A medieval knight whose skeleton was discovered at Stirling Castle has been identified. This Thursday, BBC Two’s History Cold Case series will attempt to discover the identity of the warrior who may have been killed during Scotland’s Wars of Independence with England in the late 13th and 14th centuries. The castle changed hands several times and scientific tests have been used to work out whether he might have been a Scot, an Englishman or even French. The programme focuses on two of 10 skeletons excavated from the site of a lost royal chapel at the castle.A team led by Professor Sue Black, a world-renowned forensic anthropologist from Dundee University, wanted to find out how, why and when the knight, and a woman buried nearby, met violent ends at the castle. Historic Scotland, which cares for over 50 Scottish castles , has announced that it is commissioning further research to find out more about the 10 skeletons, which include two infants.
Painstaking research has revealed that, not only was the knight likely to have come from the south of England, but he was almost certainly at the centre of efforts to repel sieges of the castle when Scots were trying to reclaim it in the 14th century. Forensic experts, archaeologists and historians have joined forces on a project that has unearthed a likely name for the warrior – Sir John De Stricheley – after records showed an English knight of that name died in the castle in October 1341. The remains were found with nine other skeletons under a paved floor in a lost royal chapel in 1997, but their identities were shrouded in mystery until recently, when new scientific tests were carried out.
This work will be carried out by Dr Jo Buckberry of the University of Bradford and archaeological scientists Dr Janet Montgomery (University of Bradford) and Professor Julia Lee-Thorp (University of Oxford). Plans are also being made to include the facial reconstruction, and the other research results, in a permanent exhibition due to open at Stirling Castle next spring.
Richard Strachan, Historic Scotland Senior Archaeologist, said: “Professor Black and her team have done a great job in finding out more about two of the skeletons.
“The facial reconstruction of the knight gives a powerful impression of what a warrior who died in the 1300s may have looked like.
“He was a very strong and fit nobleman, with the physique of a professional rugby player, who would have been trained since boyhood to handle heavy swords and other weapons and who would have spent a great deal of time on horseback.
“We are building on this work through a project with Dr Buckberry, and her colleagues, to use the latest archaeological techniques to discover more about the lives and origins of all the people found buried in the chapel.
“This includes where they were brought up and the food they ate, where they were from, how they died and possibly why they were buried in the castle.”
One intriguing avenue of research will be to compare the results from the Stirling skeletons to those of soldiers found in mass graves who were killed at the Battle of Towton, the decisive clash of England’s Wars of the Roses, in 1461.
Dr Buckberry, a biological anthropologist, said: “Techniques have advanced a long way since the skeletons were discovered in 1997 and we can now tell much more about where people came from, their lifestyles and causes of death.
“This group is highly unusual, because of where and when the people were buried, suggesting that they might have been socially important and have died during extreme events such as sieges.
“As the castle changed hands a number of times these are people who could have come from Scotland, England or even France and one of my hopes is that we will be able to find out where at least some of them originated.”
The skeletons, which date from the 13th to 15th centuries, were found during preparatory work for Historic Scotland’s £12 million refurbishment of the castle’s Renaissance royal palace, returning it to how it may have looked in the 1540s.
Part of the project involves the creation of superb new displays telling the story of the castle through the centuries.
Gillian MacDonald, Stirling Castle Executive Manager, said: “The BBC’s research, and the further investigations we are carrying out, will be an important part of the new exhibitions that visitors will be able to enjoy next spring.
“They will be able to see the reconstruction of the knight, who seems to have survived many terrible wounds before finally being killed.
“The displays will tell the castle’s story from its days as a royal stronghold through to more recent times. These and the newly refurbished apartments in the royal palace will mean there is lots more for visitors to do and see.”
Historic Scotland is currently engaged in a £12 million project to return the royal palace within the walls of Stirling Castle to how it might have been in the mid-16th century.New research has revealed the cosmopolitan character of the Renaissance Scottish court at Stirling Castle .
The palace will reopen to the public in 2011 as a new Scottish visitor experience. Freelance historian, John Harrison, has been investigating original documents .Mr Harrison’s source is The Bread Book, an account of who received loaves from the royal kitchens throughout 1549 when the palace was the main residence of Scotland’s queen mother, Mary de Guise , mother of Mary , Queen of Scots . Mary, Queen of Scots was born in nearby Linlithgow Palace and she was only 9 months old when she was crowned Queen of Scotland in the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543. On most days a loaf was granted to the Morys – or Moors – who Mr Harrison believes were probably either black Africans or Arabs originating from North Africa.
“This is a fascinating glimpse of the diversity of the royal court at Stirling in the mid-16th century. It was quite cosmopolitan at the time, with the French Mary de Guise at its head, and surrounded not just by Scots but by people from Spain, the Rhineland and what is now Belgium. There were a few English, but they were mostly prisoners. Just who the Moors were, and what they were doing, is difficult to say. They were quite low in the court hierarchy, but were part of the household and getting bread at royal expense.”
Hints have survived that there may have been Africans in Scotland even earlier. There is a poetic reference by Dunbar to a woman who has been assumed to be – ‘the Lady with the Meikle Lips’. Such references are mostly rather uncertain, and may have other explanations, and the importance of The Bread Book is its clarity at a time when record-keeping was still relatively thin. Just as fascinating is what The Bread Book adds to our understanding of the way the court was run, and who had access to the queen. The evidence suggests that rather than acting like many of the Tudor dynasty in England and taking her main meals in private, deep within the network of royal apartments, Mary de Guise would dine in the Queen’s Outer Hall.
“Quite a wide range of people had access to her, not ordinary farmers but lots of people who were fairly well-to-do, which is important as she was working hard to build and protect the interests of her young daughter – Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary de Guise was an intelligent, decisive woman and a smart operator.
Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most impressive castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. Our new free castle pictures gallery features a number of Scottish castles . Stirling Castle features a Homecoming 2009 event this month – Homecoming events .
From Stirling Castle’s ramparts, visitors can take in views of the Forth Valley and Ben Lomond , as well as two of Scotland’s most important battle sites – Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314). The castle is at the head of Stirling’s historic old town.Like Edinburgh Castle , Stirling sits on a volcanic rock dominating the city skyline .
The Renaissance pomp and pageantry of the Royal Court of Mary Queen of Scots returns to Stirling Castle next month when the queen and her entourage come home to Scotland for ‘A Royal Summer Holiday’.
Castle visitors can become courtiers at this family event from Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd August and join the 16th-century VIP visitors as they have some fun. Skittles, quoits, and firing a crossbow are on offer .
Costumed players throughout the castle will be leading special children’s tours of the castle and sharing all of the latest gossip about the lords and ladies in attendance. And kids will also have an opportunity to join the royal guard to help protect the royal party as they take a break from governing the country.
Historic Scotland Interpretation Manager Sheena Garden said: “Stirling Castle is not only one of Scotland’s grandest and most imposing castles, it was also a real favourite with Scotland’s kings and queens. And their investment in it demonstrated just how much they loved to use it, as well as their desire to ensure it both impressed all who visited it, and represented a statement of their power and wealth. James IV created the Great Hall, the largest medieval banqueting hall ever built in Scotland, and James V’s Royal Palace, with its lavishly decorated Renaissance façades, was a masterpiece of the period.
Major conservation work has been carried out at Stirling Castle over many years to preserve the attraction as a major national and international monument. The refurbishment of the Great Hall was completed a couple of years ago . A particular feature of the Great Hall is stained glass windows featuring clan crests . A number of banquets and cocerts are held in the Hall throughout the year . An ambitious £12 million scheme, the Stirling Castle Palace Project, is currently underway to restore and refurbish the Royal Palace at Stirling and present the Royal Lodgings as they might have appeared in the heyday of Scotland’s Stewart court in the mid 16th century. An interpretive display on the court of James V will be created in the palace vaults and a Renaissance Gallery on the upper floors of the palace will house the original Stirling Heads, a rare group of intricately carved oak ceiling medallions depicting kings, queens, courtiers and mythological creatures. Costumed interpreters will bring the rich history of the 16th century to life to enrich visitors’ enjoyment.
Stirling Castle is one of over 345 outstanding heritage properties and sites in the care of Historic Scotland. Historic Scotland is a Government agency responsible for running and maintaining many castles in Scotland . Ranging from prehistoric dwellings to medieval castles, and from cathedrals to industrial buildings, these include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country. Among the most popular are Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castle , Skara Brae, and Melrose Abbey . For further details visit Historic Scotland
Stirling Castle is one of the best castles in Scotland with a rich and fascinating history .Stirling Castle is now getting a makeover with a striking new brand identity to raise its profile as one of Scotland’s premier visitor attractions and further develop its tourism business.
The creation of the Stirling Castle brand is part of the £12 million Stirling Castle Palace Project which will see the royal lodgings at Stirling Castle returned to the Renaissance magnificence of the mid 16th century.
The stunning stronghold’s unique identity conveys both its character and significance in Scottish history.
The exclusive, striking logo contains references to Scotland’s coat of arms, the unicorn tapestries and the sculptures on Stirling Castle’s Great Hall roof. The unicorn, the enigmatic mythological beast, features throughout Stirling Castle. The new mark also takes its shape from the famous circular wood-carved Stirling heads. Its references and complex detail are emblematic of pageantry and royal status, and features Stirling Castle sitting high up in its green and leafy setting.
Historic Scotland Marketing and Media Manager Rebecca Hamilton said: “This new logo we have created conveys a sense of depth, experience, royal authority, richness and intimacy. Marrying the highly decorative with an intimate experience is very apt for Stirling Castle.
“Our aim was to create a distinctive, memorable and stronger visual identity which embodies the special importance and character of Stirling Castle. It is a truly outstanding attraction with a range of visitor experiences. And the completion of the Stirling Castle Palace Project in 2011 will see the visitor experience enhanced further.”
The logo will be phased in at the attraction for a wide variety of uses including signage, vehicle livery, staff uniforms, publications for visitors, and interpretation of the castle’s history, as well as in Historic Scotland’s website details on the site.
The Stirling Castle Palace Project involves the conservation and refurbishment of the Royal Lodgings to present them as they might have appeared in the heyday of Scotland’s Stewart court in the mid 16th century. Extensive historical and archaeological research has been carried out to ensure the interior decoration, as well as the materials and craftsmanship used, are as authentic as possible.
An interpretive display on the court of James V will be created in the palace vaults and a Renaissance Gallery on the upper floors of the palace will house the original Stirling Heads, a rare group of intricately carved oak ceiling medallions depicting kings, queens, courtiers and mythological creatures. Costumed interpreters will bring the rich history of the 16th century to life to enrich visitors’ enjoyment.
Chris Watkins, head of Historic Scotland’s major projects team, said: “The Stirling Castle Palace Project will not only conserve the palace as a monument of international importance but also present and interpret the magnificence of the royal lodgings, the superb Renaissance carvings and the life of the royal court.
“The project will enable us to maximise the appeal of Scotland’s finest Renaissance palace and encourage more people to visit both the castle and the city of Stirling. And the creation of the Stirling Castle brand, with its distinctive new logo, will play a very important part in helping us promote and project all that this wonderful attraction stands for and offers.”
Stirling Castle videos – Stirling Castle picture gallery