She is one of the most recognised figures in Scottish history, and her son went on to become the first King of both England and Scotland. Now, Mary Queen of Scots, is to be honored with her own festival, which is to be held in Kinross-shire.
Mary Stuart was born on 8 December, 1542, to James V of Scotland and his French wife, Mary of Guise. Within a week of her birth, Mary’s father died, making his six day-old daughter the new Queen of Scots. She was crowned at Stirling Castle in September 1543.
When she was only five years old, Mary was sent to live in France where, at the age of fifteen, she married Francis, the French Dauphin and son and heir of King Henry II of France. A year after their marriage, Henry II died, and Francis became the new King of France, with Mary as his Queen consort. However, their happiness was not to last, for after ruling for a year, Francis died, aged just sixteen.
Heartbroken, Mary returned to Scotland, where she met her cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, for the first time. Five years later, they married in Holyrood Palace. Within a year, the marriage produced a son, the future James VI of Scotland and James I of England, but by then Mary and Henry’s marriage had begun to deteriorate. The very next year, Darnley was killed by an explosion in Kirk o’ Field.
Lord Darnley was believed to have been murdered by the Earl of Bothwell, which is why the people of Scotland were shocked beyond belief when Mary married him only a few months after the death of her second husband. The 26 Scottish peers known as the confederate lords opposed the marriage, and raised an army against The Queen and her new husband. The pair were defeated, and while Bothwell was exiled to Denmark, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, and forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son, James.
Having lost everything, Mary fled south, to England, where she sought help to regain her throne from the English Monarch at the time, Queen Elizabeth I. Mary was the great-niece of Henry VIII, making Elizabeth her first cousin once removed, and giving her a strong claim to the English throne. However, Elizabeth, who suspected that Mary was involved in a plot to try and kill her, had the Queen of Scots locked away at Fotheringhay Castle. She remained imprisoned for 19 years before her trial and execution in 1587.
The Mary, Queen of Scots Festival will be an annual event, that will be held at Loch Leven Castle, where Mary was imprisoned for a year following her abdication. The festival will pay a tribute to the Scottish Queen’s life, with around 40 costumed characters taking over the town for a week to give visitors a sense of what life was like in the Scottish court. The re-enactments will be accompanied by food and drink, live music, and displays of horses and falconry in the Market Square in Kinross
“Mary was and is such a huge Scottish figure. With her being imprisoned here and Kinross being right in the heart of the country, it just seemed like a really obvious event to do,” said Thomas Moffat, a tourism leader and event organiser, who was previously involved in a Robert the Bruce festival. “We’re focusing on a slightly smaller event in the centre of town this year to make sure we get all the logistics right, but the plan is to develop and built it up in the next few years.”
“I’ve worked with Clanranald for many years, we know and trust each other, and they are really enthusiastic about it,” Mr Moffat added. “The Belhaven Brewery and Perth and Kinross Council have already come on board to support the event in its first year.”
The inaugural festival will be held from 11th to 13th September, with plans already in place for a larger event to be held in Kirkgate Park next year. The event is being run in partnership with the Clanranald Trust, an organisation which stages historical re-enactments, including last year’s Battle of Bannockburn celebrations.