A – Z OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
S is for Stirling Castle
Today we travel to Scotland
Stirling Castle The view is from the King's Knot area, looking roughly northward to the castle.
The first record of Stirling Castle dates from around 1110, when King Alexander I dedicated a chapel here. It appears to have been an established royal centre by this time, as Alexander died here in 1124. During the reign of his successor David I, Stirling became a royal burgh, and the castle an important administration centre.
King William I formed a deer park to the south-west of the castle, but after his capture by the English in 1174 he was forced to surrender several castles, including Stirling and Edinburgh, under the Treaty of Falaise. There is no evidence that the English actually occupied the castle, and it was formally handed back by Richard I of England in 1189. Stirling continued to be a favoured royal residence, with William himself dying there in 1214, and Alexander III laying out the New Park, for deer hunting, in the 1260s.
Statue of Robert the Bruce on the castle esplanade
The death of Alexander III in 1286 triggered a succession crisis and Edward I of England came to arbitrate between the competing claimants. Edward came in 1291 and demanded that Stirling Castle, along with other royal castles, be put under his control during the arbitration. Edward judged in favour of John Balliol hoping he would be a puppet ruler but he refused to obey Edward’s demands.
Edward invaded Scotland in 1296 which began the Wars of Scottish Independence that lasted for the next 60 years. Stirling castle was abandoned and found empty by the English who were dislodged the following year by the victory of Andrew Moray and William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, many of the garrison were killed during the battle and the English commanders Sir William FitzWarin and Sir Marmaduke Tweng retreated in to the castle. They were quickly starved into surrender by the Scots. The following summer the castle changed hands again after being abandoned by the Scots after the English victory at Falkirk. Edward strengthened the castle but it was besieged in 1299 by forces including Robert the Bruce and they were forced to surrender.
1303 the English again held the upper hand and Stirling was the last remaining castle in Scottish hands. Edward’s army arrived in April 1304 with at least 17 siege engines and the Scots, under Sir William Oliphant, surrendered on 20 July but part of the garrison were ordered back in to the castle by Edward as he had not yet deployed his latest engine, Warwolf which is believed to have been a large trebuchet with destroyed the castle’s gatehouse.
Edward was dead by 1307 and Robert Bruce was now King of Scots. Edward Bruce, the king’s brother, laid siege to Stirling which was held by Sir Philip Mowbray. Mowbray proposed to surrender the castle if it were not relieved by 24 June 1314. Bruce agreed and withdrew.
Edward II led the English forward the following summer to save the castle but 23 – 24 June they were met by King Robert’s forces at the Battle of Bannockburn within sight of the castle walls. The English defeat was decisive and King Robert ordered the castle to be slighted and its defences destroyed to prevent any reoccupation by the English.
Further battles and sieges continued and in 1336 under Sir Thomas Rokeby extensive works were carried out largely in timber rather than in stone.
The north gate of the castle, at the lower left, is probably the oldest part of the castle, dating partly from the 1380s
Almost all the present buildings in the castle were constructed between 1490 and 1600, when Stirling was developed as a principal royal centre by the Stewart kings James IV, James V and James VI. The architecture of these new buildings shows an eclectic mix of English, French and German influences, reflecting the international ambitions of the Stewart dynasty.
Stirling Castle, drawn by John Slezer in 1693, and showing James IV's now-demolished Forework
James IV (reigned 1488–1513) kept a full Renaissance court, including alchemists, and sought to establish a palace of European standing at Stirling. He undertook building works at the several royal residences in Scotland of which the grandest works were at Stirling, and include the King's Old Building, the Great Hall, and the Forework.
The Forework, entry to the main part of the castle
The Chapel Interior
The Chapel Royal
The castle parade ground, has been used as an open-air concert venue for several noted acts, some of whom have used Stirling Castle and the surrounding scenery to film "in concert" DVDs. These acts include R.E.M., Ocean Colour Scene, Bob Dylan, Wet, Wet, Wet and Runrig. The esplanade also hosts the city's Hogmanay celebrations. The Regimental Museum and Home Headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are located in the King's Old Building.
The castle has seen wars and battles
It has been besieged and beset by rabbles
Changed hands and ruled by monarchs
Remaining one of the most outstanding landmarks
In the Scottish landscape
For some poor souls there was no escape
Royalty were born here
Renaissance statues of yesteryear
Guard the Royal Palace facade
Over the castle esplanade.