The Football: Historical Content

Football, leather and pig’s bladder, Queen’s Chamber, Stirling Castle, 1540s.

The Football

This football was discovered above the Queen’s bedchamber at Stirling Castle, which was completed in the early 1540s. But how did it get there? Football was played at the Castle from 1497, but Scottish monarchs were also superstitious; James V reacted to nightmares with fear, while Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots visited shrines to comfort them in childbirth. Could this ball have been carefully placed above the bedchamber to protect its occupant? Could it have belonged to Mary Queen of Scots, who lived in the castle as a child? Anxieties about witchcraft sharpened during the sixteenth century, especially after James VI insisted in his Dæmonologie of 1597 that ‘assaultes of Sathan are most certainly practized’. Marks scratched into the Castle’s outer door to ward off witches have been attributed to him. Did the ball belong to a monarch who felt they needed particular supernatural protection? Protective charms were often placed at meaningful boundaries, although they more often consisted of rowan wood or clothing.

Card Written by Joanne McEwan and Susan Broomhall for “Stories of Emotions and Scottish Objects”, a research partnership between the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions

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