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Linlithgow - A palace fit for a Queen

25 June 2009

If Mary Queen of Scots is one of the heroines of history whom you’d most like to meet, then here’s your opportunity.

Join us at Linlithgow Palace for A Queen’s Progress and you’ll not only have a chance to meet the monarch, but also be able to find out how this magnificent royal residence would have prepared for a regal visit by Mary and her entourage.

On Saturday 4th and Wednesday 22nd July and Saturday 8th and Friday 21st August, visitors to the splendid Renaissance ruins of Linlithgow Palace are invited to meet living history performers who aim to bring to life the ways in which this majestic property and favoured Stewart seat would have readied itself for the arrival and stay of Mary Queen of Scots and her party.

What did the courtiers, servants and guards have to do to make sure everything was perfect long before the Queen arrived? The event explores the different aspects of courtly life and looks at how the Palace building was specifically designed to meet the needs of Mary and other royal personages and their guests.  And visitors will find out all about the extent of the complex - and costly - preparations for a monarch’s visit and residence.

The kitchens had to prepare for sumptuous feasting fit for a queen - sourcing an endless range of supplies and ingredients designed to impress - and cooking, roasting, baking and making ale to cater for the discerning and cosmopolitan royal party. The servants also had to get the royal apartments ready, setting up suitably impressive furniture and hangings, and ensuring everything was scrupulously clean and comfortable. And the guards had to check the property’s defenses, ensuring the safety of the queen and check that there were no dangers to her security.

Sheena Garden, Historic Scotland Interpretation Manager, said: “The staff at Royal residences like Linlithgow faced a huge task in preparing for the special demands of a visit and stay by a royal party.

“Regal expectations were often incredibly high, and lowly staff working in majestic surroundings could often find themselves blamed for things being not exactly as the royal visitors and their guests expected and demanded.  Working flat out to get everything ‘just so’ to please kings and queens and their often large entourage was a matter of honour.  And in some cases, disappointing and displeasing the royal party could even become a matter of life and death.”

A Queen’s Progress takes place on all of the dates listed above from 10.30am to 11.30am and 1.30pm to 3.30pm and is included in normal admission price to Linlithgow Palace (Adult £5.20, Concession £4.20 and Child £2.60).

Notes for editors

  • The majestic royal palace of the Stewarts at Linlithgow today lies roofless and ruined but remains an impressive and grand site.  It was begun by James I in 1424, rising like a phoenix from the flames of a fire that devastated its predecessor.  Linlithgow became a truly elegant ‘pleasure palace’, and a welcome stopping-place for the royal family along the busy road linking Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.

  • The Stewart queens especially liked Linlithgow Palace’s tranquil setting. The ancient palace served as the royal nursery for James V (born 1512), Mary Queen of Scots (born 1542) and Princess Elizabeth (born 1596). But after 1603, when James VI moved the royal court to London following his coronation as James I of England, the Palace fell into decline. The end came ignominiously in September 1745, when a fire swept through it.

  • Linlithgow Palace stands on a low green promontory overlooking a small inland loch. The name Linlithgow means ‘the loch in the damp hollow’. The location has a history of occupation reaching back at least to Roman times 2,000 years ago. David I (1124–53) was the first monarch to build a royal residence on the site. He also founded the town that sprang up in its shadow.

  • The peace of Linlithgow was shattered in 1296 when Edward I of England invaded Scotland. In 1302 the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ had a formidable defence built around the royal residence. He called it his ‘pele’ (from the Old French pel, meaning ‘stake’). Nothing of Linlithgow Peel survives, but the word now describes the attractive parkland surrounding the later palace of the Stewarts.

  • In 1424 a great fire swept through the town. The old palace was badly damaged and James I started to build anew. Over the course of the next century and more, his heirs completed the great task. The result was a monumentally impressive quadrangular palace, with four ranges grouped around a central courtyard. At its centre stood James V’s wonderful fountain (1538). James I’s Great Hall dominated the east quarter, whilst the royal chapel and royal apartments added by James IV (1488–1513) graced the south and west quarters. The north quarter crashed to the ground in 1607 and was rebuilt by James VI (1567–1625). It probably housed the queen’s apartment, meaning that the room where Mary Queen of Scots was born in December 1542 no longer exists.

  • Linlithgow Palace is one of over 345 outstanding heritage properties and sites in the care of Historic Scotland.  Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, Skara Brae, and the Border Abbeys.  For further details visit:

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

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting Scotland’s Homecoming 2009 with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information

Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871