In the mid-1500s, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots played on the Links at St Andrews and kept a vacation cottage there, often doing her own shopping and cooking. An avid golfer who has been referred to as the “Mother of Golf,” the athletic Queen helped popularize the game. Unfortunately, her hobby was a factor in her demise. The daughter of the Scottish King James V, Stuart made a bold statement by playing a round of golf a few days after the murder of her estranged husband, Lord Darnley, causing her to be accused of cold-heartedness and creating suspicion she’d had a hand in the deed. This eventually led to her imprisonment and beheading by her rival, Queen Elizabeth I, who considered her a threat to the English monarchy.
To escape Catholic-Protestant tensions, the strong-willed Queen often headed to St Andrews to play the game she’d learned living in France in her youth. Wearing her pearly countenance and jeweled headdress, the imposing beauty displayed prowess at golf and other sports, including hunting, horseback riding, hawking, archery and lawn bowling. Stuart rode a horse like a man and often golfed with her ladies-in-waiting, including Mary Seton, who was given a necklace after beating the queen in a match at Musselburgh.
Mary, Queen of Scots is credited with introducing the word “caddie” into golf’s lexicon. In France, military cadets carried golf clubs for royalty and were referred to as “cadéts.” Stuart is thought to have imported the term to Scotland.
Known for her love of the outdoors and fondness for animals, Stuart’s incarceration for treason against Elizabeth I was a brutal blow. An eccentric and outgoing monarch who dressed as stable boy to explore Edinburgh by night, she was thwarted by her enthusiasm for power and golf. Her son, James VI of Scotland, became King James I of England after Elizabeth’s death and helped establish the course at Royal Blackheath.