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Top Renaissance Talent Unveiled for Stirling Castle Palace Grand Opening

17 May 2011


The colourful line-up costumed performers has been unveiled for a right royal weekend of entertainment celebrating the reopening of the castle’s spectacular Renaissance palace.

Tickets are now on sale for this very special event, entitled Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen, which takes place on 4 and 5 June.

Around 60 performers, many of them experts in aspects of 16th-century living, will converge on the castle from all across Scotland and England to take part in the celebrations.

The centrepiece will be the chance for visitors to be among the first to see inside the castle’s magnificent palace, which has been returned to how it may have looked in the 1540s when it was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots.

Gillian Macdonald, Stirling Castle executive manager, said: “Our weekend of celebrations will feature some of the best and most entertaining costumed performers in Britain. They will be putting on some wonderful displays covering everything from fashion, food, make-up, music, jesting and dance through to dark plots, military displays, cannon firing and sword fights. But right at the heart of it all will be the wonderfully refurbished royal palace, which we are opening to the public again after two years during which it has been completely redecorated and furnished. Visitors will step right back into the 16th century and discover all the colour, beauty and political intrigue of a Scottish royal palace.”

The performers:
Below are details of some of the performers and groups taking part in Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen, most are happy to do media interviews.
  • It’s 1546 and Mary of Guise, and her young daughter Mary Queen of Scots, are being welcomed home to their palace inside Stirling Castle. A cannon fires a salute as the royal party arrives in a small procession up the esplanade at 11.45am on Saturday, 4 June. They will hand out alms to the paupers gathered to see them before being welcomed by Lord Erskine, keeper of the castle.
  • Feast your eyes: Enjoy superb cookery demonstrations as a team of cooks prepare a feast fit for royalty. Kevin Sands of Ringford, near Kirkcudbright, will be in charge of the kitchens in the North gate. As well as venison, trout, beef and (a few) vegetables they will be preparing lots of sweet dishes including marzipan treats. But the main attractions are likely to be a decorated boar’s head, complete with apple in mouth, and a splendid model of the warship The Great Michael hand made from sugar and firing miniature cannon balls.
  • Meet the mighty: Mary of Guise, widow of James V, along with little Mary Queen of Scots, will meet their subjects. Actress and singer, Angela Branney from Carnoustie in Angus, will play the French dowager queen. Angela is accustomed to royal roles, having appeared as Queen Margaret Tudor, at Historic Scotland’s Party at the Palace in Linlithgow. The ‘Little Queen’ will be played by 4-year-old Catriona Glennie from Law, in South Lanarkshire, with her mum Jo as her nurse.
  • Gunpowder and rapiers: Four cannoneers dressed in blue and white French livery, and a gun captain, will fire salutes from a 2lb cannon set up on the gatehouse. A Members of Kilmarnock-based Fire and Sword will set up a Renaissance military encampment where visitors can find out how the bow and arrow is gradually being replaced by the gun and see why gentlemen are starting to choose the rapier in favour of the broadsword.
  • Plots and politics: Dramatic events are shaking Scotland – French ambassador Henri Cleutin will be present to tell Mary of Guise that his country is sending warships to help end the siege at St Andrews Castle, which is held by a Protestant garrison, including a young man called John Knox. They will also discuss plans for Mary Queen of Scots to wed the Dauphin Francois, future king of France. Henri will be played by Hugh Robertson, who runs Kilmarnock-based Fire and Sword. There will be arguments, conflicts and fights as political tempers boil over. The Regent Arran will be played by Lars Cook from Perth, who appeared at Historic Scotland’s Party at the Palace as James IV. Alistair Strachan, from Chryston, North Lanarkshire, will be Lord Erskine, keeper of the castle. Denis Reid takes on the role of Sir Adam Otterburn, Scotland’s ambassador to England – and a fine swordsman. Alistair and Denis are accomplished performers who appear at events across Scotland.
  • Looks could kill: A 16th-century make-up demonstration will reveal the beauty secrets of the loveliest Renaissance women. It will also explain the risks they ran, as cosmetics contained poisonous substances including lead. Visitors can also see how a lady was dressed by her servants each morning, with layers of clothes beginning with a shift and tight corset. They can also find out about the role of the midwife in 16th-century Scotland and about ideas on bringing up children.
  • What a giggle: Peterkin the Fool, aka Peet Cooper from Bristol, will be entertaining the crowd with jokes, juggling and acrobatics. Peet is a fantastic performer and has been Resident Fool at Hampton Court Palace since 1992, and in 2005 was declared English Heritage National Jester.
  • Sounds of the 40s – that’s the 1540s: Fife-based early music expert and composer Jim Tribble will be present with a selection of popular instruments of the era. You can hear the hurdy gurdy and a harp-type instrument called a psaltery. Then there’s the rackett, a small wind instrument which makes a big noise, a little like a swarm of bees. Out on the esplanade the Edinburgh-based specialist period music group, Gaïta, will be performing top sounds of the era.
  • Strutting their stuff: The splendid Dance Ecosse, led by Susan Warren from Inverness, will be putting on displays of Renaissance dance of the types that courtiers and nobles would have enjoyed at a major royal party.

Tickets and event:
Tickets for Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen can be purchased from To ensure that everyone has the best possible time, and to avoid overcrowding, numbers will be limited and tickets must be bought in advance.

The castle gates will open at 10am and activities start at 11.45am. The main events continue until 4pm.

Tickets are £13 adults, £6.50 children, £10 concessions.

Some of the great things to do and see at the castle thanks to the £12 million Palace Project include:
  • Palace apartments: Be among the first to see inside the sumptuously refurbished royal apartments. Meet nobles, officials and servants who lived and worked there in the 1540s.
  • Image-Makers for the King: See the original Stirling Heads in a specially-created gallery.
  • Queen Anne Casemates: A superb new exhibition about the history of the castle, including the years of conflict during the Wars of Independence.
  • The Vaults: Delightful interactive fun for all the family, featuring jesters and other Renaissance palace characters.
  • Three top shops: Browse our three new-look stores – the Courtyard Gift Shop, the Clan and Craft Gift Shop and the Palace Gift Shop.
  • Super food and drink: Enjoy snacks and meals at our beautifully refurbished Unicorn Café, including cakes and tray bakes from the castle’s own bakery.
  • Opening hours have been specially extended to 7pm both days. People without pre-booked tickets can buy tickets as normal after 4pm.

Notes for editors:

For further information

Nicola McCrae, Stirling Castle Marketing Executive
01786 431 325

Matthew Shelley, Marketing
01786 431 325 or 07786 704 299

Ellen Drummond-Ferroni, Marketing
07801 820 757

Hugh Robertson, Fire & Sword
07973 551 615