The location that I’m currently writing about in my WIP is Ceann Druimin – Kildrummy, Aberdeenshire.
As part of my ongoing research of the area I’ve digressed from wondering what it was like in AD 84 and have been fascinated by its later, superb, claims to fame.
The Castles of Mar are so named since they are sited on the very large
province of MAR, a huge tract of north-east Scotland which was one of the 7
divisions of the Pictish Kingdom of Scotland. The ,
it’s believed, was named after the Mormaer (N.B. there are different spellings
of the word). A mormaer is the Scottish Gaelic name for the steward of each
province, who was the next level down from the Pictish king. These 7 areas,
later named earldoms, were found
north of the Central belt i.e. north of the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow. province of Mar
The earldom of Mar was a huge tract of land in northeast
and was politically important because of its strategic location. Around 1250,
the imposing castle at Kildrummy was built by William de Mar, who was the
current Mormaer and Chamberlain to Alexander III King of the Scots. Kildrummy guarded the main routes from the
south before they came together to wend north into Moray and Buchan.
|model of what it may have looked like during the 13 and 14th centuries|
During the reign of Alexander III, Scotland had become more prosperous- trade was flourishing which allowed the king to engage in building more castles and monasteries throughout the land-
being one of his new buildings. Kildrummy Castle Scotland
remained stable and well ruled till the death of Alexander III in 1286.
Unfortunately, Alexander III’s sole surviving heir was his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, who nominally became queen at the tender age of 3 years. For the ensuing five years, she had 6 guardians who ruled
in her name. When she was 8 she was betrothed to Prince Edward, the eldest son
of King Edward I of England.
Having set sail from Norway
she sickened, and died after the ship put into harbour in Orkney.
With no obvious heirs (Alexander’s second marriage in 1285 to Yolande, Comtesse de Montfort, produced no live children)
Scotland was in
dynastic turmoil. Edward I of England
had been in good relations with Alexander III and was asked to mediate between
the contenders to the Scottish throne. Edward I agreed to arbitrate but only on
condition that the claimants swore fealty to him as the feudal superior of Scotland. From
13 contestants he whittled the number down to 3, descendants of the daughters
of David I (Earl of Huntingdon). The three ‘finalists’ were John Balliol,
Robert Bruce and John Hastings. Edward chose John Balliol but Robert Bruce’s
claim was just a good since he was the grandson of David I.
John Balliol was crowned King of Scots in 1292 but it was immediately apparent that he could not prevent Edward I from dominating him. By 1294, Edward I was demanding soldiers from
to engage in his war with France. John Balliol might have been weak but his fellow countrymen
weren’t agreeing to Edward’s demands. They set up a council to rule instead of
John Balliol. Shunning Edward I they began the 'Auld Alliance’ with France which
was to last for the next 300 hundred years.
In 1296 and 1303, Edward I of England visited Kildrummy Castle as a guest but resistance to his demands was strengthening. By 1306, Robert Bruce was crowned King of the Scots and this dramatically changed relations between
Scotland and England. When the English invaded Scotland, Robert Bruce sent his wife and daughter to Kildrummy Castle, to safety, but that was
not to be. Kildrummy was left in the care of Robert Bruce’s brother Neil.
However, when the English besieged the castle and the defenders capitulated
after a blacksmith turned traitor, Neil was captured. He was hanged, quartered
and decapitated. Bruce’s wife and
daughter were imprisoned and part of the castle was destroyed by the English to
prevent further use by the Scots.
During the fourteenth century the castle was damaged and repaired a number of times after attacks by the English, though on at least one occasion also by the Scottish forces of King David II against the pro-English Earl of Mar in 1363.
During the fifteenth century, King James I seized the castle to curb the power of hos wayward noble, the castle being afterwards in the stewardship of a royal constable who only answered to the king.
In 1898, Colonel James Ogston bought the castle and over the next thirty years attempted to restore parts of it. Having been used as an unofficial stone supply for building elsewhere it was a massive challenge that he took on.
The property came to the hands of the state in 1951.