If there is one historical fact that most people are familiar with regarding the tragic life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland is that she lost her head due to a decree mandated by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.
Mary, Queen of Scots’s life was fraught with misfortune and peril from an early age. Just days after being born at Linlithgow Palace, her father King James V passed away. Mary was raised in France, away from those who wished to do her harm in her home country.
When she reached the age of 16, she was married to Francis II, Dauphin of France. This was a happy betrothal but short-lived as Francis died just two years after taking the throne. Now a widow at the tender age of 18, Mary made the fateful decision to return to her place of birth and set sail for Scotland in 1561. On August 19th that year, she arrived at the docks of Leith, a separate port town just to the north of Edinburgh.
It’s said that after she exited the ship, she boarded back onto the boat until a proper welcoming committee could be arranged. However, it’s more likely she was invited to stay at the nearby Lamb’s House for a few hours until a ceremonial procession was organized.
Over 400 years later, the Marie Stuart Society unveiled a plaque on the shores of Leith where Mary landed. This ceremony was done in conjunction with honoring Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on her Golden Jubilee in 2002. She is related to Mary Stuart through Mary’s son King James VI/I.
On the north side of the nearby Commercial Street bridge, visitors will find another plaque dedicated to the landing of another British monarch, King George IV. It had been several decades since a ruling sovereign had visited the country of Scotland. This trip was organized at the bequest of the great Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott and took place on August 15th, 1822. The Latin quote on the panel reads, “O Felicem Diem”, which translates to “Oh Happy Day”.
Know Before You Go
The plaque can be quite difficult to locate, as it's on the ground and there is nothing to mark the placement. The Commercial Street bridge is just a few yards to the north. Walking south along the shoreline you should see an area where the cobblestone jetty juts out. The tablet is at the end and on the other side of the protective chain.
Lamb's House is located at 11 Water's Close, just a few blocks away. It's currently occupied by the Icelandic Consulate and private residences. The house often participates in Open Door Days where access is granted, usually on the 3rd weekend of September. This Grade A listed home is worth visiting.
There are information boards located at the Commercial Street bridge and across the street from Lamb's House. These and more signage at Lamb's House provide facts about the area's historical significance.