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History of St Andrews Castle

Saint Andrews Castle was originally known as ‘Kilrymont’, meaning ‘church on the head of the King’s mount’, whereby a religious community is known to have existed since the early eight century AD. It is theorised that the name ‘Saint Andrews’ was adopted when relics of the saint were brought to Fife as part of the foundation of the first Benedictine community (at nearby Dunfermline), and that this led to its increasing prominence as a religious centre. By the 1100s, the site was fortified, and from around 1200 it started to be adopted as the main residence of the bishops and archbishops of Saint Andrews. This took place after Bishop Turgot had founded the Parish of Kirk in the 12th century, and after his predecessor, Bishop Arnold, began the erection of Saint Andrews Cathedral. It was Bishop Roger of Saint Andrews, son of the Earl of Leicester, who ordered a stone castle to be built there in order to be used as his official residence. Previous to that, the holders of the Episcopal See had resided either in the Monastery of Culdees (now Kirkhill), or in the house of the Prior, adjoining the Cathedral, however with the strengthening of the See’s power, it was important that he also had a habitation for himself.

One must keep in mind that at the time, Bishops were not only spiritual guides. Churchmen in Scotland were more than spiritual leaders, in fact they were often major players on the political stage, and frequently also acted as military leaders and strategists as well. During the Scottish Wars of Independence (1296 – 1357), the Castle changed hands several times as first the English, then the Scots had the upper hand. The clash of new Protestant ideas with the traditional Catholic religion was not a peaceful one, and the hierarchy of the established Catholic Church was determined to stamp out the Protestant Reformation. Since Saint Andrews was the foremost See of Scotland, due to both antiquity and extent, the Bishop of such an important diocese was frequently brought to the forefront of such affairs, often together with the Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wiseheart.

The Castle was destroyed and rebuilt many times during the Wars of the Scottish Independence. Soon after the sack of Berwick in 1296 by King Edward I of England, the Castle was taken and made ready for the English King. Having had it repaired for his occupancy, King Edward I and his Queen lived in the Castle from March 1303 to April 1304, together with the Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward II. King Edward received the homage of the leading Scottish nobles and clergy while he was in residence at the Castle. In 1305, once again, the Castle was briefly re-captured by the Scots, who had to give way to the English once more a year later. All these frequent attacks must have surely weakened the Castle’s structure, so much so that Bishop Lamberton, a staunch supporter of Robert Bruce, who gained the upper hand over the Castle after the British were defeated at the battle of Bannockburn, had to spend his last years living in the Priory, instead of the Castle.

After Bishop Lamberton died, Edward Balliol, son of King John Balliol, seized the Castle and forced the new Bishop, James de Bane, to flee to Holland, where he died. The See was left unoccupied. Edward Balliol housed his garrison at Saint Andrews Castle, until he was attacked and defeated after a three-week long siege by Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, son of the companion-in-arms of William Wallace. In 1336-1337, the Scottish slighted and destroyed the Castle themselves, in order to prevent the English from using it as a stronghold once again.

The importance of Saint Andrews as a religious and political centre however, meant that the Castle was not left to decay completely. Before the end of the 14th century, Bishop Walter Tail started rebuilding it, and it is largely his work that we can see today. He completed his work on the Castle in about 1400, just in time to die within its walls in 1401. At this time, David, first Duke of Rothesey, and son of Robert III, whose tutor Walter Tail had been, believed it was his duty to occupy the Castle after the death of the Bishop, till a successor was appointed. As the young Duke made his way to Fife, he was waylaid by the emissaries of the 1st Duke of Albany, his uncle, and imprisoned at Saint Andrews Castle. At this time, the castle was also serving as a notorious prison, known for its 24 foot deep bottle dungeon; a dank and airless pit cut out of solid rock below the northwest tower, where criminals who fell under the Bishop’s jurisdiction were held. The Duke of Rothesey was later taken to Falkland Palace, where he met a sad fate. Among the most famous prisoners held within the dungeon at Saint Andrews, was Archbishop Patrick Graham of Saint Andrews, who in 1478 was found to be insane and imprisoned in his own castle.

As time passed, the Castle of Saint Andrews increased in importance. Bishop Henry Wardlaw, who founded Saint Andrews University in 1410, also tutored James I of Scotland for a time. Later, Bishop James Kennedy, who was a trusted advisor of James II of Scotland and founded the Greyfriars Monastery and the Chapel of St Salvador, presided over the Castle. In 1445, Saint Andrews Castle was the birthplace of James III. Bishop Kennedy died in 1465 and his half-brother, the Bishop of Brechin, succeeded him the following year. Archbishop Patrick Graham, who had been studying and serving in Rome, was the first Archbishop of Saint Andrews and when he returned to Scotland in 1472, he returned with permission from Pope Sixtus IV to constitute Saint Andrews as the Metropolitan See of Scotland.

Archbishop Graham’s career was not a long one. Impoverished by the bribes he had presented to the officials in Rome for his title, he was charged of heresy and simony by William Scehvez, the Archdeacon, in 1478, and he was later deposed and imprisoned, first in the Monastery of Inchcolm and later in Loch Leaven Castle, where he died. Schevez succeeded him as the second Archbishop, and resided at the Castle. Soon after his appointment, he clashed with Robert Blacader, Archbishop of Glasgow, on a point of etiquette. The dispute became violent and had to be submitted to His Holiness Pope Innocent VIII, who gave preference to Saint Andrews.

The See of Saint Andrews became once again vacant in 1497 when James Stewart, second son of King James II, died. James IV wanted his illegitimate son, Alexander Stuart, to take the post, yet he was still too young, and so the See was left vacant until 1505, when he was nominated. In 1509, he was also appointed Chancellor of Scotland, however he died in 1513, when he accompanies his father the king to the battlefield in Flodden. After Archbishop Stewart’s death, the Queen Regent Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV, claimed the right to appoint a new Archbishop and wanted to choose Bishop Elphinstone of Aberdeen for the See of Saint Andrews. Unfortunately, he died in 1545 before he could be installed.

Later on, she wanted to nominate Gawain Douglas, her uncle, however the Chapter of Saint Andrews preferred John Hepburn, the Prior of Saint Andrew, while on the other hand, the Pope recommended Andrew Forman, Bishop of Moray for the position. There were therefore three claimants to the position, proposed by the Crown, the Church, and the Papal Power. Gawain Douglas made the first move in that he tried to take violent possession of Saint Andrews, using the troops of Angus and the Queen Regent as support. Prior Hepburn meanwhile assembled the Border Clans of the Hepburns and Homes, to whom he was related, and took the Castle by storm. The wily Bishop Forman used bribery and corruption to further his cause, instead of violence, and soon Prior Hepburn had no choice but to succumb to circumstances. He withdrew his soldiers from the Castle and resigned his claim to the Primacy in return for power and money. Thus, the nominees of the Queen Regent and the Church were conquered by the Pope’s favourite, who became Archbishop Forman of Saint Andrews.

Archbishop Forman died in 1522, and his successor was James Beaton the Archbishop of Glasgow, and son of John Beaten of Balfour in Fife. Renowned for his hospitality, Beaten assisted King James V to throw off the yoke of the Earl of Angus. In revenge, Angus laid waste to Saint Andrews Castle. Beaton restored the Castle completely and in fact Kames V was frequently entertained there. During the rule of Archbishop James Beaton, the persecution of the Scottish Protestants began, and in fact he was especially active in the issue, using the dungeons of the Castle to confine and punish heretics. He altered the defences of the Castle to withstand heavy artillery, in order to be protected in the case of an attack due to the tensions between English Protestants and Scottish Catholics. Beaten appointed as his successor his nephew, David Beaton, an ambitious man who later became Cardinal and Mary Queen of Scots’ chancellor after she was crowned. David Beaton was the third son of John Beaten, and became Archbishop of Saint Andrews in 1539. Like his uncle before him, Archbishop David Beaton adopted a violent attitude against Protestants and pursued the heretics as if it were a pious duty. Moreover his strong opposition to the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Prince Edward, the son and heir of King Henry VIII, helped to spark renewed fighting in 1544. In 1546, David Beaton imprisoned the Protestant preacher George Wishart and had him burnt at the stake in front of the Castle walls, where today brick lettering marks the spot. That same year, Wishart’s allies conspired against the Cardinal. They disguised themselves as masons doing building work and entered the Castle secretly, overcoming the garrison and murdering Cardinal Beaton. His naked body was hung from his window at the front of the Castle, in reprisal for Wishart’s burning. Following the murder, the Protestants occupied the Castle and formed the first Protestant congregation in Scotland. The Scottish Regent, James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, ordered a siege. In 1546, the besiegers tried to undermine the walls of the Castle by digging a large tunnel or mine through the solid rock, the tunnel was large and wide enough for them to be able to carry out the spoils. The defenders responded by trying to dig an intercepting tunnel or countermine. There were several false starts, however the narrow countermine broke through the attacker’s mine and this resulted in an underground fight between the two sides.

King Henry VIII planned to assist the Protestants within the Castle, but he never sent aid and neither did his son Edward VI. In 1547, the siege was eventually settled with the arrival of the French fleet, which bombarded the Castle and reduced it to ruins and captured John Knox, who was serving as the garrison’s preacher. The defeated Protestants were taken away; some of them were imprisoned in France, while others, Knox included, were condemned to the galleys. John Knox was imprisoned in Paris and released the following year. He later went to Scotland where he resumed his position as a leader of the Scottish Reformation.

Saint Andrews Castle then passed to the illegitimate brother of the Regent Earl of Arran, Archbishop John Hamilton. He had previously been the Abbot of Paisley, as well as the Bishop of Dunkeld. Hamilton rebuilt much of the Castle before being executed for his role in the murder of Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband. After 1560, Saint Andrews Castle was used mainly as a gaol for political prisoners.

In 1606, Parliament separated the Castle from the archbishopric and it passed into secular ownership under the Earl of Dunbar, constable since 1603. Although in 1612 it was returned to Archbishop George Gledstanes, attempts to re-establish it as the estates of the Archbishop failed. With the eventual success of the Reformation in Scotland, the Bishop’s office was eroded until it was finally abolished by William of Orange in 1689. Ownership passed on to the burgh council – the local civic government. The Castle rapidly fell into ruin and by 1656 it had fallen into such disrepair that stones from it started to be used to repair the harbour pier.