Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Holyrood Palace and Shackleton . . .

Yesterday we hiked down High Street to Holyrood Palace, and like good tourists, were awed everywhere by the history and beauty of this still active royal retreat. The history is a bit gruesome, Mary, Queen of Scotts, saw her dear attendant, Rizzio, hauled away and murdered (with over 50 knife thrusts) by her husband, Lord Darnley. The interpretation varies from personal to political, depending on the source. But Darnley comes off as someone who provoked arguments and used politics to bolster the Protestant cause against Catholic Mary. Her rooms faced the open courtyard and at the back, we could see the stone staircase where Darnley and his crew rushed in.

The furnishings throughout were historically a mix, some accurate to the 17th Century, and some refurbished as this is the Queen's current retreat when she comes to Scotland. We both tred gently on the uneven stone stairs. In the tenements, these very uneven stairs were made purposefully, so that intruders would stumble, A kind of built-in burglar alarm.

But most beautiful was the Abbey, started sometime in the late 12th Century, its roof long gone, but its Romanesque and Gothic arches still inspirational, to the Romantics in the 18th Century and to us today.

Then back down to the Queen's Gallery for a current exhibit, The Heart of the Great Alone: Scott, Shackleton & Antarctic Photography. We felt lucky to see this as the exhibit just opened October 2, featuring photographs by Herbert Ponting of the doomed Scott expedition to the South Pole, with photographs from Frank Hurley taken during Ernest Shackleton's later expedition. All of Scott's men were lost; none of Shackleton's men died.

Ponting has the artist's eye; Hurley is more workmanlike, but his photographs did justice to those heroic men who suffered cold so severe their teeth shattered. We were unable to take photographs but the images remain. The picture at the right is by Herbert Ponting, taken from an ice cave and looking out at their ship later encased fully in ice and crushed, the Terra Nova, taken between 1910-1913.

Source Wikipedia (Commons). An excellent book of this exhibit, The Heart of the Great Alone, will be available from Amazon after October 27.

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