Glamis Castle is a 14th century category A listed castle beside the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland. The castle has been home to the Lyon (later Bowes-Lyon) family ever since. Glamis Castle was the childhood home of the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and she had a fair share of experiences here. Indeed, this castle is haunted and holds a dark family secret.
The history of Glamis Castle
The oldest part of Glamis Castle (pronounced Glahms) was built in 1372 when the land was granted to Sir John Lyon, Thane of Glamis, by King Robert II. Lyon was married to the King’s daughter and the land was part of her dowry. The castle as we know it today, was constructed in the 17th century. The land on which Glamis Castle is situated, has Prehistoric traces. A carved Pictish stone known as the Eassie Stone was found nearby. But, it is also believed to be the site (there was once a royal hunting lodge) where Malcolm II was murdered by Macbeth in 1034 (from William Shakespeare’s eponymous play from 1606). The title Lord Glamis was created in 1445 for Sir Patrick Lyon, grandson of Sir John. It’s the title the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne still use today.
King James V of Scotland
King James V of Scotland called Glamis Castle his home for a short period of time after he got rid of Lady Janet Douglas. Janet Douglas was the widow of John Lyon, 6th Lord Glamis. James V was feuding with the Douglasses, so he was after Janet Douglas. Lady Janet was accused of poisoning her first husband (John Lyon) who died in 1528, but she was cleared of the crime. She re-married a man by the name of Archibald Campbell of Skipness. James V knew he had to find another way to get to Janet Douglas.
He knew her brothers were part of several conspiracies against him. So, in 1537, he accused Lady Janet Douglas of communicating with her brothers and the plotting to kill the King by poison. He claimed she was a witch. To get confessions out of her relatives and servants, he tortured them. Lady Janet was sent to Edinburgh Castle for imprisonment in the dungeons. She was burned at the stake on Castle Hill July 17, 1537. Her 16-year-old son John was forced to witness her execution.
In 1543, a year after James V had died, Glamis Castle was returned to John Lyon, Janet’s son. Patrick Lyon, the 6th Earl of Glamis began renovating the castle on a large scale. During the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, soldiers were garrisoned at Glamis Castle. When in 1670, Patrick Lyon (3rd Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne) returned home he found it uninhabitable. The restorations on the castle took until 1689, and the Baroque garden was created then as well. In the early 19th century, there was a fire which nearly destroyed the south west-wing. In September 1916, another fire roared through the castle. Then, it was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen Mother, who organised the rescue of some of the castle’s contents. Yes, one needs to be brave to live in Glamis Castle, and I’m not talking about the occasional fires.
The ghosts of Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle has seen its share of tragedy through the years and it is haunted by several ghosts and family secrets. We’ll take a look at the most frequently sighted ghosts at the castle. And we’ll get into a very well-kept family secret, which is actually quite sad.
The ghost of Lady Janet Douglas
Poor Janet Douglas was the victim of the personal vendetta of James V against her family. Even though she died on Castle Hill, she haunts her former home. She is referred to as the Grey Lady and she has been seen in the castle’s private family chapel. There’s even a seat dedicated to her: no one in the family is allowed to sit here. The Grey Lady has also been seen in the clock tower.
The ghost of the tongueless maid
I was telling you about a deep and dark family secret, right? Well, that secret was accidentally discovered by one of the maids centuries ago. But, instead of keeping the secret to herself, she went straight to the Lord to confront him. Perhaps she even tried to blackmail him with his secret, and she ended up paying the ultimate price. The Lord, who absolutely wanted the family secret to be kept secret, ordered his men to silence her. Her tongue was to be removed so she couldn’t speak no longer. The men caught the maid, cut out her tongue, but the girl managed to escape. She ran across the courtyard, but was eventually re-captured and killed. Her ghost has been seen in the courtyard while blood is gushing from her mouth. She has also been seen behind one of the barred windows.
The black servant
Earl Beardie was a cruel man. He might have been either Alexander Lyon, the 2nd Lord Glamis, or Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford. Either way, this Earl Beardie existed at some point. One day, he and his friends were bored and they decided to have some fun. One of the black servants was stripped naked and forced to run around the castle grounds. This form of entertainment eventually turned dark because somehow it turned into a hunt. The poor man was chased down by Earl Beardie, his guests, and their dogs and completely torn apart. His ghost has been seen running the corridors in total panic.
Let’s talk about this horrible Earl Beardie a bit more. The man was a heavy drinker with a bad temper. One night, he demanded to play cards, but no one wanted to play because of the Sabbath. He cursed and screamed that he would play until Doomsday! Suddenly, a man in a black cloak appeared, who claimed he would play cards with him. After a while, a great deal of swearing and shouting was heard coming from the room they were in.
One of the servants took a peek through the keyhole to see what was happening and found himself blinded in one eye by a bright beam of light. It is rumoured that the mysterious man was the Devil himself who took Earl Beardie’s soul that night. He haunts the castle as a dark presence. He is known for waking up children in the middle of the night by leaning over their beds.
The African servant boy
The Queen Mother herself has seen a couple of ghosts in Glamis Castle. One of these ghosts was the spirit of a young African servant boy. Even though he was treated unkindly at the castle sometime in the midst of the 18th century, he is a funny character. This mischievous boy has been known to make people trip outside the Queen Mother’s bedroom. He’s also blamed for pulling away the bedclothes in the middle of the night. This happened mainly in the former dressing room which is now converted into a bathroom.
Some members of the Lyon family were quite cruel. Back in the days, the Ogilvie family and the Lindsay family were engaged in a nasty feud. One night, a group of Ogilvies arrived at the castle, begging the Lord for safety from a group of pursuing Lindsays. The Lord led them inside and took them to a secret room where the Lindsays couldn’t get to them. The Ogilvies were grateful, until they discovered he had locked them in to starve. The Lyons and the Lindsays were allies at the time. So, when the leader of the Lindsays arrived at the castle, Lord Glamis showed him the key and told him not to worry about the Ogilvies any longer.
A few weeks later, some servants heard strange noises coming from the dungeon. The Lord was away, so they set out to explore. When they opened the door to the dungeon, they were intensely shocked to find a whole pile of rotting corpses. One man was still alive, although it was barely. He had survived by eating the flesh of his dead relatives. Today, the room is thought to exude a strong feeling of uneasiness.
The Monster of Glamis
The big Lyon family secret is what is known as the Monster of Glamis. This “monster” was in fact a heavily deformed child. Various researchers claim this was Thomas Bowes-Lyon, a son of Thomas, Lord Glamis and his wife, who were the great-great grandparents of the current Queen. They told the public the child was a stillborn (October 21, 1821), but there are reasons to believe the child didn’t die. The child was born with a huge deformity: his chest was enormous, he was as hairy as a doormat and his head ran straight into his shoulders. The arms and legs of the Monster were toy-like, if we may believe the claims of the very few who laid eyes on him. Only three people knew of its existence and they had the heavy duty to take care of the Monster.
If one of these three confidants died, another was appointed. The Monster was hidden away in his own private chambers, deeply within the castle. When the Monster died, the Lord bricked his chambers in, so no one could ever discover the rooms. There was once a Lady Glamis who desperately wanted to find the Monster’s rooms. When the Lord was away, she invited some friends over and together they hung towels by each of the castle’s windows. Once outside, they discovered that one window was towelless. When the Lord came back unexpectedly, he was furious with his wife. She left the same night, never to return. It is said that the Monster of Glamis still haunts the castle’s battlements.
Sir Walter Scott
Because the castle was rather isolated, many Lords decided to live elsewhere. Glamis Castle was then looked after by a factor. Sir Walter Scott was one of them. He applied for the job in 1790. Scott thought the isolation of the castle would bring good to his writing. He didn’t last too long, though. In an account which he published in 1830 he claimed: “as I heard door after door shut… I began to consider myself as too far away from the living and somewhat too near the dead.”
Other ghostly phenomena in Glamis Castle
There’s a room called the Hangman’s Chamber inside the castle. A butler once hanged himself there and he still haunts this room. Faces appear at windows, there are cold spots, and a bent old lady who carries a bundle of cloth to the middle of the courtyard before disappearing has been seen as well. Banging and knocking noises are quite common.
Glamis Castle today
Glamis Castle can be visited, but you can also book a virtual tour for £ 8.50. It’s a beautiful castle and certainly worth the visit. And perhaps you’re able to find the hidden rooms or meet the Grey Lady!
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Cover photo: Reimar via AdobeStock
Sources: wikipedia, glamis-castle.co.uk, thecourier.co.uk, highlandtitles.com
Book: Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and haunted Places by Brad Steiger, second edition, 2013.
Address: Angus, DD8 1RJ, Scotland, United Kingdom