could ask for her hand in marriage. Again.
She was awake, but she refused to see him. So her Lieutenant of the Borders had to be satisfied with an audience before her loyal Catholic retainer, George Gordon, Earl of Huntly. Huntly was a Highlander and also Bothwell's brother-in-law, with some regret over giving his sister Jean to this Lowlander he began to suspect of treason. Bothwell minced no words. He wanted help to kidnap the Queen. One can imagine Huntly's dismay, and his adamant refusal.
How I would have loved to hear how Bothwell tried to convince a man, whose sister he now planned to divorce, to give him aid. To give him the assistance necessary to overcome the Queen's guard so she may be carried off and married by force. That is the scenario I always think of when visiting this ruined palace. Because Linlithgow would know.
And it is so important to know. Had the Queen cooperated with Bothwell, as the Casket Letters would have us believe, there was surely no need to involve his wife's brother in the matter. Moreover, would Bothwell have been sent away? He was, forced to retire to Calder castle some distance southeast of Edinburgh.
The next day, Mary left Linlithgow for Edinburgh and was met by Bothwell's forces six miles west of the city. From thence forward, she lost control of her crown and her destiny.
It was not Carberry, or even Fotheringhay, that was the scene of Mary's last day as Queen of Scotland.
For Linlithgow would know.

Like history? Fall in love with it! Check out my blog at http://www.angelynschmid.com/ on history and romance.


Angelique Armae said...

Thanks for the post. I love reading about castles, especially those with very interesting historical ties. And I agree, if only those walls could talk!

Gerri Bowen said...

An excellent post!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Love everything Scottish. We spent a long time inside Calder Castle four years ago and loved it. The history of the royals has always interested me - they are all so clandestined to sorrow and intrigue.

Barbara said...

I really enjoyed your post. Linlithgow Castle was one of the places I was fortunate enough to tour when I visited Scotland a few years ago. I loved it!! The ruins were so sad, but more evocative than the intact castles I saw. Poor Queen Mary.

Fraoch said...

Linlithgow castle was restored by the excesses spent by James I of Scotland (part of which his excess use of money that was supposed to pay for his release from the English probably contributed to his murder in 1437 by nobles) when he returned from captivity in England. Though not a fan of Mary of Scotland, I think a lot of her problems with her return to Scotland is that the whole time she was in France her mother who was her regent in Scotland never let her be part of her own realm hence the magnates (notable families) had no sense of loyality to her, espeically when the true nature of her marriage to the French heir was revealed. If she had had children with him and she died their son would be King of Scotland right no problem, but there was also a clause that if she died and left no heir the French king (her husband) would assume control of Scotland. Can you imagine who well that would have gone down with the peers of Scotland?