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Edinburgh Castle






Edinburgh CastleThe Castle is the best known landmark in Edinburgh and the former home of the Kings and Queens of Scotland.

The view from the castle is stunning but not nearly as breathtaking as the tour inside. A part of Scotland's heritage is packed into the windy halls and ancient chambers in all manner of relics and dramatic stories.

The real treasures on display though are Scotland's Honours; the Crown, Sword and Sceptre of the country and the Stone of Destiny upon which all of Scotland's Kings and Queen's were crowned.  The ramparts of Edinburgh Castle are also the current home of the famous artillery piece Mons Meg.  Historical accounts note that this gun was first used by King James II during his unsuccessful siege of Threave Castle , that was then under command of Margaret, Countess of Douglas.

King Malcolm III (Canmore) and Queen (later Saint) Margaret are said to have built a hunting lodge here around 1070, his main residence remained safely over the Forth at Dunfermline. Queen Margaret died here on 16th November 1093, upon hearing of the death of her husband in battle at Alnwick. It was probably her son, King David, who built the tiny chapel on the highest point of the rock, which has somehow survived to become Edinburgh's oldest building.


Eighty years later, in 1174 King William the Lion was defeated and captured at Alnwick. He was forced to hand over possession of four Scottish castles as security for his ransom, Edinburgh was one, it was recovered in 1186.


During the Wars of Independence (1296 - 1342) the castle changed hands four times. Robert the Bruce was so impressed with how easily it was taken, he ordered the demolition of all fortifications after he had won it back from the English in 1314. Edward III of England built a new castle in 1335 but held it only until 1341 when Sir William Douglas and his men pretending to be merchants entered the castle by storm, decapitating most of the garrison and throwing their bodies over the castle walls.



Posing as a French ship's Captain, William Bullock, one of Douglas' band, gained admittance to the castle and offered the contents of "his ship" for sale to the English garrison. When the English agreed to buy the cargo of food and wine, Bullock arranged for it to be delivered the following morning. As dawn broke the carts bearing the "cargo" arrived at the castle gate. The portcullis was lifted and the carts began entering the castle. As the first cart passed under the raised portcullis, the cart driver upset it so that the gate could not be lowered. The other cart drivers attacked the gate guards and gave the bugle call which signaled Douglas and his troops. The English were defeated and the castle would remain in Scottish hands until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. [Read more>>>]


The return from English captivity of David II in 1356 heralded the beginning of a period of building, which was to continue for 200 years. The construction of a new royal residence, David's Tower, was begun in 1368, followed by a new gate tower, Constables Tower, in the north-east of the curtain wall, and St.Mary's Church. The Kings Great Chamber followed in 1434, though this required reconstruction following the Siege of 1445.


The 4th Earl of Douglas held Edinburgh against the English when Henry IV invaded in 1400.

Sir William Crichton was keeper of the castle in 1440 when the infamous Black dinner took place. Using his position he invited his arch-rivals the sixth Earl of Douglas and his younger brother to dine with the king in the castle. When the great feast was over Crichton presented the Earl a bulls head which was the sign of condemnation to death. The king protested but to no effect.  After dinner the 2 Douglases were dragged to Castle Hill and executed. The Douglas clan then laid seige to Edinburgh Castle and Crichton percieving the danger surrendered the castle to the king and an uneasy truce was declared. He was raised to the peerage with the title Lord Crichton.

Sir Walter Scott penned the following lines in remembrance of the murders:

"Edinburgh Castle, toune and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin!
And that e'en for the black dinner
Earl Douglas gat therein."


The 16th century saw the completion of Holyrood House and an end to the castles use as a royal residence, the exception being Queen Mary's confinement for the birth of the future James IV, June 19th 1566, in a small chamber in the Palace.


Six years later the most destructive episode in Edinburgh Castle's history, The Lang siege. In 1571, Keeper of Edinburgh Castle, Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, who was still supporting Queen Mary, refused to surrender the castle to the Regent Morton, until in 1573 Morton sought assistance from England. Heavy guns were sent from Berwick and within 10 days had they completely demolished the whole Eastern front. Kirkcaldy was forced to surrender when falling masonry blocked the Forewell, he was then hanged for treason.


Reconstruction began immediately, the Portcullis Gate replaced Constable's Tower and the Half Moon Battery was wrapped around the remains of David's Tower.


The castle's royal status was briefly re-established in 1617 during King Jamies Hamecoming, when James IV held court here, though this was purely ceremonial, he slept at Holyrood. King Charles I spent the night in the castle before his Scottish coronation in 1633.



Windows in the Great Hall



Governors and officers of the Castle Edinburgh Castle  (notes)

1341. Archibald Douglas (brother of Lord Liddesdale), Governor.
1364. Archibald De Douglas, Custos.
1402. Archibald, Earl of Douglas, Lord of Galway, Custos.
1403. Archibald. Earl of Douglas, Custos.
1405. Archibald, Earl of Douglas, Custos.

1.  In 1577, Archibald Douglas of Milltown (Myltoun) was  constable of Edinburgh Castle

2.  George Douglas-Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney KT (9 February 1666 – 29 January 1737) was Constable of Edinburgh Castle, which he held till his Death.

3.  Archibald Douglas, (son of Arthur, of Tilquhillie) was Constable of the Castle of Edinburgh during the Earl of Morton's Regency.



See also:
•  Capture of Edinburgh Castle by William Douglas in 1341.



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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024