The Siege of 1573 – The City Bombarded from the Castle – Elizabeth’s Spy – Drury’s Dispositions for the Siege – Execution of Kirkaldy – Repair of the Ruins – Execution of Morton – Visit of Charles I. – Procession to Holyrood – Coronation of Charles I. – The Struggle against Episcopacy – Siege of 1640 – The Spectre Drummer – Besieged by Cromwell – Under the Protector – The Restoration – The Argyles – The Accession of James VII. – Sentence of the Earl of Argyle – His clever Escape – Imprisoned four years later – The Last Sleep of Argyle – His Death – Torture of Covenanters – Proclamation of William and Mary – The Siege of 1689 – Interview between Gordon and Dundee – The Castle invested – Brilliant Defence – Capitulation of the Duke of Gordon – The Spectre of Claverhouse.
MARY escaped from Lochleven on the 2nd of May, 1568, and after her defeat fled to England, the last country in Europe, as events showed, wherein she should have sought refuge or hospitality.
After the assassination of the Regent Moray, to his successor, the Regent Morton, fell the task of subduing all who lingered in arms for the exiled queen; and so well did he succeed in this, that, save the eleven acres covered by the Castle rock of Edinburgh, which was held for three years by Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange with a garrison resolute as himself, the whole country was now under his rule.
Kirkcaldy, whose services in France and elsewhere had won him the high reputation of being “the bravest soldier in Europe,” left nothing undone, amid the unsettled state of affairs, to strengthen his post. He raised and trained soldiers without opposition, seized all the provisions that were brought into Leith, and garrisoned St. Giles’s church, into the open spire of which he swung up cannon to keep the citizens in awe. This was on the 28th of March, 1571. After the Duke of Chatelherault, with his Hamiltons – all queen’s men – marched in on the 1st of May, the gables of the church were loopholed for arquebuses. Immediate means were taken to defend the town against the Regent. Troops crowded into it; others were mustered for its protection, and this state of affairs continued for fully three years, during which Kirkaldy baffled the efforts of four successive Regents, till Morton was fain to seek aid from Elizabeth, to wrench from her helpless refugee the last strength that remained to her; and most readily did the English queen agree thereto.
A truce which had been made between Morton and Kirkaldy expired on the 1st of January, 1573, and as the church bells tolled six in the morning, the Castle guns, among which were two 48-pounders, French battardes, and English culverins or 18-pounders (according to the “Memoirs of Kirkaldy”), opened on the city in the dark. It was then full of adherents of James VI., so Kirkaldy cared not where his shot fell, after the warning gun had been previously discharged, that all loyal subjects of the queen should retire. As the ‘grey winter dawn stole in, over spire and pointed roof, the cannonade was chiefly directed from the eastern curtain against the new Fish Market; the baskets in which were beaten so high in the air, that for days after their contents were seen scattered on the tops of the highest houses. In one place a single shot killed five persons and wounded twenty others. Selecting a night when the wind was high and blowing eastward, Kirkaldy made a sally, and set on fire all the thatched houses in West Port, and Castle Wynd, cannonading the while the unfortunates who strove to quench the flames that rolled away towards the east. In March Kirkaldy resolutely declined to come to terms with Morton, though earnestly besought to do so by Henry Killigrew, who came ostensibly as an English envoy, but in reality as a spy from Elizabeth. “He was next visited, in a pretended friendly manner, by Sir William Drury, Elizabeth’s Marshal of Berwick, the same who built Drury House in Wych Street, London, and who fell in a duel with Sir John Burroughs about precedence, and from whom Drury Lane takes its name. When about to enter the Castle gate, an English deserter, who had enlisted under Queen Mary, in memory of some grudge, was about to shoot him with his arquebuse, when he was seized, and given up by Sir William Kirkaldy. This courtesy was ill-requited by his visitor, whose sole object was to note the numbers of his garrison and cannon, the height and strength of the walls, &c.” In anticipation of a siege, the citizens built several traverses to save the High Street from being enfiladed; one of these, formed between the Thieves’ Hole and Bess Wynd, was two ells in thickness, composed of turf and mud; and another near it was two spears high. In the city, the Parliament assembled on the 17th of January, with a sham regalia of gilt brass, as Kirkaldy had the crown and real regalia in the Castle.
When joined by some English pioneers, Morton began to invest the Castle with his paid Scottish companies, who formed a battery on the Castle hill, from which Kirkaldy drove them all in rout on the night of the 15th. On the following day, Sir William Drury, in direct violation of the Treaty of Blois, which declared “that no foreign troops should enter Scotland,” at the head of the old bands of Berwick, about 1,500 men, marched for Edinburgh. A trumpeter, on the 25th of April, summoned Kirkaldy to surrender; but he replied by hoisting, in place of the St. Andrew’s ensign, a red flag on David’s Tower as a token of resistance to the last.
Five batteries had been erected against him by the 15th of May. These were armed with thirty guns, including two enormous bombardes or 100-pounders, which were loaded by means of a crane; a great carthoun or 48-pounder; and many 18-pounders. There was also a movable battery of falcons. Under the Regent Morton, the first battery was on the high ground now occupied by the Heriot’s Hospital; the second, under Drury, opposed to St. Margaret’s Tower, was near the Lothian Road; the third, under Sir George Carey, and the fourth, under Sir Henry Lee, were somewhere near St. Cuthbert’s church; while the fifth, under Sir Thomas Sutton, was on the line of Princes Street, and faced King David’s Tower.
All these guns opened simultaneously on Sunday, the 17th of May, by salvoes; and the shrieks of the women in the Castle were distinctly heard in the camp of the Regent and in the city. The fire was maintained on both sides with unabated vigour – nor were the arquebuses idle – till the 23rd, when Sutton’s guns having breached David’s Tower, the enormous mass, with all its guns and men, and with a roar as of thunder, came crashing over the rocks, and masses of it must have fallen into the loch 200 feet below. The Gate Tower with the portcullis and Wallace’s Tower, were battered down by the 24th. The guns of the queen’s garrison were nearly silenced now, and cries of despair were heard. The great square Peel and the Constable’s Tower, with the curtain between, armed with brass cannon – edifices of great antiquity – came crashing down in succession, and their débris choked up the still existing draw-wells. Still the garrison did not quite lose heart, until the besiegers got possession of the Spur, within which was the well on which the besieged depended chiefly for water. This great battery then covered half of the Esplanade. Holinshed mentions another spring, St. Margaret’s Well, from which Kirkaldy’s men secretly obtained water till the besiegers poisoned it! By this time the survivors were so exhausted by toil and want of food as top be scarcely able to bear armour, or work the remaining guns. On the 28th Kirkaldy requested a parley by beat of drum, and was lowered over the ruins by ropes in his armour, to arrange a capitulation; but Morton would hear of nothing now save an unconditional surrender, so the red flag of defiance was pulled down on the following day. By the Regent’s order the Scottish companies occupied the breaches, with orders to exclude all Englishmen. “The governor delivered his sword to Sir William Drury on receiving the solemn assurance of being restored to his estate and liberty at the intercession of Queen Elizabeth. The remnant of his garrison marched into the city in armour with banners displayed; there came forth, with the Lord Home, twelve knights, 100 soldiers, and ten boys, with several ladies, including the Countess of Argyle.” The brave commander was basely delivered up by Drury to the vindictive power of the Regent; and he and his brother Sir James, with two burgesses of the city, were drawn backwards in carts to the market cross, where they were hanged, and their heads were placed upon the ruined castle walls. Within the latter were found twenty-two close carts for ammunition, and 2,400 cannon balls.
The whole garrison were thrust into the dungeons of adjacent castles in the county; and four soldiers – Glasford, Stewart, Moffat, and Millar – “declared traitors” for having assisted Kirkaldy “in the demolishing and casting down of the bigginis, showting great and small peissis, without fear of God or remorse of conscience,” had to do public penance at one of the doors of St. Giles’s for three days “cleid in sack cleith.”1
The Regent made his brother, George Douglas of Parkhead (one of the assassins of Rizzio), governor, and he it was who built the present half-moon battery, and effected other repairs, so that a plan still preserved shows that by 1575 the fortress had in addition thereto eight distinct towers, facing the town and south-west, armed by forty pieces of cannon, exclusive of Mons Meg, arquebusses, and cut-throats. Over the new gate Morton placed, above the royal arms, those of his own family, a fact which was not forgotten when he lost his head some years after.
In 1576, Alexander Innes of that ilk being summoned to Edinburgh concerning a lawsuit with a clansman, Innes of Pethknock, met the latter by chance near the market cross – then the chief promenade – and amid high words struck him dead with his dagger, and continued to lounge quietly near the body. He was made prisoner in the Castle, and condemned to lose his head; but procured a remission from the corrupt Regent by relinquishing one of his baronies, and gave an entertainment to all his friends. “If I had my foot once loose,” said he, vauntingly, “I would fain see if this Earl of Morton dare take possession of my land!” This, though a jest, was repeated to Morton, who retained the bond for the barony, but, according to the history of the Innes family, had the head of Innes instantly struck off within the fortress.
So odious became the administration of Morton that, in 1578, James VI., though only twelve years of age, was prevailed upon by Argyle and Athole to summon the peers,
From this period till the time of Charles I. little concerning the Castle occurs in the Scottish annals, save the almost daily committal of State prisoners to its dungeons, some of which are appalling places, hewn out of the living rock, and were then destitute nearly of all light. From one of these, Mowbray of Barnbougle, incarcerated in 1602 for slaying a servant of James VI. in the palace of Dunfermline, in attempting to escape, fell headlong through the air, and was dashed on the stony pathway that led to the Royal Mews 300 feet below. His body was quartered, and placed on the Cross, Nether Bow, Potter Row, and West Ports.
In May, 1633, Charles I. visited the capital of his native country, entering it on the 16th by the West Port, amid a splendour of many kinds; and on the 17th, under a salute of fifty-two guns, he proceeded to the Castle attended by sixteen coaches and the Horse Guards. He remained in the royal lodgings one night, and then returned to Holyrood. On the 17th of June he was again in the Castle, when the venerable Earl of Mar gave a magnificent banquet in the great hall, where many of the first nobles in Scotland and England were, as Spalding states, seated on each side of Charles. To that hall he was conducted next morning, and placed on a throne under a velvet canopy, by the Duke of Lennox, Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland. The peers of the realm then entered in procession wearing their crimson velvet robes, each belted with his sword, and with his coronet borne before him. The Chancellor, Viscount Dupplin, addressed him in the name of the Parliament. Charles was then conducted to the gate, from whence began a procession to Holyrood; and long it was since Edinburgh had been the scene of anything so magnificent. Every window was crowded with eager faces, and every house was gay with flowers, banners, and tapestry. “Mounted on a roan horse, and having a saddle of rich velvet sweeping the ground, and massive with pasements of gold, Alexander Clark, the Provost, appeared at the head of the bailies and council to meet the king, while the long perspective of the crowded street (then terminated by the spire of the Nether Bow) was lined (as Spalding says) by a brave company of soldiers, all clad in white satin doublets, black velvet breeches, and silk stockings, with hats, feathers, scarfs, and bands. These gallants had dainty muskets, pikes, and gilded partisans. Six trumpeters, in gold lace and scarlet, preceded the procession, which moved slowly from the Castle gate. Then came the lords in their robes of scarlet ermined and laced, riding, with long foot-mantles; the bishops in their white rochets and lawn sleeves looped with gold; the viscounts in scarlet robes; Haddington bearing the Privy Seal; Morton the Treasurer’s golden mace, with its globe of sparkling beryl; the York and Norroy English kings-at-arms with their heralds, pursuivants, and trumpeters in tabards blazing with gold and embroidery; Sir James Balfour, the Scottish Lion king, preceding the spurs, sword, sceptre, and crown, borne by earls. Then came the Lord High Constable, riding, with his bâton, supported by the Great Chamberlain and Earl Marshal, preceding Charles, who was arrayed in a robe of purple velvet once worn by James IV., and having a foot-cloth embroidered with silver and pearls, and his long train upborne by the young Lords Lorne, Annan, Dalkeith, and Kinfauns. Then came the Gentlemen Pensioners, marching with partisans uplifted; then the Yeoman of the Guard, clad in doublets of russet velvet, with the royal arms raised in embossed work of silver and gold on the back and breast of each coat – each company commanded by an earl. The gentlemen of the Scottish Horse Guards were all armed à la cuirassier, and carried swords, petronels, and musketoons.”
But most of the assembled multitude looked darkly and doubtfully on. In almost every heart there lurked the secret dread of that tampering with the Scottish Church which for years had been conspicuous.
Charles, with great solemnity, was crowned king of Scotland, England, France, and Ireland, by the Bishop of St. Andrews, who placed the crown upon his head; and on the 18th July he left Edinburgh on his return to London. Under the mal-influence of the zealot Laud ruin and civil was soon came, when Episcopacy was imposed upon the people. A committee of Covenanters was speedily formed at Edinburgh, and when the king’s commissioner arrived, in 1638, he found the Castle beset by armed men. His efforts at mediation were futile; and famous old “Jenny Geddes” took the initiative by dashing her stool at the Dean’s head in St. Giles’s church. But Jenny’s real name is now said to have been Barbara Hamilton. All Scotland was up in arms against Episcopacy. War was resolved on, and with a noble ardour thousands of trained Scottish officers and soldiers, who had been pushing their fortune by the shores of the Elbe and the Rhine, in Sweden and Germany, came pouring home to enrol under the banner of the Covenant; a general attack was concerted on every fortress in Scotland; and the surprise of Edinburgh was undertaken by the commander of the army, Sir Alexander Leslie of Balgonie, Marshal of Sweden under Gustavus Adolphus – a soldier second to none in Europe.
This he achieved successfully on the evening of the 28th March, when he blew in the barrier gate with a petard. The Covenanters rushed through the Spur sword in hand, and the second gate fell before their sledge-hammers, and then Haldane of Gleneagles, the governor, gave up his sword. That night Leslie gave the Covenanting lords a banquet in the hall of the Castle, whereon they hoisted their blue standard with the motto, “For an oppressed kirk and broken Covenant.” Montrose’s regiment, 1,500 strong, replaced the garrison; Lord Balmerino was appointed governor, and many cavaliers were committed prisoners to his care, and remained there till the pacification of Berwick.
On the 19th of November, [1638,] King Charles’s birthday, a great portion of the curtain-wall, which was very old, fell with a crash over the rocks; and the insurgents rejoiced at this event as boding evil to the royal cause. After the pacification, the Castle, with thirty others, was restored to the king, who placed therein a garrison, under Sir Patrick Ruthven (previously Governor of Ulm under the great Gustavus), who marched in, on the 25th February, 1640, with drums beating and matches lighted. As the magistrates refused to supply him with provisions, and raised 500 men to keep a watch upon his garrison, this testy veteran of the Swedish wars fired a few heavy shot at random on the city, and on the renewal of hostilities between Charles and the Scots, Leslie was ordered by the Parliament, on the 12th June, to reduce the fortress. Ruthven’s reply to a summons, was to open fire with guns and matchlocks in every direction, and a sortie, under Scrimgeour, the constable, was made from the gate. Batteries were thrown up at nearly the same places where they had been formed in Kirkaldy’s time. Ruthven refused to give the estates the use of the regalia. Under Colonel Hamilton, master of the ordnance, the batteries opened with vigour, while select musketeers were “told off,” to aim at individuals on the ramparts. Most bitter was the defence of Ruthven, whose cannonade imperilled the whole city and the beautiful spire of St. Giles’s; while poor people reaping in the fields at a distance were sometimes killed by it.
The Covenanters sprung a mine, and blew up the south-east angle of the Spur; but the rugged aspect of the breach was such that few of their officers seemed covetous of leading a forlorn hope, especially as old Ruthven, in his rich armour and plumed hat, appeared at the summit heading a band of pikes. At last the Laird of Drum and a Captain Weddal, at the head of 185 men, under a murderous matchlock fire, made a headlong rush, but ere they gained the gap, a cannon loaded nearly to the muzzle with musket-balls was depressed to sweep it, and did so with awful effect. According to the historian of the “Troubles,” twenty men were blown to shreds. Weddal had both thighs broken, and Somerville, with a few who were untouched, grovelled close under the wall, where Ruthven, who recognised him as an old Swedish comrade, besought him to retire, adding, “I derive no pleasure in the death of gallant men.” Of the whole escalade only thirty-three escaped alive, and of these many were wounded, a result which cooled the ardour of the besiegers; but after a three months’ blockade, finding his garrison few, and all suffering from scurvy, and that provisions and ammunition were alike expended, on the 18th September, after a blockade of five months in all, during which 1,000 men had been slain, he marched out with the honours of war (when so ill with scurvy that he could scarcely walk) at the head of seventy men, with one drum beating, one standard flying, matches lighted, and two pieces of cannon, with balls in their muzzles and the port-fires blazing at both ends. They all sailed for England in a king’s ship. Ruthven fought nobly for the king there, and died at a good old age in 1651, Earl of Forth and Brentford. Argyle, the Dictator of Scotland, in the autumn of 1648 invited Oliver Cromwell to Edinburgh, and entertained him with unwonted magnificence in the great hall of the Castle; afterwards they held many meetings in Lady Home’s house, in the canongate, where the resolution to take away the king’s life was discussed and approved of, for which the said Dictator afterwards lost his head.
The next important event in the history of
“The steep, the iron-belted rock,
Where trusted lie the monarchy’s last gems,
The sceptre, sword, and crown that graced the brows
Since Fergus, father of a hundred kings,”
was in the days of Cromwell. On tidings reaching Scotland, after the coronation of Charles II., that the former was advancing north at the head of an army, the Parliament ordered the Castle to be put in a state of defence. There were put therein a select body of troops under Colonel Walter Dundas, 1,000 bolls of meal and malt, 1,000 tons of coal, 67 brass and iron guns, including Mons Meg and howitzers, 8,000 stand of arms, and a vast store of warlike munition.
According to the superstition of the time the earth and air over Scotland teemed with strange omens of the impending strife, and in a rare old tract, of 1650, we are told of the alarm created in the fortress by the appearance of a “horrible apparition” beating upon a drum.
On a dark night the sentinel, under the shadow of the gloomy half-moon, was alarmed by the beating of a drum upon the esplanade and the tread of marching feet, on which he fired his musket. Col. Dundas hurried forth, but could see nothing on the bleak expanse, the site of the now demolished Spur. The sentinel was truncheoned, and another put in his place, to whom the same thing happened, and he, too, fired his musket, affirming that he heard the tread of soldiers marching to the tuck of drum. To Dundas nothing was visible, nothing audible but the moan of the autumn wind. He took a musket and the post of sentinel. Anon he heard the old Scots march, beaten by an invisible drummer, who came close up to the gate; then came other sounds – the tramp of feet and clank of accoutrements; still nothing was visible, till the whole impalpable array seemed to halt close by Dundas, who was bewildered with consternation. Again a drum was heard beating the English, and then the French march, when the alarm ended; but the next drums that were beaten there were those of Oliver Cromwell.
When the latter approached Edinburgh he found the whole Scottish army skilfully entrenched parallel with Leith Walk, its flanks protected by guns and howitzers on the bastions of the latter and the Calton Hill. The sharp encounter there, and at St. Leonard’s Hill, in both of which he was completely repulsed, are apart from the history of the fortress, from the ramparts of which the young king Charles II. witnessed them; but the battle of Dunbar subsequently placed all the south of Scotland at the power of Cromwell, when he was in desperation about returning for England, the Scots having cut off his retreat. On the 7th September, 1650, he entered Edinburgh, and placed it under martial law, enforcing the most rigid regulations; yet the people had nothing to complain of, and justice was impartially administered. He took up his residence at the Earl of Moray’s house – that stately edifice on the south side of the Canongate – and quartered his soldiers in Holyrood and the city; but his guard, or outlying picket, was in Dunbar’s Close – so named from the victors of Dunbar; and tradition records that a handsome old house at the foot of Sellars Close was occasionally occupied by him while pressing the siege of the Castle, which was then full of those fugitive preachers whose interference had caused the ruin of Leslie’s army. With them he engaged in a curious polemical discussion, and is said by Pinkerton to have preached in St. Giles’s churchyard to the people. To facilitate the blockade he demolished the ancient Weigh House, which was not replaced till after the Restoration.
Reduced Fac-simile of a Plan of the Siege of Edinburgh Castle in 1573. (From Holinshed.)
He threw up batteries at Heriot’s Hospital, which was full of his wounded; on the north bank of the loch, and the stone bartisan of Davidson’s house on the Castle Hill. He hanged in view of the Castle, a poor old gardener who had supplied Dundas with some information; and during these operations, Nicoll, the diarist, records that there were many slain, “both be schot of canoun and musket, as weell Scottis as Inglische.” Though the garrison received a good supply of provisions, by the bravery of Captain Augustine, a German soldier of fortune who served in the Scottish army, and who hewed a passage into the fortress through Cromwell’s guards, at the head of 120 horse, Dundas, when tampered with, was cold in his defence. Cromwell pressed the siege with vigour. He mustered colliers from the adjacent country, and forced them, under fire, to work at a mine on the south side, near the new Castle road, where it can still be seen in the freestone rock. Dundas, a traitor from the first, now lost all heart, and came to terms with Cromwell, to whom he capitulated on the 12th of December, 1650.2
Exactly as St. Giles’s clock struck twelve the garrison marched out, with drums beating and colours flying, after which the Castle was garrisoned by “English blasphemers” (as the Scots called them) under Colonel George Fenwick. Cromwell, in reporting all this to the English Parliament, says:- “I think I need say little of the strength of this place, which, if it had not come as it did, would have cost much blood… I must needs say, not any skill or wisdom of ours, but the good will of God hath given you this place.”
By the second article of the treaty the records of Scotland were transmitted to Stirling, on the capture of which they were sent in many hogsheads to London, and lost at sea when being sent back.
Dundas was arraigned before the Parliament, and his reputation was never freed from the stain cast upon it by the capitulation; and Sir James Balfour, his contemporary, plainly calls him a base, cowardly, “traitorous villane!”
Cromwell defaced the royal arms at the Castle gate and elsewhere; yet his second in command, Monk, was fêted at a banquet by the magistrates, when, on the 4th May, 1652, he was proclaimed Protector of the Commonwealth.
At first brawls were frequent, and English soldiers were cut off on every available occasion. One day in the High Street, an officer came from Cromwell’s house “in great chafe,” says Patrick Gordon, and as he mounted his horse, rashly cried aloud, “With my own hands I killed the Scot to whom this horse and these pistols belonged. Who dare say I wronged him?” “I dare, and thus avenge him!” exclaimed one who stood near, and, running the Englishman through the body, mounted his horse, dashed through the nearest gate, and escaped into the fields.
For ten years there was perfect peace in Edinburgh, and stage coaches began to run every three weeks between it and the “George Inn, without Aldersgate, London,” for £4 10S. a seat. Lambert’s officers preached in the High Kirk, and buff-coated troopers taught and expounded in the Parliament House; and so acceptable became the sway of the Protector to civic rulers that they had just proposed to erect a colossal stone monument in his honour, when the Restoration came!
It was hailed with the wildest joy by all the Scottish people. The cross of Edinburgh was garlanded with flowers; its fountains ran with wine; 300 dozen of glasses were broken there, in drinking to the health of His Sacred Majesty and the perdition of Cromwell, who in effigy was consigned to the devil. Banquets were given, and salutes fired from the Castle, where Mons Meg was discharged by the hand of the Major-General commanding.
From the “Archaeologia Scotica” we cull the following curious anecdote:- Soon after the death of Cromwell, the English Council, in 1660, suspecting General Monk’s fidelity, sent an order to remove him from the head of their forces in Scotland. Their ordinary special messenger, who had usually borne such messages, was entrusted with this one, which he was ordered not to deliver to Monk, but to (Colonel Newman) the Governor of Edinburgh Castle. It chanced that the principal servant of the former met, near the Canongate-head, his old friend the messenger, whom he accosted with cordiality. “How comes it,” he asked, “that you go in this direction, and not, as usual, to the General at Dalkeith?” “Because my despatches are for the Castle.” With ready wit the servant of Monk suspected that something was wrong, and proposed they should have a bottle together. The messenger partook freely; the servant purloined the despatch; Monk received it, concealed its nature, and at once began his march southward, with the army of Scotland, to accomplish the Restoration.
When the Puritan gunners in the Castle were ordered to fire a salute in honour of that event, an old “saint” of Oliver’s first campaigns bluntly refused obedience, saying, “May the devil blaw me into the air gif I lowse a cannon this day! If I do, some man shall repent it!” Then according to Nicoll, he was forced to discharge a gun, which burst, and verifying his words, “shuites his bellie from him, and blew him quyte over the Castle wall, in the sichte of mony pepill.” On the 3rd of January, 1661, Scottish companies were enlisted under the Earl of Middleton to re-garrison the fortress, wherein the first Marquis of Argyle was committed to prison, having been sent from the Tower on the accusation of “complying with Cromwell in the death of Charles I.”
Thus he found himself a captive in the dungeons under the same hall in which he had feasted the Protector, and where he could hear the salutes fired as the remains of his rival Montrose were laid in the church of St. Giles. He was brought to trial in the Parliament House, where Middleton, with fierce exultation, laid before the peers certain letters written by the Marquis to Cromwell, all expressive of attachment to him personally and politically. These documents had been perfidiously sent to Scotland by General Monk. The marquis was condemned to die the death of a traitor. From the Castle he begged in vain a ten days’ respite, that he might crave pity of the king. “I placed the crown upon his head,” said he, mournfully, “and this is my reward!”
An escape was planned. He lay in bed for some days feigning illness, and the Marchioness came in a sedan to visit him. Being of the same stature, he assumed her dress and coif; but when about to step into the sedan his courage failed him, and he abandoned the attempt. The night before execution he was removed to the most ancient prison in Edinburgh – an edifice in Mauchine’s Close, long since removed, where the Marchioness awaited him. “The Lord will requite it,” she exclaimed, as she wept bitterly on his breast. “Forbear, Margaret,” said he, calmly, “I pity my enemies, and am as content in this ignominious prison as in yonder Castle of Edinburgh.”
With his last breath he expressed abhorrence of the death of Charles I., and on the 27th May his head was struck from his body by the Maiden, at the west end of the Tolbooth. By patent all his ancient earldom and estates were restored to his son, Lord Lorne, then a prisoner in the Castle, where on one occasion he had a narrow escape, when playing “with hand bullets” (bowls?) one of which, as Wodrow records, struck him senseless.
On the 30th May, 1667, the batteries of the Castle returned the salute of the English fleet, which came to anchor in the roads under the pennant of Sir Jeremiah Smythe, who came thither in quest of the Dutch fleet, which had been bombarding Burntisland.
James Duke of Albany and York succeeded the odious Duke of Lauderdale in the administration of Scottish affairs, and won the favour of all classes, while he resided at Holyrood awaiting the issue of the famous Bill of Exclusion, which would deprive him of the throne of England on the demise of his brother, and hence it became his earnest desire to secure at least Scotland, the hereditary kingdom of his race. On his first visit to the Castle, on 30th October, 1680, Mons Meg burst when the guns were saluting – a ring near the touch-hole giving way, which, saith Fountainhall, was deemed by all men a bad omen. His lordship adds that as the gun was charged by an English gunner, hence “the Scots resented it extremely, thinking he might, of malice, have done it purposely, they having no cannon in all England so big as she.” During the duke’s residence at Holyrood a splendid court was kept there. The rigid decorum of Scottish manners gradually gave way before the affability of such entertainers as the Duchess Mary d’ Este of Modena, and the Princess Anne, “and the novel luxuries of the English court formed an attraction to the Scottish grandees. Tea was introduced for the first time into Scotland on this occasion, and given by the duchess as a great treat to the Scottish ladies. Balls, plays, and masquerades were also attempted; but the last proved too great an innovation on the rigid manners of that period to be tolerated.”
The accession of King James VII. Is thus recorded by Lord Fountainhall (“Decisions,” vol. i.): – “Feb. 6th, 1685. The Privy Council is called extraordinary, on the occasion of an express sent them by his royal highness the Duke of Albany, telling that, on Monday the 2nd February, the king was seized with a violent and apoplectic fit, which stupefied him for four hours; but, by letting twelve ounces of blood and applying cupping-glasses to his head, he revived. This unexpected surprise put our statesman in a hurly-burly, and was followed by the news of the death of his Majesty, which happened on the 7th of February, and came home to us on the 10th, in the morning; whereupon a theatre was immediately erected at the cross of Edinburgh, and the militia companies drawn out in arms; and, at ten o’clock, the Chancellor, Treasurer, and all the other officers of State, with the nobility, lords of Privy Council and Session, the magistrates and town council of Edinburgh, came to the cross, with the lion king-at-arms, his heralds and trumpeters; the Chancellor carried his own purse, and, weeping, proclaimed James Duke of Albany the only and undoubted king of this realm, by the title of James VII., the clerk registrar reading the words of the Act to him, and all of them swore faith an allegiance to him. Then the other proclamation was then read, whereby King James VII. continued all offices till he had more time to send down new commissions… Then the Castle shot a round of guns, and sermon began, wherein Mr. John Robertson did regret our loss, but desired our tears might be dried up when we looked upon so brave and excellent a successor. The Privy Council called for all the seals, and broke them, appointing new ones with the name of James VII. to be made.
In 1681 the Earl of Argyle was committed to the Castle for the third time for declining the oath required by the obnoxious Test Act as Commissioner of the Scottish Treasury; and on the 12th of December an assize brought in their verdict, by the Marquis of Montrose, his hereditary foe, finding him guilty “of treason and leasing telling,” for which he received the sentence of death. His guards in the Castle were doubled, while additional troops were marched into the city to enforce order. He despatched a messenger to Charles II. seeking mercy, but the warrant had been hastened. At six in the evening of the 20th December he was informed that next day at noon he would be conveyed to the city prison; but by seven o’clock he had conceived – like his father – a plan to escape.
Lady Sophia Lindsay (of Balcarres), wife of his son Charles, had come to bid him a last farewell; on her departure he assumed the disguise and office of her lackey, and came forth from his prison at eight, bearing up her long train. A thick fall of snow and the gloom of the December evening rendered the attempt successful; but at the outer gate the sentinel roughly grasped his arm. In agitation the earl dropped the train of Lady Sophia, who, which singular presence of mind, fairly slapped his face with it, and thereby smearing his features with half-frozen mud, exclaimed, “Thou careless loon!”
Laughing at this, the soldier permitted them to pass. Lady Sophia entered her coach; the earl sprang on the footboard behind, and was rapidly driven from the fatal gate. Disguising himself completely, he left Edinburgh, and reached Holland, then the focus for all the discontented spirits in Britain. Lady Sophia was committed to the Tolbooth, but was not otherwise punished. After remaining four years in Holland, he returned, and attempted an insurrection in the west against King James, in unison with that of Monmouth in England, but was irretrievably defeated at Muirdykes.
Attired like a peasant, disguised by a long beard, he was discovered and overpowered by three militiamen, near Paisley. “Alas, alas, unfortunate Argyle!” He exclaimed, as they struck him down; then an officer, Lieutenant Shaw (of the house of Greenock), ordered him to be bound hand and foot and sent to Edinburgh, where, by order of the Secret Council, he was ignominiously conducted through the streets with his hands corded behind him, bareheaded, escorted by the horse guards, and preceded by the hangman to the Castle, where, for a third time, he was thrust into his old chamber. On the day he was to die he despatched the following note to his son. It is preserved in the Salton Charter chest:-
“Edr. Castle, 30th June, ’85.
“DEARE JAMES, – Learn to fear God; it is the only way to make you happie here and hereafter. Love and respect my wife, and hearken to her advice. The Lord bless. I am your loving father,
The last day of his life this unfortunate noble passed pleasantly and sweetly; he dined heartily, and, retiring to a closet, lay down to sleep ere the fatal hour came. At this time one of the Privy Council arrived, and insisted on entering. The door was gently opened, and there lay the great Argyle in his heavy irons, sleeping the placid sleep of infancy.
“The conscience of the renegade smote him,” says Macaulay; “he turned sick at heart, ran out of the Castle, and took refuge in the dwelling of a lady who lived hard by. There he flung himself on a couch, and gave himself up to an agony of remorse and shame. His kinswoman, alarmed by his looks and groans, thought he had been taken with sudden illness, and begged him to drink a cup of sack. ‘No, no,’ said he, ‘it will do me no good.’ She prayed him to tell what had disturbed him. ‘I have been,’ he said, ‘in Argyle’s prison. I have seen him within an hour of eternity sleeping as sweetly as ever man did. But as for me – !’ “
At noon on the 30th June, 1685, he was escorted to the market cross to be “beheaded and have his head affixed to the Tolbooth on a high pin of iron.” When he saw the old Scottish guillotine, under the terrible square knife of which his father, and so many since the days of Morton, had perished, he saluted it with his lips, saying, “It is the sweetest maiden I have ever kissed.” “My lord dies a Protestant!” Cried a clergyman aloud to the assembled thousands. “Yes,” said the Earl, stepping forward, “and not only a Protestant, but with a heart-hatred of Popery, Prelacy, and all superstition.” He made a brief address to the people, laid his head between the grooves of the guillotine, and died with equal courage and composure. His head was placed on the Tolbooth gable, and his body was ultimately sent to the burial-place of his family, Kilmun, on the shore of the Holy Loch in Argyle.
While this mournful tragedy was being enacted his countess and family were detained prisoners in the Castle, wherein daily were placed fresh victims who were captured in the West. Among these were Richard Rumbold, a gentleman of Hertfordshire, who bore a colonel’s commission under Argyle (and had planted the standard of revolt on the Castle of Ardkinglass), and Mr. William Spence, styled his “servitour.”
Both were treated with terrible severity, especially Rumbold. In a cart, bareheaded, and heavily manacled, he was conveyed from the Water Gate to the Castle, escorted by Graham’s City Guard, with drums beating, and on the 28th of June he was hanged, drawn, and quartered, at the Cross, where his heart was torn from his breast, an exhibited, dripping and reeking, by the executioner, on the point of a plug-bayonet, while he exclaimed, “Behold the heart of Richard Rumbold, a bloody English traitor and murderer!” According to Wodrow and others, his head, after being placed on the West Port, was sent to London on the 4th of August, while his quarters were gibbeted in the four principal cities in Scotland.
Mr. William Spence was put to the torture by the Privy Council concerning his master’s affairs, and the contents of several letters in cipher. After that he was put in the hands of
On tidings of William’s intended invasion the whole standing forces of Scotland marched south, to form a junction with the English on Salisbury Plain, where they conjointly deserted King James.
The Castle at this crisis had been entrusted by the latter to the Duke of Gordon, a Roman Catholic, who vowed to preserve it “for the king, though the Prince of Orange should obtain possession of every other fortress in the kingdom.”
As an example of how the people were imposed upon in those days, when rumours were easily circulated and difficult of contradiction, we may here quote an anonymous broadsheet, which was then hawked about the streets of London and other places in England:-
“A true relation of the horrid and bloody massacre
“By the Irish Papists; who landed sixty miles from Edinburgh, putting all to fire and sword in their way to that city.
“Barwick, Dec. 23rd, 1688.
“SIR, – Yesternight we had the sad and surprising news, by an Express of the Council of Scotland to our Governour, that about 20,000 Irish were landed in Scotland, about sixty miles from Edinburgh, putting all to fire and sword, to whom the Apostate Chancellor of that kingdom will join with the rest of the bloody Papists there. And truly, sir, that kingdom being unarm’d and undisciplin’d, those massacres will, in a short space, run a great length. I desire you may disperse this news abroad, if it be not in town before your receipt of this; for that country, and the North of England, without speedy relief, is in great danger of depopulation. And the Duke of Gordon hath in his possession the Castle of Edinburgh, whereby he can at pleasure level that city with the ground. At twelve of the clock yesternight our Governor, Lieut.-Collonel Billingsley, dispatched an Express to the Lords Danby and Lumley for drawing their forces to this town. I received yours to-day, which being Sabbath-day, I beg your pardon for brevity.
“I was told they see the fires and burnings of those Rebels at Edinburgh; this is the beginning of the discovery of the Popish intrigue. God defend England from the French, and his Highness the Prince of Orange from the bloody Popish attempts!
“London: Published by J. Wells, St. Paul’s Alley, St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1688.”
Tidings of William’s landing filled the Scottish Presbyterians with the wildest joy, and the magistrates of Edinburgh, who but two years before had been extravagant in their protestations to James VII., were among the first to welcome the invader; and the city filled fast with bands of jubilant revolutionists, rendering it unsafe for all of cavalier tenets to be within the walls. On the 11th of April, 1688, William and Mary were proclaimed at the cross king and queen of Scotland, after an illegally constituted Convention of the Estates, which was attended by only thirty representatives, declared that King James had forfeited all title to the crown, thus making a vacancy. A great and sudden change now came over the realm. “Men,” says Dr. Chambers, “who had been lately in danger of their lives for conscience’ sake, or starving in foreign lands, were now at the head of affairs! The Earl of Melville, Secretary of State; Crawford, President of Parliament; Argyle, restored to title and lands, and a Privy Councillor; Dalrymple of Stair, Hume of Marchmont, Stewart of Goodtrees, and many other exiles, came back from Holland, to resume prominent positions in the public service at home; while the instruments of the late unhappy Government were either captives under suspicion, or living terror-struck at their country houses. Common people, who had been skulking in mosses from Calverhouse’s dragoons, were now marshalled into a regiment, and planted as a watch on the Perth and Forfar gentry. There were new figures in the Privy Council, and none of them ecclesiastical. There was a wholly new set of senators on the bench of the Court of Session. It looked like a sudden shift of scenes in a pantomime rather than a series of ordinary occurrences.” For three days and nights Edinburgh was a wild scene of pillage and rapine. The palace was assailed, the chapel royal sacked; and the Duke of Gordon, on finding that the rabble, drunk and maddened by wine and spirits found in the cellars of cavalier families who had fled, were wantonly firing on his sentinels, drew up the drawbridge, to cut off all communication with the city; but finding that his soldiers were divided in their religious and political opinions, and that a revolt was impending, he called a council of officers to frustrate the attempt; and the Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel John Winram, of Liberton and the Inch House, Colonel of the Scots Foot Guards in 1683, undertook to watch the men, forty-four of whom it was deemed necessary to strip of their uniforms and expel from the fortress. In their place came thirty Highlanders, on the 11th of November, and soon after forty-five more, under Gordon of Midstrath.
By the Privy Council the Duke was requested, as a Roman Catholic, to surrender his command to the next senior Protestant officer; but he declined, saying, “I am bound only to obey King James VII.”
A few of the Life Guards and Greys, who had quitted the Scottish army on its revolt, now
The friends of William of Orange having formed a plan for the assassination of Dundee and Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, compelled them and all loyalists to quit the city. “At the head of his forlorn band, consisting of sixty cavalier troopers – Guardsmen and Greys mingled – Dundee, the idol of his party, quitted Edinburgh by the Leith Wynd Port; and, through a telescope, the Duke of Gordon watched them as they wound past the venerable church of the Holy Trinity, among the cottages and gardens of Moutries Hill, and as they rode westward by the Lang Gate, a solitary roadway bordered by fields and farmhouses.”
According to Balcarres this was on the 18th of March, 1689, and as Gordon wished to confer with the viscount, the latter, on seeing a red flag waved at the western postern, rode down the Kirk Brae, and, quitting his horse, all heavily accoutred as he was, climbed the steep rock to hold that conference of which so little was ever known. He is said to have advised the duke to leave the Castle in charge of Winram, on whom they could depend, and seek their fortunes together among the loyal clans in the north. But the duke declined, adding, “Whither go you?”
“Wherever the shade of Montrose may direct me,” was the pensive and poetical reply, and then they parted to meet no more. But the moment Dundee was gone the drums of the Cameronians beat to arms, and they came swarming out of their places of concealment, mustering for immediate action, while, in the name of the Estates, the Earls of Tweeddale and Lothian appeared at the gate of the fortress, requesting the duke to surrender it within four-and-twenty hours, and daringly offering a year’s pay to every soldier who would desert him.
“My lords,” said he, “without the express orders of my royal master, James VII., I cannot surrender this castle.”
By the heralds and pursuivants the Duke of Gordon was now, as the only alternative, declared a traitor. He tossed them some guineas to drink the health of James VII., adding, with a laugh, “I would advise you not to proclaim men traitors who wear the king’s coat till they have turned it.”
Under the highest penalties, all persons were now forbidden to correspond with him of his garrison, and the Earl of Leven was ordered to blockade the rock with his Cameronians, to whom were added 300 Highlanders under Argyle. Out of this body there were formed in one day two battalions of the line, which still exist – the 25th, or old Edinburgh regiment, which bears on its colours the triple castle, with the motto, “Nisi Dominus Frustra,”3 and the 26th, or Cameronians, whose appointments bear the five-pointed mullet – the arms of their first colonel; while three battalions of the Scots Brigade, from Holland, were on their march, under Lieutenant-General Hugh Mackay of Scoury, to press the siege. Daily matters looked darker and darker for the gallant Gordon, for now seventy-four rank and file demanded their discharges, and were, like their predecessors, stripped and expelled. The gates were then barricaded, and preparations made for resistance to the last; but though Sir James Grant of Dalvey (formerly King’s Advocate), and Gordon of Edintore, contrived to throw in a supply of provisions, the duke wrote King James that he could not hold out beyond the month of June unless relieved.
The entire strength of the garrison, including officers and gentlemen-volunteers, was only eighty-six men, who had to work twenty-two pieces of cannon (exclusive of field-pieces) ranging from 42 to 12-pounders. They had no doctor, no engineer, no money, and only thirty barrels of powder in actual quantity. It was truly a desperate hazard!
By the 18th the entire rock was fully and hopelessly invested by the Earl of Leven, a Brandenburg colonel, who displayed a great want of skill; and on the following night the battlements were blazing with bonfires and tar barrels in honour of King James’s safe arrival in Ireland, of which tidings had probably been given by Grant of Dalvey. On the 25th came Mackay, with the three battalions of the Scots Brigade, each consisting of twelve companies, all splendidly-trained soldiers, a brigade of guns, and a great quantity of woolpacks with which to form breastworks. All within the Castle who had gun-shot wounds suffered greatly from the want of medical attendance, till the duke’s family physician contrived to join him, probably by the postern.
On the 13th of March he heavily cannonaded the western entrenchments, and by dint of shot and shell retarded the working parties; but General Mackay now formed a battery of 18-pounders, at the Highriggs, opposed to the royal lodging and the half-moon. On the 3rd of April the Duke discovered that the house of Coates, the ancient seat of the Byres of that ilk, was full of soldiers; he cannonaded it from the present mortar battery, and did great execution. On the 1st of April a parley was asked by beat of drum, during the funeral of Sir George Lockhart, who had been assassinated by Chiesley of Dalry, and whose remains were laid in the Greyfriars’ churchyard. Fresh troops now came in, under Lieutenant-Generals Sir John Lanier and James Douglas of Queensberry.
Among these (according to the records of the 4th Hussars) were the Royal Scots Grey Dragoons, Colchester’s Cuirassiers (now 3rd Dragoon Guards), and the Prince Anne of Denmark’s Dragoons (now 4th Hussars), and to resist longer seemed more than ever madness rather than chivalry.
A new battery was formed where the Register House stands now, another of mortars in rear of Heriot’s Hospital. A breach was effected in the western wall, but the steepness of the rock rendered an assault impossible. Many bombs fell into the Portsburgh, greatly to the terror of denizens there, who found themselves between a cross fire. On the 21st sixteen bombs exploded in the Castle, and one blew up the stone steps of the chapel. At this time snow was falling heavily till it was two feet deep; and it was industriously saved by the garrison for water. By the 22nd every building in the place was roofless, yet the now tattered and half-clad soldiers stood manfully to their guns say and night, will worn with toil and hunger, the gallant duke, though sinking with fever, keeping their enthusiasm alive. At this crisis he beat a parley, asking medical aid for the wife of a soldier who was taken in labour, and, with singular inhumanity, it was refused. On the 31st Sir John Lanier began to entrench himself under the half-moon, though sorely impeded by musketry, and four days after the besiegers opened with showers of hand-grenades from their mortar batteries. Colonel Winram proposed a sally, to which the duke objected. John Grant, a volunteer, daringly went out in the night to discover if there was any hope of relief, and two days after he signalled from the Lang Gate, “None!”
There were scarcely men left now to relieve the guards, and still less to man the breaches; and those who were most effective were on sentinel duty from ten at night till three in the morning. The wells now were completely dried up, and for “ten consecutive days this handful of brave fellows, environed as they were by a regular British army, subsisted on dry bread and salt herrings, eaten raw, for they were now without other food. Their ammunition was nearly expended, and the duke, despairing of relief from King James in Ireland, beat a parley.”
Attired in his full uniform as a Scottish officer of James VII., and wearing the order of the Thistle, the duke conferred with Major Somerville at the edge of the fosse; but their interview ended in nothing, so the bitter cannonade began again. That night, about twelve o’clock, a strong column of infantry crept up the north side of the Castle Hill, till a sharp fire from the tête-du-pont drove it down to the margin of the loch; but next morning it fairly effected a lodgment across the esplanade, under cover of the woolpacks. There were only nineteen men in the tête-du-pont at this time, yet their fire proved very destructive, and all the while they were chorusing loudly,
“The king shall enjoy his ain again.”
For nearly four-and-twenty hours on both sides the fire was maintained with fury, but slackened about daybreak. “In the Castle only one man was killed – a gunner, whom a cannon ball had cut in two, through a gun-port, but many were weltering in their blood behind the woolpacks and in the trenches, where the number of slain amounted to 500 men.” This enumeration probably includes wounded.
On the 13th of June the duke pulled down the king’s flag, and hoisted a white one, surrendering, on terms, by which it was stipulated that the soldiers should have their full liberty, and Colonel Winram have security for his life and estates; while Major Somerville, at the head of 200 bayonets, took all the posts, except the citadel. The duke drew up his forlorn band, now reduced to fifty officers and men, in the ruined Grand Parade, and thanking them for their loyal services, gave each a small sum to convey him home; and as hands were shaken all round, many men wept, and so ended the siege. Through emaciated by long toil, starvation, and gangrened wounds, the luckless soldiers were cruelly treated by the rabble of the city. The capitulation was violated; Colonel Winram was seized as a prisoner of war, and the duke was placed under close arrest in his own house, in Blair’s Close, but was released on giving his parole not to serve against William of Orange. He died in the year 1716, at his residence in the citadel of Leith.
The Castle was once more fully repaired, and presented nearly the same aspect in all its details as we find it to-day. The alterations were conducted under John Drury (chief of the Scottish Engineers), who gave his name to one of the bastions on the south; and Mylne’s Mount, another on the north, is so named from his assistant, Robert Mylne, king’s master-mason and hereditary master-gunner of the fortress; and it was after this last siege that the round turrets, or echauguettes, were added to the bastions.
About this time a strange story went abroad concerning the spectre of Dundee; the terrible yet handsome Claverhouse, in his flowing wig and glittering breastplate, appearing to his friend the Earl of Balcarres, then a prisoner in the Castle, and awaiting tidings of the first battle with keen anxiety.
About daybreak on the morning when Killiecrankie was fought and lost by the Williamites, the spectre of Dundee is said to have come to Balcarres, and drawing back the curtains of his bed, to have looked at him steadfastly and sorrowfully. “After this” (says C. K. Sharpe, in a note to ‘Laws Memorials’), “it moved towards the mantelpiece, remained there for a short time in a leaning posture, and then walked out of the chamber without uttering one word. Lord Balcarres, in great surprise, though not suspecting that what he saw was an apparition, called out repeatedly on his friend to stop, but received no answer, and subsequently learned that at the very moment the shadow stood before him Dundee had breathed his last near the field of Killiecrankie.”