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Bothwell Castle, pp.47-52.



This Castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses. This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his lov’d mansionry, that the heaven’s breath
Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze, buttress,
Nor coigne of vantage, but this bird hath made
His pendent bed and procreant cradle.


THIS fine relict of the olden time, which still rears its lofty towers over a gently sloping bank, on the north side of the Clyde, exhibits even in its present decayed state, striking remains of its ancient splendour, and of the wealth and power of its former lords. It is a large quadrangular building, 234 feet in length, and 100 in breadth, having two lofty towers, which flank its corners on the east, and a great tower at the west end. The walls are upwards of fifteen feet in thickness, and in many places, sixty feet in height. Within this quadrangle were situated, so as to enclose a court in the centre of the building, the halls and apartments for the accommodation of the owner and his family. Of these, with the exception of the Chapel, there are now hardly any remains; the inner walls having long since entirely disappeared. From the size, however, of some of the windows in the outer wall, looking towards the river, it would appear that some of the rooms had been lofty and splendid, and on a scale not often to be met with in the strong-holds of ancient Scottish Barons. The capability of resisting an enemy, was with them more usually an object of importance, than splendour or accommodation. The Chapel walls are still tolerably entire, and we may therefore form some idea of what it once has been. It is upwards of fifty feet in length, and has been lighted from the inner court, by a range of handsome pointed windows, at the tops of several of which, the remains of tracery are still to be observed. The great tower at the west end, was in all probability, the keep, or stronghold of the Castle. In it the stair which leads to the top, whence there is a beautiful and extensive view, is still pretty entire; but as the ascent is not without danger, the entrance to it is generally kept locked. In various parts of the outer walls, are carved the coats of arms of some of the ancient proprietors: three mullets, the device of the family of Murray, Lords of Bothwell in the thirteenth century; and a heart and three mullets, that of the Douglasses, can still be recognised.

Extensive as the ruins still existing are, there is room to believe,that the Castle was, when perfect, much more so. The remains of old walls have been repeatedly discovered, in trenching the surrounding grounds; and these, in all probability, were the foundations of part of the outworks, which defended and enclosed the outer court. These remains have been particularly met with in a field to the north of the Castle, where the principal entrance appears to have been situated; and where, the defence of the river being awanting, the assistance of art was rendered more necessary. The great entrance was in the centre of the north front; but this portion of the wall having entirely fallen, its appearance cannot nowbe ascertained. Several smaller entrances, or sally ports are, however, still to be seen.

The greatest care is taken by the noble proprietor, for the preservation of the ruins; and independent of the recollections which it must excite, as an object of picturesque beauty, Bothwell Castle is worthy of every attention which can be bestowed. Yet with some, we suspect, there will here be subject of complaint, – not that the ruins are neglected, but that for lovers of the picturesque, they have been too much attended to. The inner court has been entirely freed of the fallen ruins; every stone has been removed, and the surface of the court is kept in grass, almost as smooth as the lawn before a modern mansion. This taste is certainly questionable. While every care should be taken to preserve a ruin, probably the less care which is taken to adorn, or ornament it, or render it neat, the better. The portions which have fallen, are in general as much an object of picturesque interest, as those which hang in doubtful ruins o’er their base. Besides, the grounds in the immediate neighbourhood are too carefully kept. The neat gravel path, and the smooth shaven green, do not associate, in our minds at least, with this magnificent, this time-honoured relict of ancient days.

               Arch’d walks of twilight groves,
And shadows brown, that sylvan loves,
Of pine or monumental oak,

would better associate with the Gothic grandeur of such a pile.

Notwithstanding, however, the observations we have hazarded, Bothwell Castle will ever be an object of great interest, as well as beauty. We cannot enter its hallowed precincts, but we feel “we tread upon some reverend history.” When we gaze upon these open courts, “which now lie naked to the injuries of stormy weather,” the mind is filled with ancient recollections. Bothwell is rich in historic associations; the names of the patriot and the oppressor are for ever united with it. Here Edward I. and the instruments of his tyranny, held guilty deliberations; and from hence they issued forth, to oppress and to destroy. Here resided Sir Andrew Murray, on of the earliest and most valuable of Wallace’s compatriots; and his son the regent, the protector alike of the kingdom, and of the son of the noble Bruce. Here was displayed the grandeur of the haughty Douglases, who vied with the splendour of royalty, and even bearded it on the field.

The Castle stands amidst the extensive pleasure grounds surrounding the modern mansionhouse of Bothwell, which is situated a little to the east. The scenery at this place is proverbially beautiful, and we are persuaded, is excelled by none upon the Clyde. The grounds are richly wooded, particularly towards the river, which here makes some fine sweeps, that add greatly to the effect. Numerous walks intersect the woods along the banks of the stream, presenting a continual succession of scenes of the most surpassing beauty. In autumn, when the leaves begin to change their colour, and assume a variety of hues, the scenery of this part of the Clyde is rich beyond description. The modern house is externally plain, and unadorned; but it is an extensive and commodious family mansion. There is here no collection of pictures; but there are a considerable number of portraits, some of which are very fine.

History and tradition are alike silent as to the original erection of Bothwell Castle. The earliest notice of it is said to be made in a writ by William de Moravia, Dominus de Bothwell, to the Monks of Dryburgh, granting a discharge of certain multures. He was one of the great Barons summoned to Berwick, to judge of the claims of Bruce and Baliol. He is called Panetarius Scotiæ,1 that is, keeper of the Pantry. His son, Sir Andrew Murray, designed Lord of Bothwell, sometimes dominus de Clydesdale, was one of the earliest of Wallace’s compatriots, and was the only powerful Baron who adhered to him. He was killed at the battle of Stirling, in 1297. His son, Sir Andrew, joined Bruce upon his asserting his claim to the Scottish crown, and continued with him through all his changes of fortune. He afterwards married Christian Bruce, king Robert’s sister. Upon the accession of David Bruce to the throne, he still adhered firmly to their interest. In 1332, during the absence and minority of the king, he was appointed Regent. He was a true patriot, and his nomination revived the spirit of David’s party. The same year, however, he attacked Baliol at Roxburgh, and after an obstinate dispute was defeated, taken prisoner, and sent into England. Upon being ransomed, he was, in 1335, again appointed Regent. After his death, John, his eldest son, dying without issue, was succeeded by his brother Thomas, who, at his death, left an only daughter.

During the greater part of the period we have detailed, the Castle of Bothwell was in the hands of the English. It was given by Edward I. during his disgraceful usurpation, to Sir Aymer de Vallance, Earl of Pembroke, whom he had made governor of the south of Scotland. After his defeat at Loudon hill, in 1307, by Bruce, Sir Aymer fled to Bothwell. Barbour’s account of his subsequent behaviour, is amusing.

“Sa schamfull that he wencussyt wais,
That till Ingland in hy he gais,
Rycht to the King, and schamfully
He gaiff up thair his wardanry.”

The Castle appears to have been afterwards in possession of Sir Aymer St. John, and Sir Inghreham Umphraville. They were defeated by Edward Bruce, the King’s brother, who pursued them into the Castle. Edward then caused all the cattle in the neighbourhood to be driven off, which was done in view of the whole garrison. In 1314, after the defeat at Bannockburn, Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, and several others, fled here for refuge. It was soon, however, reduced by Edward Bruce, when the Earl, and all who had sought security within it, were taken prisoners. During the minority of David Bruce, it again fell into the hands of the English. In 1335, Edward III. on his return to England, appointed Sir John Stirling, a Scot of Baliol’s party, and afterwards a Baron of England, to be governor of the Castle. It was taken in 1336, by the Scots, with some French auxilliaries, under the Earl of March, Sir William Keith, and Sir William Douglas; but was soon afterwards abandoned to Edward III. who resided there for some time, and from which he issued writs summoning a parliament. The following year, it was again reduced by the Earl of March, and Sir William Douglas.

Joan Murray, daughter of Thomas Murray, of Bothwell, having succeeded her father, married Archibald the Grim, third Earl of Douglas, who added the three mullets of the Murrays to his coat of arms, and adopted the Castle as his residence. The Lordship of Bothwell thus came to encrease the wealth and influence, of the already too potent family of Douglas.

The Lordship of Bothwell belonged to the Earls of Douglas, till the forfeiture of that family in 1455, when it fell into the hands of the King. It was afterwards granted by James III. to his favourite, Sir John Ramsay, whom he created Lord Bothwell. He was the only one of James’s favourites who escaped execution at Lauder Bridge: this he effected, by seizing hold of the King’s person, and leaping behind him on his horse. His attachment to his unfortunate monarch, afterwards caused his proscription. In 1488, he was forfeited in the Parliament held by James IV. at Edinburgh, on 8th October, that year. The Lordship was on 13th October, same year, granted to Patrick Lord Hales; and on 17th October, he was created Earl of Bothwell. In 1492, he transferred the lands of the lordship of Bothwell, with the Castle, to the Earl of Angus, representative of another branch of the house of Douglas, in exchange for Liddesdale; but the superiority of Bothwell, with the patronage of the collegiate church, continued with the Earl of Bothwell, till the forfeiture of James, the fourth Earl, in 1567. This was the man, so notoriously marked in the annals of Scotland, for the audacity and splendour of his crimes, who married the unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots. Lady Jean Gordon, wife of this audacious character, whom he got divorced to pave the way for his marriage with the Queen, enjoyed a jointure from the Lordship of Bothwell, till her death in 1629.

Francis Stewart, eldest son of John Stewart, Prior of Coldinghame, natural son of James V. was, in consideration of his descent from the Hepburns, Earls of Bothwell, created Earl of Bothwell, and held the various lands they possessed; and among others, the superiority of Bothwell. He was attainted for his treasonable attempts on James VI. in 1593. The superiority of the Lordship of Bothwell, and the patronage of the church, was afterwards given to Sir Walter Scott of Buccleugh, son-in-law of the late Earl, from whom it was purchased by James, Marquis of Hamilton, who died in 1625. It has since continued in the family of Hamilton, who are superiors of the lands within the Lordship of Bothwell, and patrons of the church.

The lands of the Lordship of Bothwell came again into the Douglas family, it has been mentioned, in 1482, in consequence of the exchange between the Earl of Angus and Patrick, Earl of Bothwell, for Liddesdale. They have since remained in the family of Douglas. They are mentioned in a charter of the Earldom of Angus, to William, the tenth Earl, dated February, 1602-3.

Archibald, Earl of Angus, son of the first Marquis of Douglas, was by patent, dated 3d April, 1651, created Earl of Ormond, Lord Bothwell and Hartside, with remainder to the heirs made of his second marriage. He died before his father, and never succeeded to the Marquisate. He was succeeded in the Earldom of Ormond, by Archibald, his only son, of the second marriage, who obtained a new patent, creating him Earl of Forfar; in him Bothwell Castle and the lands were again held by a younger branch of the house of Douglas. His son, the second Earl of Forfar, acted as Brigadier General at the battle of Sherriff-muir, 18th November, 1715, where he received a shot in his knee, and sixteen other wounds. He died at Stirling, on the 8th December following, in married, when his title and estates devolved on his uncle the Duke of Douglas. The Castle and lands thus again reverted to what, after the forfeiture of the Earl of Douglas in 1455, formed the principal branch of the family. On the death of the late Duke of Douglas, the lands and estates, though not the titles, fell to the late Lord Douglas, his nephew by the female side; he was created Lord Douglas after his accession to the property.

The Church of Bothwell, which stands in the immediate vicinity of the village, is of great antiquity. It was in 1390 converted into a collegiate church, for a provost and eight chaplains, or prebends, by Archibald the Grim, the first of the Douglases who possessed the Lordship of Bothwell. For this purpose, he added a choir to the church, and conferred on the establishment revenues sufficient for its support. The oldest portion of the building can still be easily distinguished from the addition made at this time. This Earl died in February, 1400-1, and was buried in the church of Bothwell. His daughter Marjory was in the same year, in the church of Bothwell, married to the Duke of Rothsay, Prince of Scotland, son of Robert III. This occurred in an evil hour for the happiness and safety of that unfortunate prince. By a charter to Anne, Duchess of Hamilton, dated 8th January, 1665, the name, title, and office of the prebends and prebendaries of the church were suppressed, and their rights and revenues were confirmed to the Duchess as Patroness. By another charter dated 23d February, 1672, to William and Anne, the Duke and Duchess, the name, title, and office of provost of the church was suppressed, and the rights and revenues confirmed to the Duke and Duchess.

Immediately opposite to Bothwell Castle, on the other side of the Clyde, are still to be seen the ruins of the ancient priory of Blantyre. they have a rather romantic situation, on the summit of a rocky bank which overhangs the river; and add considerably to the picturesque beauty of the scene. It was founded by Alexander II. for canons regular, who were brought from the abbey of Jedburgh. Blantyre priory is said to have been dependent on the abbey of Jedburgh. If this was the case at the epoch of its foundation, “it certainly,” says Chalmers,2 “did not continue so till the era of the Reformation. This small priory was ruled by a prior, who had a seat in parliament: For he was present in the parliament of Brigham, on 17th March, 1289-90. “Frere William, priour de Blantyr,” swore fealty to Edward I. at Berwick, on the 28th August, 1296.”

Walter Stewart, a son of Sir John Stewart of Minto, was created commendator of Blantyre, with the patronage and tithes of the church: And having also acquired, by purchase, the lands and barony of Blantyre, he was at length created a peer by the title of Lord Blantyre in 1606. The priory was surrounded by pleasant woods, and there belonged to it a commodious orchard, which continued to be fruitful in 1702, when Lord Blantyre sometimes resided there.


1  Rymer Fœdera, ad ann. 1284.
2  Caledonia, vol. 3d, p. 644.
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