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And hop'st thou thence unscathed to go ?
Let the portcullis fall !'
The character of the building is in a great measure a mixture of round and square towers, not distinct, but running into each other. At the extremity of each of the long high curtains already mentioned, there is a tower, round in front, but forming itself into a square as it turns and unites itself with the buildings behind. When the rounded tower containing the doorway has been penetrated, it appears, towards the inner court, a square tower, with machicolations at the corners. The original form of the building appears to have been an irregular hexagon. The portions towards the sea have been almost entirely destroyed; and thus the broad inner yard, together with the sites of the buildings that had once stood at its further extremity, intervene between the parts of the Castle which still retain their ancient loftiness and the edge of the rock. The disposition of the ruins is thus not calculated to give them their full dignity from the sea ; and the drawings which represent the precipice from the adjoining headlands generally comprise only the end or edge of the front row of buildings, and give the impression of an edifice of narrow dimensions. It is after having passed through the long arched passage penetrating this building, that, looking up to the great height and breadth of the mass which formed the front of the interior courtyard, one feels impressed with the power and resources of the family who could make their dwelling-place a fortress at once so strong and extensive.
Sir Walter Scott says that Tantallon" is believed to have belonged in more ancient times to the Earls of Fife, the descendants of Macduff, and was certainly in the possession of Isabel, the last countess of that renowned line, and was comprehended in the settlement which she made of her honours and estates upon Robert Stewart, Earl of Menteith, whom she recognised by that deed as her lawful and nearest heir in the year 1371."* It became one of the fortresses of the son of this Earl, the celebrated Regent Murdoch, Duke of Albany. In connexion with the sweeping arrest of the Regent, his relatives and followers, in the year 1424, it is generally stated that his wife was committed prisoner to Tantallon;t and so sudden must have been her transition from being mistress of the castle to being a prisoner within its walls, that it would appear as if she had been residing there at the time, and had been at once, as the most convenient method of custody, transferred from the hall to the dungeon. Alexander, Lord of the Isles, on making his submission to James I. in 1429, was imprisoned in Tantallon Castle, under the charge of Angus, the king's nephew ;£ and it is probable that it is about this period that the territory was conferred on the house of Douglas. On the fall of the head of that family in the reign of James II., this possession fell to the younger branch of Angus, which, appearing to inherit all the power and vigour of the parent stem, increased in influence, until in its turn it overshadowed and endangered the throne. When James V., a youth about fifteen years old, escaped from the compulsory tutelage of the Earl of Angus, a sort of war was raised against that nobleman, and steps were taken to reduce his strongholds. The operations against Tantallon show its strength as a fortress against the artillery of that early period, although
* Provincial Antiquities, Works, ii. 162.
+ Tytler's History, iii. 222.
# Ibid. 256.
its position, commanded from all the neighbouring fields, would have made it ludicrous to hold out such a place before cannon in the present, or even in the last century. An army of twelve thousand men, with a train of artillery, commenced the attack on the 14th December 1528. “So,” says Pitscottie," the artaillie, with the canones and canoneris, war conveyed to Tantallon, and seidged the same the space of twentie dayes, bot cam no speid. Bot whidder the castle was so strong, or if the principall seidgeris war corrupted be the Earle of Angus' moyane, I cannot tell, but the king was constrained to pas home to Edinburgh, and left it without any hope of wining thairof, bot had both money, men, and hors lost at the persute thairof; and at his returning had ane noble captaine slaine be Archibald Douglas, callit David Falconer, att whose slauchter the king was heavilie displeassed."* Another chronicler says, “ The Earl himself remained at Billie in the Merse, within the barony of Bunkle, not willing to shut himself up within the walls of any strength, having ever in his mouth this maxim, which he had received from his predecessors, that it was better to hear the lark sing than the mouse cheep. The Castle was well defended for certain days, none hurt within : many without were wounded with shot from the Castle, and some burnt and scalded with their own powder, which took fire unawares, and divers killed.”+
In the month of September preceding these warlike preparations, an act of attainder had passed against the Douglases, with a forfeiture of all their lands and houses, including Tantallon: how far such a formality operated against a great leader, with arms and followers, at that time, Pitscottie's narrative may testify. The proceedings against the Douglases were, however, in the end successful. Angus fled to England, and Pitscottie, in his continuation of the siege of Tantallon, says, “Casting all the moyane he might to obteine the Castle of Tamtallon, knawing weill, if he had the Castle, thair wold be no place to the Earle nor his freindis to resort till; thairfoir he caused make moyane with the captaine thairof, called Simeon Penango, and promeised to give him great giftis and revardis, both of landis and geir, with the kingis speciall favoures, and to remitt all byganes to his brother and near freindis thairof in lyk-maner, excepting the Douglases always." | To these overtures the governor finally yielded; but Godscroft, on the recollection of the old men who were learned in tradition, gives a version of the capitulation more honourable to the retainers of the house of Douglas, who are represented as yielding at the desire of their master, whom the King of England recommended, on an understanding that he would be pardoned, to cease from resistance to the royal will. While in the king's possession, the fortifications appear, from several entries in the Treasurer's Accounts, to have been enlarged. S
In 1542, after the calamitous affair of Solway Moss and the death of James V., the Douglases returned to Scotland—not in their old pride and power, as the accepted leaders of a free and warlike people, but by the favour of the English monarch, whose influence had been raised by the calamities of their country. Sir Ralph Sadler has preserved a curious notice of the faded lustre of the great house, in a visit to Tantallon, where he lived for some time, as a place of security, on account of the risk he incurred from the unpopularity of the negotiations he was sent to conduct, for the marriage of the young Prince Edward with the infant Mary Queen of Scots. He said that he found the old earl somewhat unwilling to let him see the bareness of the establishment, and he sent thither his servant, who informed him that the house was cleanly unfurnished, both of bedding and all manner of household stuff, and none to be bought or hired, nor no manner of provision to be made thereof, nor any kind of victual nearer than this town, which is twenty miles off.” After residing for some time in this dreary abode, he says, “ Though it be easily furnished, and slender
* Chronicles of Scotland, (Dalzell’s Edition,) 338.
I Chronicles, p. 338.
+ Hume of Godscroft's History of the House of Douglas.
& Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, i. 298.
lodging in it, yet, I assure you, it is of such strength as I must not fear the malice of mine enemies, and therefore do now think myself to be out of danger.” It was perhaps the circumstance of an English ambassador having thus found refuge within the walls, that prompted Sir Walter Scott to connect with the spot the incidents of Marmion's visit, so very different in their character. At the same time, it is not unlikely that some humorous associations connected with the visit of the fastidious and comfortable Englishman to the lone, dilapidated, sea-washed tower of the impoverished Scottish lord, may have first suggested to the same creative brain the sojourn of Haiston of Buclaw at Ravenscraig, the locality of which is placed on the rocky coast adjacent to Tantallon. At a subsequent period, Tantallon received another English ambassador. Sadler had come in the infancy of the young queen, when all were anticipating for her a glorious destiny, to propose a union in which wise men not unadvisedly foretold the closing of national feuds and jealousies, the saving of human life, and the prosperity of Britain. When the other ambassador came, the unhappy queen had passed through that long career of vicissitudes and horrors from which the diplomatic projects divulged in her childhood might have saved her, had they come to maturity; and the object of the mission was to remove her from the mortal scene of all her miseries, and to accomplish her death in the form least liable to make the event dangerous to those who felt it perilous to let her live. It was in 1572 that Killigrew, thus secretly instructed, came from England, and took up his first residence in Scotland with Morton, who lay ill at Tantallon. * In 1639, Tantallon was garrisoned by the Covenanters. In common with many other ancient fortresses, its historical career was closed by the cannon of Oliver Cromwell, who took it after a short siege. The estate on which it stands is now the property of Sir Hugh Dalrymple, Bart., of North Berwick.