Although universally known as Queen Mary’s House there is no proof that Mary ever resided here, or if she did, not in the present building on this site.
What is known is that Jedburgh was heavily fortified. The castle had been destroyed after its capture in 1409 by the Scots to prevent the English returning. This would seem to have been a building of some strength as special tax had to be raised to pay for its demolition.
Jedburgh Abbey stood within a walled precinct heavily studded with towers which stood until the English attacks of 1545 and 1546 laid waste to the town. This state of affairs was only remedied with the arrival of the French army who re-fortified the town using the abbey as a citadel. The modern road, which sweeps past its east end, follows the ‘footprint’ of their earthen ramparts.
From Jedburgh the French sallied out and, along with their Scottish allies, expelled the English from the district including Ferniehirst Castle which they carried by storm. The English captain surrendered to the French hoping to save their lives but to no avail for the Scots rode them down backwards and forwards pricking them with their lances. The captain’s head proved useful as a macabre football. A French officer ruefully observed that ‘it was well deserved’. Such was the Auld Alliance!
The town of Jedburgh, like other border towns such as Selkirk and Hawick, contained bastel houses. Unlike the Bastille in Paris, these were not fortresses but ‘strong houses’ of stone, vaulted, strongly barred and lacking upper defences. Jedburgh had six of these houses. One of them was known as ‘Limmerfield’ and it was in that part of town where Queen Mary’s House now stands.
Whether it was this house – or one of the five others – cannot be determined but as the present building is the only one to survive, according to VisitScotland, this MUST be the one!
Vaulted, Queen Mary’s House rises three storeys in height with a main block and a rectangular stair tower. There are clear signs that other structures were once attached but these have all been removed. It was thatched, as was the whole of Jedburgh until 1817, but now has a slate roof.
Queen Mary resided in Jedburgh in 1566 recovering from an illness that almost killed her. However, if Limmerfield was her house it was not this one as it stands today as it dates from the last quarter of the 16th century, long after she was a prisoner in England.
Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.