13/09/2017
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Spotlight on the Marie Stuart Society - promoting the study of the life and times of Mary Queen of Scots

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The Marie Stuart Society carries out a range of activities to promote awareness of the life and legacy of Mary Queen of Scots, as Elisabeth Manson, president of the society, explains.

The Marie Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots) Society was formed in 1992 to mark the 450th anniversary of her birth. Its aim is to promote further study of her life and times – we’re not an academic Society as such but a group of people who share an interest in the Stuart and Tudor periods, and of course the turbulent and controversial life of Mary herself.

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The Society holds an annual Ceremony in Westminster Abbey in December, around the time of Mary’s birthday; and we have an Annual Gathering in April –next year it will be in Carlisle, appropriate because 2018 marks 450 years since she began her time in captivity in Carlisle Castle. Memorial services have also been held during the last year in the church in Fotheringhay and Peterborough Cathedral.

The majority of our members are in Scottish Branch, and we have a programme of lectures and events taking place every couple of months, usually in Edinburgh but also visits to Marian places across the country. In the last couple of years we will have visited Dundrennan; St Andrews; Stirling; Glasgow; and Haddington. We also have an English Branch, reflecting the fact that Mary spent 19 years of her life in various castles in England including Bolton, Tutbury and Sheffield; and a number of international members particularly in the USA, France and Italy.

Mary Queen of Scots commemorative plaques

The Society funded the impressive statue of Mary at her birthplace at Linlithgow Palace, unveiled in 2015; and we have placed plaques and planted a tree at significant sites including Crail (where Mary’s mother Mary of Guise landed in Scotland in 1538); Dumbarton (where Mary departed Scotland for France in August 1548); Leith (where Mary landed when she came back to Scotland in 1561); Carberry (where Mary surrendered to the Confederate Lords in May 1567); Dundrennan Abbey (where Mary spend her last night in Scotland in May 1568); and Workington (where Mary landed in May 1568).

We have a small archive of rare publications available to borrow; and a Journal which is published three times a year and contains often little-known information about Mary, her people and the 16th century in general, as well as feedback on Society events, links to useful research sources and snippets about Marian items in the news. The Journal is highly respected and is increasingly valued as a reference resource.

Membership fees are very modest at only £15 for an individual or £20 for a couple and a concession rate of £2 for students in full-time education. New members joining after 1 October pay a full subscription and this carries their membership through the remainder of the current year and the whole of the following year.

An ongoing debate

The Marie Stuart Society is very proud to contribute to the ongoing debate about the life and times of Mary, Queen of Scots. She continues to fascinate and inspire people –this year alone we have seen the premiere of ‘Glory on Earth’ by Linda McLean with Rona Morison as Mary; the unveiling of the Marian ‘Oxburgh Hangings’ tapestries at Edinburgh Castle; a two-day Mary Queen of Scots Festival in Kinross; a new crowd-funded Concert at the Edinburgh Fringe; a major new film in production with Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce and David Tennant; and of course this welcome online presence in History Scotland!

Mary’s motto certainly rings true: ‘In my end is my beginning’.

Elisabeth Manson, President   

For more on the Marie Stuart Society, visit their website.

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