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The Castle of Edinburgh

The following is from The Castle of Edinburgh by G. F. Maine:

Gateway and Argyle Tower

THE immediate front of the Castle has been much altered and greatly improved by the removal of the mean doorway and guardhouse which formerly greeted the visitor to the Castle. The present fine mediaeval entrance, to the design of Mr Hippolyte J. Blanc, forms at once an appropriate gateway and a commodious guardhouse. The flanking batteries have been retained, and the whole presents an aspect of impressive grandeur. One enters the Castle by the gangway, formerly a drawbridge, which crosses the moat and leads through the outer portal past the great wall of the Half-Moon Battery (cut at a point below the third gun from the right, to show the old gun-port in St. David's Tower, which commanded the approach from the High Street, and recently brought to light as a result of the rediscovery of the Tower), past the eastern curtain wall which includes an ancient peel with corbelled rampart, through the inner barrier with its evidences of two great doors, to the Portcullis Gates, beside which, on the left wall, is a blazoned tablet to the brave Kirkaldy of Grange, who gallantly defended the fortress in the cause of Mary Stuart. It bears the arms of Kirkaldy with the motto Fortissimo Veritas, and reads: "In memory of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange, 'justly reputed to be one of the best soldiers and most accomplished cavaliers of his time.' He held this Castle for Queen Mary from May 1568 to May 1573, and after its honourable surrender suffered death for devotion to her cause on 3rd August 1573." Regent Morton solicited the assistance of Queen Elizabeth, who, resolved to subdue Mary's supporters, sent two skilful engineers to examine the defences of the Castle, and acting on a report that with a sufficient battering- train the fortress could be taken in twenty days, she entrusted the enterprise to Sir William Drury, the marshal of Berwick. His force, consisting of five hundred hagbutters and a hundred and forty pikemen, disembarked at Leith, and being joined by the Regent's troops, seven hundred strong, they marched to Edinburgh to commence the siege. Kirkaldy refused to surrender, and the guns of the besiegers opened the on l7th May 1573. After a most heroic defence, and only when the fortress had been reduced to a mass of ruins, its water supply choked by debris, its food supply exhausted, and with almost all its gallant defenders hors de combat, did Kirkaldy accept the inevitable, after a siege of thirty-one days. Thus fell the last strong- hold of Mary's cause. Notwithstanding the solemn promise made by Drury, in the name of Elizabeth, that Kirkaldy should be restored to his estates, and the soldiers allowed to march out with "bag and baggage," Elizabeth basely gave them up to the Regent Morton. Kirkaldy and his brother were hanged upon a gibbet at the Market Cross, and their heads placed on the city walls, and the soldiers were disarmed and sent prisoners to Blackness and Merchiston Castles.

Overhead is a building which once terminated in a crenelated square tower, but was afterwards converted into a state prison. Above the arch are two sculptured hounds, from the arms of the Duke of Gordon, governor in 1688, and between these is the panel from which Cromwell cast down the royal arms in 1650. Above is a pediment and little cornice between the triglyphs of which may be traced alternately, the star and crowned heart of the Regent Morton.

On passing the barrier, one sees on the right the Argyle Battery consisting of ten 18-pounders, and below it Robert Mylne's Battery built in 1689, On the left, high on the wall, may be seen a tablet which commemorates Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, a distinguished soldier and diplomatist, who recovered the Castle in 1313, after it had been for twenty years in the hands of the English. The steep stairway leads up to the citadel, the approaches to which are defended by loopholes for cannon and musketry. It leads also to the Argyle Tower and State Prison, in the guardroom of which are some relics of the demolished church of the Castle, and below is the gloomy cell where dwell the ghosts of many noble prisoners who here planned escape, or waited death on charges of treason. Here the Marquis and the Earl of Argyll were confined previous to their execution. The latter succeeded in escaping only to be dragged back to await his doom.

King Davidís Tower


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