Green Lady Story Stirling CastleThe Green Lady of Stirling Castle

The Blue Lady. The Pink Lady. The White Lady. Stirling has no shortage of colurful female phantoms. Perhaps the most feared and fabled of their number, though, is the Green Lady, said to haunt Stirling Castle. Some say she was the daughter of a Commander of that fortress who cast herself from the Elphinstone Tower onto the ragged rocks beneath, in sorrow that her cruel father had ended her romance with a common soldier-boy...by having the unfortunate squaddie shot. Others that she was a serving girl in the employ of our most romantic and tragic monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots...

That tale begins in 1562 - the year of Mary's return to Stirling and to Scotland after two decades residence in France, and the death of her young husband Francis, King of that country.

The serving girl in our tale was a Highland lass, gifted - as so many of our Celtic cousins are said to be - with the power of Foretelling. Second Sight.

This pretty maid had a premonition that if her Queen slept even one night within the ancient fortress she would not live to see the dawn. Fearfully she told her mistress of her fears. Fond of the girl, Mary listened kindly. She could not reject the hospitality of those good Stirling folk who had fought so hard to protect her against the advances of Henry VIII’s army, in her youth, but would allow the girl to watch over her as she slept – and call for aid should any threat present itself.

This the lassie did.

Through the long, dark night she sat, bundled in a great soft chair, guarding her beloved Queen. Weary from their long journey, Mary fell into a deep slumber as soon as her head fell upon her pillow. The girl, too, was weary. She fussed and fretted, fearful that she would doze and leave her mistress open to some outrage. She barred the door, and, lighting a taper, set it by the bedside. If her Queen should wake she would not fear the darkness.

There she sat for what seemed an eternity, near-hypnotised by the flickering of the taper's end. But, try as she might, she could not resist the weariness in her bones. Her limbs grew heavy, her eyelids heavier still.

She felt a fool. What harm could come to Mary, here? What was there to fear? Sure it would do no harm to close her eyes…just for a moment.

And so she did.

When – what seemed like no more than a few moments hence – she opened them again, she blinked against the sudden brightness of the chamber. Had dawn come so soon? And...what was that curious canker which assaulted her lungs…?

Bleary eyed, she tried to call out to her mistress, but found her throat dry…and, in that wakeful moment, realised the truth of her plight. The tiny taper, set so carefully by the Queen’s cot had fallen…the bedclothes were alight, the tapestries too. Coughing, she darted from her chair. She tried to call for aid once more - to rouse her mistress from her slumbers, and alert others of their peril.

She shook Mary, but found she would not wake – the smoke lulling her mistress ever deeper into the bosom of Morpheus. Near blind, struggling for breath, she bundled the Queen in her frail arms and carried her toward the door, feeling the first flickering fronds of flame begin to lick at the folds of her emerald gown and the soft, pale flesh beneath.

She heard the splintering of wood as the barred door buckled under force, and anxious arms strained to carry them both to safety…

Their fate?

History tells us that Queen Mary endured for two-and-twenty years more – before her life was cut short by an English axe-man.

Of the girl little is known, though it is feared that she quickly perished from the wounds she received that fateful night. Even her name has been forgotten: she is known only by the colour of the gown she wore.

The Green Lady.

And, though she acted kindly – bravely, too – in saving her monarch’s life, she is forever feared as a harbinger of doom, death and despair…forever paying penance for the folly which led her to be the instrument of her own passing from this world.

Visitors to Stirling should be mindful that our female phantoms have but one thing in common – save for their colour-coordination. It is said that whosoever looks but once into their eyes will nevermore see the Dawn. So, should you spy a ruffled robe or well turned spectral heel as you pass between the headstones, turn away, avert your gaze – for your soul itself may hang in the balance.

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Stirling Castle, the busiest visitor attraction in Stirling, is open to the public every day, operated and maintained by Historic Scotland http://www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk

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