Sunday, September 23, 2012

Secrets in the Stones of Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle lies atop an extinct volcano formed eons ago… still, this place is alive and well with stories and secrets of the living and dead that are buried within her stones.
During the 11th century, it was known as the “Castle of the Maidens” because of a tribe in the Firth of Forth who kept virgins there.  (And rightly so... I mean, where else you going to keep a bunch of virgins?)
Edinburgh Castle is also one of the more haunted places in Scotland. Headless drummers, wraiths of French prisoners from the Seven Years War, a phantom piper, even some colonial prisoners from the American Revolutionary War (how’d they get there?) There is even a ghost dog running around from the dog cemetery.
Edinburgh Castle has been besieged many times, in one instance, a cannon ball fired from huge gun “Mons Meg” in 1158 to celebrate the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots, was later found two miles away at Wardie Muir in the Royal Gardens. (Heads!)
Then there’s everybody’s favorite damsel in distress… Mary Queen of Scots… who married Henry Stuart in a small room in the palace of Edinburgh Castle…then married one of his executioners … then fled to England where Queen Lizzie locked her up in a tower for the rest of her life. No Prince Charming for you Mary! Years later the bones of an infant were found in the walls clothed in a blanket with the insignia “J”. It was believed Mary’s son had been stillborn, buried there, and the child that was later known as her “son” was a surrogate. (Seriously, why is there not a fantastic Mary Queen of Scots Hollywood movie?)
There is also the yarn of twenty-one pirates captures in Argyll on the ship Eagle and thrown into the castle dungeons. They had all sailed with the infamous scalawag Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts, and all were hanged by the neck on the gibbet of Leith Sands.
Another cool story is of a prison break in 1811 in which 49 prisoners of war escaped after breaking a hole in the south wall. If you venture down into the catacombs and the dungeons, I don’t know how those guys survived. What a wretched place. I’d be digging out too.
In the 1830’s St. Margaret’s Chapel was “rediscovered” (Margaret was probably thinking… I was never lost in the first place) after it had been turned into a store room. Now it offers lovely little windows and peaceful mediation to visitors. (Yeah right… there’s a million people jammed in here)
In the War Memorial there is a stain glass window with a horseman from the Revelation in the Bible, on his cloak is a swastika (that’s right, suck on that Nazis!)  Above pictures is the "One-O'clock Gun," which a Royal Scot soldier comes out everyday and shakes the walls with it's roar.  Later that afternoon I was about a mile away chatting up this bar maid in the pub... but she hadn't heard a thing.  Hmmm?
BUT… I think my favorite story of Edinburgh Castle has to do with all around super hero, Sir Walter Scott… novelist, crime fighters, historian, lawyer, teacher, duelist, linguist and all around creepy looking sharp-dressed albino… who in 1818 was given permission to search the halls and closets and walls for the official CROWN of Freakin’ Scotland! It had been hiding somewhere on the grounds for over one hundred years. Scot found it after breaking open some floor boards (Total original Indian Jones move) and put it on public display today.

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