Gifting Falkland Palace
Falkland Palace, a favourite retreat of Stuart royals, provides a rich collection of historic links with the European continent. During the early years of the 16th century, existing castle buildings were transformed into a magnificent renaissance royal palace with the grounds used for pursuits such as falconry, hunting and real tennis. The custom of the time required the monarch to bestow a “morning gift” on his newly acquired spouse. In effect, this was a guarantee of a widow’s pension through the benefits of certain royal estates. Stuart kings included Falkland Palace alongside Stirling Castle and other royal residences in this arrangement.
James V gifted Falkland Palace by this means on two occasions. Firstly, to Madeleine of Valois, daughter of Francis I of France and his wife Claude, whom he married in 1537 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Madeleine was in poor health and died six months later at the age of 16, leaving James to seek a new French wife in order to further the Auld Alliance. The recipient of the gift on the second occasion was Mary of Guise, a noblewoman from Loraine, who married James at St Andrews Cathedral in 1538. Mary of Guise was a regular visitor at the palace, as subsequently was her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, during her brief personal reign from 1561 to 1567. The queen provides another French connection, having been brought up at the French court, married to the Dauphin and briefly queen consort of France.
Falkland Palace was also part of the “morning gift” from James VI to his wife, the 14 years-old princess Anna, or Anne of Denmark, on the occasion of their marriage in November 1589. A suitable match having been negotiated between two Protestant kingdoms, Anna, the second daughter of the Danish King Frederick II and Queen Sophie, set sail for Scotland with her retinue in a fleet of 18 ships in August 1589. The voyage, however, was beset by mishaps, and the journey was abandoned. James then set off to collect his bride in person, the marriage taking place in the Old Bishop’s palace in Oslo in Norway (at the time in union with Denmark). The gift of Falkland Palace was formally confirmed by a Danish envoy taking possession of a handful of earth and stones from the grounds in 1590.
A much more recent link with continental Europe is marked by a gift on display in the chapel of Falkland Palace. The object is a replica of a Catholic religious icon, Our Lady of Ostrobrama, presented by members of the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade in 1944. Units of the Brigade, part of the Polish Army in Exile during the Second World War, were billeted in Falkland and the surrounding area and regularly attended mass at the chapel. The gift was made in gratitude for the kindness and hospitality received from the people of Falkland, to be kept in perpetuity in the palace chapel. The artwork itself is remarkable for being made largely from items of scrap material, including corn beef tins, shells and cartridge cases. The original icon is located in Vilnius, previously on Polish territory, but now the capital of Lithuania.
At the base of a war memorial on Brunton Green in Falkland, dedicated in 2014, appears the word DZIĘKUJĘ – Polish for “thank you”. Its presence marks the gratitude of the people of Falkland to the Polish paratroopers, many of whom lost their lives in the unsuccessful Allied attempt to cross the Rhine at Arnhem in the Netherlands in September 1944.
A plaque nearby on Brunton Green records the award to Falkland of the gold medal for the 2007 United Kingdom entrant in the villages category of the Entente Florale Europe international horticultural competition. The contest, founded in 1975 originally between Great Britain and France, is now open to all countries within the European Union and the European Free Trade Association. The United Kingdom is no longer a participant.
Falkland Palace and Garden are managed by the National Trust for Scotland and are open for visitors. The war memorial and Entente Florale Europe plaque are on Brunton Green at grid reference 56°15’09″N 3°12’29″W.
Falkland Palace image © Tom Richardson, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons Image of Our Lady of Ostrobrama icon © National Trust for Scotland, Falkland Palace and Garden War memorial image © The Falkland Society, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons Image of Entente Florale Europe plaque courtesy Morag Williamson