The Ghosts of Mary, Queen of Scots
This is a poem written by Mary Queen of Scots in Fotheringhay Castle as she awaited execution.
Alas what am I? What use has my life?
I am but a body whose heart's torn away,
A vain shadow, an object of misery
Who has nothing left but death-in-life.
O my enemies, set your envy all aside;
I've no more eagerness for high domain;
I've borne too long the burden of my pain
To see your anger swiftly satisfied.
And you, my friends who have loved me so true,
Remember, lacking health and heart and peace,
There is nothing worthwhile that I can do;
Ask only that my misery should cease
And that, being punished in a world like this,
I have my portion in eternal bliss.
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, remains an enigma. Some of the information about her is accurate, some probably so, much is conjecture - perhaps to fit in with an image already formed by centuries of hearsay and rumour.
However, Mary’s spirit that ,allegedly walks in so many places, seems to be a fragmented assortment of guesses and gossip. Nevertheless, let’s have a closer look at the stories surrounding the hauntings.
Interesting facts about Mary, Queen of Scots
Did you know?
- Mary was born in December 1542 at the Palace of Linlithgow.
- Mary was crowned Queen of Scots at Stirling Castle when she was only 6 days old. She was the only legitimate heir of King James V of Scots, who had just died. Mary's mother, Mary de Guise, was a highborn French lady and was elected as Regent of Scotland until her daughter was old enough to rule.
- Mary was very tall - almost 6 feet in height. Although the contemporary portraits show an attractive woman, by all accounts they do not do her justice at all. She was reported by people who met her - including her enemies - that she was not only stunningly beautiful but had a charm and magnetism that was almost impossible to ignore.
There are many locations throughout the UK where Mary's ghost has been reported by witnesses.
We start with some of the Scottish locations:
Stirling Castle: Stirling
There are two interesting female ghosts at Stirling Castle witnessed by numerous people. One is said to be that of Mary and this ghost is referred to as the 'Pink Lady'. The second ghost is called the 'Green Lady'. This is reported to be the ghost of a servant woman of Mary's.
History relates how this serving woman saved the Queen's life from being burned to death.
While Mary slept, the bed curtains and canopy of the four-poster bed was set alight by a candle. Mary was unaware of the danger and it was the serving woman who noticed the smoke and managed to waken the Queen in time and help her to safety.
Both the pink lady and the green lady have been observed walking in various parts of Stirling Castle.
It’s difficult to say if either of these ladies are Queen Mary. Perhaps due to the trauma of the fire, her residual energy remains?
Borthwick Castle: Midlothian
During one of Mary's many escapes from capture she is said to have dressed as a page boy. This is the ghost that is said to haunt Borthwick Castle in Midlothian. Mary dressed in boy's clothing and was able to escape from the castle in this disguise.
The ghost of a tall page boy with feminine features is said to haunt this castle and it is thought that it is in fact Mary.
Loch Leven Castle: Kinross
Mary was imprisoned here for quite sometime. It was only on her second attempt that she finally made her escape from this castle, situated on an island in the centre of Loch Leven.
Her ghost is said to walk around the now ruined remains and part of the island itself. If Mary’s residual energy or her spirit is present at Lochleven this might not be too surprising. Her emotions were in turmoil during her imprisonment here, not just because of being held captive, but she also pregnant with twins, but suffered a miscarriage.
Craignethan Castle: Glasgow
Some of the reports from this castle say that the headless ghost of Mary walks the grounds. The ghost is alleged to be recognisable because of the design and colour of the dress. This apparition is said to have first appeared shortly after Mary's execution. However, it is rather strange, if it is indeed Mary, that she should choose this sight to haunt. No other sightings of her report this peculiarity.
Interesting facts about Mary, Queen of Scots
Did you Know?
- Mary was highly intelligent and received a superb education. She spoke several languages including French, Scots, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish and English. She could also play several musical instruments, sang beautifully. She was also reputed to be knowledgeable about science. Mary was also an excellent needlewoman and excelled at sports - especially hawking and golf. She was also an expert horse rider.
- Mary's preferred language during her life was French – this is due to the fact that she was brought up at the French Royal Court from the age of five years of age until she was 18. She used the French spelling of her surname - Stuart - instead of the Scottish spelling - Stewart. She also signed her name as the French 'Mari' instead of Mary.
- It is true that Mary, for most of her life, had at least four ladies-in-waiting all named Mary after her. The four Mary's all belonged to some of the noblest families in Scotland. They were Mary Fleming, Mary Livingstone, Mary Seaton and Mary Beaton. There may have been two more according to historians - Mary Carmichael and Mary Hamilton.
Hauntings in English castles
Mary spent about 19 years in captivity in England, transferring to many different locations during that time. Some of them are alleged to be haunted by her.
Fotheringhay Castle: Northamptonshire
Fotheringhay Castle - the place of Mary's execution - is now no more than a few bricks and a mound where the castle once stood.
However there are two artefacts from the castle still in existence.
The first is a wooden chair that is now situated in the nearby Fotheringhay Church - the church has survived intact unlike the castle. This is the chair that Mary is thought to have arisen from when moving forward to be executed.
Although we have no accounts of her ghost near this chair. The same can't be said for an oak wooden staircase and stone work rescued from the castle and used to build the nearby Talbot Hotel. This staircase is the one that Mary would have walked down, from her apartments, into the great hall where her execution took place.
Her ghost has been seen on many occasions on or walking down the staircase. She has been witnessed standing near to the reception counter and at a stone window surround - this stone work was taken from Fotheringhay. Her ghost was recognised because of the famous white cap and veil that Mary most often wore.
Once again this is a feasible case of a residual haunting. If we go with the ‘stone-tape’ theory that powerful emotions can be recorded like a video, become trapped in stone and the replayed under certain conditions. If we think about the strong emotions she would have felt leading up to and on the day of her execution, then it’s she could have left an imprint of her last days at Fotheringhay, trapped in the stones or wood that still exists.
Tutbury Castle: Staffordshire
It is well documented that Mary loathed Tutbury Castle. The stress she felt when at this castle, may well have affected her physical health, as it’s reported that she suffered a lot while in prison here.
Mary's ghost still haunts this gruesome, semi-ruined castle. To the present day she has been observed by many different people in various locations.
One of the best documented sightings happened in 2004 when she was seen by about 40 men of Her Majesty's Services. A figure dressed in white was observed very clearly standing at the top of the South Tower of Tutbury -witnesses described her as a good likeness to Mary.
Another impressive sighting took place on a lovely summer’s day, when a serving Marine saw Mary walk quickly across the grass and then disappear.
The window of the Great Hall is also an area where Mary has been seen on numerous occasions. As people are leaving the castle they have reported seeing the figure of a beautiful woman dressed in black looking down at them from this window.
She was also seen by a group of highly respected archaeologists working within Tutbury a few years ago.
The witnesses to these events are many and it’s highly likely that Mary’s spirit may well haunt Tutbury. It could be asked why she should choose to visit a place that she loathed? According to some sources, when we pass on into the spirit world then we are meant to learn from our life experience just passed. It could be that Mary returns to Tutbury in order to fulfil this obligation or perhaps it’s the sheer joy of visiting this former prison with the knowledge it can no longer hold her captive.
The story of the tragic and beautiful Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots will continue to be told for centuries to come.
As to Mary’s spirit - is it possible that she could haunt so many locations? The answer could be yes.
It’s possible that many of the sightings of Mary are residual energy apparitions. This means that it is not Mary's spirit being viewed, but simply a replay of an action she carried out when alive. These apparitions cannot hear or see anyone - the same as actors in a movie can't interact with the audience watching them.
It’s also possible that Mary’s spirit may visit certain locations that had powerful associations for her when she was alive. This is made possible, so I understand, because spirit energy is basically free to go where it wants.
At the end of the day it’s up to you to decide what is possible and the paranormal researchers will continue to look for the proof that we all desperately want.
© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell