23 September 2016
It has famously been said over the centuries “that to hold Stirling was to hold the key to Scotland”. This weekend (24 and 25 September) visitors to Stirling Castle will have the chance to find out how true this is when we travel back in time to 1651 and experience life under siege, reliving the last time Stirling Castle fell to an enemy.
An English parliamentarian army led by Oliver Cromwell invaded after the Scottish coronation of Charles II. Cromwell sent a detachment to besiege Stirling Castle. Heavy guns in the town bombarded the castle. Major General George Monck, who led the English, reported that the Scots surrendered within a day of the attack.
The air screamed with cannon balls and musket balls. One gun fired into the castle from the spire of the Church of the Holy Rude on the far side of the cemetery. Indeed the scars of the battle are still visible today – on the castle’s forework, gatehouse and the remains of destroyed towers. The church spire is similarly pitted. The attack showed how obsolete the castle’s medieval defences had become in the face of modern artillery.
The Scottish garrison was allowed to march out with their weapons before the English marched in.
In a weird twist of fate, the records of Scotland (effectively the national archives) had been shifted to the castle in the face of the English invasion and were among the booty taken by Monck’s soldiers and shipped to London. Ironically, Monck helped Charles II regain the British throne in 1660. Soon afterwards, the king ordered that the archives be returned but one of the ships carrying the records home sank in a storm. Much of Scotland’s written heritage was lost with it.
Visitors will be submerged in all the drama including cannon and musket fire, weaponry demonstrations, drills, and parades. There will also be a chance to learn about the history of the period and hear the story of the siege.
There will be a 17th century fashion parade on the dress of the period and how it evolved. Meet the defenders and watch the surgeon as he tries to keep people alive. And children can make cockades in our craft activity.
Join us this weekend for Holding the Key to Scotland from 12pm-4pm and make sure to share your pictures! @stirlingcastle