As a member of Historic Scotland I was eligible to enter a lottery for a free ticket to this weekend’s festivities at Stirling Castle. For the past several years they have been busy restoring the royal palace to its former glory in the 16th century. Well, I won a free ticket for Sunday, so away I went! I’ve been to Stirling Castle a few times over the past few years and have long been waiting for the royal palace to open.
I was not disappointed. Upon entering the castle I saw jesters gamboling about and games of croquet and horseshoes were being played on the bowling green. By the kitchens you could buy roast ham to put in a roll (I was sorely tempted, but I packed a lunch and didn’t want to spend £5). Events were held every half hour from 12.30 to 3.30 in the Great Hall, Chapel Royal, and St Anne’s Garden, and I went to as many as I could. First I sat through a session of the court in which Mary of Guise heard affairs on her daughter’s, the young Mary Queen of Scots, behalf.
There was also lots of music. There were musicians that played in the upper close, and I talked to one of them afterward about the instruments they were playing. Then I rushed to the Chapel Royal to hear the minstrel explain and the play the instruments he could play. It was incredible to hear the forerunner of the violin play in that space, where it would have been played four hundred years ago. And the clavichord sounded simply enchanting.
I also attended a couple of sessions about renaissance dress, learning about farthingales and just how impossible it was to dress by oneself to wear noble court fashion. (I want one.) And there was also dancing: a bit more sedate than I was expecting, and I preferred it when the dancers were wearing masques (because they moved rather stiffly, and it made more sense when they were masked). The last session of all was on 16th century food, complete with jesters for entertainment, and subtleties made in the shapes of ships and fortresses with cannons that really did light on fire.
And then there were the royal apartments themselves. I took lots of pictures, but really one must go see them for oneself. I know I want to go back on a day when it might not be so crowded, and just spend time drinking in the detail. Let’s just say that if I ever get the chance, I want to decorate my bedroom like Mary of Guise’s room, and have a receiving room hung with tapestries.
And, a video I took of the final dance: