Jedburgh’s royal rideout re-enacted for 450th anniversary

Riders, from left, Eileen Welsh, Gail Millar, Bev Wilson and Mary Driesdale on the commemorative ride out from Mary Queen of Scots House
Riders, from left, Eileen Welsh, Gail Millar, Bev Wilson and Mary Driesdale on the commemorative ride out from Mary Queen of Scots House
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Jedburgh celebrated the life and times of Mary, Queen of Scots on Sunday, marking 450 years to the day since the monarch’s visit to the royal burgh.

Following in the footsteps of the queen and her cavalcade, Borders riders put on period dress and braved the rain to take part in a commemorative ride along part of the route to Hermitage Castle, near Hawick.

Curator Shona Sinclair with Parkside primary pupils, Frances Cromatry and Calum Murrow from P6 with their exhibits

Curator Shona Sinclair with Parkside primary pupils, Frances Cromatry and Calum Murrow from P6 with their exhibits

Mary journeyed to Jedburgh to hold a circuit court before a dramatic turn of events led to her staying in the town for over a week.

In the early hours of October, 15, 1566, she visited the injured James Hepburn, then earl of Bothwell at Hermitage Castle.Given the size of her entourage at Jedburgh, and the fact that she was a married women, Mary could not spent the night at Hermitage, so the decision was made to make the romantic ride a round trip within a day.

After that gruelling journey in adverse weather, the queen fell ill and spent over a week, reportedly in a near-death coma, at the 16th century bastle that now houses the Mary Queen of Scots House museum.

Though Sunday’s ride was considerably shorter than the original, the weather was similar, with riders battling through heavy rain in the morning and some muddy conditions along the route.

Rhonda Hill as Mary Queen of Scots following the ride

Rhonda Hill as Mary Queen of Scots following the ride

However, all 21 riders returned to the town without incident and in much better health than Mary did 450 years ago.

Led by Rhonda Hill, of Oxnam, who took on the role of Mary at the head of the cavalcade, the riders were escorted back into town by the Jedburgh Royal British Legion Pipe Band before being greeted by local historian and long-serving Jedburgh and District Riding Club member Billy Gillies.

Dressed too in period attire, he said: “The queen came here to see the courts, which at the time were held in the Jethart tolbooth which stood at the top end of the Canongate.

“More than 1,000 riders, including five earls, six lords and a bishop, turned out for the queen when she came.

Young riders Frances and Felicity Cromatry from Woodside following the commemorative ride

Young riders Frances and Felicity Cromatry from Woodside following the commemorative ride

“You might wonder where in Jedburgh was there room to house all of these people and where did the stables happen to appear from for all these horses?

“But what people forget is that there were six houses akin to this one in the town at the time.”

The cavalcade included riders of all ages from around Jedburgh as well as some from as far afield as Edinburgh.

Museum curator Shona Sinclair said: “The original plan was to ride out to Hermitage Castle because on this day exactly 450 years ago, Mary rode that very journey.

Drum major Brian Scott leads the parade down the High Street.

Drum major Brian Scott leads the parade down the High Street.

“However, the logistics for following the exact route were not there due to part of the route being blocked by forestry now.

“The numbers for the ride were also capped because she would not have had that big a support riding with her that day due to the nature of her journey.”

Mary, ruler of Scotland from December 1542 to July 1567, was born in Linlithgow in 1542 and died in Northamptonshire in 1587 at the age of 44.

The last such rideout held in the town took place in 1987 to mark the 400th anniversary of Mary’s execution.

Local Jedburgh historian Billy Gillies performed the welcoming speech in the gardens after the ride out.

Local Jedburgh historian Billy Gillies performed the welcoming speech in the gardens after the ride out.