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Tucked away at the foot of the Lomond Hills, safe from the depredations of war and strife so endemic to Scottish history, Falkland has retained the peaceful charm of a royal burgh of yesteryear. A stroll around Falkland will enable visitors to discover goodvernacular architecture and something of the court officials, royal servants and tradesmen who resided in the village.
Of particular interest are the many lintel and marriage stones. Great efforts have been made to preserve the original character of the burgh. Conservation Area status and the National Trust for Scotland's Little Houses Improvement Scheme have been responsible for large-scale restoration. On the south side of the High Street, 17th Century Moncreif House sports a thatch of Tay reeds, a marriage lintel and inscribed panel proclaiming the builder's loyalty to his monarch. The hotel next door features further panels, and beyond Back Wynd stands the steepled town hall (1801) which is adorned with a sculptured panel of the burgh arms.
On the far side of the street next to the Palace is Key House with its lintel dated 1713 with, as neighbour, the harled and red pantiled 18C St Andrew's House. The Bruce Fountain is 19th Century. Cross Wynd is lined by a row of single-storey cottages, interrupted on the left by the cobbled Parliament Square. Glance up Horsemarket to see the building with forestairs. Dominating Brunton Street is the imposing three-storeyed Brunton House (1712), which is the home of the Royal Falconers. Back in the main street, the birthplace of the "Lion of the Covenant". Richard Cameron (1648-80). is marked by another inscribed lintel. He was a staunch Covenanter and, following a period of exile, he headed the extremist Covenanting group, the Cameronians, the nucleus of which was later to form the regiment of the same name.
Fife, the centre of the royal kingdom. The original castle belonged to the Macduffs. the Earls of Fife, and its early history was marked by the mysterious death in 1402 of David, Duke of Rothesay, heir to Robert III, while staying with his uncle, Robert, Duke of Albany. David's brother.
James I, on his release from imprisonment in England in 1424, set out to restore the power of the monarchy. His revenge was total and in the following year the Albanys were beheaded. Their property, including Falkland, passed to the Crown. James II gifted the castle to Mary of Gueldres in 1451 and followed this in 1458 by raising the town to a royal burgh and the castle to a palace.
Royal residence (15th Century-16th Century) The hunting seat of Falkland became one of the Stewarts favourite royal palaces. James II built an extension, the north range which originally contained the Great Hall, and it was here that Margaret of Anjou and her son took refuge when Henry VI was imprisoned. The future James III (1451-88) spent his childhood here but his troubled reign, marked by conflicts with nobles and brothers alike, ended with his murder at Sauchieburn.
James IV (1473-1513), a typical monarch of the Renaissance, re-established royal authority, and with his Queen. Margaret Tudor, entertained a splendid court. Royal patronage was extended to the poet William Dunbar (1465-1530) who dedicated The Thistle and the Rose to his royal patrons. James, who loved to hunt in the Falkland Forest and hawk on the Lomond Hills, built the south range. James V (1512-42) made extensive alterations in preparation for his marriage, initially to Magdalene, daughter of Francois I, then after her untimely death, to Mary of Guise in 1538. French workmen prepared the palace for a French bride.
The result was the Renaissance ornament on the courtyard facade of the south range. A radical departure from the Gothic of the time, this stylistic flourish was in fact the earliest of its kind in Britain. James' two sons died as infants and it was to Mary, Queen of Scots that the throne went when her father died heartbroken at the age of 30. Mary came to hunt occasionally, and her son James VI visited on his 1617 royal progress as did her grandson, Charles I and great-grandson, Charles II. It was the latter who presented the Scots Guards with their Colours here in 1650. Abandoned, the palace fell into a state of disrepair. In the late 19th Century the Hereditary Keeper carried out restoration work. The palace, although still royal property, is now under the guardianship of the National Trust for Scotland.
South Range: street front This range, built by James IV, consists of two very distinct parts: on the extreme left is the twin-towered gatehouse. which was completed in its present form in 1541 and provided accommodation for the Constable. Captain and Keeper. The corbelled parapet, cable moulding and gargoyles link this with the range to the east where massive buttresses are adorned with canopied niches. The statues are the work of Peter the Flemishman (1538). The street front is a good example of Scottish Gothic.
South Range From the entrance hall of the gatehouse, you can climb to the Keeper's suite on the 2nd floor. The bedroom is dominated by James VI's magnificent canopied bed and the room is hung with copies of full length royal portraits. Adjoining are the dressing room with the Bute Centenary Exhibition and the small panelled bathroom.
The Drawing-Room was restored by the Marquess of Bute in the 1890s. The oak ceiling is emblazoned with the coats of arms of the Stuart Kings and the different Keepers of the palace. The paintings include James VII and Mary. Queen of Scots, Charles II and Catharine of Braganza. The outstanding features of the 16C interior of the Chapel Royal are the oak screen between chapel and ante-chapel and the painted ceiling redecorated for Charles I's 1633 visit. The Tapestry Gallery is hung with 17C Flemish tapestries and furnished with replicas of 16C and 17C pieces of furniture. The 19C heraldic glass shows sovereigns and consorts closely associated with the palace.
The Old Library has memorabilia of the 20th Century Keepers, the Crichton Stuarts. East Range This was built at the same time as the south one, to contain the royal apartments with the king's suite on the first floor and queen's above. This level affords a good view of the delightful courtyard front of the south range, so different from the Gothic street front. The Renaissance influence is most evident in the buttresses embellished with engaged pilasters and pronounced mouldings and the sets of paired medallions. The latter are not unlike Wolsey's terracotta medallions at Hampton Court and the Stirling Heads. The ideas of this showpiece facade for the earlier Gothic range were developed in the more elaborate designs of Stirling's Palace Block. The experiment, however, was confined to royal works and the style had no permanent effect on Scottish architecture.
The King's Bed Chamber in the cross house projecting from this range (rebuilt 19C) has been restored. The windows have shutter boards below and leaded glass above and the painted ceiling is resplendent with the monograms of James V and Mary of Guise. The Golden Bed of Brahan is of early 17C Dutch workmanship. James V died here in 1542 several days after learning of the birth of his daughter Mary. Queen of Scots, when he pronounced "It came wi' a lass, and will gang wi' a lass."
Gardens The foundations of the North Range and Round Tower of the original Macduff stronghold can be seen in the gardens. Replanted since its use as a potato field in the Second World War effort, the gardens, ablaze with colour, include shrubs, herbaceous borders and a more formal garden. Beyond is the 1539 Royal Tennis Court, built prior to Henry Vlll's one at Hampton Court.