The Infant Queen 1542-48
Even before her birth Mary’s fortunes had been closely bound up with the political and ecclesiastical rivalries of the great powers of Europe. Her father, James V had taken Scotland into the French and papal camp, a policy underlined by his marriage to a Frenchwoman, Mary of Guise, who was the mother of Queen Mary.
When Mary became Queen of Scots in 1542, Henry VIII of England saw an opportunity to align Scotland with his realm. The agreement that the infant queen should marry Henry’s son, Edward, a boy of five, was, however, repudiated by the Scots. Thereafter, Henry began a series of devastating invasions of Scotland known as The Rough Wooing, the objective of which was to win Mary’s hand for Edward. During these incursions, the Earl of Hertford and an English army laid siege to the castle at Roslin. Despite its strong position on a peninsula above the river Esk, the castle was badly damaged by fire.
Mary at Crichton
For nearly four years following her return from France in 1561, Mary successfully ruled Scotland alone. Many people thought that her policies were eminently fair and she gained popular support because of her attractive personality.
On 11 January 1562, she visited Crichton Castle to celebrate the marriage of her half-brother Lord James Stewart to Lady Janet Hepburn. Mary was attended by a brilliant retinue, including the Four Maries and other elite members of her court. This was a great occasion at Crichton. It was reported that there was ‘much good sport and many pastimes’ on the level field beneath the castle on the banks of the Tyne. Randolph, the English ambassador, was among the guests and no doubt he sent an account of the event to his mistress Elizabeth I of England who always loved to hear the latest gossip.
Mary and Darnley
It was the duty of every monarch to marry and produce a successor. On 29 July 1565, Mary married her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley at the Palace of Holyrood. There has long been a tradition that Mary and Darnley spent part of their honeymoon at Crichton Castle. However, an inscribed monogram on the wall of the castle does not display the initials of Mary and Darnley, as is sometimes claimed. Rather they are those of Francis Stewart, 5th Earl of Bothwell, and his wife Margaret Douglas. They are dated to the later sixteenth century.
Mary and Bothwell
Following the murder of Lord Darnley in February 1567, Mary entered into a badly chosen marriage with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. The couple moved to the Bothwell stronghold at Crichton Castle.
Whilst living there, Mary was a frequent visitor to Borthwick Castle. During one visit, she received news that an army was coming to capture her and Bothwell. Mary escaped to the recently-constructed Cakemuir Castle in the Moorfoot hills to the south-east. She was met by some of Bothwell’s retinue and spent the night at Cakemuir before resuming her journey to Dunbar. Near Cakemuir Castle are the grass-covered roots of Queen Mary’s Tree, supposedly planted to commemorate her brief stay at the castle. Both Borthwick and Cakemuir Castles have a room each that is known as Queen Mary’s Room.
The Penicuik Jewels
Before Mary was executed on 8 February 1587, she gave to Geilles Mowbray, one of her maids of honour, several items of jewellery. Subsequently, these came into the possession of the Clerk family of Penicuik. The jewels were a treasured possession of the family until 1923 when they were bought for 400 guineas by the National Museum of Antiquities. The main pieces of the collection, which have all been authenticated as genuine relics of the Queen, are a gold locket, known as the Penicuik Jewel, which encloses miniatures portraits of Mary and the infant James VI, dated to 1576-79; a gold and pearl pendant; a necklace consisting of 14 large oval beads divided by 13 smaller gold beads; and a brocaded floral fan mounted on silk and silver tissue.