Scotland's story stretches back to the early history of the earth, with our oldest rocks formed an unimaginable 3 billion years ago. Stand on any rock in Scotland, and you are standing on a piece of history, one offering a glimpse into Scotland's past. The relatively young sandstone of which the Church of the Holy Rude is built was formed over 200 million years ago.
The Church of the Holy Rude is the second oldest building in Stirling after the castle. Founded in 1129 during the reign of David I (1124 - 1153) as the parish church of Stirling.
Robert II, during his reign (1371-1390), founded an altar to the Holy Rude and thereafter the Church of Stirling became known as the Parish Church of The Holy Rude of the Burgh of Stirling. "Holy Rude" means Holy Cross, giving it the same origin as Holyrood in Edinburgh. David I's church was destroyed with much of Stirling by a catastrophic fire in March 1405. Shortly afterwards a grant was made by the Lord Chamberlain of Scotland to have a new church built. The Nave, South Aisle with rounded Scots pillars, Gothic arches and original oak-timbered roof and the Tower were completed about 1414.
Tradition says that King James IV may have helped masons build the later eastern end during the early 16th century. In 1567 the infant King James VI was crowned here, by which time the church was a reformed place of worship. Bullet marks on the tower may date from a siege of Stirling Castle by Cromwell's troops in 1651.
Because of its close links with the castle, the church always had the support and patronage of the Stuart kings, especially in the 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries, and is reputed to be the only church in the United Kingdom other than Westminster Abbey to have held a coronation and still be a living church today.
Mary, Queen of Scots
( 8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587)
Even though the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart, lasted less than six years, so much has been written about her reign that she has become almost a cult figure.
Mary was born at Linlithgow Palace on 8 December 1542, her father, James V, had suffered a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Solway Moss only two weeks before her birth and, to add to his depression, the baby was a girl. His two sons had died in 1541, and his depression became so deep that he died when Mary was only six days old, with the words "It came in with a lass, it will pass with a lass". He was referring to the House of Stuart, which did indeed end with Queen Anne in 1714.
Soon after King James' death King Henry VIII of England, in order to further his ambitions to dominate Scotland, negotiated the Treaty of Greenwich, under which his six-year-old son, Prince Edward, would marry the infant Queen Mary. Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, persuaded the Scottish Parliament to repudiate the Treaty. Henry was so furious that he, and after his death, the Duke of Somerset, undertook a series of military invasions into southern Scotland - an operation that subsequently became known as the 'Rough Wooing'. This English army set fire to the Abbey of Holyroodhouse where James V was buried, burned crops in the Tweed Valley and set ablaze the Border abbeys of Melrose, Jedburgh and Dryburgh.
Cardinal Beaton was murdered in 1546 in a conspiracy that would have pleased King Henry. The French helped to eject the English from Scotland, but on the condition that the young Queen Mary be taken to France for upbringing and eventually to marry the heir to the throne of France, the Dauphin. At the tender age of six Mary was sent to France.
Mary spent the next ten years being educated at the French Court of Henry II and Catharine de' Medici. She learned to converse in four languages with great charm and became an accomplished musician and scholar. When she reached the age of twelve, in 1554, her mother, Mary of Guise, took over the Regency of Scotland.
On 24 April 1558 Mary was married to the Dauphin of France at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. She had signed a secret deed in which her sovereignty of Scotland, and her right to the succession of the English throne, would transfer to the French if she died childless.
Her father-in-law died in 1559 and her husband became King Francis II of France. She was now Queen of France as well as of Scotland. However, her status changed again in 1560, on the early death of her husband, to being a Dowager Queen. Unwilling to stay in France and live under the domination of her mother-in-law Catherine De Medicis she decided to return to Scotland in August 1561 and take her chances with the Protestant reformers.
Her marriage on 29 July 1565 to her cousin Lord Darnley was to be short and disastrous. He was overbearing, conceited and jealous to the point of paranoia, so much so that he plotted the heinous murder of his wife's talented secretary Rizzio at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Mary gave birth to Prince James on 19 June 1566 in Edinburgh Castle. His Catholic baptism aggravated the Protestants. By the end of that year it was clear that Mary and Darnley were estranged and that she was attracted by the dashing Earl of Bothwell. The mystery of Darnley's death in February 1567 centred around the question: How much was Mary involved? The building in which Darnley was convalescing was demolished in an explosion on the night of 9 February 1567, after a visit from Mary. In the morning the bodies of Darnley and a page were found strangled in an adjoining garden. Bothwell was undoubtedly responsible, but he was acquitted in a trial that was a judicial mockery.
Bothwell now divorced his wife and married Mary on 15 May 1567. There was public outrage over her blatant disregard of Darnley's death and her suspected compliance with Bothwell.
The confederate Lords of Scotland confronted the couple at Carberry Hill 15 June 1567. Bothwell fled the country and Mary was taken to Lochleven Castle, where she was forced to abdicate on 24 July 1567 in favour of her one year old son, Prince James. When James VI was crowned, in a Protestant ceremony, in the Church of the Holy Rude at Stirling on 29 July 1567, only five Earls and eight Lords were present. John Knox conducted the service.
The following spring, after her escape from captivity at Loch Leven, with the support of nine Earls, nine Bishops, eighteen Lords and an army of six thousand men, Mary faced the Earl of Moray on 13 May 1568 at Langside, but was defeated.
Mary fled to England on 16 May 1568 where Queen Elizabeth I, of England, had her placed in various prisons for the next twenty years. Mary was executed (beheaded) at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February 1587, on suspicion of having been involved in the Babington plot to murder Elizabeth.
Mary was initially buried at Peterborough Cathedral, but her body was exhumed in 1612 when her son, King James I of England, ordered she be reinterred in Westminster Abbey. It remains there, only thirty feet (9 metres) from the grave of her cousin Elizabeth I.
King James VI
(19 June 1566 - 27 March 1625)
The coronation on 29th July 1567 of James VI is an important part of the history of the nation of Scotland, of the United Kingdom and of the Reformation.
Only seven months earlier in December 1566 Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, had seen her baby son, who had been born in Edinburgh Castle on 19 June 1566, baptised in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle, according to Roman Catholic Rights. England, France and Savoy were all represented and sent lavish gifts. Although the Protestant Lords remained outside the Chapel door during the Baptism, they did take part in three days of rejoicing, including jousting, feasting, dancing and fireworks in and around the castle.
From a powerful and respected position, Mary's reputation suddenly collapsed. Suspected of involvement in the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, she was eventually imprisoned by the Protestant Lords in Loch Leven Castle where she was forced to sign the instrument of abdication in favour of her son, the thirteen month old Prince James.
This abdication on 24 July 1567 marked the end of a twentyfive year struggle between the English supported Protestants and the French supported Catholics, and although politics was as significant as religion, the protestant group appeared to have triumphed. The Protestant Lords, with the young Prince in safe keeping in Stirling Castle, needed a speedy coronation in a church which was safe, close to the Castle, and of course, protestant. The answer to their problem was the Church of the Holy Rude.
In considerable haste, the coronation was duly held in the Church on 29 July 1567. John Knox preached the coronation sermon, presumably with some relish, on the slaying of Queen Athaliah and the crowning of the young King Joash. The crowning was carried out by the Bishop of Orkney, amongst others, the ceremony was attended by the Earls of Mar, Morton and Home. Hastily conducted in twenty minutes for fear of catholic counter attack, the Prince was then safely returned to the castle.
The young King James received his education at Stirling Castle, under the famous scholar George Buchanan. During the winter of 1589 King Jamis travelled to Denmark, where he married the Princess Anne (1574 - 1619), daughter of King Frederick II of Denmark.
In 1603, on the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England , King James VI of Scotland also became King James I of England. He was the natural successor to the childless Queen Elizabeth as his great-grand-mother was Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII. Amongst other acts James authorised the translation of the Bible into English -- the "Authorised" or "King James" version. King James died 27 March 1625.
( 21 April 1926 - )
On the 24 May 1997, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was present in the Church of the Holy Rude to witness a re-enactment of the coronation of her ancestor, and to unveil a commemorative inscription to mark the event.
Recently and extensively renovated, and now with an improved information service for visitors, the Church of the Holy Rude, a significant and living church, tells the story of a proud 800 year existence, playing its part in the growth of Stirling.
Tom Macdougall, Former Session Clerk
Morris Coull, Minister (Retired)
Church of the Holy Rude