Mary Queen of Scots became Queen of Scotland when she was only six days old, however she spent most of her childhood in France. In 1558 she married Francis, heir to the French throne and the couple were soon crowned King and Queen of France. After Francis’ death in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland and Edinburgh Castle was Mary’s chief stronghold during the six years of her adult reign.
Queen Mary sought the prestige and security of Edinburgh Castle for the birth of her heir. Queen Mary’s Bedchamber was part of a royal residence that was built and developed by the queen’s royal forebears.
At a time of national crisis and religious turmoil, the baby prince’s arrival declared reassuring continuance of the queen’s Stuart dynasty. But while the portraits that are displayed in the room today reveal the subsequent success of that royal lineage, Mary’s own position was still in jeopardy.
On June the 19th, 1566, after a difficult labour, Mary produced an heir and the first king of Scotland, England and Ireland was born. The castle’s guns were fired and the nation rejoiced at the birth of her only son, James. In 1617, the artist John Anderson, painted the room to commemorate James’ birth. He included a magnificent coat of arms, which can still be seen today.
A year later, however, Mary’s Protestant enemies forced the Catholic queen to abdicate. The 13-month old prince was crowned in her place and Mary was forced into exile. While in exile, Mary sewed and replicas of her work can be seen today in the Antechamber of Edinburgh Castle.
Because James VI was a child monarch, his kingdom was run by the noblemen who had custody of him. They raised him as Protestant. In 1583, James started to rule Scotland for himself.
Mary was executed by her cousin, Elizabeth I, Queen of England, when James was 20. James was next in line to the English throne and, in 1603, when Elizabeth died, James became the first monarch to reign over Scotland, England and Ireland.
In 1830, a child’s bones were found in a cavity within a nearby wall. Years later, a scandalous myth arose that the remains might have belonged to Mary’s newborn baby, making James VI an imposter.
Today, visitors can still see a painting of a red lion wearing the Crown of State and holding the Sceptre and Sword, as well as the royal initials of both Mary and James (MR and JR) on the ceiling.
Within the room is a copy of an original drawing of Mary dressed in white to mourn for her father-in-law, King Henry II, in 1559. Also on display is a rare image of James VI as King of Scotland, as most of his surviving portraits date from after he became King of England in 1603. The picture was most likely painted for marriage negotiations with the Danish crown in 1585. The exchange of portraits was an important part of securing marriage alliances between European royal families. James was a particularly eligible bachelor as King of Scotland and heir to the English throne and he married Anne, daughter of King Frederick II of Denmark, in 1589.
- Information signs at Edinburgh Castle