Glamis Castle

The simply beautiful Glamis Castle near Forfar. Entering through the Queen Mother Memorial Gate, this was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother). With a Castle, several Royal gardens, its own woodlands, and the River Dean running through the grounds- the estate is one of the most glorious in the country.

Malcolm II & Real Macbeth

King of the Scots, Malcolm II, was an early leader of Scotland. The King had led wars with the other kings (and vikings) on the British isles to establish the then Kingdom of Alba as a separate nation under his own monarch. At this time Scotland (Alba) was split, and was ruled by various Kings – battling it out for the land. A powerful and glorious King, Malcolm II was ruthless and very tactical, especially in eliminating these rivals. He had arranged for the marriage of his daughters into noble viking and Scotsmen – primarily in order to secure allies in the future.

One of his most famous victories came about in the shape of the Battle of Carham. The king had taken advantage of the vikings surprise assaults on England, and moved quickly to reclaim Lothian to the Kingdom of Alba, and restore the previous English-Scottish border at the river Tweed. Malcolm II was murdered here at Glamis Castle, in what remains very mysterious circumstances. Many claim his death was an act of Patricide. With three daughters only though – it could be that his arrangement for them to marry vikings backfired.

This will all seem quite familiar to fans of William Shakespeare, who may recognise Glamis as the place in where Macbeth murdered Duncan to become King of Scotland. This story was loosely based on tales of the real Macbeth. Full name Macbeth mac Findlaech, he was simply known as Macbeth- which means ‘son of life’ in Scottish Gaelic. Macbeth was the grandson of King Malcolm II, and following his death in 1034, Duncan I had taken the throne. Duncan I was married to one of Malcolm II other daughters (not Macbeth’s mother), and this led him to being the next in line for the throne.

Unhappy about this, Macbeth long held a strong contempt towards Duncan I. In 1040, during a battle in Elgin, Macbeth would kill Duncan I and become the King of Scotland. Determined to remain King, Macbeth married a granddaughter of Kenneth III, and killed the father of Duncan I in Dunkeld (possible in fear of a revenge attack). The earlier murder of Duncan I would still come back to haunt him though – as he was killed by Malcolm Canmore, the son of Duncan I, in the Battle of Lumphanan.

Clan Lyon

Its commonly known that Scotland has many different ancestors (the Gaels, the Picts, the Celts, the Scots), and it appears the French are not credited as much as they should be. Here with have another notable Scottish Clan coming from ancient le francais origin, the Clan Lyon. The French was often early supports of ours (something which long continued in the Auld Alliance) and well connected royally. In the middle of the 11th century our leader Malcolm III was in a bitter battle with Donald II, known as Donald the Fair, for the throne. The story behind the battle involved a long battle for the crown.

Donald the Fairs father, Donald I, had previously held the throne following the murder of Malcolm I- though it had been retaking by Malcolm II, who was then killed by Macbeth (who took the throne), before Malcolm III took back the throne after the death of Macbeth. Now Donald the Fair was keen to become the King and Malcolm III’s son Edgar, who had been living in England, came back to Scotland prepared for war alongside his father- and amongst his travelling army was the family of de Leon, originally from France. The threat of The Fair was successfully ended and the de Lyon family were subsequently awarded extensive lands in Perthshire- now around the area known as Glen Lyon and Loch Lyon.

In would be in the mid 14th century that Clan Lyon would truly be born, through Sir John Lyon. Like many names, De Lyon was believed to have been anglicised during this period becoming just Lyon. Sir John was heavily involved in the Scottish council and courts and served as Chamberlain of Scotland for a five year period. Sir John Lyon later married Princess Johanna, the daughter of the King Robert II, and was granted a castle by the king as a gift- Glamis Castle. Sir John and the Princess had only one son, also named John, and it was his son, Patrick Lyon, who would become Lord Glamis in 1435.

From the 9th Lord of Glamis in the 1560s, again named Patrick, the family chief would no longer be known as Lord Glamis and would become instead the Earls of Kinghorne, as the family lands and authority were extended by James VI. This would be extended further under the 3rd Earl (Patrick again) to the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in 1677 under Charles II, which the peerage remains as today. As for the name, there is no explanation as to why John Lyon changed his surname to Bowes in the mid 18th century, though the Lyon name was not lost as they subsequently become known as Bowes-Lyon.

In terms of notability, there are a few notable Lyons- such as brothers Charles and John Lyon (5th and 6th Earl) who fought with the Jacobites with John dying at the Battle of Sherrifmuir in the 1715 uprisings. Of course not forgetting the most famous Lyon of the all- Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, better known as the Queen Mother. Technically then, the current Queen is from Clan Lyon aswell.

Royal Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle would be the seat of the Clan. Initially the area was home to an ancient church, which was converted into a Royal Hunting Lodge- used by Robert the Bruce, who had seized the land from John Baliol the previous King of Scots. It was John Lyon (the only son of Sir John Snr & Princess Johanna) that would be responsible for the early parts of the castle still there today. Sir John Jnr built what he originally called Palace House and the Great Tower, in what was build as an L-plan castle (building shaped like an L).

It would be in the late 17th century that Patrick, the 3rd Earl (the one who was award the earl extension in 1677), would have constructed the majority of Glamis Castle as it is today. The 3rd earl built new wings, towers, and reconstructed existing halls- and notably began the creation of the extensive gardens. Glamis Castle largely remained to his design for more than 100 years before John Bowes-Lyon, the 9th Earl, would undertake a new project on the estate- though the castle itself was only slight reconstructed/extended as much of his focus was on creating spectacular gardens.

It was the 14th Earl, Charles where things would take a drastic change for the family of Glamis. The 14th earl did not lead a life that was any more spectacular than the rest, however he married (Cecilia) and had a daughter, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who in 1923 would marry the future King George VI (then prince). Lady Elizabeth of Glamis would become Princess, this leading to a new Royal era for Glamis Castle. Lady Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother, would spent much of her childhood at Glamis Castle and would regularly return during the course of her life.

During a planned and extended stay in August 1930, the new Princess Elizabeth gave birth inside Glamis Castle to Princess Anne (the currents Queens sister).

Glamis Ghosts

The castle has a great history with Ghosts. They say that there is atleast nine ghosts living here- mostly characters from Glamis past. The most famous of which is by far the Monster of Glamis. It has long been said that there is a secret chamber within the grounds of Glamis Castle. Of course what is inside this chamber will be left to the tale-tellers- and a deformed boy seems to be at the centre of the most common tale. It was around 200 years ago, and the local community was expecting news of a baby, from the Earls of Strathmore. Instead they were given news that a boy had been born- but died at birth.

Stories about the death of the baby, however, have never been coinciding- leading to a suspicion of a cover up. After a mixture of reported inside information and the local grapevine came up with the story of Thomas Bowes-Lyon. Thomas was the baby that was born on this mysterious 19th century morning. No ordinary boy though, he was greatly deformed. Described by those that seen him as a ghastly, creature-like boy. Some say he was half-man half-women, others say he was black.

Feeling greatly embarrassment about the prospect of this boy being the heir to the estate, he was locked in a chamber and a cover up began. The midwife would later come out and say that he didn’t die at birth – opening the gates to the whispers of the local community. Some suspected the boy could be a product of incest, which had a reputation back then (and today) for producing deformed children. Either way he was only ever seen by a few, and they never came forward – so we will never know.

Most ghosts of Glamis include a mistreated black servant who is known to stay close to the Queens bedroom. Lady Jane Douglas is a notable female ghost- she was accused of witchcraft and was burned at the stake in Edinburgh. She can be spotted hanging around the clock tower. While visitors should listen out for the sound of dice rolling on the floor- that’ll be Earl Beardie, who is also known to hover over the beds of sleeping children.

The castle has a secret chamber- the entrance to which, by law or custom of the family, must be known only to three persons. These being the Earl of Strathmore, his heir apparent, and any third person they may take into their confidence.

Sir Walter Scott on Glamis
A depiction of the burning of Lady Jane Douglas (photo courtesy of GlamisCastle)

Glamis Gardens

The unique and excellent mix of old and modern charm, aswell as the Italian-styled decora, all makes the perfect recipe for a Royal garden- worthy of many a Queen Mother. There is several different gardens here at Glamis castle, the most notable of which is the Italian Gardens. Countess Cecilia is the one responsible for the Italian Garden, with the help of the designer Arthur Castings. Queen Mothers Mother Cecilia, would be inspired by the gardens of Tuscany on Italy and would attempt a restoration of those gardens in Glamis. The Garden features several yew hedges aswell as a stone fountain, and tributes to the late Queen Mother- with ornamental gates built to commemorate the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday acting as the entrance to the Italian Gardens.

The neighbouring Walled Gardens had fallen into neglect and desertion moving into the 21st century, though the gardens would be rejuvenated by Michael Fergus Bowes-Lyon, the 18th Earl, and his wife Lady Damaris William. They would look to reinstall much of its previous features, including the re-installation of a small bridge and an ornamental pond. Mostly, they would look to bring the walled garden back to its old production purposes of the 19th centruy- producing fruit for the earls and their families, with visits to the castle able to participate in the fruit picking.

Other notable parts of the extensive gardens include a near mile long nature walk through an Arboretum- in which the trees were largely planted by members of the Glamis and royal families. In this walk around Glamis visitors can find trails for red squirrels, and visit an old burial ground for family pets.

In Popular Culture

The grounds of Glamis are unsurprisingly listed on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland (a list of most notable gardens i Scotland), Glamis Castle has become a feature of Scotland over the years Since 1, largely thanks to it association with Macbeth bringing ti much tourism from Shakespeare fans. In 1987 a depiction of the castle was featured on ten pound notes issued by the Bank of Scotland- and the castle has become a regular feature on Scottish bank notes ever since.

The Castle today remains the home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kingehorne, despite being open to the public. The current 19th Earl, Simon Bowes-Lyon, uses the house a holiday home and is based in St Paul’s Walden Bury in England. The castle is open to the public most of the year round, and can be privately hired for events such as weddings.