Historic Scotland is currently engaged in a £12 million project to return the royal palace within the walls of Stirling Castle to how it might have been in the mid-16th century.New research has revealed the cosmopolitan character of the Renaissance Scottish court at Stirling Castle .
The palace will reopen to the public in 2011 as a new Scottish visitor experience. Freelance historian, John Harrison, has been investigating original documents .Mr Harrison’s source is The Bread Book, an account of who received loaves from the royal kitchens throughout 1549 when the palace was the main residence of Scotland’s queen mother, Mary de Guise , mother of Mary , Queen of Scots . Mary, Queen of Scots was born in nearby Linlithgow Palace and she was only 9 months old when she was crowned Queen of Scotland in the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543. On most days a loaf was granted to the Morys – or Moors – who Mr Harrison believes were probably either black Africans or Arabs originating from North Africa.
“This is a fascinating glimpse of the diversity of the royal court at Stirling in the mid-16th century. It was quite cosmopolitan at the time, with the French Mary de Guise at its head, and surrounded not just by Scots but by people from Spain, the Rhineland and what is now Belgium. There were a few English, but they were mostly prisoners. Just who the Moors were, and what they were doing, is difficult to say. They were quite low in the court hierarchy, but were part of the household and getting bread at royal expense.”
Hints have survived that there may have been Africans in Scotland even earlier. There is a poetic reference by Dunbar to a woman who has been assumed to be – ‘the Lady with the Meikle Lips’. Such references are mostly rather uncertain, and may have other explanations, and the importance of The Bread Book is its clarity at a time when record-keeping was still relatively thin. Just as fascinating is what The Bread Book adds to our understanding of the way the court was run, and who had access to the queen. The evidence suggests that rather than acting like many of the Tudor dynasty in England and taking her main meals in private, deep within the network of royal apartments, Mary de Guise would dine in the Queen’s Outer Hall.
“Quite a wide range of people had access to her, not ordinary farmers but lots of people who were fairly well-to-do, which is important as she was working hard to build and protect the interests of her young daughter – Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary de Guise was an intelligent, decisive woman and a smart operator.
Stirling Castle is one of the best castles in Scotland with a rich and fascinating history .Stirling Castle is now getting a makeover with a striking new brand identity to raise its profile as one of Scotland’s premier visitor attractions and further develop its tourism business.
The creation of the Stirling Castle brand is part of the £12 million Stirling Castle Palace Project which will see the royal lodgings at Stirling Castle returned to the Renaissance magnificence of the mid 16th century.
The stunning stronghold’s unique identity conveys both its character and significance in Scottish history.
The exclusive, striking logo contains references to Scotland’s coat of arms, the unicorn tapestries and the sculptures on Stirling Castle’s Great Hall roof. The unicorn, the enigmatic mythological beast, features throughout Stirling Castle. The new mark also takes its shape from the famous circular wood-carved Stirling heads. Its references and complex detail are emblematic of pageantry and royal status, and features Stirling Castle sitting high up in its green and leafy setting.
Historic Scotland Marketing and Media Manager Rebecca Hamilton said: “This new logo we have created conveys a sense of depth, experience, royal authority, richness and intimacy. Marrying the highly decorative with an intimate experience is very apt for Stirling Castle.
“Our aim was to create a distinctive, memorable and stronger visual identity which embodies the special importance and character of Stirling Castle. It is a truly outstanding attraction with a range of visitor experiences. And the completion of the Stirling Castle Palace Project in 2011 will see the visitor experience enhanced further.”
The logo will be phased in at the attraction for a wide variety of uses including signage, vehicle livery, staff uniforms, publications for visitors, and interpretation of the castle’s history, as well as in Historic Scotland’s website details on the site.
The Stirling Castle Palace Project involves the conservation and refurbishment of the Royal Lodgings to present them as they might have appeared in the heyday of Scotland’s Stewart court in the mid 16th century. Extensive historical and archaeological research has been carried out to ensure the interior decoration, as well as the materials and craftsmanship used, are as authentic as possible.
An interpretive display on the court of James V will be created in the palace vaults and a Renaissance Gallery on the upper floors of the palace will house the original Stirling Heads, a rare group of intricately carved oak ceiling medallions depicting kings, queens, courtiers and mythological creatures. Costumed interpreters will bring the rich history of the 16th century to life to enrich visitors’ enjoyment.
Chris Watkins, head of Historic Scotland’s major projects team, said: “The Stirling Castle Palace Project will not only conserve the palace as a monument of international importance but also present and interpret the magnificence of the royal lodgings, the superb Renaissance carvings and the life of the royal court.
“The project will enable us to maximise the appeal of Scotland’s finest Renaissance palace and encourage more people to visit both the castle and the city of Stirling. And the creation of the Stirling Castle brand, with its distinctive new logo, will play a very important part in helping us promote and project all that this wonderful attraction stands for and offers.”
Stirling Castle videos – Stirling Castle picture gallery