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    Scottish Castles Series: Falkland Palace–Part 2


    Contrary to Linlithgow Palace where one’s steps ring heavily on the stone floors of big empty rooms and draughty passages, Falkland Palace, which is a mix of ruined and restored buildings, looks much more cheerful with its magnificently refurbished rooms full of beautiful rugs and tapestries, furniture, paintings and  antiques. The atmosphere is such that we would not be so surprised to fall on a member of the Stuart Family there and, guess what, we actually did ;-).
    Falkland Palace the NTS lady in Queen's costume © 2006 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace the NTS lady in Queen’s costume ©2006 Scotiana

     We’ve been welcomed in the Palace by the Queen herself 😉 She is very kind and charming !

    Falkland Palace Chapel Royal © 2006 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace Chapel Royal ©2006 Scotiana

    Dressed up in beautiful period costumes, the NTS volunteers are doing a remarkable job in Falkland Palace. They know everything about the place, its history and best anecdotes and will tell you all or almost all you want to know about the comings and goings of the local ghost(s). I’m pretty sure many will ask questions about the subject ;-).The Tapestry Gallery is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a lady anxiously waiting for the return of her lover, a soldier who never come back from battle. Some describe her as a “White Lady” and others as a “Grey Lady”… I can’t tell 😉

    Falkland Palace would certainly not have been so pleasant to visit if a huge work of restoration had not  given it a second life. Not everyone agree about the way to restore a building ;-). Lord Bute didn’t approve of Sir Walter Scott idea of restoration. Finally both men could be happy at Falkland Palace. Some parts of it are restored and other ones still in ruins. And, as far as I’m concerned I’m a fan of both men and their works 😉

    Some part of the interior has been made what is called habitable, that is, a half-dozen of bad rooms have been gotten out of it. Am clear in my own mind a ruin should be protected, but never repaired.

    (Sir Walter Scott – Journal June 27 1829)

    Falkland Palace Swan 1840s Wikimedia

    Falkland Palace Swan 1840s Wikimedia

    James I and James II made important additions to Falkland, and James V, who found it in a ruinous condition, made many extensive repairs and additions. It was here that the latter king died of a broken heart, at the early age of thirty-two. A few moments before his death, when informed of the birth of his daughter, Mary, who became the Queen of Scots, he exclaimed prophetically, referring to the crown, ‘It cam’ wi’ a lass and it’ll gang wi’ a lass.’ Mary herself visited the castle annually for five or six years, before her marriage with Darnley and spent many happy days there. Her son, James VI, also made it his residence and was living there at the time he was enticed away in the ‘Gowrie Conspiracy.’ The last king to visit the palace was Charles II, who came for a stay of severals days, after his coronation at Scone in 1651. Later the troops of Cromwell occupied the place, and its historical interest ceased soon afterward.”

    (The Country of Scott – Charles S.Olcott – Cassell & Company, Limited Ludgate Hill 1913)

    Charles Olcott didn’t mention the visit of Charles I in 1633. The splendid ceiling of the Chapel was created for the occasion.

    John Crichton Stuart 3rd Marquess of Bute

    John Crichton Stuart 3rd Marquess of Bute

    A number of people have been involved in the restoration of Falkland Palace since it had fallen into decay long ago but most of the work was initiated by the 3rd Marquess of Bute who fell in love with the place and bought the estate and keepership in 1887. I’m presently reading Rosemary Hannah’s biography The Grand Designer and it makes me want to visit all the places linked with this incredible man and there are many in Scotland and Wales.  Mount Stuart House, the family home, is one of them and it was for us un vrai coup de coeur. This big mansion is situated on the island of Bute. It is simply magnificent and extremely interesting to visit. This Gothic Revival country house, sheltered in the midst of a vast and beautiful park, on the east coast of the Isle of Bute, contains more than one mystery, I can tell you. As soon as I’ve finished Rosemary Hannah’s book I will write a few lines about this wonderful place.
    So, it is the Third Marquess of Bute (often called “Bute”, to make it simpler) who bought the vast estate of Falkland, in Fife.

    “In the summer of 1887, Bute’s agents were once again negotiating, this time to buy the whole Falkland Estate, including the House of Falkland, where Bute had stayed as a child, the estate running along the foot of the Lomond hills, and the old Palace itself.

    On the 3 August, the sale was completed. Bute had a new estate, and two new architectural projects.”

    (The Grand Designer Third Marquess of Bute – Rosemary Hannah)

    The Grand Designer Third Marquess of Bute Rosemary Hannah Birlinn 2013

    “It was September of 1888 before Bute went to his new property at Falkland for the first time. He was very pleased by it:

    I am rather surprised by this place – which I last saw in 1860, when here with Lady Elizabeth More, & where I had often visited with my Mother – does not awake more vivid recollections. Contrary to the usual rule in such cases, it all seems much larger, really fine, and the Palace imposing

    At Falkland, Bute had bought two properties. The first was a handsome early Victorian house by William Burn, in the Jacobean style. It was to prove invaluable to Bute as a base for the east of Scotland especially while he worked on his new enthusiasm, one of his most successful projects, and perhaps the finest of all Victorian recreations of earlier buildings, Falkland Palace (…)

    Bute spent a fortnight at Falkland, visiting the palace daily. He famously summed up its then state: It has suffered much from being restored as a ruin – said to be by Mr Tyndall Bruce under the advice of Sir W. Scott. The shortness of the visit did not prevent him getting his hands dirty;In afternoon to Palace, where cleared chimney at end of Great Hall. Frightful dust of soot & jackdaw nests“.

    (The Grand Designer Third Marquess of Bute – Rosemary Hannah)

    The 3rd Marquess of Bute doesn’t seem to share Sir Walter Scott’s ideas about the restauration of a castle 😉 The Marquess was 40 years old when he launched into an extensive and scholarly restoration programme in Falkland Palace. Unfortunately, he would never see the end of his work. He died in 1900, only aged 53. The work  was to continue under his heirs though Ninian, the second son of the Marquess, was also to die prematurely in WWI.

    1. 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847 -1900)
    2. Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart (1883-1915), the second son of John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute married Ismay was killed during WWI on October 2nd 1915 at the age of 32.
    3. Major Michael Duncan David Crichton-Stuart, 4th child of Lord Ninian Crichton Stuart  (14 March 1915 – 1981), who held the office of Hereditary Keeper of Falkland Palace, had been educated at Eton and graduated from Christ Church, Oxford University with a Master of Arts Degree. On 1 March 1941, he married Barbara Symes, the daughter of Lt.-Col. Sir George Stewart Symes. He had gained the rank of Major in the service of the Scots Guards and fought in the Second World War where he was wounded twice.
    4. The NTS:  in 1952, after consultation with the Queen, Michael Crichton Stuart appointed The National Trust for Scotland as Deputy Keeper. An endowment  was provided for the palace’s future upkeep.
    5. His son, Ninian Crichton Stuart is the current Hereditary Keeper of Falkland Palace and he has one son and one daughter by his late wife.

    The Marquess was a passionate and very busy man.

    Bute was installed as Rector [of St Andrews University] in the October of 1893, wearing a gown and hood of his own design, along medieval lines. (…)

    “The year had not in fact been wholly given over to St Andrews. While working at St Andrews, he made his base in Falkland, and work there was making great progress, benefiting from being under his watchful eye. The Fife News gives a rare eyewitness account of Bute at work on architecture :

     ‘Restoration of the Palace. Work in and arount this ancient pile is going steadily forward. The Marquis, during his visit, has had placed in a niche over the entrance a shield on which a coat of arms is represented. Two spaces in the adjoining towers are, we believe, to be likewise filled. Lord Bute, in the quiet way indicative of strength and knowledge, moves about and sees if the whole work has been carried out to his mind.’

    This year, the focus of attention was the Chapel Royal. This was a genuine work of restoration, at any rate as regards its paintings and furnishings.”

    (The Grand Designer Third Marquess of Bute – Rosemary Hannah)

    Falkland Palace NTS plan Scotiana modified

    Falkland Palace NTS plan – Modified by Scotiana

    Above is a map to understand better the layout of the place.

    The Palace has two wings arranged in an inverted ‘L’ shape, now called the South and East Quarters or Ranges. The courtyard is entered through the gatehouse tower at the west end of the South Quarter. Here begins the visit.

    Falkland Palace Gatehouse © 2003 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace Gatehouse © 2003 Scotiana


    We enter the Palace through the  beautiful twin-towered gatehouse.


    Ground Floor

    • Guard rooms on both sides of the entrance, one of them contained a prison.
    • The Entrance Hall was panelled by Lord Bute in the 1890s and now serves as the main entrance to the restored south range.

    1st Floor

    • Tapestry Gallery:

    Look at the magnificent carved wooden ceiling and the beautiful ancient tapestries.

    These tapestries are a reminder of the mobile nature of 16th-century furnishings. According to James V’s Lord High Treasurer, in October 1583 the king needed six carriages to transport his French and Flemish tapestries. Wherever the court set up residence, the Master of Tapestries would nail the hangings to the wall.” (NTS brochure)

    Falkland Palace The Tapestry Gallery © 2006 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace The Tapestry Gallery © 2006 Scotiana

    • Keeper’s apartment

    Keeper’s Bedroom

    Falkland Palace James VI bed in the Keeper's Bedroom © 2003 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace James VI bed in the Keeper’s Bedroom © 2003 Scotiana


    This magnificent en-suite bedroom composed of a room,  a dressing room  and  a bathroom was used by Michael Crichton Stuart and his wife Barbara when they made Falkland Palace their home at the end of WWII. I had never seen such a bed as the one which dominates the bedroom, an impressive four-post bed which is said to have belonged to James VI. He was bought and brought to Falkland by Michael Crichton Stuart  from Rossy Priory, Perthshire. I’m not sure I’d like to sleep in such a massive bed with the  beautifully written but threatening inscription engraved on the very old wooden canopy. It reads: ““Fere God His Will Obay For To Heven It Is The Waie” which translates:Fear God His Will Obey For To Heaven It Is The Way”. The beautiful painted ceiling dates back to 1895 and were created for the 3rd Marquess of Bute.

    The Dressing Room

    Falkland Palace Dressing Room painted ceiling © 2006 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace Dressing Room painted ceiling © 2006 Scotiana

    The renovation of the Dressing Room began when Lord Bute acquired the office of Keeper in 1887. He made of it a luxurious residence. The painted ceiling is magnificent and we can recognize on it the royal arms and the arms of the Hereditary Keepers. There is an interesting built-in oak cupboard which is called an “aumbry”. The carved profile heads of Lord Bute’s children are carved on its doors: Margaret, John, Ninian and Colum. A number of paintings hang on the walls, including portraits of James V and Mary of Guise, James VI (and I), and Mary, Queen of Scots but the one which retained my attention is a full-length portrait of Charles I’s sister, a beautiful lady who has been nicknamed “The Winter Queen”. I’ll try to know why…

    • Chapel Royal


    Falkland Palace Chapel Royal © 2003 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace Chapel Royal © 2003 Scotiana


    The Chapel  was dedicated to St Thomas and today it serves as the Catholic parish church for Falkland. It had been reopened for worship during the Keepership of Lord Ninian Crichton Stuart. Mass is still said there every Sunday morning at 9 a.m.

    Much of the decoration, including the elaborate ceiling, was created for the visit of Charles I in 1633 and it was restored in 1893 by Lord Bute but it still reflects the magnificence of early 17th-century Scottish royal interiors.

    The 17th-century Flemish tapestries tell the biblical story of Joseph and Benjamin.

    •  The Old Library:
    Falkland Palace - In the Old Library © 2006 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace – In the Old Library © 2006 Scotiana

    The library and the nursery are our favourite rooms when we visit a castle 😉 and this one is no exception with its old wooden desk, its books and family photographs. There was a cosy atmosphere with the light of the floor lamps. The elaborately painted ceiling with ‘trompe l’oeil‘ decoration dates from 1895.

    We feel like reading and writing here and, indeed, this room was used by Michael Crichton Stuart as his study.

    Falkland Palace books & desks in the Old Library © 2006 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace books & desks in the Old Library © 2006 Scotiana


    Falkland Palace Cross-House © 2003 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace Cross-House © 2003 Scotiana

    The interiors of the restored Cross House were left unfinished at the time of Lord Bute’s death. To mark the appointment of the National Trust for Scotland as Deputy Keeper in 1952, Major Michael, and the Trust commissioned the architect Schomberg to design a room that ‘King James V would have recognised and accepted as a royal bedroom for the King of Scots’.

    King’s Room

    Another beautiful bed dominates this splendid room.

    The King’s Room is situated on the ground floor of the Cross House in the East Range of Falkland Palace. Lord Bute who prematurely died on 9 October 1900 had lacked time to renovate the interiors of the Cross House and it is only in 1952 that, to mark their appointment as deputy keeper of the Palace, decided to take in charge its restoration. The Golden Bed of Brahan dates from James VI and is of Dutch East Indies workmanship.

    Falkland Palace King's Bedroom Golden Bed of Brahan © 2003

    Falkland Palace King’s Bedroom Golden Bed of Brahan © 2003

    Queen’s Room


    Falkland Palace Queen's Room © 2006 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace Queen’s Room © 2006 Scotiana

    The Queen’s Room can be found on the first floor of the Cross House. Its top floor was decorated as the ‘Queen’s Bedroom’ in 1987 though nobody actually knows where the original Queen’s Room was situated. The bed you see on the picture was made for Lord Bute in 1889. There is a magnificent oak barrel-vaulted ceiling but it is hardly visible on our photo.

    “Permanent fittings and furnishings were sparse on royal residences. Household goods, small pieces of furniture and luxury items were transported as the court moved around. When James V returned to Falkland with Mary of Guise, the train included 9 horse carriages with the queens wardrobe, 7 with bedding and other possessions belonging to her ladies.” (NTS brochure)

    Et voilà la visite est finie 😉

    I’ve tried to give you un bon aperçu de la place while focusing on what we’ve loved there. Fortunately, there is much more to discover at Falkland Palace than what I’ve written about in this post.  And, of course, there are many secrets which will never be told, as in every castle. But mystery is part of a castle’s charm, isn’t it !

    Now that I’ve clarified my ideas about Falkland Palace I think I’m ready to revisit a third time. Jamais deux sans trois ! as we say in France. I would prefer to go back there in spring for the gardens are truly gorgeous then. But stay tuned for in my next post we’ll open the gate of the “secret garden” ;-).

    Enjoy !

    Á bientôt.


    Further Reading : Scottish Castles Series: Falkland Palace – Part 1

    Falkland Palace garden gate © 2003 Scotiana

    Falkland Palace garden gate © 2003 Scotiana



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