Monday, December 13, 2010

Essay on Castles in Scotland

Essay on Castles in Scotland

The process of feudalisation in England begun in 11th century. In Scotland the introduction of feudalism and castles was a later and more gradual process which begun in 12th century by the Canmore dynasty.

The death of Malcolm Canmore had led to turmoil in Scotland. Then one of his sons – David – began introducing Norman retainers, feudal landholding and castles. This process was called Normanization.

As in England, the first castles built north of the border were of the motte-and-bailey variety, and were surrounded by a ditch. The motte was a large pile of earth in a truncated cone shape. At the foot of the motte lay one or more baileys, usually kidney-shaped. The residence of the feudal lord was situated in a wooden tower, which crowned the top of the motte.

Because of the process of feudalisation, the greatest concentration of surviving mottes in Scotland is in the south – west part of it between the Cyde and Solway. Alexander I and his brother David I reasserted the power of the monarchy in the same way as the Norman kings had done in England.

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Most of surviving mottes are found in those regions of Galloway where royal authority was less clearly established. The mottes were erected in such places to establish authority of Malcolm IV. Those castles represented military power in royal authority. It was also the time when people started to build motte – and – bailey castles.

From around the beginning of the 13th century the timber construction of the motte-and-bailey castles began to give way to building in stone and lime. Obviously their military effectiveness became smaller, but they still were important as administrative centers for the lord’s estates and as symbols of his power and position.

In England and Wales the 13th century was the apogee in the architectural development of the castles. English castles were stronger than Scottish ones.
Mural towers and powerful gatehouses reached the height of their effectiveness. They were the strongest elements in the castle.

These castles showed their mettle in the Wars of Independence fought in the late 13th and the early 14th centuries. The main figures of the wars were Edward I, Edward II and Edward III of England, and Scottish leaders William Wallace and Robert I, better known as Robert Bruce. Edward I attempt to conquer Scotland, but despite his eventual epitaph ‘the Hammer of the Scots’, he did not repeat his Welsh castle-building programme in Scotland, because of the lack of finance.

Edward I with his cavalry captured castles in central and southern Scotland and terrorized the surrounding districts. In spite of it he was unable to extinguish the flame of resistance in Scotland at the end of 13th century and the beginning of 14th century.

After the death of Edward I – his the great rival – Bruce – consolidated his position in Scotland. He began reducing the lowland castles to his authority. Edward II (son of Edward I) were trying to counter Bruce’s power but he failed at the battle of Bannockburn. Bruce’s great victory settled the question of Scottish independence for his lifetime.

The death of Robert Bruce in 1329 caused an internal conflict and a renewal of the threat from England, where the king Edward III ruled. Great military king of England showed his invincibility at the battles of Dupplin Muir (1332) and Halidon Hill (1333). However, an ambitious king turned his attention towards the fame and riches to be earned from military adventure in France. It resulted in the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453).

Anglo – Scottish wars continued intermittently and usually disastrously for the Scots until accession in 1603 of James I, the first Stuart king of England. During all the wars castles were the means of practical political power.

Military genius of Robert Bruce devised a successful strategy to take control of the Lowland castles from the English occupation forces. Bruce weakened the supply lines of the English an left the castles vulnerable to Scottish attack. He also managed to counter supremacy of the English cavalry.

In the later Middle Ages the tower-houses were built in Scotland. Those were castles other than great royal strongholds like Stirling and Edinburgh. The tower-house, the archetypal Scottish castle, was a building forming a tall narrow structure in which the main apartments were piled one above the other. They were very popular in late-medieval Scotland, because of their economic, residential and defence aspects. The tower-houses were not designed to withstand a full-scale siege but to resist a sudden assault by a local skirmishing party.

The earliest towers erected during the 13th and 14th century were usually of a simple rectangular plan. The entrance was often found at first floor level.
An influence of European and particularly French styles on towers can be seen in 16th century. The defensive character of towers from 13th and 14th century gradually disappeared or was converted into ornamental features.

Such buildings have been labeled ‘castle’ by residents and visitors. They represent beauty and comfort of country mansions and make Edinburgh and other Scottish cities a delight to visit.

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