Stirling Castle is situated above the old town of Stirling on Castle Hill, a steeply rising hill of volcanic origin. The castle played an important role in Scotland’s history due to its strategic location on the River Forth and was besieged or attacked at least sixteen times. Three battles took place in the immediate vicinity and a fourth a few kilometres to the north. From around 1100 to 1685, Stirling Castle was one of the main residences of the Scottish kings, then headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment until 1964.
Is situated at the extremity of the rock on which the Town of Stirling gradually rises from the east. The first erection of a Fortress, on a spot so favourable for defence, must; have been very early, and no certain account of it can be given. It is probable that the Romans had a Nation here, and that Agricola fortified this rock, when he made the necessary preparations for the passage of the Forth, and the invasion of Caledonia.
The territories of the Scots, the Northumbrians, and the Pists, did for some time, in the early ages, terminate near this place; it was, of course, strongly fortified by its possessors, the Pids, and from thence became a place of contention between them and their neighbours, from which, it is said to have derived its ancient name of Stryveling, the Hill, or Roek of Strise.
When the Pictish empire was totally overthrown by the Scots, under Kenneth II in the ninth century, this Fortress was entirely demolished, and was not rebuilt till the Northumbrians, after defeating, and taking Donald V prisoner, pursued their conquests to the Frith of Forth, and Town of Stirling, where they restored the Castle, and placed in it a strong garrison, for the defence of their new acquired dominions.
These dominions, which con-sited of the whole country upon the south side of the Forth, were, after a possession of twenty years by the Northumbrian Saxons, restored to the Scots, upon condition of their assisting them against their turbulent invaders, the Danes.
William, surnamed the Lion *), who was taken prisoner by Henry II. after a year captivity, was released, upon stipulating the payment of a large sum of money; till the performance of which, he put this Castle, with those of Edinburgh, Roxburgh, and Berwick, into the hands of the English: at this time it is spoken of as a place of great importance, and one of the principal Fortresses in the kingdom; yet it could bear, at that time, no resemblance to the present structure; the defensible part of which, is a fortification of a much later date, calculated for the use of artillery.
*) William I the Lion (Scottish Gaelic: Uilliam mac Eanric, Eng. William I the Lion, William Dunkeld, William Canmore; (1143-1214) was a Scottish king. At 49 years, his reign was the longest reign of a Scottish king in the Middle Ages and, after the reign of James VI, the longest reign of a Scottish king.
Though this Castle was frequently visited by the Scottish Kings, yet it did not become a fixed royal residence, till the family of Stuart ascended the throne: the principal interior buildings of this Castle, are the work of the different Princes of that house.
James II was born in this Castle, and often resided in it after he came to the throne. The royal apartments were at that time, in the north west corner of the Castle; some of which are at present occupied by the Fort-Major, and the reft appropriated to the purposes of an armoury. In this part of the Castle is the room, where James the II. fixed an indelible stain on his character, by the murder of William, Earl of Douglas, whom he stabbed with his own hand, in direct violation of a writ of safety which he had granted him,
James the III. resided chiefly in this Castle, which he repaired, and adorned by the addition of several new buildings, particularly the large Flail, called the Parliament House: this building, which is still in-tire, is covered with an oaken roof, richly ornamented, on the inside, with carvings, according to the taste of those times. This King also erected a College of secular priests, and built, for their accommodation, within the Castle, a fabric, called the Chapel-Royal, which was demolished by James the VI. who erected on the same spot, a Chapel for the baptism of his son. Prince Henry, in 1594.
James V was crowned in this Castle, where he built a large and commodious Palace, which is, at present, the chief ornament of the place. The form of this building is square; the interior walls enclose a small space in the inside of the fame figure, called the Lions-Den, from its having been made use of for that purpose, when the Kings of Scotland resided here. The Palace contains many large and stately apartments: the upper part of it is allotted for the residence of the Governor, with lodgings for the Subaltern Officers, and the lower floor is made use of as barracks for the soldiers of the garrison.
A strong battery, with a tier of guns pointing to the bridge over the Forth, was erected during the regency of Mary of Lorrain *), mother to Queen Mary: it is called the French battery, probably, as having been constructed by engineers of that country. The last additions to the fortifications of this Castle, were made in the reign of Queen Ann, when they were considerably enlarged on the fide next the town; and barracks, which are bomb proof, with other conveniences in case of a siege, were erected; yet there is an appearance, that the design for these latter improvements was never fully executed.
Portrait of Mary of Guise (1515 – 1560), Queen of James V of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots c. 1537 by Corneille de Lyon. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
*) Marie de Guise (also known as Mary of Guise; 22 November 1515 in Bar-le-Duc, Lorraine; – 11 June 1560 in Edinburgh Castle) was descended from the powerful French noble family of the Guise, a younger line of the House of Vaudémont, the reigning Dukes of Lorraine, and was Queen of Scotland as the second wife of the widowed James V from 1538 to 1542. A good decade after Jacob’s death, she took over the regency of Scotland from 1554 until her death for her still minor daughter Mary Stuart, which until then had been held for over a decade by James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, but was involved in fierce battles against rebellious Protestant nobles in the last two years of her life.
The Print shows the south-west aspect of the Castle, in which some of the exterior batteries are seen, with the south-side of the Palace, between which and the flag, is shown the end of the Parliament-House.
The View was taken in the Year 1778. Drawn by T. Hearne. Engraved by W. Byrne & S. Middiman
Source: Antiquities of Great-Britain: illustrated in views of monasteries, castles, and churches, now existing by Thomas Hearne (1744-1817); William Byrne (1743-1805); James Phillips (Bookseller). London: Printed by James Phillips in George-Yard, Lombard-Street, and published by the proprietors T. Hearne and W. Byrne, 1786.