Stirling Castle and the 8th Earl of Douglas

Last week I visited Stirling Castle. It is my favourite castle in Scotland – I prefer Stirling to Edinburgh Castle.  In Edinburgh the main royal palace is a mile away at the bottom of the royal mile – Stirling is both a defensive castle and a magnificent palace. Also Historic Environment Scotland has spent many millions of pounds restoring part of the castle to what it would have been like in the 16th century. Some photos of this great castle follow.  

But Stirling has a dark connection to my clan.  The Earl of Douglas was murdered here by James II in 1452. At that time the Black Douglases were the most powerful family in Scotland apart from the royal Stewarts. James II was concerned that the Earl might be conspiring against him, and so invited him to Stirling Castle, enticing him with a safe conduct.  There he personally stabbed the earl to death, and some of his courtiers joined in the murder. The Earl of Douglas’s body was thrown out of one of the windows in James’s palace into what from that time has been known as the Douglas garden. 

When a child James had also been witness to the murder of a previous earl of Douglas. In 1440 when James was only 10 years old, and Scotland was being ruled by his advisors, the 16 year old 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother were invited to Edinburgh Castle, and in what is known as the Black Dinner were executed by James’s advisors on trumped up charges. Young James tried to stop the murders, but to no avail. It is safer to live in the 21st century than the 15th!

Rather fittingly James II was to die when one of his cannon’s exploded at the siege of Roxburgh Castle.  I for one am not unhappy about that!

There is one other more touching thing to see in the Douglas garden. When the infant Mary Queen of Scots was held in the castle for her safety, she was too small to see over the battlements.  So a hole was made in the battlements so she could look out on her realm.

Stirling 1 - 1

The main gate to the castle in medieval times. The towers beside the gate would have been considerably higher – they were lowered in the 1700s as by then high towers were vulnerable to artillery fire.

Stirling 2 - 1 (1)

Stirling 2 - 1 (2)

The Douglas Garden in the castle.

Version 2

Mary​ Queen of Scots little “window” in the battlements.

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