Stirling Castle project reveals royal court life

Historic Scotland is currently engaged in a £12 million project to return the royal palace within the walls of Stirling Castle to how it might have been in the mid-16th century.New research has revealed the cosmopolitan character of the Renaissance Scottish court at Stirling Castle .

The palace will reopen to the public in 2011 as a new Scottish visitor experience. Freelance historian, John Harrison, has been investigating original documents .Mr Harrison’s source is The Bread Book, an account of who received loaves from the royal kitchens throughout 1549 when the palace was the main residence of Scotland’s queen mother, Mary de Guise , mother of Mary , Queen of Scots . Mary, Queen of Scots was born in nearby Linlithgow Palace and she was   only 9 months old when she was crowned Queen of Scotland in the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543. On most days a loaf was granted to the Morys – or Moors – who Mr Harrison believes were probably either black Africans or Arabs originating from North Africa.

“This is a fascinating glimpse of the diversity of the royal court at Stirling in the mid-16th century. It was quite cosmopolitan at the time, with the French Mary de Guise at its head, and surrounded not just by Scots but by people from Spain, the Rhineland and what is now Belgium. There were a few English, but they were mostly prisoners. Just who the Moors were, and what they were doing, is difficult to say. They were quite low in the court hierarchy, but were part of the household and getting bread at royal expense.”
Hints have survived that there may have been Africans in Scotland even earlier. There is a poetic reference by Dunbar to a woman who has been assumed to be – ‘the Lady with the Meikle Lips’. Such references are mostly rather uncertain, and may have other explanations, and the importance of The Bread Book is its clarity at a time when record-keeping was still relatively thin. Just as fascinating is what The Bread Book adds to our understanding of the way the court was run, and who had access to the queen. The evidence suggests that rather than acting like many of the Tudor dynasty in England and taking her main meals in private, deep within the network of royal apartments, Mary de Guise would dine in the Queen’s Outer Hall.

“Quite a wide range of people had access to her, not ordinary farmers but lots of people who were fairly well-to-do, which is important as she was working hard to build and protect the interests of her young daughter – Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary de Guise was an intelligent, decisive woman and a smart operator.

Linlithgow’s Medieval pageant celebrates 1503

Medieval Knights will escort King James IV and his queen to palace joust . Linlithgow Palace has announced details of one of the biggest-ever weekends of visitor events at the Royal Palace.

Party at the Palace, a key part of the national Homecoming celebrations, takes place on 23 and 24 May and will be an extravaganza of entertainment and fun based round events at Scotland’s royal court in 1503. It was a year in which Scotland celebrated the marriage of King James IV to Margaret Tudor and the signing of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace with England.

Each day will start with a magnificent horseback procession in which a cavalcade of up to 10 mounted knights in armour will escort King James and his new queen along Linlithgow High Street to the palace.

They will be accompanied by dozens of courtiers and the followers of four great noble families whose champions will then take part in spectacular jousting.  It promises to be a truly memorable weekend full of medieval colour and spectacle – and will recall the days when Scotland’s kings and queens were frequent visitors to their great palace in Linlithgow .This is one of the largest events Historic Scotland has ever staged and will include more than 120 costumed performers. There will be lots to do and see with jesters, poets, storytellers, musicians, dancers, falconers and cooks filling the palace. There will even be an alchemist trying to turn ordinary metals into gold, and an etiquette tutor who will teach young visitors what to do and say if they bump into the king and queen.

And there’s every chance of that happening as James introduces his bride to her subjects and they walk the grounds and watch the tournament held in their honour.Party at the Palace is based on a period of significant historical importance and looks set to be a fantastic fun-filled weekend of education and entertainment for all ages.

There will be two sessions of horseback jousting each day, plus a display of falconry.

The outdoor activities will come to a climax each afternoon when up to 80 foot warriors will gather in the main arena and do battle to decide which great clan will be the tournament champions.

The clans fighting it out will be the:

Campbells

Lindsays

Douglases

Hamiltons

All were powerful and influential in the early 16th century, and constantly struggling for supremacy and doing all they could to gain royal favour.

Each clan will have its own tented camp where visitors can meet the nobles, soldiers and their followers and discover what life would have been like in 1503. Inside the palace children will be able to help bakers knead the dough for fresh bread to be served to the king and queen when they arrive for a meal . Another special feature will be that the King’s Fountain, a 5m tall masterpiece of Renaissance architecture located in the palace courtyard, will be made to flow. Discuss this article on the castle pictures blog

Small flags will be available on the day with the coats of arms of each clan taking part in the tournament so visitors can show who they support. Linlithgow Palace is a medieval castle for the day

Party at the Palace is part of Historic Scotland’s contribution to the Scottish Government’s 2009 Year of Homecoming and is part-funded by Homecoming Scotland 2009. Linlithgow Palace screensavers