History of Leith, Edinburgh

December 21, 2011

The Siege of Edinburgh Castle 1573-part 1

MARY escaped from Lochleven on the and of May, , 1568, and after her defeat fled to England, the last country in Europe, as events showed, wherein she should have sought refuge or hospitality.
After the assassination of the Regent Moray, to his successor, the Regent Morton, fell the task of subduing all who lingered in arms for the exiled ! queen ; and so well did he succeed in this, that, save the eleven acres covered by the Castle rock of Edinburgh, which was held for three years by Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange with a garrison resolute as himself, the whole country was now
under his rule. Kirkaldy, whose services in France and elsewhere had won him the high reputation of being ” the bravest soldier in Europe,” left nothing undone,amid the unsettled state of affairs, to strengthen his post. He raised and trained soldiers without opposition, seized all the provisions that were brought into Leith, and garrisoned St. Giles’s j church, into the open spire of which he swung up cannon to keep the citizens in awe. This was on the 28th of March, 1571. After the Duke of Chatelherault, with his Hamiltons—all queen’s men —marched in on the Ist of May, the gables end of the church were loopholed for arquebuses. Immediate means were taken to defend the town against the Regent. Troops crowded into it; otherswere mustered for its protection, and this state of affairs continued for fully three years, during which Kirkaldy baffled the efforts of four successive Regents, till Morton was fain to seek aid from Elizabeth, to wrench from her helpless refugee
the last strength that remained to her; and most readily did the English queen agree thereto.
A truce which had been made between Morton and Kirkaldy expired on the ist of January, 1573, and as the church bells tolled six in the morning, the Castle guns, among which were two 48-pounders, French battardes, and English culverins or 18- pounders (according to the ” Memoirs of Kirkaldy”), opened on the city in the dark. It was then full of adherents of James VI., so Kirkaldy cared not
where his shot fell, after the warning gun had beenpreviously discharged, that all loyal subjects of the queen should retire. As the ‘grey winter dawn stole in, over spire and pointed roof, the cannonade was chiefly directed from the eastern curtain against the new Fish Market; the baskets in which were beaten so high in the air, that for days after their contents were seen scattered on the tops of the highest houses. In one place a single shot killed five persons and wounded twenty others. Selecting a night when the wind was high and blowing eastward, Kirkaldy made a sally, and set on fire all the thatched houses in West Port and Castle Wynd, cannonading the while the unfortunates who strove to quench the flames that rolled away towards the east. In March Kirkaldy resolutely declined to come to terms with Morton, though earnestly besought to do so by Henry Killigrew, who came ostensibly as an English envoy, but in reality as a spy from Elizabeth. ” He was next visited, in a pretended friendly manner, by Sir William Drury, Elizabeth’s Marshal of Berwick, the same who built Drury House in Wych Street, London, and who fell in a duel with Sir John
Burroughs about precedence, and from whom Drury Lane takes its name. When about to enter the Castle gate, an English deserter, who had enlisted under Queen Mary, in memory of some grudge, was about to shoot him with his arquebuse, when he was seized, and given up by Sir William Kirkaldy. This courtesy was ill-requited by his visitor, whose sole object was to note the number of his garrison and cannon, the height and strength of the walls, etc.” In anticipation of a siege, the citizens built several traverses to save the High Street from being enfiladed; one of these, formed
between the Thieves’ Hole and Bess Wynd, was two ells in thickness, composed of turf and mud ; and another near it was two spears high. In the city, the Parliament assembled on the 17th of January,
with a sham regalia of gilt brass, as Kirkaldy had the crown and real regalia in the Castle.

To be continued

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