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Mary Queen of Scots

The building in South Street (no. 4), known as Queen Mary’s house, is where the monarch reputedly lodged in 1562 and possibly also on other occasions when she visited St Andrews for relaxation during her short personal six-year reign from 1561 to 1567. Mary and her entourage would have made an arresting sight when making their way round the town – perhaps to the butts to practise her archery. The town house, dating from the early 16th century, is now part of St Leonard’s School.

Queen Mary’s House
Mary Queen of Scots

Mary is an embodiment of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. Her mother, Mary of Guise, was a French noblewoman who married James V at St Andrews Cathedral in 1538. Mary, the only daughter of that marriage, was betrothed, at the age of 5, to the Dauphin of France and spent the remainder of her childhood at the French court, the marriage taking place in 1558 when she reached the age of 16. Her husband acceded to the throne of France as Francis II the following year and Mary became queen consort of France until her husband’s early death in 1560. 

Map of
Map of St Andrews c1580

Mary’s association with St Andrews also involves a further French connection – the execution in the centre of the town in 1563 of Pierre de Boscosel de Chastelard. He was a French poet at Mary’s court who, on two occasions, entered the queen’s bed chamber. The second incident, occurring at Rossend Castle in Burntisland in Fife, resulted in his condemnation and, at the age of 22, he was brought to St Andrews for execution. It is uncertain whether Chastelard was simply a hot-headed young man infatuated with the regal figure of Mary or whether more sinister factors motivated his actions.

A thorn bush in St Mary’s quadrangle, further along South Street, was reputedly planted by the queen during one of her visits to the town.

Cross South Street but, before turning into South Castle Street, note Jannetta’s Gelateria, a short distance along South Street, renowned for its Italian ice cream. The Italian family business was established in St Andrews in 1908. In South Castle Street take the first left into Market Street and walk up to the junction with Church Street. The modern building on the corner of Union Street is home to the University of St Andrews School of Modern languages offering degree courses in major European Languages, including Russian.


Queen Mary’s House image © Paul Vyšný, CC BY-SA 4.0
Mary Queen of Scots portrait by François Clouet, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Geddy map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland, CC-BY, (map images website)