|Near Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland|
|Height||21 metres (69 ft)|
|Owner||Historic Environment Scotland|
|Built by|| Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway |
William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas
|Battles/wars||Sieges in 1455 and 1640|
Threave Castle is situated on an island in the River Dee, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) west of Castle Douglas in the historical county of Kirkcudbrightshire in the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland.
Built in the 1370s by Archibald the Grim, it was a stronghold of the "Black Douglases", Earls of Douglas and Lords of Galloway, until their fall in 1455. For part of this time, the castle and the lordship of Galloway were controlled by Princess Margaret, daughter of King Robert III and widow of the 4th Earl. In 1449 Threave was regained by the 8th earl, Scotland's most powerful magnate, who controlled extensive lands and numerous castles. He fortified Threave with an "artillery house", a sophisticated defence for its time. The excessive power of the Black Douglas lords led to their overthrow by King James II in 1455, after which Threave was besieged and captured by the King's men.
It became a royal castle, and in the 16th century hereditary responsibility for Threave was given to the Lords Maxwell. It was briefly held by the English in the 1540s, but did not see serious action until the Bishops' Wars, when in 1640 a royalist garrison was besieged by a force of Covenanters. Partially dismantled, the castle remained largely unused until given into state care in 1913. The ruins, comprising the substantially complete tower house and the L-shaped artillery house, are today maintained by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument.
The castle complex is open to the public.
The name Threave is most likely derived from the Cumbric tref, meaning "homestead", suggesting that the island was settled before Gaelic-speaking people arrived in the area in the 7th century. The site has traditionally been associated with Fergus of Galloway, the 12th-century Lord of Galloway, though there is no evidence to support this. The chronicler John of Fordun records that, in 1308, Edward Bruce defeated a force of Gallwegians on the River Dee, and afterward "burnt up the island".Archaeological finds of a penny dated to 1300, unearthed in the context of burned buildings, may locate this event at Threave. Excavations in the 1970s revealed traces of buildings that could be attributed to this period, and which could have formed part of an early stronghold of the Lords of Galloway.
The Douglas family had been strong supporters of Robert the Bruce through the Wars of Scottish Independence. In 1308 Edward Bruce and "Good Sir James" Douglas led a campaign in Galloway against the local lords, led by Dugald Macdowall, and their English supporters.Following the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 further risings in Galloway, in support of Edward Balliol, were put down by Sir William Douglas. The Douglases were rewarded for these services to the crown: William was made Earl of Douglas in 1358, while his cousin Archibald Douglas, son of Sir James, was created Lord of Galloway in 1369.
Known as "Archibald the Grim", he had been appointed Warden of the West March in 1361, and spent the following years attacking the English on both sides of the border. In 1372 he further gained the lands of the Earl of Wigtown, bringing all of Galloway under his control. In order to secure his new holdings, Archibald required a strong castle, and it is assumed that Threave Castle was built at this time.The main keep dates from this time, and was one of the first tower houses built in Scotland, standing alone without any outer defensive features. A harbour was formed to the west to provide access across the river. The excavations in the 1970s revealed remains of additional stone buildings, constructed in the late 14th century, which may represent a hall and a chapel.
In 1384 Archibald attacked and took Lochmaben Castle, the last English stronghold in south-west Scotland, and in 1388 he inherited the title of 3rd Earl of Douglas. He thus became the most powerful magnate in the country, controlling lands across southern Scotland and castles including Douglas Castle and Bothwell Castle in Lanarkshire. He funded a rebuilding of Sweetheart Abbey near Dumfries, and contracted marriages for his children with the offspring of King Robert III. Although he probably spent relatively little time at Threave, he died there in 1400, the first historical reference to the castle.He was succeeded by his son Archibald, who in 1390 had married Princess Margaret, daughter of Robert III. In 1424 he led a Scottish force to fight the English in France where he was killed at the Battle of Verneuil. His wife Margaret took on the Lordship of Galloway on Archibald's death, and ruled from Threave as Countess of Douglas and Duchess of Touraine for the next 23 years, outliving her son and grandsons. In 1449 she was forced to cede Galloway to the 8th Earl of Douglas, and died at Threave soon after. Her monument stands in Lincluden Collegiate Church. A lead seal matrix made for Margaret was recovered during archaeological excavations at Threave. The seal shows her coat of arms, combining the arms of her husband with the Royal Arms of her father Robert III. Although a rare survival, the workmanship is poor suggesting it may have been a trial piece or even a forgery.
The power and influence of the Douglases continued to grow. Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas, succeeded to his father's estates and in 1437 was appointed Regent to the young King James II. He died unexpectedly in 1439 and in the ensuing power struggle Sir William Crichton, Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar, and James Douglas, Earl of Avondale (son of Archibald the Grim) conspired to usurp the Black Douglas power. In 1440 they summoned Archibald's children William and David to Edinburgh Castle. At the so-called "Black Dinner" that followed, the two boys were summarily beheaded on trumped-up charges, over the protests of the ten-year-old King James II. James Douglas was the principal benefactor, inheriting the Earldom of Douglas.
On James' death in 1443, his oldest son William became 8th Earl of Douglas. The following year he married, with Papal dispensation, his first cousin Margaret, the "Fair Maid of Galloway", daughter of the 5th Earl. In doing so he reunited the Black Douglas estates with the Lordship of Galloway, still held by the Fair Maid's grandmother Princess Margaret. The marriage was unpopular with the other nobles who were wary of the power of the Earl, as well as his influence over the young James II who was still a minor. In 1447 Earl William forced the elderly Princess Margaret to give up Threave Castle and retire to Lincluden, finally giving him control of Galloway.He began a series of improvements to the fortifications at Threave, demolishing the earlier outbuildings and constructing elaborate outer defences. These included a defensive wall along the river bank, as well as the "artillery house", a curtain wall with three towers designed to be defended with guns. It is considered to be one of the first purpose-built artillery defences to be built in Britain.
In 1452 the Earl seized Patrick Maclellan of Bombie, Sheriff of Galloway, and imprisoned him at Threave. Despite the King requesting his release, Maclellan was murdered. On 22 February 1452, Douglas was summoned to Stirling Castle, under a safe conduct by the King, who requested his aid against the rebellious Earls of Crawford and Ross. However, Douglas had signed a bond with these earls and refused to support the King, who responded by stabbing Douglas. He was then attacked and killed by the King's retainers, and his body thrown from a window.
William's brother James Douglas, now 9th Earl, hastily continued the additions to Threave, completing the artillery house as well as earthworks to the north of the keep. After his brother's murder, he intrigued with the English court, receiving money from Henry VI's government for the works. The 9th Earl's uprising was defeated at the Battle of Arkinholm near Langholm on 1 May 1455, following which his strongholds were systematically besieged. Threave Castle was the last castle to fall, and the royal forces arrived in June. King James resided at Tongland Abbey during the siege, which lasted over two months. The new artillery house prevented the King's men from taking the castle by force, even when a bombard, a large siege cannon, was brought up from Linlithgow Palace at a cost of over £59.Instead, King James persuaded the garrison to surrender by making payments and grants of land to Douglas supporters.
One myth associated with the siege, which is related by Nigel Tranter, is that the great cannon Mons Meg was built in Kirkcudbright by a smith named Mollance. The cannon was then presented to James II and employed in the siege of Threave. The myth goes that the first cannonball smashed right through the castle, taking off the Fair Maid's hand as she drank.However, it is known that Mons Meg was actually made in Burgundy and arrived in Scotland until 1454.
The castle, along with the lordship of Galloway, was annexed by the Crown, and a succession of keepers were appointed. James II returned in 1460, on his way to the siege of Roxburgh Castle, where he would be killed by an exploding cannon. James III gave the castle to his wife Margaret of Denmark, though it is not known if she ever visited. James IV visited in 1502, when royal accounts record cloth, wine and falconers being brought to Threave.
In 1513, Robert Maxwell, 5th Lord Maxwell, was appointed keeper following the death of the previous keeper, John Dunbar of Mochrum, at Flodden. In 1526 the position was made hereditary to the Maxwells (later Earls of Nithsdale).In 1542, Robert Maxwell was captured after the battle of Solway Moss, and forced to hand Threave over to the English invaders. It was retrieved for Scotland by the Earl of Arran in 1545. The Catholic Maxwell family, based at Caerlaverock Castle, were often suspected of treachery as Scotland turned to Protestantism, and Lord Maxwell was required to surrender Threave temporarily as the Spanish Armada approached the English coast.
During the Bishops' Wars of 1638-1640, the Maxwells supported Charles I. A garrison of up to 100 men was installed at Threave, and further earthworks were added to the Castle's defences. The army of the Covenanters, opposed to the royalist cause, arrived in summer 1640 and laid siege to the castle. After holding out for 13 weeks, the garrison surrendered on the orders of King Charles. The Covenanters ordered the buildings to be dismantled, and the materials to be disposed "to the use of the public".
The keep and artillery house largely remained standing, but Threave was never lived in again. Around 1800, during the Napoleonic Wars, modifications were made to allow French prisoners to be held there, although it is not recorded that Threave was actually used for this purpose. In 1913 the ruins were given into state care, and some repairs and archaeological investigations were carried out. The castle has been a scheduled monument since 1921 due to its national significance.More detailed excavations took place in the 1970s, revealing details of the castle's history. Threave Castle is cared for by Historic Environment Scotland and is open to the public. Access to the castle is via a boat over the River Dee, from the Threave Estate, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and operated as a nature reserve that is home to bats and ospreys.
Threave Castle comprises a 14th-century keep or tower house, and an outer wall that includes the 15th-century artillery house. It is sited on the western edge of the island, which today covers 8 hectares (20 acres), although in the 15th century it is estimated to have been only a third of this size. The island would have supported subsidiary buildings, such as stores and workshops, as well as the castle. Access was by boat or via a ford or underwater causeway at the south end of the island.
The rectangular keep is 18.4 by 12.1 m (60 by 40 ft) on plan, and 21 m (69 ft) high. Inside, there were five storeys. The single entrance to the keep, on the east side, was accessed from a wooden stair-tower via a movable bridge. This entrance is at first-floor level, and led into a reception hall. Also on the first floor was the kitchen, and below this, accessed by a ladder, were vaulted storage cellars with a well and a prison. From the reception hall a spiral stair within the 2 m (6 ft 7 in)-thick wall led up to the great hall, and above this the lord's outer chamber and bedchamber. Larger windows are provided on the less vulnerable west and north sides of these rooms.
The top level was used as servants' quarters or, during times of trouble, as accommodation for the garrison. The battlements were accessed from this floor, and nine windows gave views in all directions. An outer door at this level allowed equipment to be hauled up from ground level. On three sides, holes in the external walls would have supported a timber gallery known as a bretèche, which allowed the defenders to drop objects on attackers at the walls, while a more permanent machicolation over the entrance served the same purpose.
The keep is enclosed by the later curtain wall, which wraps around the east, south and west sides of the keep. The east and south sides form the "artillery house", begun by the 8th Earl of Douglas in 1447 and representing a sophisticated artillery defence for its time. 80 millimetres (3.1 in) calibre, attached to a wooden stock. Only one of these towers, the south east, remains, while the others were damaged in the 1640 siege and subsequently collapsed. Between the towers is a curtain wall, 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) thick and formerly up to 6 metres (20 ft) high. It is battered to provide greater strength against artillery, and provided with traditional slits for firing longbows or crossbows. In the centre of the east wall is a gatehouse, almost 8 metres (26 ft) high, which was formerly equipped with a drawbridge and two inner doors, with a firing platform above. The curtain wall would have been accessed via ladders or timber stairs. The curtain walls are only 4.4 metres (14 ft) from the keep, but it is unclear if there was any direct access from one to the other. The curtain wall is surrounded by a rock-cut ditch that was formerly flooded to form a moat.It faces the higher ground to the east of the river, from where an attack was most likely to come. It has round towers on its three corners, which are provided with three gun ports on two levels, with a crenellated parapet on the third level. The gun ports on the lower level are 'dumb-bell' shaped, while those above are of the 'inverted keyhole' type. It has been conjectured that the guns mounted in these openings would have been a breech-loading device of around
To the west the river runs close to the keep. The remains of a wall survive along the river bank, curving back towards the north west corner of the keep. A gated harbour was constructed here to provide secure alternative access to the castle. To the north, only an earth bank defends the keep, although the marshy approach to this side would have discouraged attackers. Beyond the artillery house and its ditch, the foundations of older buildings can be seen: these were demolished to provide stone and to clear the field of fire for the artillery house. The outermost defence comprises an earthwork that was hastily built by Lord Maxwell's garrison before the 1640 siege.
Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, from its position on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age, although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued at times to be a royal residence until 1633. From the 15th century, the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century it was principally used as military barracks with a large garrison. Its importance as a part of Scotland's national heritage was recognised increasingly from the early 19th century onwards, and various restoration programmes have been carried out over the past century and a half.
Loch Leven Castle is a ruined castle on an island in Loch Leven, in the Perth and Kinross local authority area of Scotland. Possibly built around 1300, the castle was the site of military action during the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296–1357). In the latter part of the 14th century, the castle was granted to William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas by his uncle. It remained in the Douglases' hands for the next 300 years. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned there in 1567–68, and forced to abdicate as queen, before escaping with the help of her gaoler's family. In 1588, the queen's gaoler inherited the title of Earl of Morton, and moved away from the castle. In 1675, Sir William Bruce, an architect, bought the castle and used it as a focal point for his garden; it was never again used as a residence.
Bothwell Castle is a large medieval castle, sited on a high, steep bank, above a bend in the River Clyde in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is located between Bothwell and Uddingston, about 10 miles (16 km) south-east of Glasgow. Construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century by the ancestors of Clan Murray, to guard a strategic crossing point of the Clyde. Bothwell played a key role in Scotland's Wars of Independence, changing hands several times.
Patrick Maclellan of Bombie Sheriff of Galloway, then the head of his family, the Clan MacLellan, and a staunch royalist declined an invitation to join William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, along with the Earls of Ross and Crawford and Ormond in a powerful alliance against the young King James II of Scotland.
Blackness Castle is a 15th-century fortress, near the village of Blackness, Scotland, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth.
This page is concerned with the holders of the forfeit title Earl of Douglas and the preceding feudal barons of Douglas, South Lanarkshire. The title was created in the Peerage of Scotland in 1358 for William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, son of Sir Archibald Douglas, Guardian of Scotland. The Earldom was forfeited by James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas, in 1455.
Clan Maxwell is a Lowland Scottish clan and is recognized as such by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. However, as the clan does not currently have a chief it is considered an Armigerous clan.
James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton, 6th Laird of Cadzow was a Scottish nobleman, scholar and politician.
Tantallon Castle is a ruined mid-14th-century fortress, located 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) east of North Berwick, in East Lothian, Scotland. It sits atop a promontory opposite the Bass Rock, looking out onto the Firth of Forth. The last medieval curtain wall castle to be constructed in Scotland, Tantallon comprises a single wall blocking off the headland, with the other three sides naturally protected by sea cliffs.
Craignethan Castle is a ruined castle in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is located above the River Nethan, a tributary of the River Clyde, at. The castle is two miles west of the village of Crossford, and 4.5 miles north-west of Lanark. Built in the first half of the 16th century, Craignethan is recognised as an excellent early example of a sophisticated artillery fortification, although its defences were never fully tested.
James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas, 3rd Earl of Avondale KG (1426–1491) was a Scottish nobleman, last of the 'Black' earls of Douglas.
Dirleton Castle is a medieval fortress in the village of Dirleton, East Lothian, Scotland. It lies around 2 miles (3.2 km) west of North Berwick, and around 19 miles (31 km) east of Edinburgh. The oldest parts of the castle date to the 13th century, and it was abandoned by the end of the 17th century.
Archibald Douglas, Earl of Douglas and Wigtown, Lord of Galloway, Douglas and Bothwell, called Archibald the Grim or Black Archibald, was a late medieval Scottish nobleman. Archibald was the bastard son of Sir James "the Black" Douglas, Robert I's trusted lieutenant, and an unknown mother. A first cousin of William 1st Earl of Douglas, he inherited the earldom of Douglas and its entailed estates as the third earl following the death without legitimate issue of James 2nd Earl of Douglas at the Battle of Otterburn.
William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas was a Scottish nobleman, peer, and magnate.
Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas, Duke of Touraine, was a Scottish nobleman and warlord. He is sometimes given the epithet "Tyneman", but this may be a reference to his great-uncle Sir Archibald Douglas.
Rothesay Castle is a ruined castle in Rothesay, the principal town on the Isle of Bute, in western Scotland. Located at, the castle has been described as "one of the most remarkable in Scotland", for its long history dating back to the beginning of the 13th century, and its unusual circular plan.
Lincluden Collegiate Church, known earlier as Lincluden Priory or Lincluden Abbey, is a ruined religious house, situated in the historic county of Kirkcudbrightshire and to the north of the Royal Burgh of Dumfries, Scotland. Situated in a bend of the Cluden Water, at its confluence with the River Nith, the ruins are on the site of the Bailey of the very early Lincluden Castle, as are those of the later Lincluden Tower. This religious house was founded circa 1160 and was used for various purposes, until its abandonment around 1700. The remaining ruins are protected as a scheduled monument.
Castle Campbell is a medieval castle situated above the town of Dollar, Clackmannanshire, in central Scotland. It was the lowland seat of the earls and dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, from the 15th to the 19th century, and was visited by Mary, Queen of Scots, in the 16th century.
Cruggleton Castle is a multi-period archaeological site on the coast of the Machars, in the historical county of Wigtownshire in south-west Scotland. It is located at Cruggleton Point, around 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) east of Whithorn and 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south-east of Sorbie. Excavations in the 1970s and 1980s revealed several periods of use, from the 1st century AD to the 17th century. The first stone tower was built in the 13th century, on an earlier motte.
John Maxwell, 8th Lord Maxwell was a Scottish Catholic nobleman. In 1581 he was created Earl of Morton, and in 1587 he travelled to Spain where he took part in the planning of the Spanish Armada.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Threave Castle .|