A rich history and heritage surround Ayrshire, and it has had an influence far beyond its own boundaries over the centuries. Woven into the area's past are the lives of kings and heroes.
William Wallace had his roots here and Robert the Bruce, perhaps the most celebrated of Scotland's kings, was born at Turnberry. The very first Scottish parliament, held after his victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, was held in Ayr itself.
Mary Stuart was born at Linlithgow Palace on 7th December 1542, the daughter of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. Six days after her birth her father died, and she became Queen of Scotland. From her infancy, Scotland's rival pro-English and pro-French factions plotted to gain control of Mary. Her French mother was chosen as regent, and she sent Mary to France in 1548.
Mary lived as part of the French royal family. In April 1558 she married the Dauphin Francis; she secretly agreed to bequeath Scotland to France if she should die without a son. In July 1559 Francis succeeded his father, becoming King Francis II, and Mary became Queen of France as well as of Scotland. In addition, many Roman Catholics recognised Mary Stuart as Queen of England after Mary I died and the Protestant Elizabeth I succeeded her to the throne in November 1558.
Mary Stuart's claim to the English throne was based on the fact that she was the grand-daughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII - Elizabeth's father. To the Roman Catholics, Mary's claim appeared stronger than Elizabeth's because they viewed Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn as illegal. Mary's young husband, Francis II, died in December 1560 after a reign of 17 months. Mary, who was about to become 18 years of age, was left in a difficult position. Unwilling to stay in France and live under the domination of her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medicis, she decided to return to Scotland and take her chances with the Protestant reformers.
The Cromwellian Conquest 1651-60: Following his conquest in 1651, Oliver Cromwell built massive fortifications at places like Ayr, Inverness and Perth to keep Scotland under control. He also imposed a single parliament which covered Scotland, England and Ireland, although this was little more than a nod in the direction of Scottish parliamentary representation, as most of the Scottish members were officers in Cromwell’s occupying army.
Almost universally, the Scots hated Cromwell's occupation, with very few actively participating with the regime. This tense situation lasted until Cromwell died in 1659 and the regime crumbled without his guidance. Within a year, Charles II was restored to the throne and Scotland’s parliament operated once more.
"The building radiates history. As the owner and restorer, Davey, took us through the floors, each connected by a winding stone staircase, he pointed out a number of seemingly innocuous features that were actually evidence of a much less-luxurious past!"