scottish nobility

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25 January 1503  Margaret Tudor married James IV of Scotland by proxy. The marriage between the Thistle and the Rose was to have repercussions for Scottish history down to this day. Margaret was thirteen years old and James was thirty when the couple were married. The official wedding rite was performed on August 8, 1503 at Holyrood Palace. A short coronation ceremony followed. The marriage was one of strong affection, James was attentive and generous. The first three years of the marriage were pleasant and full of social engagements. At age sixteen the couple had their first child, and eventually six different pregnancies would follow.  

In 1513, Margaret was torn between her brother and her husband. She had prophetic dreams and asked James not to go to war. James met the English at Flodden Field on September 9, 1513 where he lost his life along with the flower of the Scottish nobility. Margaret was to pass of a stroke on October 18, 1541 at Methven Castle. Her brother Henry VIII had excluded her heirs from the line of succession in his will. Her lasting legacy was that her great-grandchild ended up on the throne. Scotland and England were joined together into Great Britain.

A Waste of Time

“I decided not to waste my years planning dances and masquerades with the other noble ladies.”

Stop. No. Bad. Wrong.

That is a line from 2.08 (“The Prince of Winterfell), from Talisa Maegyr to Robb Stark in one of their relationship development scenes. The line is meant to demonstrate that Talisa is not shallow, that she wishes to do something of substance with her life. While being a battlefield nurse is undoubtedly admirable, the denigration of dances and masquerades here is part misogyny, part misconception. The misogyny comes in where for Talisa to be a “worthy” love interest, she must express distaste for feminine-coded pleasures, and she must almost word for word be “not like other women”. This is emphasised by the beginning of her monologue, where she says “I was raised to be the perfect little lady. To play the harp, and dance the latest steps, and recite Valyrian poetry,” in such a way that shows she has turned her back on these things. 

Liking balls and parties is not inherently shallow as the line implies. Everyone’s got something they enjoy. If you’re one of those people who like parties, A+, I hope you have a great time when next you go out. (If you’re not, also A+, I hope you enjoy your quiet evening wherever.)

Second, and the topic of the majority of this post, is the misconception. The sheer history fail and textual comprehension fail of this line is so great it’s hard to adequately express it. Throughout history, parties amongst the aristocracy have been anything but a waste of time. If courtesy is to be your armour, then a party will be your battlefield.

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Mary Queen of Scots: “In my end is my beginning”

On the 8th of February 1587, Mary Queen of Scots, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland and Marie de Guise, was executed after nineteen years of imprisonment in England. She was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle for her complicity in a secret plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I of England – the Babington Plot.

Mary Stuart had a tumultuous and dramatic life, full of passion and love, whim and eccentricity. One may say that her life was too full of French glamour and unreasonable turnarounds due to her foolish ignorance of certain fundamental things which a wise monarch should know. Yet, before criticizing Mary, we should remember that her life was also filled with a lot of sufferings and pain throughout the second half of her life in English captivity.

Mary’s life began with her wonderful birth into a God-fearing and powerful Catholic House of Stuarts. Her father, King James V, died only six days after her birth, and she was proclaimed Queen of Scotland in infancy. Already in her early childhood, she was thrust into political turmoil as Catholic Cardinal Beaton and the Protestant Earl of Arran fought for regency in Scotland.

Taking the opportunity of the regency in the northern neighbour, Henry VIII proposed marriage between Mary and his son, Prince Edward, hoping for a union of Scotland and England, but that possible alliance fall apart. 

The religious violence between Catholics and Protestants in Scotland and the aggravation of Scotland’s relations with England made the Scots turn to France, their old ally. King Henry II of France offered to unite France and Scotland by marrying Mary to his eldest son, Dauphin Francis, and the Scots agreed with the match on the promise of French military help. As a result, Mary was shipped to France at age of six for her upbringing and education in safety.

In France in 1558, the sixteen-year-old Queen Mary married the fourteen-year-old Dauphin Francis, who soon became King Francis II of France. However, Mary’s first husband died quite soon after their marriage, and a young widow had to return to Scotland.

Upon her return to her home country, Mary failed to adapt to her new life in Scotland, which she had left years ago and which seemed foreign and wild to her. She didn’t understand many Scottish traditions, and her own kinsmen didn’t understand her. Moreover, Mary was a Catholic Queen in the country which was largely dominated by Protestant lords, including their leader the Earl of Moray, her illegitimate half-brother. The nobles were not fond of Mary’s pro-French lifestyle in Scotland, and their dissatisfaction was growing.

Mary acknowledged her lack of effective military power in the face of the Protestant lords, and for some time the two religious parties achieved accommodation. During that period, Mary tried to find a royal husband in Europe. 

She failed to make Spain, European superpower in the 16th century, Scotland’s ally through marriage to Don Carlos, King Philip II of Spain’s mentally ill heir – her attempt to enter into marriage negotiations was rebuffed by Philippe. Elizabeth didn’t want to turn a blind eye to Mary’s matrimonial agenda: she suggested that Mary marry Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, her favourite and rumoured lover, but Mary disliked the match and so did Dudley.

In 1565, the Queen of Scots married Henry Stuart, styled as Lord Darnley, her English-born first cousin. She quickly fell for young and handsome Darnley, thinking with her heart and disregarding the ramifications of her actions – the deterioration of fragile piece in Scotland and the increasing tension between her and Protestant lords, who severely disapproved of this matrimony.

Darnley’s murder and Mary’s subsequent quick remarriage to James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, predetermined her quick downfall. Gossip about Mary’s participation in her second husband’s death began to circulate throughout the country, and people talked that she might have conspired with Bothwell to assassinate Darnley. 

Mary’s reputation was razed to the ground in her own kingdom, and the Scottish nobility was outraged.

The young queen was deposed and forced to abdicate her throne to her little son James. Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, where she supposedly miscarried twins conceived during the short time of her marriage to Bothwell. Bothwell himself was driven into exile, and years later he was declared insane in Denmark. In 1568, Mary escaped from her prison with the aid of the castle’s owner, who was still relatively loyal to her, and she headed to England.

Maybe Mary believed that Elizabeth would help her regain the Scottish throne. However, she was taken into custody at Carlisle Castle by the local English authorities. Elizabeth was extremely cautious and ordered to investigate the situation in Scotland, making inquiries about the political situation there and about the attitude of the Scottish lords towards Mary’s possible restoration.

Mary’s struggle with those who didn’t want her back on the throne was over. In England, the drama of his life was elsewhere, in the struggle with her anxiety to see Elizabeth and finally receive her cousin’s help. But Elizabeth didn’t hurry to visit Mary, although the two women regularly exchanged letters.

Over time, Mary must have understood that Elizabeth wouldn’t assist her in any way, and the deal of the casket letters – eight letters and several sonnets which were claimed by the Scottish nobles to have been written by Mary to the Earl of Bothwell, between January and April 1567. Most modern historians, including Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser, think that the casket letters were forgeries, or some incriminating passages might have been deliberately inserted into the letters and sonnets to blacken Mary’s reputation.

There is no evidence that Mary murdered Darnley, plotted to get rid of him with Bothwell, or dreamt of his death. All the claims of her enemies about her supposed guilt, including the casket letters, cannot be proved, and a person remains innocent until proven guilty. Mary’s hasty marriage to Bothwell doesn’t prove that she became indifferent to her second husband after falling for Bothwell and just found a way out of their marriage by murdering him.

In her book “Mary Queen of Scots and The Murder of Lord Darnley”, Alison Weir writes about Mary’s reaction to Darnley’s death:

“There is no doubt that Darnley’s murder left Mary grief-stricken, emotionally shattered and fearful for her own safety. For several months afterwards, she seems not to have functioned normally, and her judgement, never very good at the best of times, utterly failed her.”

Weir also adds about the queen’s actions that followed the murder of her second husband:

“The Queen had proclaimed a period of court mourning and ordered black serge from Florence for a mourning gown, cloak, mules and shoes. She had chosen to follow the French royal custom, whereby a widowed queen remained in mourning for forty days, secluded in her blackdraped chambers, which no daylight was allowed to penetrate. They were produced as evidence against Queen Mary by the Scottish lords who opposed her rule.”

In 1569, however, Elizabeth tried to mediate Mary’s restoration in return for guarantees of the Protestant religion in Scotland, but the Scottish lords categorically rejected the deal. Mary spent many long years imprisoned, and she was watched carefully by Elizabeth’s spies placed in her household.

In 1571, the Ridolfi Plot was uncovered: the conspirators were intent upon replacing Elizabeth with the help of Spanish troops and the Duke of Norfolk. The outcome was Norfolk’s execution and publication of the casket letters in London with the purpose to discredit Mary, although Elizabeth didn’t give her consent to the English Parliament to pass a bill barring Mary from the throne.

Throughout many years, Mary was imprisoned, and Elizabeth didn’t visit her. Her birthright to the English throne became the cornerstone in her relationship with Elizabeth: Mary was a threat to Elizabeth, and as long as she was breathing, she might have schemed against Elizabeth or might have been used by the Queen of England’s enemies in their plots. Elizabeth didn’t order Mary’s execution for many years, perhaps not wishing to commit regicide.

In 1586, Mary was implicated in the Babington Plot, which exhausted the patience of the English nobles. Mary was arrested and was taken to Tixall. 

Walsingham entrapped the captive Queen of Scots: her letters to Anthony Babington were smuggled out of Chartley, where she had resided before her arrest, while she thought that they were secure, and then they were deciphered by Walsingham. These letters were used as proof against Mary on the trial, when she was accused of sanctioning the assassination of Elizabeth.

Mary pleaded innocent but was still found guilty and sentenced to death. Considering the Queen of Scots a threat to Elizabeth and to the peace in England, the nobles wanted to dispose of Mary and pressured Elizabeth into signing Mary’s death warrant. Nevertheless, Elizabeth hesitated to order her cousin’s execution, although eventually she signed the warrant on the 1st of February 1587 and entrusted it to William Davison, one of her privy councillors.

Next day, ten members of the Privy Council of England were summoned by William Cecil, and together they decided to carry out the sentence without Elizabeth’s knowledge. 

Did Elizabeth know about their secret activities, or did Cecil and the others act behind her back? We will never know the truth, but I want to think that Elizabeth hesitated. In any case, Elizabeth understood that Mary had to die for the sake of peace in her kingdom, and she would have her cousin executed in the very end regardless of her qualms and uneasiness.

In the evening of the 7th of February 1587, Mary Stuart was told that she would be executed tomorrow. She spent the rest of the day praying, writing farewell letters to a few friends she still had abroad, and distributing her possessions between the members of her household.

Alison Weir writes about Mary’s last hours:

“The warrant arrived on 7 February, and Mary was told to prepare for death on the morrow. That night, she wrote her last letter, to Henry III of France, in which she protested that she would meet death “innocent of any crime”: as a devout Catholic, she would not have counted the assassination of the heretical Elizabeth as a crime because the Pope had sanctioned and urged it, but she was almost certainly also referring to the murder of Darnley. She further asserted that “the Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English crown are the two issues on which I am condemned.”

Next morning, Mary appeared in the room to face her death, looking brave and undefeated, as if she were walking to her throne instead of the block. There was a gasp of shock when Mary removed her black gown: she was wearing a kirtle of red beneath her gown, which symbolised Catholic martyrdom, and in her own opinion she was dying as a martyr for her faith.

Mary knelt and prepared to die, praying hard. Her head was severed with three strokes, but she probably passed out after the first stroke and died after the second one. Her execution was unprecedented and bloody, and some claimed that Elizabeth was shocked upon learning about her cousin’s brutal death.

Mary Queen of Scots was finally dead, and her soul left her body. Maybe in her death there was a new beginning for her, which was similar to her motto which she had embroidered not long before her execution: “En ma Fin gît mon Commencement” “(“In my end is my beginning”).

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Here is a really awesome 1720-ish book of heraldry from the Laing Collection within the Edinburgh University Special Collections! It’s a really unique item for a number of reasons, not least of which is the flypapers that are actually wallpaper scraps!

To me, however, the most interesting thing about it is how it’s a mix of print and hand work. The fourth picture is a coat of arms that for some reason was never finished, and shows how each coat in the book was embellished from this basic template. The artist’s reference is even still stuck on the page! Another highlight is the later pencil question mark next to the word “finely” in the title- I guess Laing had some opinions about the quality of the paintings!

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Niddry Castle, West Lothian, Scotland

The castle is believed to date back to the end of the 15th century. It was built by George, 4th Lord Seton, who like most of the rest of the Scottish nobility, fell with his king at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Fifty-five years later, a subsequent Lord Seton met Mary Queen of Scots on her escape from Loch Leven Castle and after escorting her across the Forth at Queensferry, brought her here to the safety of Niddry Castle on the night of 2 May 1568. It was from here that Mary sent a messenger to seek assistance from her cousin and fellow queen, Elizabeth I of England. The next day she rode west to Hamilton and then the Battle of Langside, followed by a flight southwards across the border and then eventually an English prison for the rest of her sad life. In later years, the castle and its lands, like so much else in West Lothian, was acquired by the Hopes of Hopetoun. In the 1990s, Niddry Castle was restored by Peter Wright as a private residence.

Niddry Castle stands just to the north of the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway line, on a rocky outcrop with Niddry Castle Golf Course curling around it.

anonymous asked:

What is Macbeth?

oh man anon it’s my favorite shakespeare tragedy because it’s clownfuck insane (not an uncommon thing for a shakespeare tragedy to be though tbh).

basically macbeth, a scottish than, is told by some witches just hangin out on the moors that he’ll be promoted and then he’ll be king, and at first he’s like ‘what a load of shit’ but then he’s promoted and the king is due to stay at his house, and he immediately jumps right to ‘heyo you know what would expedite this prophesy business? murder.’

so he writes home to lady macbeth, who is far and away my favorite shakespeare character ever because she is just hardcore ice cold. and she takes this and just fucking runs with it. macbeth is weak. macbeth becomes all about not killing the king suddenly because ‘he’s promoted me’ and ‘maybe we could be in trouble’ and ‘it’s not very hospitable’ and lady mac tears him such a new one that he ends up telling her any children she had would be made of solid steel, like her balls.

so then macbeth hallucinates some daggers and does the stab thing, and lady mac does the framing thing so they won’t get caught (because again, macbeth is weak and would rather go on soliloquies about how he’ll never sleep again than actually try to hide the evidence)

but anyway, it’s all great, the guards are framed, the king’s sons flee, everything is aces, except macbeth begins to totally fucking lose it. lady mac expresses sorrow and regally assumes power! macbeth orders his friend and friends’ children murdered. lady macbeth throws a victory ball! macbeth starts shouting at empty air and trying to fight ghosts in front of the entire set of scottish nobility.

at this point they’re kind of fucked because murder is i guess a bit like sex among kings in that everyone knows it’s probably gone down but you don’t shout about it at banquets, and also no one wants a king that’s frothing-at-the-mouth insane. plus the dead king’s sons are raising an army and there’s more fuckery with the witches. macbeth is told he’ll only die when the whole forest moves and someone not born of woman will be the one to do it, so basically he comes away thinking he’s immortal. distressingly, lady mac starts sleepwalking and confessing (which we see) and reportedly kills herself off stage (which we don’t see, and it’s very ambiguous how she dies??? i’d rather believe she sends a false report of her own death and then bails on this sinking ship and goes on to murder her way to the top of some other dynasty but hey)

anyway macbeth hears about his wife’s death, and goes on a speech about how life is meaningless. he realizes that the forest moves because the whole goddamn army against him is carrying branches to hide their numbers, and the man fighting him is a c-section child, and basically this is The End. he decides that he’s in favor of continuing this meaningless existence anyway, and sort of shrugs and goes ‘fuck it, fight me anyway’ which is a great sort of doomed bravado i am very much in favor of. he dies anyway but i mean at least he went with style, in the end. anyway he’s beheaded.

this is a pretty skewed and informal summary! but it’s full of great speeches, and also hella murder and madness and stabbery and witches, and it’s great because you can read it as a story about fate and destiny! or as a story about psychological breakdowns and insanity! are the ghosts real or hallucinations? is the floating dagger an otherworldly guide or a delusion? both readings color the macebths’ actions differently in terms of blame. also lady mac is just. so great. and that’s macbeth.