Sunday, 30 June 2013
When I was in Edinburgh last week, I caught a preview of this fascinating exhibition about Mary, Queen of Scots at the National Museum of Scotland.
Somehow, I've always focused on the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth, the long years of imprisonment and Mary's execution. Maybe it was being in Edinburgh, but what came vividly alive to me this time was the 19-year old-widow - Queen of Scots and dowager Queen of France - and those six turbulent years that she spent in Scotland before her abdication. For once, it wasn't the portraits and jewellery that enthralled me ...
It was a coin struck by her ambitious husband Darnley, depicting himself not as King Consort but as Mary's equal.
And the crime scene reconstruction, a precise sketch of how the bodies were discovered on the morning after Darnley's murder, that was sent to Elizabeth's statesman William Cecil by one of his Edinburgh spies. In case you've forgotten, Darnley's lodgings were blown to rubble in a gunpowder explosion but his mysteriously unscathed body was found in a garden on the other side of the town wall.
And then you realise that if you stand in the museums's natural history gallery - and you look past the squid and the shark and the elephant - well, that's the outside wall of the museum that was the boundary of Kirk o' Field, where Darnley had his lodgings. The town wall runs under the museum. And Darnley's body was found somewhere only yards down the street.
And I had an overwhelming feeling of standing where it all happened.
Meanwhile I leave you this trailer of a forthcoming TV series. Please, call me Mary!