Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Perthshire area. Scottish Castles

Scots castles. Tall tower houses, embellished or with walls, additions, or not. They are in ruins in the glens, on the moors, in good condition some, and always evoke the need for a family's defense in isolated places. Put the windows high up, the entry an obstacle with the heaviest of reinforced doors, ditches outside, draws to raise.

The glossy luxe magazine, Country Life, is a venerable British weekly that highlighted Scotland's romance heritage through its castles in August 2012.  One article, a book review, presents Scotland's Castle Culture, edited by Audrey Dakin, Miles Glendenning,  and Aongus Mackechnie.  Find the magazine not on its own website, which I could not find, but in a fine overview of its editorial and topical history at (yes) Wikipedia.  The book adds to the usual architectural history sections the overlay of changing relations with England, shifting allegiances of border families.

Theory is interesting,  but riveting is considering life in these structures, as a family.  The husband off to warring or governing, the lady at home, the retainers, the hunting and fishing culture that meant sustenance then.  Defense against marauding neighbors or invaders.  England's castles look brittle and purposeful.  Scotland's hold echoes of people inside.

Stirling Castle, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Attention should be paid to the swords of famous battle leaders.   Robert the Bruce, who led the victory of the Scots over the British at Bannockburn in 1314, see http://www.britishbattles.com/scottish/battle-bannockburn.htm apparentlyearlier (later?)  received the sword of William Wallace, see http://www.forthstimeline.com/downloads/wallace_leaflet.pdf .  Scroll down the sites for representations of medieval swords.  Wallace may not have been a pivotal figure at all for Bruce, but the two later get linked by the proximity of their memorials. See, e.g., http://www.hotelsinscotland.org/scotland/bannockburn-stirling-scotland.php/ Wallace was tortured and killed by the English in 1305 when they finally overcame him by betrayal, capture, butchery.  Wallace was known for his own victory over the British at Stirling Bridge in 1297.

What happened to that particular sword is not known, but the sword attributed to Robert the Bruce in Stirling, is so long and heavy that it is hard to imagine anyone able to lift it. I understand that a young man began with increasingly heavy and long swords so that by the time he was grown, he could wield such a one handily.  Like lifting a cow by beginning as a child with a calf.