Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Traditions and Stories of Scottish Castles
St Andrews Castle

St Andrews Castle

THE situation of St Andrews Castle is exceedingly picturesque. The shore on each side of the ruins trends inwards, leaving a projecting headland, upon whose rocky summit stand the ruins of the Archiepiscopal Palace. The ceaseless beat of the wild North Sea has swept away the ancient landmarks upon either side, gradually leaving the foundation of the Castle to form an apex between two bays:-

"The peak on an aerial promontory,
Whose caverned base with the vexed surge is hoary."

If this spot be really the site of the original Castle of St Andrews, built by Bishop Roger in 1200, as there is little reason to doubt, it savours more of romance than of practical utility. For even though the encroachments of the sea have been great in this locality they cannot have so seriously altered the position of the Castle in little over seven centuries as to transform an inland fortress into a sea-washed ruin. And, however conducive to reflection in a recluse, it could not be altogether pleasant for men of the world, as many of the Prelates were, to hear the "hollow-sounding and mysterious main" dashing against the rock-bound coast, or watch it flinging its wintry spray defiantly upon the topmost battlement.

Whether for resistance by sea or land, no more commanding site could have been found along the coast than that on which the Castle stands. Its peninsular position would enable its possessor to sweep both the north and south coasts with ease; while the approach from the land would be rendered difficult by the narrowness of the passage. Local tradition tells of subterranean caves hollowed beneath the foundations of the Castle, and represents the rock as honey-combed by the action of the waves; and certainly there have been mysterious passages recently discovered which may have been formed by extending such caves, though their utility has not been satisfactorily explained.

St Andrews University

But the ruin which now crowns the rugged steep has not been reduced to its present state solely by the ravages of time or of the elements. The resistless surge of human passion and the fierce whirlwind of civil war have done more to render the Castle of St Andrews roofless and uninhabitable than have the relentless storms of many centuries. And though first erected a dwelling for• the men of peace, it was not long ere the warriors of Scotland discovered that the position which it occupied was too valuable to be sacrificed as a Parsonage; even as they found that the site of Dunnottar Castle was too important for a Parish Kirk. And thus it soon happened that the peaceful abode of the Bishops of St Andrews became the residence of the fierce soldiery both of England and France, whose lawless presence drew down upon its innocent head the vengeance of their enemies. And the Castle, which might have existed as long as the Vatican at Rome, had it been left to its original possessors, did not continue for a century and a half without suffering almost total demolition. Arising again from its ashes under the benign influence of another Bishop, it re-asserted the proud position which it had formerly held, and remained intact for another hundred and fifty years. But the cloud of the Reformation had over-shadowed the dignity of the priesthood, and "their gilded domes and their princely halls" were now the abode of the leading spirits of the new birth.

St Andrews Harbour

Yet again was the ruined Castle rebuilt and made habitable, but it was now shorn of all its former greatness, and "Ichabod" was written on its ruins. And now, as if "unwilling to outlive the good that did it," or wilfully refusing shelter to the renegades from the faith of its founders, it stands bare and desolate, a barren relic of the glory that passeth away. Only a few yards from these ruins may be seen the burying ground where rest many of the Lords Spiritual, who once held sway within its halls, mingling their dust with that of the vassals whose toil supported them, and by whose labour they were maintained. And as we pass from these tombs by the ever-sounding sea to the melancholy ruin of former grandeur which the Castle presents, we feel:-

"The sway
Of the vast stream of ages bear away
Our floating thoughts."

Here in the very birthplace of Scottish Christianity we find the cradle of the Reformation, and this grim ruin was the scene of many of the deeds of violence and of injustice and lawlessness that called aloud for a new upheaval of Society—the avatar of a Protestant Reformation. And now, as the moonlight breaks through the unglazed window apertures, or falls shimmering, clear and cold, upon the grass-grown courtyard, unroofed and open to the assaults of heaven, we cannot escape from the romance of the situation—

"I wandered through the wreck of days departed,
Far by the desolated shore, when even
O’er the still sea and jagged islets darted
The light of moonrise; in the northern heaven,
Among the clouds near the horizon driven,
The mountains lay, beneath one planet pale;
Around me broken tombs and columns riven
Looked vast in twilight, and the sorrowing gale
Waked in these ruins grey their everlasting wail!"

The action of the water upon the free stone and shale forming the base of the Castle is apparent, though the extent of this influence is much exaggerated. Some local historians would have us believe that the angry surge has swept away towers and turrets, walls and battlements, but there is more fancy than fact in their statements. Yet there are many alterations in the formation of the Castle grounds plainly discernible. At some remote period the whole of the landward structure has been surrounded by a deep moat, presumably supplied with tidal water and furnished with lock-gates communicating with the sea. The debris of many years had accumulated within this fosse to such an extent that it was level with the ground. But some years ago excavations were made in the locality whereby the trench was quite cleaned out, and a more correct view of the fortifications thus obtained. Amongst other discoveries made, not the least interesting was that of the ancient well in the courtyard, which has been cut out of the solid rock, and is more than twenty feet deep to the water surface. In the North Sea Tower on the north-west part of the courtyard, may be seen the Bottle Dungeon, a cavity quarried in the freestone, twenty-five feet deep, with an aperture forming the neck, seven feet in diameter and eight feet deep. Below this point the dungeon expands to nearly seventeen feet in diameter; and as there are no visible means of entrance, it is supposed that the prisoners were incarcerated here by using rope and windlass to lower them into its loathsome depths. The imaginative in-habitants of this neighbourhood have peopled this fearful prison with many of the men familiar in history; but the traditions connected with it are not very trustworthy. It is not likely that the place was used except for purposes of temporary confinement, and as an alternative to the rack or other form of torture. The whole plan of the Castle is now clearly visible, and as steps have been taken to preserve the ruins the ravages of time will no longer prevail to overthrow it. The vicissitudes through which it has passed, and which link it prominently with many notable events in Scottish story, entitle the Castle of St Andrews to the tender regard and veneration of the students alike of Church and of State History.

The exact date of the foundation of the Bishopric of St Andrews is not now discoverable, but it is known to have had a firmly established existence in the middle of the ninth century. For a considerable period the history of the Bishopric is but a succession of names and dates which, like the catalogue of the Pictish Kings, is now of little interest to us. Early in the twelfth century (about 1107) Bishop Turgot founded the Parish Kirk, and about fifty years after, Bishop Arnold, the possessor alike of larger views and increased revenue, began the erection of the splendid pile of St Andrews Cathedral, whose ruins still testify to its former magnificence. Having thus provided for the spiritual wants of their parishioners, it became advisable that the Bishops should look after their own temporal welfare; and so Bishop Roger laid the foundation of the Castle somewhere about the year 1200. Hitherto the holders of the Episcopal See had resided either in the ancient Monastery of the Culdees (now Kirkhill, where the foundations may be seen) or in the house of the Prior, which adjoined the Cathedral buildings. It no longer consorted with the dignity of so important a See that the Bishops should have nowhere to lay their heads, and as the Royal, as well as the Papal, favour had been bestowed upon them, they could well afford to indulge in a habitation for themselves.

Old Andro Wyntoun, Prior of St Serf’s on Loch Leven, in his "Cronykil," records that Bishop Roger was son of the Earl of Leicester; but to this statement exception may be taken, as it is not supported by other evidence. There certainly was a Roger de Bellomont who fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and whose descendant was Earl of Leicester in 1128, but that Earl had no son called Roger. This is Wyntoun’s account

"This Rogere
The Erle’s son was of Laycestere.
The Castell in his dayis he
Founded and gart biggit be
In Sanct Andrewys in that place
Where now that Castel biggit was."

The undertaking, though considerable in those days, was but a trifle compared to the erection of the Cathedral which was then proceeding; and it is extremely likely that the builders of the latter edifice were employed upon Bishop Roger’s residence. The name of the architect of these two buildings has not been discovered. At that time Antwerp was the great school of masonry, and a travelling Guild of Masons may have begun the structure which took many years to complete.

By whomsoever devised and executed, the Castle was at length completed, and the Bishop would, no doubt, prepare with devout gratitude for his "house-warming." One may picture the venerable Bishop looking forward with hopeful eyes to a glorious future for the bield he had now "biggit," and prophesying of the halcyon days of universal peace which his firmly-founded Castle should never behold. Hope still looks forward, in defiance of history and human experience, for the brighter days that never come, and we delude ourselves by a faith in the future for which our past gives no warrant. And thus runs the world away ! —

"Golden days, where are you?
Pilgrims east and west
Cry, if we could find you
We would pause and rest.
We would pause and rest a little
From our dark and dreary ways,
Golden days, where are you?
Golden days!"

Peace and prosperity were not long the heritage of the Castle of St Andrews, for in those stirring times the dignitaries of the Church were compelled to take an active part in the affairs of State. As St Andrews was the foremost See in Scotland, both because of its antiquity and extent, it was natural that the Bishop of so important a diocese should be frequently brought to the front. And as Glasgow bore the same relation to the west of Scotland as St Andrews did to the east, the Bishops of these places were the leaders during the most turbulent times. Foremost among these patriots was Robert Wiseheart (Wishart), Bishop of Glasgow, in 1270, who was appointed one of the six Guardians of Scotland on the death of Alexander III. in 1286, though he supported Edward I. in 1290, but took up the cause of Robert Bruce in 1299, for which Edward imprisoned him. Afterwards he joined Wallace with the Scottish patriots, and officiated at the Coronation of Robert Bruce in 1306.. His faithful ally was William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews in 1297, who supported Wallace, though he had sworn fealty to Edward. He was also present at the crowning of Bruce and was captured and put in prison by Edward.

It was during Bishop Lamberton’s time that the building of the Cathedral was completed, and he also repaired the breaches in the walls of the Castle which Edward I. had caused after Wallace had escaped from it. Having had it put in repair for his occupancy, Edward I. and his Queen occupied the Castle from 14th March to 5th April 1303-4, together with the Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward II.), and to the Prince was committed by the King the stripping of the lead from the roof of the Cathedral to make ammunition for the siege of Stirling Castle. While Edward was in St Andrews Castle he received the homage of the leading Scottish nobles and clergy.

The Castle was held by the English till 1305, when it was captured and held by the Scots for a short period, but was regained from them in 1306, and remained an English fortress till 1314, the year of the Battle of Bannockburn. These frequent attacks must have seriously weakened the structure, for Bishop Lamberton, who died in 1328, found it necessary to spend his last years in the Priory instead of the Castle.

Hardly had Lamberton been gathered to his fathers ere the minions of Edward Balliol, son of King John Balliol, and a dependant on the bounty of the King of England, Edward III., seized upon the Castle, and forced the new Bishop, James de Bane, to fly for refuge to Holland, where he died in 1332, leaving the See unoccupied. Edward Balliol had invaded Scotland in this year, and won a victory at the Battle of Dupplin, and he placed a garrison in St Andrews Castle. The chief Scottish opponent of Balliol was Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, son of the companion-in-arms of Wallace, who was proclaimed Regent. Finding English soldiers in the Castle he attacked it and forced them away; but finding that he had not men to spare for garrisoning it he threw down some of the fortifications, and proceeded southward to expel the invaders from Scottish soil. This incident is thus recorded by Andro Wyntoun :—

"Sir Andro Murray cast it doun,
For there he fand a garrisoun
Of English men intill that place,
For the See than vacand was."

Ere another fifty years had gone the Bishopric came into the hands of Walter Trail (1385-1401) a Prelate whose influence in the affairs of the kingdom entitled him to rank as a true patriot. During his term as Bishop the Castle was rebuilt and again made fit for an episcopal residence. Yet, by a curious fatality, the princely towers which he built became the prison-house of one of his dearest friends, shortly after his decease. In the story of Rothesay Castle in this volume, the sad tale of the murder of David, first Duke of Rothesay, son of Robert III., by his unscrupulous uncle, the Regent Albany, was narrated. Whilst this unfortunate Prince was supported by the counsel of his mother, Queen Annabella, of his father-in-law, Earl Douglas, and of his tutor, Bishop Trail, he withstood the insidious advances of his ambitious uncle; but when death had removed all three of these counsellors, the craft of the statesman proved too much for the unsuspecting Prince. Rothesay was persuaded that after the death of the Bishop it was his duty to occupy the Castle till a successor was appointed. The young Duke made his way to Fife with a few followers, and was waylaid by the emissaries of Albany near Strathtyrum and thrown into prison at St Andrews Castle to await the instructions from his uncle. Ultimately he was taken to Falkland Palace, where he met the sad fate prepared for him. Thus the lordly dwelling which his old friend the Bishop had erected, and where he would have been an honoured guest, became the scene of his first imprisonment.

"What man that sees the ever-whirling wheels
Of change the which all mortal things doth sway;
But that thereby doth find, and plainly feels
How mutability in them doth play
Her cruel sports to many men’s decay?"

The Castle of St Andrews increased in importance as time rolled on, and soon had greatness thrust upon it. Bishop Wardlaw had spent his forty years within its walls; and had done much service to the world at large by founding the University, building the Guard Bridge, and burning a few pestilent heretics "for the greater glory of God." Bishop Kennedy had enjoyed his quarter-of-a-century there, and signalized his reign by erecting the College and Chapel of St Salvator, founding the Greyfriars Monastery, and endeavouring to introduce commerce to the city by building a large vessel suitable for export trade. But the venal period of the Bishops had arrived, and they were about to blossom into Archbishops. Bishop Kennedy died in 1465, and his half-brother, Patrick Graham, Bishop of Brechin, succeeded him in the following year. Bishop Wardlaw, in 1440, had appointed John de Wemyss of Kilmany as Constable of St Andrews Castle, so it had been kept in order during the time of Bishop Kennedy. To his successor, Patrick Graham, belongs the honour of being the first Archbishop of St Andrews, but he did not take up his residence at the Castle in 1466, going to Rome for another purpose. In 1472 he returned with Bulls from Pope Sixtus IV., constituting St Andrews the Metropolitan See of Scotland.

Despite the honour that Archbishop Graham had brought to this country his life was a miserable one. He had been impoverished by the bribes he had presented to the officials at Rome, who had assisted him, and in 1478 William Schevez, then Archdeacon, brought charges of heresy and simony against him, and he was deposed and imprisoned, first in the Monastery of Inchcolm, and afterwards in Loch Leven Castle, where he died, and was buried at St Serfs Isle. The ambitious Schevez succeeded as second Archbishop, and apparently resided at the Castle. Hardly had he been appointed than he dashed into a controversy with Robert Blacader, Archbishop of Glasgow, on a point of etiquette as to precedence. The dispute became so violent that it had to be submitted to His Holiness Pope Innocent VIII., who evidently gave the preference to St Andrews as the seat of the Primate. An ancient Chartulary, still in existence, throws a sinister light on this transaction. It shows that Schevez gave over the lands and Castle of Gloom, on the Devon, and the Bishopshire on the Lomond Hills to the then Earl of Argyll to bribe his support in the dispute with Glasgow. He thus proves himself as the mediaeval ecclesiastic— solemn, precise, exacting—anything but profound, whose interest lay more in vestments and ceremonies than the welfare of the precious souls committed to his charge.

The Castle of St Andrews had now gained additional importance as the seat of the Primate, and the Archbishops took a prominent part in political affairs, and were recognized as statesmen. So far back as the time of William the Lion, the claim had been made, and since continued, that the King had the right of presentation to this Archbishopric. Hence, when the See of St Andrews became vacant through the death of James Stewart, second son of James Ill. (1497-1503), James IV., who bore the same name as his younger brother, exercised his right under peculiar circumstances. The King had then an illegitimate son, Alexander Stewart, born in 1493, but not of age to be made an Archbishop, so the See was left vacant till 1505, when he was nominated. In that year Stewart went abroad; studied under Erasmus at Padua, 1508; returned to Scotland in 1509 for his installation; was appointed Chancellor of Scotland, 1510; accompanied his father the King in 1513 to Flodden, and fell on the battlefield, in his twentieth year.

A very curious complication arose at Archbishop Stewart’s death. The Queen-Regent (Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII., and widow of James IV.), claimed the right of the Crown to appoint the new Archbishop, and was prepared to select the famous Bishop Elphinstone of Aberdeen, founder of Aberdeen (King’s College) University, for the See of St Andrews; but he died at Edinburgh in October 1514, before he could be installed. Meanwhile, in August 1514, Queen Margaret had married Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus; and to please her new husband she nominated the celebrated poet, Gawain Douglas, her uncle by marriage, to the Archbishopric. But the Chapter of St Andrews elected in preference John Hepburn, Prior of St Andrew, while the Pope recommended Andrew Forman, Bishop of Moray for the position. There were thus three claimants, proposed respectively by the Queen-Regent, the Chapter, and the Pope, representing the Crown, the Church, and the Papal power.

Gawain Douglas, the translator of Virgil, and one of the most learned and accomplished men of his time, made the first move by taking violent possession of St Andrews Castle, having the troops of Angus and the Queen-Regent to support him. The forces he had at his disposal were lulled into a false security by the ease of their conquest. Doubtless the new Archbishop, looking upon himself as the man in possession prepared to enjoy his "lordly pleasure-house" with as little apprehension of approaching danger as ever troubled the hero of his own exquisite poem :—

"King Hart into his comely Castel strang,
Closed about with craft and meikle ure,
So seemly was he set his folk
That he no doubt had of misadventure,
So proudly was he polished plain and pure,
With Youth heid and his lusty levis greeve,
So fair, so fresh, so likely to endure,
And also blyth as bird in summer schene."

But the dark-visaged Prior Hepburn meanwhile was not idle. Silently assembling the fierce Border Clans of the Hepburns and Homes, to whom he was related, he took the Castle by storm, and turned out its occupants in disgrace. Chagrined by his defeat, the Queen-Regent urged her husband, Angus, to besiege the Castle; but the bold Prior, like a true Churchman Militant, set the forces of the Crown at defiance. The combined efforts of the Royal troops and the Men of the Means were unavailing to conquer the hardy Borderers, and the unscrupulous Archbishop-elect for whom they fought.

Matters had thus reached a crisis, and it seemed as though Scotland were to be blessed with three Primates. The wily Bishop Forman, however, meddled less with arms than with men, and he soon gained over the Earl of Home to his cause by the old-fashioned method of bribery and corruption. Hepburn had no choice but to succumb to circumstances. He withdrew his soldiers from the Castle and resigned all claim to the Primacy on condition of receiving the Bishopric of Moray, from which See his opponent Forman had been promoted, together with a pension of three thousand crowns from the hinds of the Archbishop of St Andrews, stipulating that no questions should be asked as to the revenues which he had uplifted whilst in possession of the See. And thus the presentees alike of the Queen-Regent and the Church were conquered by the favourite of the Pope.

The ambition of the Queen-Regent brought evil days upon her. When the Duke of Albany, grandson of James II., and heft-presumptive to the Throne, was appointed Governor of Scotland in 1515, he soon took vengeance upon those friends whom Margaret Tudor had favoured.

The relatives of the Earl of Angus, who were suspected, fell under Albany’s displeasure, and first among them was Gawain Douglas. He was seized upon the pretext of some informality in his presentation to the post of Bishop of Dunkeld, was carried to St Andrews Castle and thrown into the Bottle Dungeon there in 1521, where the vagaries of Fortune would give him food for regretful reflection, in the darkness, upon the brief period when he was master in the Castle :—

"But yesterday I did declare
How that the time was soft and fair,
Come in as fresh as peacock’s feddar—
This day it stangis like ane eddar,
Concluding all in my contrair.

Yesterday fair upsprang the flowers—
This day they are all slain with showers;
And fowlis in forest that sang clear,
Now weepis with ane dreary chere,
Full cauld are baith their beds and bowers.

So next to Summer Winter bein;
Next after comfort caris keen;
Next to dark night the mirthful morrow;
Next after joy aye comis sorrow;
So is this warld and aye has been!"

By some obscure means Gawain Douglas escaped from St Andrews in 1521, and fled to England, where Henry VIII. was his patron; but he died there in the following year, of the plague, aged forty-eight years.

Archbishop Forman died in 1522, and was succeeded by James Beaton, then Archbishop of Glasgow. Beaten was the son of John Beaten of Balfour, in Fife. He took his M.A. degree at St Andrews University in 1492; was Abbot of Dunfermline in 1504; Lord Treasurer, 1505-6.; Chancellor, 1513 to 1526; one of the Regents during the minority of James V.; Bishop of Galloway and Archbishop of Glasgow, 1509; and Archbishop of St Andrews, 1523, continuing in that office till his death in 1539. He kept lordly state within the Castle, and was renowned for his hospitality, especially to French visitors to Scotland. Beaton assisted James V. to throw off the yoke of his step-father, the Earl of Angus, and in revenge Angus laid waste the Archbishop’s Castle of St Andrews. Beaton, however, was a "building Prelate" even when in Glasgow, and he soon restored his Castle to its former magnificence. James V. was frequently entertained there, and it is possible that the King would have made the Castle the residence of his first Queen, Magdalen de Valois, in 1539, had he not built a special house in the Priory grounds for her reception. It was during the rule of Archbishop James Beaton that the persecution of the Scottish Protestants began, and in this work he was especially active, utilizing the dungeons in the Castle for the confinement of heretics. The Archbishop died in 1539, and was buried before the High Altar in the Cathedral of St Andrews.

The successor to James Beaten was his nephew, David Beaten, who was Archbishop from 1539 till 1546, when his death was violently accomplished. He was the third son of John Beaten, eldest brother of James Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews, and was born in 1494; educated at St Andrews, Glasgow and Paris; Abbot of Arbroath, 1523; Bishop of Mirepoix, in Languedoc, 1537; Cardinal of St Stephen in Monte Coélio, by Pope Paul III., 1538; Co-Adjutor of St Andrews, 1538-39; Archbishop of St Andrews, 1539.

The character of Cardinal Beaten has puzzled many Scottish historians, their estimates being largely influenced by religious prejudices on one side or the other. To imagine that he was an empty and illiterate bigot is an open mistake. He was more of the time-server who could perceive where the necessity had arrived for him to bend to the blast, but who would strenuously hold fast that which he had until a better appeared. Yet, however opportunist his actions might be, he stoutly resisted the plans of Henry VIII. to conquer Scotland by capturing the infant Queen Mary. When the game lay between the wily Cardinal and bluff King Hal, it required skilful playing to come off victorious as Beaten did. He was sent by James V. to arrange the King’s marriage with Mary of Guise, which he accomplished successfully.

His uncle and predecessor, James Beaton, as already mentioned, had taken up a violent attitude against the Protestants, and the same policy was adopted and intensified by the Cardinal, and it ultimately led to his destruction. The methods adopted by him had made many enemies, but he pursued the persecution of the heretics, as he accounted them, as if it were a pious duty. The tragic incident of the Cardinal’s assassination has been so often narrated that it need not here be detailed. The dastardly deed took place on Saturday, 29th May 1546, when Kirkaldy of Grange gave admittance by the drawbridge to the Castle to Norman Leslie, Master of Rothes, John Leslie, his uncle, Peter Carmichael, James Melvil, and others to the number of sixteen, who sought out the Cardinal in his room, set upon him with swords and daggers, and violently bereft him of life. They then, it is said, showed the dead body at a window to the populace. The window usually shown to visitors was certainly not the spot of this exposure, as it was erected by Archbishop Hamilton, the Cardinal’s successor.

Assassination is one of the most dangerous weapons that a struggling cause can adopt; and the deed, however convenient for themselves, was loudly blamed by the Protestant party. So far from rising into favour with their partizans, as the conspirators had hoped, they found themselves almost universally execrated. Thus Sir David Lyndsay, no friend to the Cardinal, and a most undoubted and faithful Protestant, expresses his feelings:—

"As for the Cardinal—I grant
He was the man we weel could want,
And we’ll forget him soon!
And yet I think, the sooth to say,
Although the loon is well away,
The deed was foully done."

The assassins had taken possession of the Castle, which was well-provisioned, and expected that their sympathisers would have flocked to support them, and that they would hold this fort till Henry VIII. had sent troops to capture Scotland and end the Roman Catholic Church. In both expectations they were disappointed. Henry VIII., the indomitable champion of Protestantism, died on 28th January 1546-47, and on 30th March following, Francis I. of France, the hero of Romanism, "also died," so that both parties were deprived of their leaders. The Castilians, as they called themselves, found that even the Governor Arran had been the friend of the Cardinal, and they even sent an humble petition to him that he would apply to the Court at Rome for a Bull of Absolution to clear them of their crime. Well they knew that the message to Rome would occupy some time, and meanwhile the English troops might arrive to aid them. This was duplicity, but it was not worse than that of the Governor, who certainly sent a message to Rome, as requested, but took up the interval before the answer was returned in frantic appeals to Francis I. to send skilful bombardiers to besiege St Andrews Castle. Evidently both parties were insincere. The Castilians, meanwhile, had received no inconsiderable additions to their numbers, amongst them the indomitable John Knox, who had written that he recorded the murder of the Cardinal "merrily," and who was yet to become a ruthless leader in the demolition of the Churches of Scotland.

The Governor Arran, who had returned to the Ancient Faith, found that his animated entreaties to the Court of France had been effectual. He had besieged the Castle for four months without victory; but at length the French soldiers and the artillery of Leon Strozzi reduced the Castle to such a ruinous condition that the Castilians capitulated in August 1547. And it is recorded by Lindsay of Pitscottie that, "the French captain entered and spoiled the Castle very vigorously; wherein they found great store of vivers, clothes, armour, silver, and plate, which, with the captives, they carried away in their galleys. The Governor, by the advice of the Council, demolished the Castle, lest it should be a receptacle of rebels." In the "Diurnal of Occur-rents," it is stated that the captors " tuke the auld and young Lairds of Grange, Normand Leslie, the Laird of Pitmilly (Monypenny), Wm. Henry Balnevis, and John Knox, with mony utheris, to the number of sex score persones, and carryit thame all away to France; and tuke the spulzie of the said Castell, quhilk was worth 100,000 pundis and tuke doun the hous." It was this incident which called forth the current verse of the time :—

"Priests, content ye noo;
Priests, content ye noo;
For Norman and his companie
Ha’e filled the galleys fou!"

The French Commander, Leon Strozzi, had instructions to convey his Scottish prisoners to Paris, and the King there decided that many of the Castilians should be incarcerated in prisons at the north of France, the ringleaders, including John Knox, should be sent to the galleys and chained to the oars. The bold spirits who had put the Army of the Regent to defiance, were now treated as malefactors, whose crimes were only short of receiving the extreme penalty of the law. John Knox was imprisoned at Paris in 1548, and released in the following year. He went to Dieppe, Geneva, where he met Calvin, and Frankfort-on-Maine, reaching Scotland in 1556, and resuming his position as a leader of the Scottish Reformation. His death took place at Edinburgh in 1571, when in his sixty-sixth year.

The successor of Cardinal Beaten as Archbishop of St Andrews was John Hamilton, an illegitimate son of James Douglas, first Earl of Arran, and was born in 1511, was Abbot of Paisley, and afterwards Bishop of Dunkeld in 1546, and was translated to St Andrews in 1547 as Archbishop. The first work which he undertook was the repairing of the ruinous Castle, and in this reconstruction he was probably assisted by the masons whom he had employed to complete the building of St Mary’s College. When the Reformers had gained power in Scotland in 1559, Hamilton had to abandon the Castle, and from that time he was a fugitive until he was captured at Stirling in April 1571, accused of complicity in Darnley’s murder, and hanged ignominiously.

The Castle came into the possession of the Protestants under the Regent Moray, and was used as a political prison by him and his successors as Regents, becoming, indeed, "the Bastile of Scotland." Though thus used as a secular prison, it was still a portion of the ecclesiastical property, and James VI. did not feel justified in annexing it without some process of law. This was not accomplished for many years, and the place had become partly ruinous from the repeated attacks made upon it by successive factions of the Scottish nobles. At length the King made a bargain with George Gledstanes, Episcopal Archbishop of St Andrews, as the representative of the ancient Prelates, and in July 1600 a charter gave the Castle to George, Earl of Dunbar, one of the King’s favourites. This arrangement, however, did not last long, for when Episcopacy was fully established in 1612, the Castle was given back to Gledstanes, and the Earl compensated. The new Archbishops did not inhabit the Castle, but used it as an occasional prison, and the place soon became ruinous.

About 1650 the Castle passed into the hands of the Town Council, who shortly afterwards laid violent hands upon the masonry, and used it for repairing the Pier. There is thus little left even of Hamilton’s restorations. One may fancy the shade of good old Bishop Roger addressing his successor, the Cardinal, in such lines as these of the old Scottish poet Robert Henryson :—

"Thy kingdom and thy great empire,
Thy royalty nor rich array,
Shall not endure at thy desire,
But as the wind will wend away.
Thy gold and all thy goodis gay
When Fortune list, will from thee fall;
Sen thou sic sampills seest each day,
Obey and thank thy God for all!"

Return to Traditions and Stories of Scottish Castles


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus