Craigmillar Castle – Ink and charcoal shading in a Moleskine Sketchbook

My previous offering, Salisbury Crags, was sketched from the Tower House, the top of Craigmillar Castle; the highest part of this picture. There are splendid views of Edinburgh from this 14th century structure, which is steeped in history.

The castle, really a hunting lodge, was a favourite place for visiting nobles and royals to visit. After the birth of her son, James, Queen Mary (Mary Queen of Scots) stayed in the castle to recuperate from an illness. At this time her husband, Henry Stuart – Lord Darnley, was becoming a liability in the eyes of the Scottish Nobles who really had the power to rule the country – even although Mary was Queen. The nobles planned to remove Darnley and a plot to do so was hatched, during Mary’s stay, during the month of November 1566. It is not known if Mary was complicit in this plot, known as the “Craigmillar Bond” but she must have been aware that plans were afoot to remove him. It has been suggested that she would not have gone along with what was to follow. Darnley was due to stay in the castle, following one of his many “expeditions” – he had become a bit of a playboy and had aspirations above his station, demanding to be addressed as “The King” or “Your Majesty”. The Nobles detested this. Fearful for his safety, Darnley opted to stay in lodgings in Kirk O’ Field, near Holyrood Palace. Holyrood Palace was a dangerous place for Darnley as David Rizzio, Mary’s secretary had been murdered there in March of that year and he assumed, correctly as it turned out, that he was next on the list. During one night, the lodgings were blown up with gunpowder but Darnley had managed to escape just before the explosion. The next day, however, his body was found in the grounds. He had been strangled. Things went downhill, for Mary, after that. History records her “abduction” to Dunbar Castle, by Lord Bothwell whom she married then was deserted by him after a failed attempt to wrest power back from the nobles. After being forced to abdicate in favour of her son, when she was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle she, escaped, fled to England and was imprisoned for many years, then executed, by her cousin Elizabeth 1st of England. Ironically, Mary’s son, James succeeded to the throne of both Scotland and England. All of this after a plot in a wee remote hunting lodge.

Sorry to go on at length. I find it fascinating to walk in the places where momentous events occurred. The castle looks just like many other Scottish ruins but this place is better preserved than most. When exploring the structure my mind wandered and my imagination took over. Inside the “outer court”, which was added after the main structure was completed, there are two ancient Yew trees. These must be hundreds of years old as they are almost mature specimens. The outer wall has been built to enclose the trees. Their bottom sections are worn smooth by peoples’ hands running over them. Was one of these hands, Mary’s?