National Geographic : 1947 Jul
British Castles, History in BY NORMAN WHAT talesofderring-do-of secret passages andescape down tower walls in night andstorm, ofdrafty banquet halls dim-lit by guttering torches, of sword play and assassination, ofknights inarmor, of silken ladies tossing favors totheir cham pions in the jousts,ofdesperate deeds and intrigues that changed the course ofhistory are brought to mindby the old castles of England, Scotland, and Wales! In and around these venerable strongholds -the huge stone castles as opposed tothe simpler defended mounds ofpre-Norman days -wa s enacted muchofthe tense drama of Britain in medievaltimes. Home of QueenaHaunted House Glamis (pronounced "glahms"), ancestral home of Queen Elizabeth ofGreat Britain, had its beginnings inthe dim past ofScottish history (Plate I). Nearly six centuries ago it came into possession of an ancestor ofthe Strathmore family, of which Elizabeth isa member. Her forebears, the Earls ofStrath more, are descendedfrom along line of Scottish kings. In Glamis Castle,legend says, Macbeth, Thane of Glamis, murdered King Duncan. History does not verify the story, but tradition prevails, and a low-ceiled Gothic chamber in the castle is still known asthe Duncan Room. Another popular legend tells ofghosts playing cards with the Devil inasecret room of the castle. Muchofthe present building was constructed in 1675-87, but parts ofit are much older.* Sir Walter Scott, when alad of20,slept in the castle after draining afull measure of wine at a draught from thegolden goblet known as the Lion's Cup. Headmitted that the "hoary old pile," as he called the building, set his nerves on edge. One ofthe oldest-inhabited houses in the BritishIsles, Glamis has few equals in ghostly atmosphere. Scene of Royal Holidays After Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon's mar riage to the Duke ofYork inWestminster Abbey in 1923, sheand her family went to Glamis every Augustfor aholiday. To celebrate the marriage, people ofthe little village of Glamis burned huge bonfires on Hunter's Hill near the castle. Bonfires were lit, too, when Princess Margaret Rose was born at GlamisinAugust, 1930, and when the Duchess became Queen ofEngland. Stone WILKINSON Edinburgh Castle occupies awonderful posi tion, high above the gray city (Plate II). The rock on which the castle stands has been a military sitesince the seventh century, when Edwin, first Christian King ofNorthumbria, setupan outpost here called Edwinsburgh. Romance and tragedy arebound up inthe stones ofthis palace and prison, which was one ofthestrongholds surrendered toHenry IIby William the Lion inthe Treaty ofFa laise in1174. Itwas taken in1313 by Ran dolph, Earl ofMoray, whose warriors scaled the rock wall. The "Black Dinner" at which the young Earl ofDouglas was murdered in1440 was held inthe banquet hall. The victim, flattered into appearing, was unaware ofhis danger until an ominous black bull's head, afatal symbol, was set on the table. He put up afight, but was overpowered and executed. In1566 James VI ofScotland-James IofEngland-was born here toMary Stuart. Inthe novel St. Ives, Robert Louis Steven son tells the thrilling story ofthe castle during the Napoleonic Wars, when French military prisoners were confined initstowers. Today the castle contains amuseum and amonument toScottish troops ofWorld War I.Windsor, Home ofBritain's Kings Of the great inhabited castles, Windsor, chief residence ofthe Kings ofEngland for some 850 years, isthe outstanding example (Plate III). This home ofGeorge VI stands on rising ground inthe Thames Valley, with the town ofWindsor atitsbase. William the Conqueror founded the castle on asteep chalk hill above the river, and additions have enlarged itdown the centuries. Much ofthe present structure dates from Henry III(1216-1272). During World War IIWindsor Great Park, south oftown, inwhich fallow deer once roamed at will, was plowed up for wheat and other grains. The deer are no more. Of Winchester Castle, begun by William the Conqueror and finished by Henry III in1235, only the Great Hall remains (Plate IV). Atitswestern end hangs arepresentation of mythical King Arthur's Round Table, arelic believed tohave existed inthe13th century. The Round Table, repainted by Henry VIII, *See "Bonnie Scotland, Postwar Style," by Isobel Wylie Hutchison, inthe May, 1946, NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE.