Melville Castle – Scotland
Earliest records indicate that in 1155 in the reign of King Malcolm IV, Malleville Castle was an estate in the ownership of an Anglo-Norman Baron called Galfrid de Malleville, who was Sheriff of Edinburgh and Governor of Edinburgh Castle. Melville Castle remained in his family until the time of King Robert II in 1371 when, through marriage, it passed to Sir John Ross of Halkhead. The Celtic Melville Castle continued as the seat of that branch of the Ross family for many generations.
In 1542, owing to the death of her father, King James V, Marie Stuart became Queen of Scotland when she was only six days old. Because of political and religious unrest in Scotland, she was to spend her early years in France with her mother, Marie de Guise, adopting much of French culture, and controversially, the Roman Catholic faith.
In 1561, after the death of her husband King Francis II, Marie Stuart exchanged the culture and splendour of the French court and returned to Scotland and Melville Castle, a nineteen year old widow. She had been Queen Consort of France for a year. Though the Scottish Royal Court was established in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the malodorous city persuaded the Queen to settle her French retinue a few miles to the south, in an area which is known, even today, as Little France. After much speculation she chose to marry her Catholic cousin Lord Darnley, a disaster from which her later problems sprang. Her future life was to be etched in blood.
The Queen, a fine horsewoman, became a frequent visitor to the nearby Melville Castle, invariably in the company of her Italian secretary and close companion, Seigneur David Rizzio. This close friendship caused jealousy and hatred in the mainly Protestant Scottish Nobles. In an attempt to raise Rizzio’s standing, the Queen tried to persuade Lord Ross to give the Lordship of Melville to Rizzio.
Though it was not to be, Rizzio nevertheless took apartments in Melville Castle. Melville Castle became known to the local people as Rizzios house. This further incensed the Nobles. On one of the Queen’s visits he planted a tree as a token of his love for her. The tree, a majestic Spanish Chestnut (castanea sativa), survives to this day by the stable block, some 450 years later. The Queen responded by planting 5 trees along the drive, which also survive to this day at Melville Castle.