December’s Letter from the Curator (2018)

Dear Friends

As we enter the final month of 2018, I sit here with a warming cup of mulled wine and reflect. Whilst it is calm and peaceful now, I fondly remember how the castle bustled with life throughout the year! We have welcomed thousands of visitors. Thousands of children have enjoyed meeting the Knight in Armour, Medieval Musicians and the Birds of Prey whilst on school trips and our guests have listened in fascination to our brilliant guides as they tell the story of our historic castle. I have performed as many of my historic characters- including my new character, Peggy Knight. People have laughed along with witty Nell Gwynne, listened in awe to Glorianna herself- Elizabeth I- and shed a tear for Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots. We have had beautiful weddings and fantastic birthday parties. We have hosted our sell-out bank holiday events and of course, our extraordinary fireworks display! Phew- I’m exhausted just thinking about all these events!

As well as being a time of reflection, December is also a good time to look forward to the upcoming year. And 2019 is a very special year for the castle. It marks the 450th anniversary of Mary Queen of Scots’ first imprisonment at Tutbury Castle in 1569. Mary’s tale is one of heartbreak, treachery and sorrow- she fled from Scotland after she was forced to abdicate her throne and sought refuge in England, the country ruled by her cousin, Elizabeth I. However, Mary represented everything that Elizabeth was not- she was young, she had an heir and she was Catholic. To those that despised Elizabeth on the throne, Mary was the perfect alternative. And Elizabeth knew it. She imprisoned Mary for many years, having her moved around the country to avoid escape or potential uprisings, before finally signing her death warrant.

Here at the castle, we remember Mary’s tragic life. These walls saw her darkest days before her execution. Whilst she was imprisoned quite comfortably in the South Tower during her first stay, she was later moved to a wooden lodging house in the walls of the castle, symbolising her fall from grace. Mary was the first historical character I re-enacted and is still one of the most popular choices of characters for those who book a talk. I also perform as her rival, Elizabeth. Researching these two women, I found it fascinating to consider both sides to this tragic story- they were cousins and they were both queens ruling neighbouring kingdoms. But politics tore them apart.

To mark this anniversary, the castle will host a series of events in 2019 focusing on Mary’s life. We will open an engaging new temporary exhibition on Elizabeth and Mary. There will be lectures and talks on numerous subjects including Mary’s life and health, and Amias Paulet, who was Mary’s guardian during her final imprisonment at the castle. Tickets are already available on our website for a performance by Mary Queen of Scots on 8th February- the day in which she was beheaded as Fotheringhay. There will also be an archaeological excavation of the South Tower, where she stayed during her first imprisonment. We will be looking for volunteers for this- so if you would like to take part in this exciting opportunity to play a part in uncovering some of the castle’s history- keep an eye on our website!

Lots to look forward to!

Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Best Wishes

Lesley Smith, Curator.