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Glamis Castle


Glamis Castle is known as one of the most haunted castles in Britain. It certainly has more stories and legends attached to it than any other castle within the British Isles, perhaps with the exception of Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders. The following provides a brief selection of stories and lore from the castle. The stories differ from source to source, and it is likely the tales became better with each telling, most have their roots in the 19th century

Glamis CastleGlamis CastleBrief History
Glamis Castle is the historic seat of the Bowes-Lyons Family, the lands were presented to them as a gift by Robert the Bruce in 1372. The Bowes-Lyons family still own the castle as the earls of Strathmore, its members include the Queen Mother, who was born at Glamis and gave birth to Princess Margaret here. The main keep of the castle dates from the 14th century, and the majestic towers and turrets were added in later years.

Ghosts of the Castle
The family chapel is haunted by a Grey Lady, who is said to be the spirit of Lady Janet Douglas, burned at the stake as a witch on Castle Hill, Edinburgh in 1537, on charges of plotting to poison the King. It is likely that the charges were fabricated for political motives. The apparition has been seen relatively recently in the chapel by a number of witnesses. She is also said to appear above the Clock Tower.

The ghost of a woman with no tongue is said to haunt the grounds, and to look out from a barred window somewhere within the castle. She runs about the park pointing at her mutilated face. There is no suggestion as to who she might be.

A young black boy, the ghost of a Negro servant who was badly treated around 200 years ago, haunts a stone seat by the door of the Queen's bedroom.

One of the more infamous ghosts is known as Earl Beardie, who is otherwise known as Alexander, Earl Crawford. Allegedly he was a cruel and wicked man, probably stemming from his rebellion against James II. His spirit is said to wander the castle, and there have been reports of children waking to find the figure leaning over their beds. He is also said to be gambling for all eternity in a secret room with the Devil, people have reported loud swearing and the rattling of dice. He is often mixed up in literature with the second Earl of Glamis.

Legends and Folklore
According to legend the castle is as haunted as it is because of an ancient curse brought on the family by Sir John Lyon, who removed an ancestral chalice from their seat at Forteviot, where it was supposed to reside for ever. The castle is also mentioned in Shakespeare's play MacBeth, and the murder of King Malcolm the II is supposed to have taken place in one of the rooms. It is highly unlikely as the castle dates from the 14th century and the murder from the 11th century.

Probably the most resounding piece of folklore that crops up, is the story of a secret room somewhere within the castle, that harbours a dreadful secret. At one time a towel is said to have been hung from every window in the castle, but from the outside a window without a towel was visible, suggesting a hidden room.

The secret room has many tales as to its origin; the most popular is that it holds a monster. In 1821 the first son of the eleventh Earl is said to have been born horribly malformed. To hide this fact the story was circulated that the boy had died, and the infant was locked up in a secret room within the castle. The malformed boy survived, and in time a second son was born, who was told of his older brother when he came of age. In some stories the boy grows to become incredibly strong, and lives for over a hundred years. The secret of the hidden room had to be passed down to each heir on their 21st birthday. The 'Mad Earls Walk' on the castle ramparts is said by some to have been the place where the malformed Earl was exercised.

There is suggestion that a workman accidentally broke through a wall while making alterations to the castle, revealing a passage into the secret room. He was given a large sum of money to leave the country and keep his silence. In other tales the room holds the bodies of men who were enemies of the family, walled up and starved to death.

As we have mentioned above one of the most notorious characters in the castles history was Earl Beardie, a Lord Crawford, who was a cruel and indulgent man. One of the tales most commonly told about him is the loss of his soul to the Devil while playing cards.

One Sunday, Earl Beardie was guesting at the castle. After a heavy drinking session with the Earl of Glamis, he was returning to his room in a drunken rage shouting for a partner to play him at cards. Nobody wanted to play on the Sabbath, and finally he raged that he would play with the Devil himself. Inevitably there was a knock at the door, and a tall man in dark clothes came into the castle and asked if Earl Beardie still required a partner. The Earl agreed, and they went away to a room in the castle, slammed the door shut, and started to play cards.

The castle was rocked with the swearing and shouting from the room, and one of the servants, giving in to curiosity peeped through the keyhole. A bright beam of light blasted (in some versions) through, and blinded the servant in one eye. The Earl burst from the room and rounded on the servant for spying on him. When he returned to the room the stranger, who was the Devil, had disappeared along with the Earls Soul, lost in the card game. The Earl is said to play cards with the stranger in a walled up room, another slant on the secret room legend.

Directions:
The castle can be reached from the A928.

Authorship
Image Copyright: 
Daniel Parkinson
Author: 
Daniel Parkinson

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Ian Topham
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Re: Glamis Castle

The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain by John Ingram (1897)

Glamis Castle

In the First Series of these stories and traditions some allusions were made to the mystery, or rather many mysteries, attached to Glamis Castle, the Forfarshire seat of the Earl of Strathmore. But the legends investing this immense and ancient palace are inexhaustible. In point of antiquity and historical interest the Castle is one of the most remarkable edifices in the kingdom. Although dilapidated and dimmed in its original splendour," writes Dr. Beattie, "its feudal air of strength and haughty defiance, and its sullen gloom of seclusion in an antique forest, is a subject peculiarly adapted for the pencil, and for exciting the imagination of the poet."

Glamis Castle, or rather some portions of the magnificent old edifice, is of immense antiquity; indeed, it claims to be the most ancient inhabited castle in Scotland; but it has undergone, save in the central tower, manifold repairings and rebuildings. The first legend which lends historic importance to the place is that Duncan was there murdered by Macbeth, "Thane of Glamis," even the very room in which the deed was done having been pointed out formerly, whilst in the armoury of the Castle the sword and the shirt of mail worn by Macbeth are still shown. Local tradition points to the Hunter's Hill, an eminence overlooking the Castle, as the spot where Malcolm the Second was attacked by the assassins.

The Glamis estates first came into possession of the Lyon family in 1371-2, when Sir John Lyon, feudal Baron of Fortevist, secretary and son-in-law to Robert the Second, received the grant of the lordship from that monarch. A long series of tragedies, we are informed, overgloomed the Lyons "from the moment they brought to Glamis their lion cup/' the original of Scott's Blessed Bear of Bradwardine, and a kind of family palladium, like the Luck of Edenhall. Sir John Lyon, who was Great Chamberlain of Scotland, fell in a duel in 1383. His son, the grandson of King Robert the Second, married his cousin, another grandchild of the same monarch, and, unlike many inheritors of the estate, died a natural death. His son was raised to the dignity of the peerage, in 1445, as Lord Glamis, and for some generations the Lyons lived and died in peace. The widow of the sixth Lord, Janet Douglas, a daughter of the Earl of Angus, together with her son Lord Glamis, and other relatives, was indicted for attempting the life of King James the Fifth by witchcraft. Lady Glamis was found guilty on evidence afterwards confessed to have been fabricated, and, horrible to relate, was burned to death on the Castle Hill, Edinburgh, in 1537. The son of this unfortunate lady, having been respited till of age, was, ultimately, released and restored to his honours and estates. In 1578 John, eighth Lord Glamis, was slain in an accidental encounter with the Lindsays, the hereditary enemies of his race.

In the following century an earldom, first of Kinghorne, and then of Strathmore and Kinghorne, was conferred upon the ruler of Glamis. The grandson of the first Earl was slain at Sheriffmuir, in 1715, and his brother and successor, Charles, died on the 11th of May, 1728, "in consequence,” say the peerages, "of an accidental wound received in a scuffle.'' According to the common story, however, his death was brought about in a duel over the gaming-table. One authority relates it thus, in All the Year Round, "The old feud between Lindsays and Lyons had so far healed over that the members of the two families dined, and drank, and diced together, like fine old Scottish gentlemen as they were. According to local tradition, the play one night at Glamis was very high, and when its owner had lost all his money, he staked his estates, one after the other, against the victorious player. At last Glamis itself was set on the turn of a card and lost. Then the head of the house, maddened by his losses, accused his guest of cheating. The reply was a blow, swords were drawn, and after a few passes the victorious guest ran Lord Strathmore through the body, and thus sacrificed all his winnings." The Earl was really slain by James Carnegy, of Finhaven. Thus far the tradition is clear and comprehensible enough ; but other legends put a very different complexion on it. There is a secret room in Glamis Castle, as everybody knows; a room no mortal eye may behold, and the locality of which is known only to the possessor of the Castle, his heir and his factor. This room is believed to have been the scene of a hideous gambling affair, and the hero of it was an Earl of Strathmore, said by William Howitt, in his account of Glamis, to have been " Earl Beardie," whose portrait is at Abbottsford. Whoever the nobleman was his name has been corrupted into that of " Earl Patie," by the Forfarshire peasantry, who, we are informed by Mr. Hugh Maclauchlan, tell the following story of his misdeeds.

"Many, many years ago, when gentlemen got regularly drunk at dinner-time, and had to be carried to bed by their servants, there reigned supreme at Glamis one Patie, known to fame as the wild Earl of* Strathmore. Earl Patie was notoriously good at all the vices, but his favourite vice was that of gambling. He would play Lord's Day or week day, whatever day it was; and if he could find no one else to humour him in his fancy, he would hob and nob with the humblest menial within the castle walls.

"It happened once, on a dark and stormy November night, that Earl Patie had been wearied by his forced inactivity from horse and hound for it was the Lord's Day, and that means complete abstinence from all worldly pursuits in bonnie Scotland and, at last, with oaths and curses, he called for a pack of cards, and comforted himself with the anticipation of a pleasant game. The ladies were at their devotions, so he called the servants to him, one by one ; but never since the days of the feast in the New Testament were so many excuses invented to cover disinclination. Of all those who had humoured him so often, not one could be found, from the steward to the scullion, to take a hand with the wicked Earl. In desperation the chaplain was attacked; but he, too, proved temptation proof, and strengthened the rebellion among the menials by branding the pack of cards as deevil's bricks,' and hurling terrible anathemas at the head of any wight who should venture on so terrible a desecration of the Sabbath. For a time there was dire confusion and alarm in the Castle ; and at last Earl Patie, swearing tremendously, and consigning everybody around him to an unmentionable locality, seized a pack of cards and went growling away up the old oak stairs to his chamber, saying he would play with the ' deil himsel,' sooner tli an be thwarted in his desire.

"He had not sat long in the room before a knock came at the door, and a deep voice sounded from the corridor, asking the Earl if he wished a partner. ' Yes,' roared the Earl ; ' enter, in the foul fiend's name, whoever you are/ And with that there entered a tall, dark stranger, wholly wrapped up in a cloak, who nodded in a familiar manner to the Earl, and took his seat on a vacant chair on the opposite side of the table. The Earl stared at his strange guest, and doubtless felt a momentary uneasiness as he remembered whom he had invited to play with him ; but a look at the cards on the table reassured him, and they commenced the game in real earnest. The stranger, who did not remove his bonnet and cloak, proposed a high stake; and in reply the Earl said, if he were the loser, and had
not wherewith to discharge his debt, he would sign a bond for whatever his guest might choose to ask. Fast and furious became the game, loud oaths resounded through the chamber, and the terrified menials crept up the corridor, wondering what brave man dared to bandy words with the wicked Earl, and who was sinful enough to hold his hand at the ' deevil's bricks ' on the Lord's Day. As they fearfully listened they could hear the fierce utterances of the Earl, and the fiercer and more unearthly utterances of the stranger, whose presence they were quite unable to account for.

"At last the old butler, who had served the family for two generations, ventured close to the chamber-door and peeped through the key-hole; but no sooner had he done so than he fell back and rolled on the floor with a yell of agony that resounded to the remotest part of the Castle. In an instant the door was rudely torn open and the Earl came out with fury in his face, and told them to slay anyone who passed, while he went back to settle with his guest. But his guest was nowhere to be found. They searched the chamber through and through, but in vain. He was gone, and he had taken with him Earl Patie's bond, but what for the confused and startled Earl did not exactly know. Keturning by the old butler, Earl Patie found him stunned and bruised, with a yellow circle round the erring eye; and then he told the terror-stricken menials that, as he sat at play, the stranger suddenly threw down his cards and said, with an oath, 'Smite that eye!'' whereupon a sheet of flame darted directly to the key-hole, and the mysterious stranger disappeared.

"Earl Patie lived five years before he paid his bond,but afterwards, on every Sabbath evening, the old chamber was filled with strange noises that echoed through the passages, as if the wicked Earl and the dark stranger were again wrangling and swearing over the 'deevil's bricks/ For a time the unearthly noises were put up with, but at last the room was built up, and nothing now remains to tell where the chamber was where Earl Patie and his fiery guest played their stormy game of cards/' Such is the story, according to local
tradition, of the secret room of Glamis Castle.

William Howitt's version of this tradition is, that the famous " Earl Beardie," Earl of Crawford, of whom there is a portrait at Abbotsford, famous for his rebellion against James IT. of Scotland, and popularly known as "the wicked laird," was playing at cards in the Castle, and, being warned to give oyer, as he was losing dreadfully, swore an oath that he would play till the Day of Judgment; whereupon the Devil suddenly made his appearance, and as sudden disappearance with old " Beardie and all his company. The room has never been found again, but the people believe firmly that old " Beardie" and his company are playing on, and will play till the Day of Judgment ; and that on stormy nights the players are heard stamping and swearing in their rage over their play.

But other, and deeper mysteries than that told of Earl Patie, or "Beardie," hover about that ancient and majestic castle. Those frowning towers, grey with age, and sombre with time, hold within their strong walls tales of almost unspeakable terror, and within their
gloomy rooms, if rumour speak true, terrible tragedies have been enacted. Glamis, which a well-known traveller describes as one of the finest specimens of feudal architecture now existing, and as combining in a striking manner the gloom of prison security with the grandeur of a palace, is not so supremely interesting to outsiders for its magnitude or magnificence, its historical connexions or its melancholy associations, as for the seemingly impenetrable mystery that belongs to it. The local legend of Earl "Patie" or " Beardie M will not account for what has been seen and heard.

In 1880, a contributor to All the Year Round, whilst disclaiming all sympathy with ghost stories, or mysteries of any kind, and declaring himself to be " an utter sceptic as to all assumed supernatural manifestations," gave two strange incidents, as given to him on "good authority." The first narrative is told thus:

"A lady, very well known in London society, an artistic and social celebrity, wealthy beyond all doubts of the future, and what is called a very cultivated and instructed, but clear-headed, and perhaps slightly matter-of-fact woman, went to stay at Glamis Castle for the first time. She was allotted very handsome apartments, just on the point of junction between the new buildings perhaps a hundred or two hundred years old and the very ancient part of the castle. The rooms were handsomely furnished; no gaunt carvings grinned from the walls ; no grim tapestry swung to and fro, making strange figures look still stranger by the flickering firelight; all was smooth, cosy, and modern, and the guest retired to bed without a thought of the mysteries of Glamis.

"In the morning she appeared at the breakfast-table quite cheerful and self-possessed. To the inquiry how she had slept, she replied: 'Well, thanks, very well, up to four o'clock in the morning. But your Scottish carpenters seem to come to work very early. I suppose they put up their scaffolding quickly, though, for they are quiet now." This speech produced a dead silence, and the speaker saw with astonishment thai, the faces of members of the family were very pale. She was asked, as she valued the friendship of all there, never to speak to them on that subject again; there had been no carpenters at Glamis Castle for months past. This fact, whatever it may be worth, is absolutely established, so far as the testimony of a single witness can establish anything. The lady was awakened by a loud knocking and hammering, as if somebody were putting up a scaffold, and the noise did not alarm her in the least. On the contrary, she took it for an accident, due to the presumed matutinal habits of the people. She knew, of course, that there were stories about Glamis, but had not the remotest idea that the hammering she had heard was connected with any story. She had regarded it simply as an annoyance, and was glad to get to sleep after an unrestful time ; but had no notion of the noise being supernatural until informed of it at the breakfast table.

" To what particular event in the stormy annals of the Lyon family the hammering is connected is quite unknown, except to members of the family, but there is no lack of legends, possible and impossible, to account for any sights or sounds in the magnificent old feudal edifice."

This same writer, after alluding to many of the tragic stories connected with Glamis, including the romantic episode of the renowned " Bowes " abduction case, proceeds to step into the dim borderland which separates tradition from fiction. " It is said," remarks this authority, " that once a visitor stayed at Glamis Castle for a few days, and, sitting up late one moonlight night, saw a face appear at the window opposite to him. The owner of the face it was very pale, with great sorrowful eyes appeared to wish to attract attention; but vanished suddenly from the window, as if plucked suddenly away by superior strength. For a long while the horror-stricken guest gazed at the window, in the hope that the pale face and great sad eyes would appear again. Nothing was seen at the window, but presently horrible shrieks penetrated even the thick walls of the castle, aud rent the night air. An hour later, a dark huddled figure, like that of an old decrepit woman, carrying something in a bundle came into the waning moonlight, and presently vanished."

This writer hints at a very dreadful deed to explain the cause of the apparition, but, for some reason or the other, evades connecting the two tales by any intelligible method. He adds, however, that there is a more modern story of a stonemason, having been engaged at Glamis Castle on an important occasion, and having discovered, or been suspected of discovering, more than he should have done, was supplied with a handsome competency, upon the conditions that he emigrated, and preserved inviolable secrecy as to what he had learned.

This writer continues :

"The employment of a stonemason is explained by the conditions under which the mystery is revealed to successive heirs and factors. The abode of the dread secret is in a part of the castle, also haunted by the apparition of a bearded man, who flits about at night, but without committing any other objectionable action. What connection, if any, the bearded spectre may have with the mystery is not even guessed. He hovers at night over the couches of children for an instant, and then vanishes. The secret itself abides in a room a
secret chamber the very situation of which, beyond a general idea that it is in the most ancient part of the castle, is unknown. Where walls are fifteen feet thick it is not impossible to have a chamber so concealed, that none but the initiated can guess its position. It was once attempted by a madcap party of guests to discover the locality of the secret chamber, by hanging their towels out of window, and thus deciding in favour of any window from which no spotless banner waved; but this escapade, which is said to have been ill-received by those most interested, ended in nothing but a vague conclusion that the old square tower must be the spot sought.

"It seems to have been forgotten by these harum scarum mystery-hunters that a secret chamber might well be like the curious places of concealment called ' priests' holes,' so common in old English country houses, and the only mystery whereof is how the unfortunate hidden tenants could breathe in them.

"It is in the secret chamber of Glamis Castle that the mystery is revealed to the next heir, and to the new factor, when one is appointed ; this much is known beyond all possible doubt. It is also assumed, from the stonemason story, and the mysterious sounds frequently heard, that the secret chamber is approached by a passage duly closed with masonry after every visit.

"This latter conclusion mayor may not be correct, but the existence of a mystery of some kind concealed within a secret chamber is fairly well made out."

No wonder that this writer asks, and many others repeat the question, " What is this mystery?" Of all the many attempted hypotheses not one may be deemed conclusive ; but few probable, or even possible. It has been suggested, contrary to the proven facts [if proof were needed], that the beautiful and unfortunate Lady Glamis, the supposed witch, the victim of acknowledged perjury, who perished amid the flames on Castle Hill, at Edinburgh, "was actually in commerce with the Evil One, and that her familiar demon, an embodied and visible fiend, endures unto this day, shut from the light, in Glamis Castle!"

Another wild suggestion is, that owing to some hereditary curse, like those believed to rest on many well known families, at certain intervals a kind of vampire is born into the family of the Strathmore Lyons. It is scarcely possible to destroy this monstrosity; it is, therefore, kept concealed till its term of life is run. But, it might be remembered, even monsters need nourishment, and this secret chamber at Glamis is only visited once in a generation. Other theories and suggestions are equally unfortunate, and no probable solution of the mystery has yet been given.

Thus far we have shown that strange sights and stranger sounds are reported upon good authority to have been seen and heard at Glamis. Moreover, it may be assumed that there is a family secret, concealed within the depths of the old castle, and that the facts about it are never known to more than three persons. The three persons who have to hide within their bosoms this grim secret are the Earl of Strathmore for the time being, the heir-apparent, if he have attained his majority, and the " factor," or, as he might be termed in England, the house steward. On the night before he attains his twenty-first birthday, the heir, who bears the courtesy title of Lord Glamis, is solemnly initiated in the terrible mystery by the reigning Earl and his factor, and this secret he has to preserve until the majority of his own son, or, if he remain sonless, till the coming of age of his heir presumptive, and till the appointment of another factor to the property.

"Why the factor should be instructed in this terrible matter/' says one of our authorities, " is a question which has excited, and continues to excite, the Caledonian mind to a remarkable degree. If the office of factor were hereditary, there would be an apparent reason for taking such an important functionary into the family confidence. But this is not the case in Scotland as a rule. In fact, the balance of experience is very greatly on the other side. The factor is sometimes a poor relation of a great house, but frequently a retired officer or a country gentleman unconnected with his employers by ties of blood. There is nothing in the occupation of a factor greatly in excess of that of an agent, saving that he is resident on the property instead of living in the nearest large town. There is no reason why the connection between employer and factor should not be brought to an end at any time by individual or mutual dissatisfaction. There is, however, no record of any factor having disclosed any inkling of the Mystery of Glamis. As a Strathmore a Strathmore succeeds, there is generally much talk of the old story being exploded at last. Gay gallants in lace ruffles, beaus, bucks, bloods, and dandies have, until their twenty-first birthday, made light of the family mystery, and some have gone so far as to make after-dinner promises to ' hoist the old ghost with his own petard,' and tell the whole stupid old story in the smoking-room at night, after the Doming of age humbug was all over. This promise has been made more than once. . . But it has never been kept. No heir to the Strathmore peerage has revealed the secret. On the morrow, when all looked for an explanation of the terrible mystery, they were met by a courteous but cold refusal ; a simple statement that the fulfilment of the rash promise was impossible, a request to say no more about it, and thus the matter has ended," and so the Mystery of Glamis Castle remains a mystery still.

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Ian Topham
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Re: Glamis Castle

Posted on behalf of Glamis Castle: www.glamis-castle.co.uk

Nestled in the foothills of the Angus Glens is Glamis Castle. As the ancestral home of the Earls of Strathmore for more than 600 years, the childhood home of the Queen Mother and the setting for Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', it goes without saying that this Scottish castle is steeped in history.

Over the years, Glamis Castle has evolved to create a stunning architectural treasure where every room has its own story. As you tour the castle and listen to the experienced tour guides telling of the story of Glamis, you will note that every painting and every piece of furniture is a sharp reminder that this majestic Scottish castle is not a museum but an incredible family home that has seen everything from royal births to grisly murder during its 600 years at the forefront of Scottish society. In addition to the magnificent interior of the castle, Glamis also boasts a beautiful exterior. Consisting of an Italian garden, a walled garden, a nature trail and pinetum, the gardens and grounds at Glamis castle are impressive all year round - from the superb summer displays of rhododendrons and azaleas to the glorious spectacle of autumnal forest colour.

Whilst at Glamis Castle, visit our recently refurbished restaurant which is located in the magnificent Victorian Kitchens, complete with their restored 19th century ovens, stoves and copper pans. Here you will find a locally sourced menu of hot meals, fresh salads, homemade soups and a delectable array of baking!

Also at Glamis are two first-class shops to fulfil your shopping requirements. The Pavilion Gift shop stocks everything from antiques and collectables to country casual wear and souvenirs priced to match any pocket. The Food Shop, meanwhile, has an excellent range of locally sourced sweet and savoury produce, from jams and preserves to beers and whisky. Throughout the year, Glamis Castle hosts an array of diverse events, be it indoor events within the castle or outdoor events in the expansive grounds. From an Easter day out, to summer Highland Games and music festivals through to Victorian Christmas, there is something for everyone, all year round.

Whether you choose to visit Glamis Castle to admire its stunning architecture, to explore its history, legends and myths or to enjoy the surrounding beauty of the grounds and gardens, you will not fail to be touched by the magic of Glamis. 



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