Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Four Marys

The Four Marys
A most enjoyable visit to Linlithgow on Thursday catching up with some other members of the Society, including two our London members in Scotland for the New Year celebrations.

 After walking round and admiring (yet again) the splendour of the Palace where Mary was born, a meal in the 'Four Marys' restaurant in the High Street which much enjoyed.
Needless to say some discussion as to the identity of the four Marys and what became of them. Agreed these were;

 1. Mary Seton who never married  and the only one of the four to accompany Mary into captivity. Because of declining health she was released from service in 1583 and retired to France  living in the convent of St. Pierre at Rhiems. Nevertheless she survived until at least 1615

 2. Mary Beaton daughter of Robert Beaton of Creich and nephew of Cardinal Beaton. Regarded as the most classically beautiful of the four. Married Lord Ogilvie of Boyne and died sometime before 1599.
3. Mary Livingston - known as 'Lusty' - married John Semple of Belries son of Lord Semple. May be buried in Linlithgow Churchyard.
4 Mary Fleming  - married William Maitland of Lethington. On his death following the fall of Edinburgh Castle in 1573 she married George Melrum of Fyvie.

 Needless to say we then tried to make sense of the traditional Scots ballad the  "Four Marys".

"Yestreen the Queen had Four Maries

The nicht she'll have but three

There was Marie Seton and Marie Beaton

and Marie Carmichael and me"

  While there was a Mary Carmichael, daughter of John Carmichael of that ilk who was for a while warden of the west marches there is no record of her ever serving  at Court.

 Who then is the "Me?

 It is believed that this may refer to a Mary Hamilton who has absolutely no connection with Mary or her period. but a Mary Hamilton who was executed by Czar Peter the Great in Russia in 1719. This Mary Hamilton was lady in waiting to the Czar's second wife the Empress Catherine (with whom it is recorded she insulted over  her looks) was a favourite of the Czar and was married to a Minister of State. She had an affair with an officer of the guard and a babe was found wrapped in a Court napkin. Under torture Mary admitted not only to the murder of this child but also previously of another two and was condemned to death. After the execution the Czar picked up the severed head and kissed the still quivering lips.

A ballad was written in Russia about the death and it is believed this found its way to Scotland and adapted to suit a Scottish audience