Till Valley, Archaeological Soc.

Etal Village  Picture by Jane Coltman
Etal Village Picture by Jane Coltman

The Till Valley Archaeological Society (TillVAS) James IV Memorial Lecture was held at Etal Village Hall.

The title, most appropriately, was Mary, Queen of Scots.

Born in 1542, she was sent to France, where in 1558 she was married to the heir to the French throne. A year later she was left a widow and returned to Scotland as heir to the Scottish throne, but with some opposition as she was a Catholic – “One mass is more fearful than 1,000 troops”.

Despite this, she was doing a fairly good job until the question of an heir raised the subject of marriage, and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, grandson of Margaret, sister of Henry VII, was chosen as Consort.

Meanwhile in England, Elizabeth’s right to be Queen was questioned as she was possibly born out of wedlock, meaning that Mary and any issue had a claim to the English throne.

Darnley proved to be most unsuitable for several reasons, not least the murder of Mary’s favourite, David Ritzio at Holyrood Palace in 1566.

A plot supposedly led by the Earl of Bothwell, James Hepburn, led to his death in mysterious circumstances later the same year, leaving his son James, at eight months old, the heir to the throne.

Bothwell, previously a champion of Mary and with a good following, also appeared to have designs on the Scottish throne and attempted to persuade Mary to marry him.

Following several refusals she was taken to Dunbar Castle, raped and kept there as a virtual prisoner. Finding that she was pregnant, she finally agreed to marry Bothwell to avoid giving birth to a bastard and losing the Crown.

This was not an agreeable relationship and Mary wrote to Elizabeth: “I find his doings rude.”

The Scottish Lords were also concerned at the obvious ambitions of Bothwell and following a battle at Carberry Hill in June 1567, Mary agreed to surrender on condition that Bothwell was allowed to return to Dunbar and go into exile.

Mary was once again a prisoner, taken firstly to Edinburgh Castle, then to Loch Leven Castle, where she miscarried. There, she was persuaded to renounce the throne in favour of her baby son, who became James VI of Scotland.

Dressed as a laundry maid she eventually escaped, raised an army of about 6,000 men and marched on Glasgow, but the rising was crushed and Mary fled to England, seeking the protection of her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she has always been on good terms.

Unfortunately, the protection she sought became 18 years of imprisonment in various castles in the Midlands.

Elizabeth, persuaded by her advisors that Mary was a threat, and finally presented with details of a plot to assassinate her by Anthony Babbington, authorised Mary’s trial.

The alternative for Mary would have been another 10 to 20 years imprisonment.

Mary appeared at her trial dressed as a martyr and said: “I am a true Queen; look to your consciences and remember that the theatre of the whole world is wider than the Kingdom of England.”

This talk gave much insight into the life of Mary and was well received by the capacity audience.

Fitting title for memorial lecture.

The Till Valley Archaeological Society (TillVAS) James IV Memorial Lecture was held at Etal Village Hall on Sunday, October 8.

It was given by Jordan Evans, who was previously a guide at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh and is now attached to the Royal Household.

The title of the lecture, most appropriately, was Mary, Queen of Scots, as she was, of course, the granddaughter of James IV, who died at the ill-fated Battle of Flodden in 1513.