Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Yesterday evening I was invited to the Palace and was presented to the Queen. That would be James V royal palace at Stirling Castle and the Queen was Mary of Guise. More accurately she was the Dowager Queen and also Queen Regent to the infant, Mary Queen of Scots.
And how did I get to do that? No, I haven't learned to bend time yet (still working on that one!) but I did get an invitation to a preview before the public opening of the newly renovated Royal Apartments at Stirling Castle. All I can say is £12million definitely very well spent. It is simply sumptuous and I can't wait to go back as a visitor to wander round at my own pace and drink it all in again. (Last night I was forced to hurry off and drink in champagne instead. It's a hard life!)
For those who don't know, James V was the last of the Renaissance Kings in Scotland. He consolidated the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France and was responsible for the Renaissance Court at Stirling Castle, then the seat of Kings in Scotland - and commissioned a new set of Apartments at the Palace for him and his second wife, Mary. Sadly he died before his magnificent Royal Apartments at Stirling were finished, after losing the Battle of Solway Moss and left as his heir his infant daughter, Mary - only 6 days old. Hence, when you see the Apartments now the King's bed is unmade.
What the renovations at the Castle have done is take it back to our best estimates of how it would have looked at the time. Gone are the grey stone walls and draughty empty rooms. In their place are brightly coloured, ornate and flamboyant spaces - fit, indeed, for a King and Queen. The tapestries that have been woven on site at the Castle for the last few years are now hanging on the walls of the Queen's Presence Chamber. And the replicas of the famous Stirling Heads are now fully painted and installed on the ceiling of the King's Presence Chamber. Absolutely stunning! You can see the originals in the gallery above the Apartments - getting that close to historical artifacts is truly humbling.
There's plenty of fun to be had for the young at heart too - hands on exhibits and games in the basement, costumed actors explaining the history and helping you live the experience as you go round, and of course the fabulous Unicorn Cafe for when it all gets too much. As an added bonus, last night we were treated to a talk from one of the archaeologists who has been work on the restoration project and he brought to life some of the hidden history they've discovered along the way.
I've blogged before about what a wonderful place Stirling is to visit. There's tons to see and do. And now, well from this weekend, there's even more. Get yourself across here. I promise, you won't be disappointed!!