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The Entry of Mary Stewart into Edinburgh, 1561, and Other Ambiguities

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At the entry of Mary Stuart into Edinburgh in 1561, the planned ceremonial took place in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion between the queen and her subjects. After the rejection of the first idea for the central tableau, which was anti-Catholic in intention, it was decided to show an ambiguous image in terms of meaning. The details of the queen's first night in her capital can be established. The singing of metrical psalms by the Edinburgh crowds, particularly psalm 124, may have represented the people expressing their own perceptions of the situation. John Knox's sermons against idolatry also formed part of the popular interpretation of the event. Contemporary accounts of the entry are confused and it may have been that popular apprehension of the entry was of a piece with anti-Catholic and anti-French intentions. The attempt to render the iconography of the entry ambiguous set a precedent for Scottish Royal pageantry. The festival for the baptism of Mary's son, the future James VI, in 1566, lacked any deliberate iconographical message, and the tradition of ambiguous Scottish court ceremonial can be traced to its final manifestation, the entertainment composed by William Drummond for the entry of Charles I into Edinburgh in 1633.

Keywords: Mary, Queen of Scots; Rites and Ceremonies; Royal entrances; Scotland (Edinburgh)

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 1995


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