Perhaps your love life is not going the way you hoped and you
Mary, Queen of Scots ~ Unknown Artist ~ National Portrait Gallery, London
are feeling a little sorry for yourself. Maybe you are thinking relationships worked better in the past and this just is not your decade or century or millennium. Or perhaps you feel the deck was stacked against you. If you had been more beautiful, everything would have gone better. Or maybe being born in a rich family and wearing great clothes would have made your love life come together.
I am here to tell you: It is never perfect. The Queen of Scotland was classically beautiful, born into a rich family, and wore all the latest French styles. Her love life was definitely no fairytale. It was more like an episode of Game of Thrones.
In 1561, Mary, Queen of Scots returned to her native Scotland from France, after leaving in her childhood due to political unrest. She is 17 and known throughout Europe as a great beauty with many vying for her hand in marriage. She eventually marries Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. He is one of the few men who is taller than her and some believe she cannot resist his charm and handsome countenance. Unfortunately, she soon learns of the character behind this appealing exterior. Darnley is a philandering, scheming, alcoholic with royal aspirations. In her frustration and sadness, Mary’s friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio, deepens. Darnley suspects the worst and is enraged. As a consequence, at a small dinner party, hosted by the queen, a group of noblemen drag Rizzio away and murder him in cold blood, leaving a shattered Mary behind.
The Murder of David Rizzio ~ Artist: William Allan ~ National Gallery of Scotland
The following year an explosion rocks Edinburgh and Lord Darnley’s residence is completely destroyed. He and his valet are later found partially naked and strangled outside the rubble. There is much conjecture regarding James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (a close friend and suspected paramour of Mary) and his part in the plot.
The events of the following months are unclear and their details depend upon the motives of the teller. Historians do agree that Mary left with Bothwell and they had sexual relations. Some believe Bothwell seized Mary, ravished her, and forced her into marriage as a power move for the crown. Others believe the two were lovers and she consented to leaving with him, leading to further questions regarding her involvement in the plot killing Darnley.
Whatever the reasons, the Lords of Scotland were outraged by the course of events and demanded for Mary's abdication. She and Bothwell met them on the battlefield in the Carberry Hill Confrontation. She realized they could not win and surrendered, some believe, in exchange for Bothwell’s safe passage. The two never saw each other again. She was held captive for the next 20 years and later executed. Bothwell was captured and languished in a Danish prison until his death in 1578.
Edinburgh City Chambers tablet ~ Photographer: Kim Traynor ~Creative Commons Attribution Share
The tablet reads:
On this site stood the lodging of Sir Simon Preston of Craigmillar, Provost of the City of Edinburgh 1566-7; in which lodging Mary Queen of Scotland after her surrender to the Confederate Lords at Carberry Hill spent her last night in Edinburgh, 15th June 1567. On the following evening she was conveyed to Holyrood and thereafter to Lochleven Castle as a state prisoner.
So when you are sick of the dating scene, think about Mary, Queen of Scots. Contemporaries considered her the most beautiful royal in Europe, many men wanted her, and she had all the privilege accompanying her royal status. However, her love life was more synonymous with the implications of the Game of Thrones threat “Winter is coming” than any fairytale.
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Thank you Vassilies, Tulay, and Boubou! It was an absolute pleasure!
Hanging in the Dutch display area of the National Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland is the wedding portrait of Susanna Bailly. It was completed in 1645 by Frans Hals. The hope and anticipation are evident in Susanna’s slightly vacant eyes.
About six feet away hangs another painting by Hals. It is the wedding portrait of Francois Wouters, Susanna’s fiancé. He looks like he is about to face the firing squad.
The onlooker can only imagine this couple’s future together: the tears, anger and disappointment in lost dreams and compromised futures.
In a world of spinsters not allowed to own property, being required to stay in convents, and enduring horrible injustices, there is one thing I know. I would never marry a guy who looks like he is awaiting a public execution in his wedding portrait. A bad marriage is NEVER better than being single…even in 1645.
When we last left our nerdy heroine, she was sitting in a Scottish hostel, drinking coffee and trying to determine if she should “hit on” a guy a couple tables away.
Unfortunately, the internal battle continued: So what do I say to this guy? He looks pretty busy to me. What if he treats me like a total annoyance? I would hate that. But what if it goes well? Geez…this is making me a little nuts.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” interrupts a young girl, carrying a food tray.
“Of course not,” I respond slowly.
The two of us proceed to talk about traveling in the Highlands and similar childhoods. After about 15 minutes, I look up and notice the “guy of my dreams” is long gone. A lost opportunity with him and a gained opportunity with her. Still pretty great.
My biggest regret: I wish I’d been more brave. I lost my opportunity because I was looking for the perfect thing to say and was worried about the outcome. Maybe I didn’t need to worry about being all perfect. Maybe it was more important to just do it. The young girl did and got a great conversation and a new Instagram follower. Maybe it’s more important to grab opportunities no matter what.
Have a good life European male version of me! I guess our universes weren’t meant to collide. And maybe that’s okay.
Come to find out, youth hostels aren’t just for kids!
Sipping coffee in the restaurant at the Youth Hostel Edinburgh Central, I’m seeing characters of every age. There is the group of north-of-40 travelers (my people!) who haven’t seen each other in years and keep kissing. At the next table, a sulky grandson and his gray-haired grandfather (in the O.C. this would be his father) sit. Two really cute guys (younger than my daughter) are eating breakfast and I’m trying to work up the nerve to ask them to pose with my book. And then there’s the class of boisterous junior high girls who are a microcosm of the rest of us: The hipsters with their cute little outfits who couldn’t be bothered to put their shoes on. The one with her statement fluorescent pink Crocs who just wants a little attention. And, of course, you have your standard issue ‘tween girl who’s a little too young to look that bitter.
What really catches my eye is the guy who looks like the European male version of me sitting a couple tables away. He’s got nerdy glasses, a sweater, a stack of papers, and a laptop. Wow!
So the big question…how does a gal with crappy flirting skills get this guy’s attention?!
Note to Reader: After much thought, I have decided to change my blog entries to a journal format. I hope you enjoy them!
Tomorrow, Beth and I are crossing the pond to check out the Scottish single's scene! We're doing a sort of OCexit without the whole European outrage, stock market drop, and money devaluation. We're thinking Southern California may not be the best place for women north-of-50 to find their soulmates so we're turning to the Land of Haggis and Kilts! Stay tuned!