Stirling Castle




Stirling Castle

Site Information

Country: Scotland
State: Stirling
Location: 56° 7' 25" N - 3° 56' 50" W
Field Documentation Date(s): July 15th, 2009
Project Release Date(s): August 15th, 2011
Time Range: 1100 CE - 1714 CE
Era: Late Medieval, Renaissance
Culture: Scottish
Site Authority: Historic Scotland
Heritage Listing: Scheduled Ancient Monument
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Site Description

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A mighty stone fort precariously perched atop a volcanic crag, Stirling Castle was the favored residence of many Scottish monarchs for centuries, including King James V of the Stuart lineage, father of Mary Queen of Scots. By James V's time, Stirling Castle had long been a place of great importance to Scotland, strategically located at the most accessible crossing point of the River Forth at the geographic intersection of the highlands and lowlands (Stain-Kerr 13). As such, the castle was a prime strategic target during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries, frequently ending up completely razed from the fighting while control passed back and forth between English and Scottish forces. Consequently, few physical traces of the castle from this period remain (Fawcett 24-28).

Stone masonry began to replace wood at the Castle by the late 13th century with the initial construction of the northern and southern gates, and the building of defensive works continued through the 14th century despite Robert the Bruce’s slighting (dismantling) of most of the earlier defensive structures after 1314 (ibid. 28-31). In the final years of the 15th century, James IV redesigned and strengthened the gates, commissioned a new royal lodging (now called the King's Old Building), and ordered the construction of the Great Hall. This Great Hall held national festivities, while the castle chapel was where important royal religious ceremonies were held; opulent gardens and bountiful hunting grounds were all in the immediate vicinity (ibid. 13). Thus, by the time of King James V's reign in the 16th century, a strong assemblage of permanent buildings had been erected while the broader castle grounds were established for royal purposes in addition to warfare (ibid. 34).

The increasingly-powerful Stuart line of Scottish kings was eager to build monuments to rival those found elsewhere in Europe, and the young James V was determined to make his mark on Stirling Castle. Chapel Royal underwent heavy renovations to lend royal religious ceremonies greater gravitas (including the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543), and just 40 years after James IV commissioned the first royal residential block, a new one was ordered to be built. The Renaissance design of the new Palace block was commissioned in 1538 by James V as a residence for his second wife, Mary de Guise (Fawcett 36). James, who had spent time in France, hired French masons to remodel the Palace in order to bring it up to international royal standards of the period. The modern Renaissance Palace was designed to please his French wife Mary, and to better entertain and impress visiting aristocracy from the continent, particularly the French nobles whose alliance he wanted to confirm in Scotland’s ongoing conflict with the still-hostile English (Mitchison 93-99). A vision of cosmopolitanism was soon brought to life, and the Royal Lodgings were remodeled into some of the best examples of Italian-inspired Renaissance architecture in Europe.

Two separate, identically-planned suites of rooms were built, one for the king and the other for the queen. Each featured an impressive series of three chambers and antechambers, starting in a sparsely furnished outer hall, continuing to a highly decorated inner hall (including the magnificent wood-carved Stirling Heads), and leading in their deepest reaches to the highly opulent and lavishly furnished private residential quarters of the monarchs themselves, set back-to-back against each other and symmetrically arranged around an inner courtyard. The layout of these lodgings helped to control access to royal power. Most of these lodgings are intact and are considered to be the finest surviving royal Renaissance constructions of their type in Britain, though a few small areas, such as the Queen's inner closets and the viewing chamber that ran from the king's to the queen's inner chambers, have not lasted into the present (Fawcett 14-15). More perishable but important elements of the Palace, such as the magnificent tapestries that lined its walls, have either failed to endure the ravages of time or were long-ago taken from the Palace; though several works have been restored or replicated in service of the current Palace restoration (Historic Scotland).
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History

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In 1857, the famed novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne visited Scotland's Stirling Castle. His first impressions, published in The English Note-Books, stated "The history of Scotland might be read from this castle wall, as on a book of mighty page" (Hawthorne 257). This American literary giant's summation had a great deal of truth to it, as this enormous stone edifice has been squarely at the center of many of Scotland's most pivotal events since the early 12th century. Located as it was on the most accessible crossing of the River Forth, at the junction of Scotland's highland and lowlands, the Stirling area was of vital strategic importance and was a much fought-over prize during the Medieval period (Stain-Kerr 13).

A Brief Chronology of Stirling Castle

( All dates are during the Common Era unless otherwise noted)

1100–1286: Stirling Castle's Origins
While the town of Stirling has been populated since prehistoric times and local lore holds that military strongholds have existed here since at least the mid-first millennium CE, there is little recorded or archaeological evidence of permanent habitation on the rocky volcanic crag of Castle Hill before the early 12th century CE (Fawcett 24-25). Records indicate that King Alexander I of Scotland dedicated a chapel on the site around 1110, he later died at the site in 1124. In the years that followed, particularly under Alexander's successor David I, Stirling became an important royal administrative center. The entire Stirling area, as well as Edinburgh, were surrendered to the English by King William I (who died in the castle in 1214) under the Treaty of Falaise in 1174. King Richard I of England handed the castle back to the Scots in 1189 (ibid. 25), and following this, Stirling remained under Scottish control for nearly a century.

1286–1357: The Wars of Scottish Independence
The death of Alexander III in 1286 triggered a crisis of royal succession, leaving an opening for the England’s King Edward I to become embroiled in Scotland's affairs. Edward's political machinations culminated in his invasion of Scotland in 1296, beginning the Wars of Scottish Independence (ibid 27). Stirling Castle (and its surrounding boroughs) was one of the most hotly-contested properties during this war and rapid-fire conquests caused it to change ownership frequently. Two of the greatest battles during the 60-year-long conflict were fought in Stirling's shadow: Stirling Bridge (1297, with the Scots re-taking Stirling Castle under the command of William Wallace) and Bannockburn (1314, with the Scots under the command of Robert the Bruce). Following Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce King of Scots ordered the slighting (destruction) of the castle's defensive structures (thought to be mostly wood-built) in order to prevent further occupations by English invaders (ibid 27-29). The site was not to be inactive for long, however, and the English regained control of the crag between 1336-1342, during which time they built a great many more defensive constructions; these were then elaborated upon by the conquering Scot, Robert Stuart (the future Robert II) following the end of the war in 1357 (ibid., Mitchison 120).

1371–1488: The Early Stuart Kings
During the reigns of Robert II and Robert III (1371-1390 and 1390-1406 respectively), the earliest surviving stone construction began on the Castle with the northern gate in 1381, a defensive rampart designed not only to repel foreign invasions but also internal rebellious forces that wanted to challenge established royalist power (Fawcett 31). The Stuart Kings that followed elaborated greatly on these foundations, reflecting the increasing power and wealth of the Scottish monarchy as well as newly-established strategic ties with more established European powers, particularly France (Boardman 231-250). James I, II, and III all made their own architectural marks on the castle, particularly in the gardens and the original Chapel Royal (1467-1469) (Fawcett 31-33). James III was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn in June 1488, and his son James IV was crowned at Scone two weeks later (Historic Scotland website).

1488–1513: Rule of James IV
It was under the reigns of James IV, V, and VI that Stirling's greatest architectural gains were achieved, and during this time the cosmopolitan forms of Italian-style classical Renaissance architecture were first built at the site. James IV inherited a great deal of regional land from his mother, Margaret of Denmark, and firmly consolidated his power by crushing rebellions, signing a peace treaty with England (consummated by a marriage to Margaret Tudor, daughter of England's King Henry VII), and building a strong Scottish navy (Mitchison 76-84). At Stirling, his birthplace and favored residence, James IV ordered the construction of a new royal lodging block now known as the King's Old Building (1496), as well as the Great Hall (1503) (Fawcett 34). After war broke out between England and France, James IV was obliged under the Auld Alliance (originally ratified in 1295) to enter the war against England. He was killed at the Battle of Flodden Field in England in 1513 (Mitchison 83-87).

1513–1542: James V
James IV and Margaret Tudor's son, James V, was born in 1512 and was only 17 months old when his father was killed in battle; he was crowned 12 days later in Stirling's Chapel Royal. The country was ruled by regents, including Margaret Tudor, until 1528, when James V was able to defeat his enemies (particularly the Duke of Albany) and assert control of the Scottish government as King (ibid. 88-92). He was eager to strengthen Scotland's long-established strategic ties to France, and in 1537 James married Madeline of Valois, daughter of Francis I of France. Madeline was ill with what was likely Tuberculosis, however, and within six months of their marriage she died at the age of sixteen (ibid. 93-94). Within the year James was married to another French noblewoman, the young widow Mary of Guise, and she bore him two sons who both died in infancy. It was their daughter, Mary (born in 1542), who would eventually rise to the throne as Mary Queen of Scots (ibid. 98-99, Fawcett 36).
During his relatively short active reign (1528-1542), James V was the driving force behind the most significant Renaissance building that still stands at Stirling today: the royal lodgings of the Palace, begun in 1538 and mostly completed around 1540. This palace was built just 40 years after James IV commissioned the first royal residential block (more details in the Site Description section) (Fawcett 36, Historic Scotland - James V and Stirling). Additionally, heavy renovations were undergone at the Chapel Royal to lend royal religious ceremonies greater gravitas, including the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots as a six day-old infant in 1543 (Fawcett 39). Meanwhile, new tensions were on the rise between England and Scotland as the Anglican Church split from the Roman Catholic church in the 1530s under the powerful English monarch Henry VIII (Margaret Tudor's brother); England was now denominationally alone and surrounded by hostile Roman Catholic countries with strong military ties, including both Scotland and France (Mitchison 98-101).

1542–1587: Mary Queen of Scots
James V's death came in late 1542 when he was 30 years old, just days after Mary was born and shortly after open conflict with England resumed (ibid.). Mary was raised in the environs of Stirling Castle and her rise to power was fraught with difficulty. Conflict between the Catholic royalist and rebellious Protestant Scot factions became constant. Mary had the title of Queen of Scots, and due to partial Tudor lineage from her grandmother Margaret, she also had a legitimate claim to the English throne; this was considered a grave threat by the English aristocracy, and decades of additional conflict and intrigue ensued (Mitchison 123-130). Mary was thrice married and bore a son with Henry Stuart (also a descendant of Margaret Tudor). Though Mary narrowly escaped death by fire at Stirling castle in 1561, she was forced to abdicate the throne in 1567, and was executed in England in 1587 on charges of treason (likely spurious) against the English crown, then held by Elizabeth I. England was a Protestant country by this point, and hostility to Mary's Catholicism is considered to have played a role in her execution (ibid. 129-138).

1603–1625: James I of the United Kingdom
Immediately following Elizabeth I's death in 1603, Mary's son James Charles Stuart (b. 1566) successfully united the English and Scottish crowns when he ascended the throne to become James I of England; he had already become James VI of Scotland when Mary abdicated the throne in 1567 and he had wielded actual power as the Scottish monarch since 1578. King James, who was crowned in Stirling's Chapel Royal, was raised at the castle as a Protestant and ordered a massive expansion of the Chapel in 1594 for the christening of his son, Prince Henry (Fawcett 39-43). King James enjoyed a long and prosperous reign. Much of James' later life was spent in England, and after his coronation he visited Stirling only once, in 1617. He died in 1625, at the age of 58, as the first crown monarch of the United Kingdom (ibid. 40-43).

1625–present
In the centuries following these events, Stirling Castle has continued to play an important role in Scottish identity. The last major construction work on the castle was completed between 1708 and 1714, under the direction of Scottish military engineer Captain Theodore Dury, and consisted mainly of strengthening the walls and outer defenses of the castle to protect against Jacobite uprisings (ibid 44-45). This work, however, had little effect on the core portions of the castle as built under the Stuart Kings. Since the military construction, there has been minimal architectural change to the castle, though great respect for the monumental manifestations of history which permeate its walls did not prevent the site from being actively used in service of the state well through the 19th century. In 1964, the castle walls ceased to garrison the United Kingdom’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders infantry, and soon reverted from active military to civilian use. Stirling Castle then became a Scheduled Monument under the care of Historic Scotland, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United Kingdom today (ibid. 46-47).
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Project Narrative

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In 2009, Historic Scotland and the Digital Design Studio at The Glasgow School of Art scanned the entire castle to digitally document the important monument and to provide accurate survey information to inform conservation works. CyArk's web portal will make this information accessible to a wider audience.

For more information about Stirling Castle, visit their website.
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Area Descriptions

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Esplanade
Inner Castle
Douglas Garden
Forework
Elphinstone Tower
Forework Gatehouse
Prince's Tower
Great Hall
Inner Close
Chapel Royal
King's Old Building
Outer Close
Fort Major's House
Grand Battery
Great Kitchens
Main Guard House
Master Gunner's House
North Gate
Palace
King's Chambers
Ladies' Hole
Lion's Den
Queen's Chambers
Nether Bailey
Guard House
Magazines
Outer Defenses
Bowling Green Gardens
Casemates
French Spur
Guardroom Square
Main Gate

Esplanade

Esplanade Description:

The Esplanade is a large open plaza placed before Striling Castle's Outer Defenses with a stone-paved road leading up to the Main Gate. The Esplanade was kept open so defense forces could see anyone approaching from a safe distance at the castle's only approach which was not surrounded by sheer cliff faces; in 1809 it became a military parade ground (Fawcett 4).


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Inner Castle

Inner Castle Description:

Surrounded by the Outer Defenses and primarily accessed by the great round arch under the Forework, the Inner Castle is the oldest, most highly-fortified central section of Stirling which includes the defense-oriented Outer Close, the Grand Battery, and the royal sanctum of the Inner Close.


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Douglas Garden

Douglas Garden Description:

Located to the North of the King's Old Building (James IV's Palace), the Douglas Garden is a quiet, grassy area that overlooks the countryside and the environs of the Nether Bailey. It is named for the 8th Earl of Douglas, a conspiratorial noble who was killed by King James II at Stirling in 1452 and whose skeleton was discovered in this garden in the late eighteenth century. The powder magazine located here dates to 1681, and was used until the Powder Magazines of the Nether Bailey were built in the early nineteenth century; these new magazines were more well-fortified and located at a safer distance from the main castle buildings (Todd 123; Fawcett 17).


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Forework

Forework Description:

A great defensive wall most likely designed by Scottish masons John Yorkston and John Lockhart, the Forework as it stands today was built under the reign of James IV around the year 1500; lower portions of the wall reveal earlier masonry that indicate fortifications of the castle prior to 1500 were likely built along this line as well. Prior to the mid-16th century, it is likely that the enclosed environs of Stirling Castle were all located behind the Forework which also served as main entrance; it was not until the 1550s that work began on the Outer Defences of the castle to better protect the inner areas (Fawcett 7, 34).


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Elphinstone Tower

Elphinstone Tower Description:

The Elphinstone Tower, located at the northeastern end of the Forework, was (along with the Prince's Tower) one of the two square, large towers located at opposite ends of the Forework. The Elphinstone Tower was partially dismantled in 1689 during construction of the Three-Gun Battery, and presently stands at approximately half of its original height. The interior remains of the Elphinstone Tower were cleared of debris in 1921 and are now publicly-accessible (Fawcett 7, 8).


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Forework Gatehouse

Forework Gatehouse Description:

The Forework Gatehouse is positioned at the center of the Forework and was built contemporarily with this greater defensive structure of which it was a part. With an appearance simultaneously evocative of French design, Arthurian legends, and Classical triumphal arches, three gateways open underneath featuring one wide arch flanked by two smaller pedestrian portals. In the Forework Gatehouse's earlier years, two half-round towers in turn flanked the Gatehouse, which would have originally been topped with conical roofs. There were also three-quarter round towers at each of the four angles topping the gatehouse as it extended into the Outer Close, only two of these remain today and no longer have their conical roofs. The Forework Gatehouse currently stands at around a third of its original height and much reduced in overall size, likely from having been the targets of heavy artillery during Cromwell's siege of 1651. The Battlements at the tops of the towers were built in 1810 (Fawcett 7, 34; Hull 2009:79).


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Prince's Tower

Prince's Tower Description:

Unlike the other towers of the Forework, including its twin the Elphinstone Tower, the large square structure called the Prince's Tower still stands today relatively unaltered from its original height as built under the reign of James IV; later Castle redesigns under James V simply incorporated it into the royal Palace. This tower was never used for serious defense of the castle, and its original defensive features (arrow slots, old battlements) would have been dated even when it was built at the turn of the 16th century, and would not have withstood a barrage of heavy artillery from the period. The evidence thus points to a conclusion that James IV's stunning Forework was never designed as a front-line defensive structure, rather, it was likely built to convey a sense of traditional, medieval royal grandiosity and sophisticated aesthetic beauty (Fawcett 7, 39; Hull 2009:79).


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Great Hall

Great Hall Description:

Initially built around 1503 at the behest of James IV, Stirling Castle's Great Hall faces the King's Old Building, which was likely the royal palace at the time and the structures are roughly contemporary . Rectangular in plan, the Great Hall bears some similarity to the hall at Eltham Palace in England, built for King Edward IV in the late 15th century; though it far exceeds the English edifice in size and is, in fact, the largest castle hall ever built in Scotland. Windows placed high on the walls surround the structure, while two full-height bay windows at the south end illuminate the dais, which was connected to the King's Old Building (palace) by a bridge. Four spiral staircases and five fireplaces served to connect and heat the building's internal areas, which changed significantly between the 16th and early 18th centuries as the inner castle areas shifted from royal to military use. In recent decades, the Great Hall has been carefully restored to its 16th-century condition; this restoration included a 1999 lime-washing of the exterior walls that give the hall an almost-new appearance in contrast to the more-weathered structures surrounding it (Fawcett 13, Historic Scotland).


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Inner Close

Inner Close Description:

The great square of the Inner Close is one of the two principal courtyards of Stirling Castle, and access to it is tightly controlled by means of a single, steeply-sloping road between the Palace and the Great Hall that leads to the Outer Close. Positioned as such, the Inner Close lies at the heart of the castle, surrounded by the castle's main royal buildings including the Palace, the Great Hall, the Chapel Royal, and the King's Old Building. Archaeological and historical evidence indicate that the Inner Close was developed around 1500 CE as part of James IV's redesign of Stirling Castle's royal areas; older buildings in this section of the castle's interior were positioned on a diagonal axis to follow the natural configurations of the volcanic bedrock. The majority of construction here has undergone minimal external alteration since the reigns of James IV, V, and VI compared to the rest of the castle grounds, though many of the buildings were subdivided internally for military use in the centuries that followed the reigns of these legendary monarchs (Fawcett 9).


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Chapel Royal

Chapel Royal Description:

The Royal Chapel, as it stands today, was likely designed by William Schaw and commissioned by King James VI to provide an appropriately opulent setting for the 1594 coronation of Prince Henry, James VI and Queen Anne of Denmark's first son. Rectangular in form and entered via an imposing triumphal arch, this elegant Italian Renaissance-style building ended up being James VI's primary architectural contribution to Stirling Castle. The old chapel, which was in poor condition and placed in an inconvenient position relative to the new architectural works of James IV and V, was slated to be replaced as early as the first decade of the 1500s under James IV; the actual building of the new (present) Chapel Royal, however, did not occur until almost a century later. The Chapel Royal's interior space has undergone extensive redecoration and renovations over the centuries, most notably in 1633 for Charles I's coronation, while the exterior has remained largely intact to the 1594 design (Fawcett 11, 39-40).


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King's Old Building

King's Old Building Description:

This L-shaped structure is located on the western side of the Inner Close's square at the highest point on the castle rock, with a commanding view of the countryside. The King's Old Building is a composite of several building phases from Stirling Castle's history. It was primarily built during James IV's reign, and current scholarship holds that it was the fabled 'King's House' designed by French architect Walter Merlioun and built in 1496 as the royal residence. As this building is situated along the edge of the castle along the top of its western cliffs, it incorporates walls from before James IV's time at its south end. The building's main rooms from the 1496 design included the King's Hall, beyond which were his chambers, with lesser chambers (closets) past that. These rooms were located on the first floor, above the vaulted ground floor, and rose the entire height of the building; these two floors were connected by a spiral staircase in the octagonal entrance tower. The King's Old Building was replaced as the royal palace by James V's neighboring Renaissance structure after 1538. Through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries the building was used by military officers and the Governor, and it underwent many internal redesigns that added additional floors, walls, and smaller windows to replace the original large ones that faced the Inner Close (Fawcett 10, 34).


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Outer Close

Outer Close Description:

Located slightly downhill from the royal sanctum of the Inner Close, the defense-oriented Outer Close courtyard is bordered by the highest fortified wall of the Palace to the west and the gable of the Great Hall as well as the Grand Battery with the North Gate and Master Gunner's House towards the east and north; in front of the far north side of the Master Gunner's House is the stairwell leading to the Great Kitchens. Towards the southern end of the Outer Close are the remains of the 16th-century Elphinstone Tower as well as the Main Guard House and Fort Major's House, dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries (respectively) (Fawcett 8).


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Fort Major's House

Fort Major's House Description:

Built during the early nineteenth century, the Fort Major's House is one of several buildings in and around the Outer Close that represent the post-royal period of Stirling Castle. Like the neighboring Main Guard House, the Magazines in the Nether Bailey, and the internal subdivisions of several royal buildings (particularly the Great Hall) to provide for use as barracks, the Fort Major's House was an important component of the military's use of Stirling as a base by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders until 1964 (Fawcett 8).


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Grand Battery

Grand Battery Description:

The Grand Battery (a firing ground and array of guns and cannons) of the Outer Close was fairly small during the early years of the castle, but it was fortified and greatly expanded during the Jacobite uprising of 1689. This was partially in response to the changed nature of warfare, which by then saw far more damaging artillery, and partially due to Stirling Castle's de-emphasis as a royal residence while its military importance grew; the 16th-century Great Kitchens, which were located underneath the present battery lawn, ceased to be useful in preparing royal feasts and were filled in 1689 to provide greater fortification. A series of great cannons and fortifications remain in the Grand Battery today (Stair-Kerr 131).


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Great Kitchens

Great Kitchens Description:

In Stirling Castle's early years, a relatively small kitchen was located above the North Gate on its first floor, though the construction of the neighboring Great Hall in the first few years of the 16th century necessitated the building of a larger kitchen facility. Initially constructed around 1511-1512 by mason John Lockhart to serve the dining room of the Great Hall, the Great Kitchens were located in vaults in the Outer Close and were designed to feed scores of people at once. These kitchens were filled in and built-over in 1689 during reinforcement of the Grand Battery. By this time the ruling monarchs, who held large-scale celebrations requiring a banquet-oriented kitchen, had largely departed Stirling, and the castle segued into a more purely-military role in the face of the looming Jacobite threat. Archaeological work allowed for the partial reconstruction of the vaults of the Great Kitchens in the 1920s, and currently they are decorated with an educational display demonstrating how they may have been utilized during their 16th century heyday. During the years in which these kitchens were in use, food was likely carried through a special corridor extending through the North Gate's first floor, close by the area where the original kitchen may have been located (Fawcett 16; Historic Scotland; Stair-Kerr 130-133).


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Main Guard House

Main Guard House Description:

Built during the late eighteenth century, the Main Guard House is one of several buildings in and around the Outer Close that represent the post-royal period of Stirling Castle. Like the Fort Major's House, the Magazines in the Nether Bailey, and the internal subdivisions of several royal buildings (particularly the Great Hall) to provide for use as barracks, the Main Guard House was an important component of the military's use of Stirling as a base by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders until 1964 (Fawcett 8).


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Master Gunner's House

Master Gunner's House Description:

The Master Gunner's House dates to the late 17th century during the period of the Jacobite Rebellion, a royal succession crisis in the United Kingdoms of England and Scotland, when James Duke of Albany and York was crowned James VII and II in 1685 and was forced to flee soon after in 1688 in a furor over his Catholic faith in an increasingly-Protestant England. As James (Jacobus in Latin) never abdicated, however, a power rift was opened, and rebellions by those loyal to him and his male descendants continued for over a century. A staircase located in the Master Gunner's House leads down to the reconstructed Great Kitchens of James IV and V's reigns, which were filled in 1689 to fortify the Grand Battery against the Jacobites (followers of Jacobus) (Fawcett 16, 43-44; Historic Scotland).


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North Gate

North Gate Description:

Serving as a "rear" entry to the Inner Castle via the Nether Bailey, the North Gate's outer constructions date to as early as 1381 during the reign of Robert II, making them the oldest standing visible masonry in the entire castle. The North Gate was altered numerous times in the centuries that followed, most significantly with the construction of the Great Kitchens in the early 16th century (Fawcett 16).


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Palace

Palace Description:

James V's magnificent Renaissance Palace was likely designed by French Masons (including John Roytell, Nicholas Roy, and Mogan Martin) and built around 1537-38. The Palace was designed as a quadrangular building surrounding a central courtyard known as the Lion's Den, with separate lodgings for the King and Queen. All outside facades of the building (other than the cliffside west facade) follow the same basic design, with Renaissance statues positioned atop pedestals set into arch-shaped recessed niches alternating with large rectangular windows; these statues are primarily Classics-inspired though depictions of James V, Saint Michael (patron saint of the Chapel), a crossbow-man and the Devil are also depicted. The Palace is accessed via a passage at the top end of the Inner Close; the original large porch that covered this entrance was rebuilt on a smaller scale in the early 1700s when a staircase was constructed leading to the upper-floor Governor's Apartment. A gallery opening onto this porch provides a connection between the King's and the Queen's Quarters. On the opposite side, facing the Outer Close, the facade reaches its greatest height (Fawcett 14-15).


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King's Chambers

King's Chambers Description:

The King's Quarters within James V's Palace are one half of two separate, identically-planned suites of rooms, one for the king and the other for the queen. Of the original decorations, only the carved fireplaces remain in place, but each suite featured an impressive series of three chambers and antechambers. The layout of these lodgings helped to control access to royal power. This started in a sparsely furnished outer hall (Guard Hall), where petitioners to the King would wait to be granted a presence with the Monarch. This continued to a highly decorated inner hall (Presence Chamber), and in the King's Quarters this inner hall (where most people would meet with the King) is believed to have been lavishly decorated with a carved ceiling that incorporated the carved-oak Stirling Heads. The Stirling Heads, which were relocated in later years to other areas inside and out of the castle, were the work of several prominent Scottish and French craftsmen in the 1530s; 34 remain out of the original 36 and they incorporate a wide variety of subjects including detailed portraits of Scottish royalty (Historic Scotland: Stirling Heads). Beyond the inner hall, the King's Quarters lead in their deepest reaches to the highly opulent and lavishly furnished private residential quarters of the monarch himself (Bedchamber); this was set back-to-back against the Queen's Bedchamber and symmetrically arranged around the inner courtyard (The Lion's Den). Most of these lodgings are intact and are considered to be the finest surviving royal Renaissance constructions of their type in Britain, though a few small areas, such as the Queen's inner closets and the viewing chamber than ran from the king's to the queen's inner chambers, have not lasted into the present (Historic Scotland: Inside The Lodgings; Fawcett 14-15).


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Ladies' Hole

Ladies' Hole Description:

Also called the "Ladies' Lookout", this flat, open area behind the Palace was used by Ladies of the Court to gaze upon James IV's great gardens. These gardens have long-since disappeared, thought they were probably located downhill at the site of a series of large, early 17th-century earthenworks known as the "King's Knot". The Ladies' Hole was also an important lookout point for royal personages in their surveys of the surrounding countryside (Fawcett 18).


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Lion's Den

Lion's Den Description:

The so-called Lion's Den is the enclosed central courtyard of James V's magnificent Renaissance Palace. Its name likely derives from the importance of the lion as a symbol of royalty in Scotland. More unlikely alternative theories include the area being home to a pet lion owned by the King (Fawcett 14, Historic Scotland).


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Queen's Chambers

Queen's Chambers Description:

The Queen's Quarters within James V's Palace are one half of two separate, identically-planned suites of rooms, one for the king and the other for the queen. Of the original decorations, only the carved fireplaces remain in place, but each suite featured an impressive series of three chambers and antechambers. The layout of these lodgings helped to control access to royal power. This started in a sparsely furnished outer hall (Guard Hall), where petitioners to the Queen would wait to be granted a presence with the Monarch. This continued to a highly decorated inner hall (Presence Chamber), and in the Queen's Quarters this inner hall (where most people who petitioned would meet with the Queen) is believed to have been lavishly decorated; the present reconstruction of the Queen's inner hall includes a meticulous re-creation of the tapestry Hunt of the Unicorne, which may have originally hung on Castle Stirling's walls (the tapestry thought to be the original is currently in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art) (Historic Scotland: Tapestry Factsheets). Beyond the inner hall, the Queen's Quarters lead in their deepest reaches to the highly opulent and lavishly furnished private residential quarters of the monarch himself (Bedchamber); this was set back-to-back against the King's Bedchamber and symmetrically arranged around the inner courtyard (The Lion's Den). Most of these lodgings are intact and are considered to be the finest surviving royal Renaissance constructions of their type in Britain, though a few small areas, such as the Queen's inner closets and the viewing chamber than ran from the King's to the Queen's inner chambers, have not lasted into the present (Historic Scotland: Inside the Lodgings; Fawcett 14-15).


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Nether Bailey

Nether Bailey Description:

Positioned upon a lower terrace of Stirling Crag just beyond the castle's North Gate, the irregularly-shaped enclosure known as the Nether Bailey served as a military and service area for Stirling Castle. Two small blocked doorways to the east and west sides (probably closed during strengthening of the castle defences in 1689) provided access to the castle; these may have been service entrances (known as posterns), access points to the royal gardens downhill, or concealed portals when sieges were being conducted. A low wall wraps around the cliff edges, while on the Bailey grounds are a Guard House and four Powder Magazines dating mainly to the early 19th century, as well as a miniature rifle range. Food stores, a blacksmith, and other workshops were located here as well at various times; currently the area is being used as a tapestry recreation studio (Fawcett 17, 46).


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Guard House

Guard House Description:

Located directly adjacent to the North Gate, the Guard House was built in 1810 as quarters for those guarding the adjacent powder magazines. In the 1850s, it became a brig, with punishment cells for the garrison's soldiers (Historic Scotland).


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Magazines

Magazines Description:

Three of the Nether Bailey's Powder Magazines are heavily fortified against explosive impact, surrounded by a high wall replete with baffled vents and parabolic vaults; in 1908 these vaults were interconnected and converted into transit stores. At the far end of the walled magazine enclosure is located the fourth Magazine, built in 1860 by the Volunteer Corps (Fawcett 17).


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Outer Defenses

Outer Defenses Description:

Stirling Castle's Outer Defenses are defined here as the walls, barricades, and batteries which surround the entire Castle area. The greatest density of defensive works, however, is focused in the area positioned between the Esplanade and the Forework on the southeast portion of Stirling Crag; this is the main entrance to the Castle and its most vulnerable side due to a gently sloping ground and lack of sheer cliffs. The outermost portions of these defensive works were built between 1708-1714 from the plans of Thomas Dury. Pepper-pot sentry boxes jut from angles in a massively-built low wall set behind a deep ditch; these works were designed to survive attacks from heavy artillery that older areas of the Inner Castle could not. Deeper inside the Outer Defenses towards the Forework are additional fortifications built much earlier during the 1550s, including the French Spur (Fawcett 4-5).


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Bowling Green Gardens

Bowling Green Gardens Description:

This open garden area, positioned between the southerly Casemates and the Forework, is one of two garden areas at Stirling Castle (along with the King's Knot located downhill from the Ladies' Hole). In the early 18th century, soldiers used part of this garden for a Bowling Green (Reid and Embleton 23, Fawcett 18).


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Casemates

Casemates Description:

The Casemates are a series of stone vaults that are set into the walls of the Outer Defenses which face the French Spur, Bowling Green Gardens, and the Forework. They helped fortify the walls and provided emergency barracks as well as shelter from artillery attack for the Castle's defense force. The southernmost Casemates (behind the Guardroom Square overlooking the Bowling Green Gardens) are single-storied while the northernmost ones were two-storied in their original construction ( Fawcett 5; Hull 2006:180-181).


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French Spur

French Spur Description:

The French Spur was built in the 1550s under the rule of James V's widow Mary Queen of Guise, mother of Mary Queen of Scots. As part of the overall expansion of the Outer Defences, the French Spur served as a flanking battery with two tiers of deeply recessed emplacements positioned to fire across the face of the outer wall. Later defensive works by Thomas Dury (1708-1714) brought the emplacements out of their recesses and further fortified this battery (Fawcett 5).


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Guardroom Square

Guardroom Square Description:

Immediately past the Main Gate lies the Guardroom Square, a small courtyard surrounded by tall walls dating mainly to the early 19th century during the reign of Queen Anna Regina. A stable, a former hay store, and a guardroom are found here; an inner gate leads north across a second ditch and towards the Forework (Fawcett 5).


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Main Gate

Main Gate Description:

Very sparse ornamentation decorates this highly-functional gate, an important component of the Outer Defences. This is the main entrance to the Castle and its most vulnerable side due to a gently sloping ground and lack of sheer cliffs. As with neighboring defensive works, the Main Gate was built between 1708-1714 from the plans of Thomas Dury. Pepper-pot sentry boxes jut from angles in a massively-built low wall set behind a deep ditch which was originally crossed via a drawbridge; there were also originally two firing galleries (caponiers) within the ditch though only one remains. These defensive works were designed to survive attacks from heavy artillery that older areas of the Inner Castle could not (Fawcett 4-5).


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References:

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  1. Boardman, Stephen L. (1996). The early Stewart kings: Robert II and Robert III, 1371-1406. Edinburgh:Tuckwell Press
  2. Fawcett, Richard (2005). Stirling Castle. Edinburgh:B.T. Batsford/Historic Scotland
  3. Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1912). Our old home, and English note-books, Volume 2. Boston:Houghton-Mifflin
  4. Historic Scotland (2009). Stirling Castle: The Castle's Story. Online at Historic Scotland Website
  5. Hull, Lise (2006). Britain's Medieval Castles. Connecticut:Greenwood Publishing Corp.
  6. Hull, Lise (2009). Great Castles of Britain and Ireland. Connecticut:Greenwood Publishing Corp.
  7. Mitchison, Rosalind (2002). A History of Scotland. London:Routledge
  8. Reid, Stuart and Embleton, Gerry (2006). Queen Victoria's Highlanders. Oxford:Osprey Publishing
  9. Stair-Kerr, Eric (1928). Stirling castle: its place in Scottish history. Madison:University of Wisconsin Press
  10. Todd, George Eyre (2007). Scotland Picturesque and Traditional. London:Cassell&Co.

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