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Magnificent Tapestries arrive in Stirling Castle's Royal Palace

20 May 2011


Four fabulous tapestries have been hung on the walls of Stirling Castle’s Royal palace – marking a key moment in a £2 million weaving project.

They are the first of a series of seven which are being hand-woven for the Queen’s Inner Hall, one of six apartments within the castle’s palace block which are being returned to how they may have looked in the 1540s. Visitors will be able to see the tapestries in their new home during a weekend of special celebrations on 4 and 5 June to mark the reopening of the palace.

The event, called Stirling Castle Presents – A Palace Fit For A Queen, will also feature 60 costumed performers including dancers, jesters, soldiers and nobles. There will even be appearances to meet a young Mary Queen of Scots, who lived in the palace as a child along with her mother Mary of Guise.

At that time the Scottish royal family had around 100 tapestries to hang on the walls of their favourite residences, of which Stirling’s palace was the newest.

Peter Buchanan, Stirling Castle Project Manager, said: “The tapestries are stunningly beautiful and will be one of the great attractions of the palace. It has taken years to weave them and to finally see them in their new home, the royal apartment for which they have been specially made, is a great experience. We are very much looking forward to the opening event when the public can come and see the tapestries, and the rest of the palace, for themselves.”

The tapestries are new interpretations of The Hunt of the Unicorn series which date from the early 16th century and are in the Cloisters Museum at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It is known that the Scottish royal collection also included a series depicting ‘the historie of the unicorne’.

The tapestries are being woven by West Dean Tapestry Studio in a specially created studio at the castle and at the West Dean studio in West Sussex.

Louise Martin, Senior Weaver at Stirling Castle, said: “This is a very special moment. We started the first tapestry in 2001, so this is the climax of a decade of weaving. What’s so wonderful is that visitors will be able to step back in time and see what a Scottish royal palace was like in its heyday, when the tapestries, furnishings, furniture and decorations were colourful and new.”

A fifth tapestry is nearing completion and will be cut from the loom in Stirling this summer before joining the others in the palace. The last is due to be finished in 2013.

Until this week the four tapestries have been on temporary display in the castle’s Chapel Royal.

● Free to use pictures will be sent to picture desks by FTP from Rob McDougall.

Stirling Castle Presents – A Palace Fit For A Queen
Our celebrations for the opening of Stirling Castle’s spectacularly refurbished Renaissance palace offer a fantastic weekend of family fun on 4 and 5 June. Be among the first people to see inside six magnificent royal apartments which have been returned to how they might have looked in the 1540s, when it was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots. You can also enjoy:
  • Royal procession – 11.45am, Saturday only:  Mary of Guise, Mary Queen of Scots and the royal party arrive at the castle and are welcomed by cannon fire.
  • Feast your eyes: See a team of cooks prepare a feast fit for royalty. They will be roasting, boiling and pouching everything from venison and trout to beef and (a few) vegetables. But the main attractions are likely to be a decorated boar’s head, complete with apple in mouth, and a model warship made from sugar which fires tiny cannonballs.
  • Gunpowder and rapiers: Four costumed gunners will fire salutes from a cannon set on the gatehouse. And there will be 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 prefer the rapiers to the broadsword.
  • Meet the mighty: Mary of Guise, widow of James V, along with little Mary Queen of Scots, will meet their subjects. Remember to bow and curtsey.
  • Plots and politics: Dramatic events are shaking Scotland – meet the French ambassador Henri Cleutin and his rivals at court as they cook up all sorts of plots, but beware, it could spill over into swordfights at any moment.
  • Looks could kill: A make-up demonstration will reveal the beauty secrets of Renaissance women. It will also explain the risks, as cosmetics contained poisonous substances including lead. Visitors can see how a lady was dressed by her servants each morning, beginning with a shift and tight corset.
  • What a giggle: Peterkin the Fool will entertain the crowd with jokes, juggling and acrobatics.
  • Sounds of the 40s – that’s the 1540s: 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.
  • Strutting their stuff: See displays of Renaissance dance of the types that courtiers and nobles would have enjoyed at a major royal party.

Tickets for Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen can be purchased from They are £13 adults, £6.50 children, £10 concessions.

To make sure that everyone has the best possible time numbers will be limited and tickets must be bought in advance.

The castle gates will open at 10am and activities start at 11.45am.

Opening hours have been specially extended on both days and people without event tickets can buy tickets after 4pm – the castle gates will shut at 7pm.

Notes for editors:

  • For all the latest on the palace project, and everything else that happening at Stirling Castle, visit our website at and sign up for our free e-newsletter.

  • Stirling Castle is at the top of Stirling Old Town off the M9 at junction 9 or 10. Call 01786 450000

  • Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae.

  • Historic Scotland’s Mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

For further information and free pictures

Matthew Shelley, Marketing
07786 704 299

Nicola McCrae, Stirling Castle Marketing Executive
01786 431 3259

Ellen Drummond-Ferroni, Marketing
07801 820 757