Mary Queen of Scots' House, Jedburgh

Mary Queen of Scots is associated with many palaces, castles and country houses in Scotland as she undertook many tours of her kingdom, partly to bolster her popularity. But "Mary Queen of Scots' House" in Jedburgh is the only one which bears her name. In October 1566, she had been in Jedburgh to administer justice in the court there and had travelled to bleak Hermitage Castle, 20 miles further south in Liddesdale, to visit the Earl of Bothwell who had been injured in a skirmish with the Elliot family. This was before the tempestuous relationship with Bothwell had developed. At this time Mary was married to Lord Darnley and the future King James VI had been born four months earlier. On her return from Hermitage Castle she was thrown from her horse while crossing some dangerous bogland (now named The Queen's Mire) and was taken to the fortified house in Jedburgh which now bears her name.

 

The house belonged to the Scotts of Ancrum at that time.

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The house had been built by the Kerr family (who lived at nearby Ferniehirst Castle) only 20 years before Mary's arrival. As such, it was one of the very few houses in the area with the luxury of indoor sanitation! Like a number of Kerr buildings, it features a left-handed spiral staircase which suited the Kerrs, many of whom were left-handed (hence the Scots phrase "corrie (Kerr) fisted" to describe left-handed people).

 

 

Mary was seriously ill after her accident - at one stage she lost her sight and speech and suffered from convulsions, presumably as a result of concussion. During her illness she was visited (for one day) by her husband, Lord Darnley; relations between the royal couple by this time were cool in the extreme. However, she gradually recovered and left for Kelso on 9 November to hold another assize court.

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In 1987 the house was renovated and was opened to visitors on the 400th anniversary of Mary's death on February 8, 1587. It has been turned into a museum on Mary's life and is full of memorabilia of the tragic Queen, including jewellery, documents - and a death mask. There is a rare portrait of Lord Bothwell (whom she married in May 1567 after the murder of Lord Darnley). Also on display is the Queen's watch which she lost during her sojourn in the Borders and which was found again 250 years later in a mole hill!

 

The room between the first and second floors where Mary recuperated is surprisingly small, as is the equally small room above, which housed her ladies in waiting (the "Four Marys" - Mary Beaton, Mary Seton, Mary Fleming and Mary Livngstone).

 

Despite Mary's relatively short stay in the house, the association with her has made this attractive house and gardens a major tourist attraction. The house is open from Easter to mid-November from 10am to 4.30pm.

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