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History of Doune Castle

The strategic importance of the area where Doune Caste is situated was recognised very early on, and it has in fact, a long history of fortification. One can find a Roman fort nearby, at Ardoch, not to mention the fact that earthworks surrounding the present Doune Castle indicate that there was a much older castle on the same site. The name ‘Doune’ originates from the ancient Gaelic word ‘dun’, which means, ‘fort’. Recent research has shown that Doune Castle was originally built in the thirteenth century, after which it was probably severely damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence. The current castle was re-built during the late 14th century and served as the seat of Robert Stewart, the 1st Duke of Albany, son of King Robert II, who served as Regent and Governor of Scotland during the reign of his brother, King Robert III. He acquired Doune Castle in 1361, when he married Margaret Graham, the Countess of Menteith, and was created Albany in 1398. He also had the titles of Earl of Mentheith and Fife through his marriage. Albany was more than a temporary steward, as in reality he was king in all but name during his infirm brother’s reign, and at the heart of Scottish politics for more than 50 years. Although he was the actual king’s younger brother, King Robert III was politically weak and physically infirm after an injury. He also served as the de facto ruler during the childhood and captivity of Robert III’s heir, James I, who was taken prisoner in England in 1406. He is, in fact, known as ‘Scotland’s uncrowned king’. Doune Castle was his favoured residence.

Albany died in 1420 and Doune, together with the estate of Albany and the Regency, passed on to his son Murdoch. King James I was ransomed and returned to his native land in 1424, after which he fell out with Murdoch who was imprisoned for treason as were two of his sons. They were executed in 1425, after which Doune Castle became a Royal possession under an appointed Captain or Keeper. It served as a hunting retreat for the Scottish monarch, as well as being used as a dower house for a succession of widowed Queens, such as Mary of Guelders, Margaret of Denmark and Mary Tudor, the widowed wives of James II, James III, and James IV respectively. Doune’s importance as a royal retreat ended in 1603, when King James VI left for London to become King James I of England.

In 1528, Mary Tudor, Regent of Scotland for her infant son James V, married Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven, who was a descendant of Albany. His brother, Sir James Stewart, was made Captain of Doune Castle, and his son was created Lord Doune in 1570. Mary Queen of Scots stayed at Doune Castle on several occasions, occupying a suite of rooms above the kitchens. Forces loyal to her held the Castle during a brief civil war, which had followed her forced abdication in 1567. King James VI visited Doune more than once, and in 1581 authorised a consistent sum of money to be spent on repairs and improvements, under the supervision of the Master of Work to the Crown of Scotland. Lord Doune’s son married Elizabeth Stuart, the 2nd Countess of Moray around 1580, becoming the Earl of Moral. The castle thus became the seat of the Earls of Moray, who owned it until the 20th century.

In 1607 John Munro of Tain, a dissenter against the religious plans of King James VI was imprisoned at Doune. He escaped with the aid of the Constable of the Castle, who was subsequently imprisoned himself. James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, was a Royalist and occupied Doune Castle in 1645, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. In 1654, during Glencairn’s rising against the occupation of Scotland by Oliver Cromwell, a skirmish took place at Doune between Royalists under Sir Mungo Murray, and Cromwellian troops under Major Tobias Bridge. The castle was garrisoned by government troops during the following Jacobite Rising in 1689, and again during the rising of 1715. During the Jacobite Rising of 1745, Dounce Castle was occupied by Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, with his Jacobite Highlanders. It was also used as a prison for government troops captured at the Battle of Falkirk in 1746.

The Castle building deteriorated through the 18th century, until by 1800 Doune was a roofless ruin. It remained so for more than eighty years, after which George Stuart, the 14th Earl of Moray, began repair works. The timber roofs were replaced, as were the interiors. The Castle became public property after it was leased to the State by Douglas Stuart, the 20th Earl of Moray, in 1984. It is at present being taken care of by Historic Scotland, along with many other important cultural sites around the country.