My scarf is a simple geometric design of squares, fine silk, in wine, grey and black. In one corner is the word Balmoral, reminding me of yet another childhood memory. The scarf is quite new, bought as a souvenir on one of my trips to Scotland. The Castle there was built for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert and has been a continuing favourite refuge for subsequent Royal Families. Only a few weeks ago, we saw Princes Charles at Birkhall, his own home nearby, giving the address on VE Day whilst he was practising isolation and social distancing.
Although Balmoral looks like the sort of castle where Lady Macbeth might have persuaded her husband to kill off King Duncan and seize power, I am afraid it was built a long time after Shakespeare wrote his play. My little tale today is about another Scottish castle, built more like a thousand years ago.....Glamis. This is the castle where the play is set. It was the family home of the late Queen Mother and is situated very near where I was born. Naturally, the little princesses Elizabeth and Margaret went on family visits to Glamis to see their grandparents. Princess Margaret was actually born there. On one such visit, my parents took me to the tiny hamlet of Glamis for a glimpse of the Royal party as they passed through the castle gates. I must have been about four, still an only child. My father lifted me on his shoulders so I could peer through the windows of the royal car to see real princesses instead of just reading about them. The car went by very slowly and we got a shy wave.
In later life, I often wondered when that actually happened and I had a chance to find out not so long ago. In latter years, country houses, stately homes and even castles now open their doors to the prying public. Roofs need to be fixed, gardens tended, mould and decay kept at bay. I happily paid my entrance money at Glamis to nose around the setting which inspired Shakespeare’s atmospheric play. Yes, I shivered as our guide told the inevitable ghost and Scottish witch stories. It was a very grey place.
I also quivered with excitement in the museum there when I saw the hand-written letter from Buckingham Palace starting....Darling Granny, Thanking you very much...... a sweet note from a very young Princess Elizabeth expressing thanks for her holiday with her grandparents. She went on to say how surprised she was that people had come to see them at the gates when they left. She doesn’t know I was the little child pressing my nose on the car window!
I didn’t buy a scarf in the gift shop on my grown-up visit, just a souvenir mug. It could have been worse.....the three witches in Macbeth threw a lot of nasty ingredients into their cauldron to aid their spell making. The gift shop was selling big replica cast iron pots which would have made good geranium planters! Just a little heavy for the train journey back to England.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!