One of the most famous legends associated with Glamis Castle is that of the ‘Monster of Glamis’; a child born to the family and so hideously disfigured he was isolated in secret chambers within the castle walls, which were sealed upon his death. Legend has its beginnings in 1821 when the first son of the eleventh Earl is said to have been born horribly malformed. To hide this anomaly, news of the child’s death was fabricated to ensure that no-one sought after him. Only those with the hereditary right to be informed are told of the secret upon reaching their 21st birthday. It has been said that some young heirs have laughed and joked in the past about revealing the family secret as soon as they turn 21. For each one who has said it, legend tells nobody has ever divulged the contents of their “coming of age” legacy. Could the Monster of Glamis be real, after all..?

The apparent failure to cover the window of this chamber lends itself to the story of the “empty window” which is associated with the secret room. The story goes, that, upon hearing of the legend of the Monster of Glamis, guests hung towels from every available window in the castle in a bid to find the location of the secret room. Once every window had been covered, they stepped outside to look at the castle…and found one window was still “empty”. A subsequent search of the castle to find the elusive window failed, hinting at the fact that the room may indeed exist. The ‘Mad Earls Walk’ on the castle ramparts is said to have been the place where the malformed Earl was exercised away from the prying eyes of anyone who should not see him.

The legend of the secret chamber of the Monster of Glamis is believed to have been inspired by the infamous “Room of Skulls” – a room where the Ogilvie family sought shelter from the Lindsays and were walled up and left to die of starvation. It was apparently found, quite accidentally, by a builder, who was given money and was sent abroad in an attempt to buy his silence over what he encountered. Another spin on it is that, to each generation of the family, a vampire child (or a child of monstrously superior abilities) is born and must be walled up in the secret chamber. Whilst most of these stories are based in legend, the story of the Ogilvies is, disturbingly, based in fact.

Whilst not actually in Dundee, per se, we couldn’t let a wee treasure like Glamis Castle fly under the radar. Steeped in centuries of dark, blood-soaked history and with more legends attached to it than almost any other castle in Scotland, Glamis Castle was too hard to resist. The Castle was presented to Sir John Lyon as a gift by King Robert II in 1372 and remains in the family to this day. The Queen Mother, mistakenly believed to have been born at Glamis, in fact, gave birth to Princess Margaret there in 1930 and also tended to wounded soldiers at Glamis during WW1 when it became a convalescence home.

Glamis is the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is referred to by name, and it is widely believed that Duncan was murdered here by Macbeth (although, for each proponent of the tale, there is a counter-argument). In the armoury of the Castle, the sword and the shirt of mail worn by Macbeth are still displayed.

Bonnie Dundee was a great friend of the 3rd Earl of Kinghorne and a hero to the Jacobites. His leather ‘bullet-proof’ jacket (allegedly enhanced by the devil himself during dark magic rituals undertaken in Claypotts Castle) and boots are also on display at Glamis.

Lady Janet Douglas, the Lady of Glamis, was accused by King James V (Mary Queen of Scots father) of witchcraft, poisoning her husband and plotting to poison the king. King James hated the Douglas family because his stepfather, Archibald Douglas (who happened to be Janet’s brother) had imprisoned James when he was a young child. This hatred failed to abate over the years, and, seeking vengeance for the past, Janet was burned at the stake on 17th July 1537 at Edinburgh Castle as her son, John, was made to watch. Interestingly, no harm was inflicted on the boy, who was incarcerated until he came of age, and then had his title and estates restored. Some forty years after the death of his mother, John was murdered in an unplanned skirmish with his mortal hereditary enemies, the Lindsays.

The legend of the “Monster of Glamis” is believed to have been inspired by the infamous “Room of Skulls” – a room where the Ogilvie family sought shelter from the Lindsays and were walled up and left to die of starvation.

Many of the Stuart monarchs believed they had special healing powers, and it was in the chapel at Glamis that King James VIII (The Old Pretender) touched people for the ‘king’s evil’ or scrofula – a skin disease associated with tuberculosis which afflicts sufferers with lymph node swelling in the neck. The practice began with King Edward the Confessor in England around 1003, and continued throughout the middle ages.

These are just some of the many fascinating facets to the history of Glamis Castle, and you can find out more by visiting their website. However, don’t rush away just yet…if you want to know some more about the legends and ghosts of the castle, head over to our Local Legends section.

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