Sunday, October 31, 2010

Falkland Palace

The Scottish Crown acquired Falkland Castle from MacDuff of Fife in the 14th century. Between 1501 and 1541 Kings James IV and James V of Scotland transformed the old castle into a beautiful royal palace: one of the finest Renaissance palaces in Scotland. The story of King James V is defined by his bethrothal and to 2 Frenchwomen whose fortunes were needed to reinforce his fragile reign over the kingdom.  In order to past muster with the French court, James employed a French master-mason, Moses Martin, and his French masons to construct a palace in the styles of the French court.  The palace was laid out on a square plan around a central courtyard.  The main street frontage (shown above) has a serious Late Gothic facade in contrast to a resplendent courtyard, hidden from the native townspeople who certainly would have held the entire structure in contempt.   

Falkland became a popular retreat with all the Stewart monarchs. They practised falconry there and used the vast surrounding forests for hawking and for hunting deer. Wild boar, imported from France, were kept in the Park, within a fence made by the Laird of Fernie.
After the Union of the Crowns, James VI and I, Charles I, and Charles II all visited Falkland. Cromwell's invading army set the palace on fire and it quickly fell into ruin. In 1887 John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute started the restoration of the palace.  The only element of the building that has remained unchanged is the chapel.  I found the chapel painting to be intriguing as it featured passages of scripture reinforcing the concept of divine right, a doctrine facing an uphill battle in Britain that would end in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 with the establishment of a constitional monarchy.  There must have been some doubt in the mind of James about his own credibility to the Scottish people and perhaps he needed the help of God to reinforce his sense of purpose in courting the French.  Although photography was prohibited, I managed to sneak in one photo of the tapestry gallery which was stunning. 
The history of the royals is far to vast of a subject to undertake here, but suffice it to say that Falkland Palace remains a distinctly French building in a Scottish landscape, a landscape that unquestionably dominates the temporal pretentions of kings with its lasting character.

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