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Archive Anecdotes

Snippets from the city's archives.


Feb 11, 2014

After Flodden: Strengthening Edinburgh Castle.

500 years ago, following the heavy defeat at Flodden in 1513 and the death of the Scottish king, James IV in the battle, there were fears that Edinburgh might face attack by English armies. As James V was in infancy, John Stewart, Duke of Albany prepared to act as Regent of the Scottish Kingdom.

However, as Albany was unable to come to Scotland from France until 1515, one of his most trusted lieutenants was appointed to represent him and protect his interests.  This was Antoine d'Arces, (or d'Arcy). Although Antoine was known in France as "Le Chevalier Blanc" (white knight), he became known in Scotland as ‘Sieur de la Bastie’. As master of the Tour d'Arces near Grenoble (illustrated left), he was well versed in the art of castle defences and was asked to advise on the security of Edinburgh Castle.

Following an inspection that he and master gunner, Robert Borthwick, made in February 1514, the Acts of the Lords of Council in Public Affairs record that De La Bastie judged that the castle was:

'desolat of artalyhery and othir thingis necessar for defens and keping tharof'.

He recommended:

'bulwerkis and trinchis to be made before the place and siclike within the castle to be stuff it with men and artalyhery'.

Although De la Bastie indicated that the work should be done speedily. sadly he did not live to see his advice enacted. It was not until late in 1517 that Borthwick and six ‘cannoneers’ with him were ordered to man the castle's defences continuously.

Earlier in 1517, due to an outbreak of plague in Edinburgh, the young James V had been moved to the care of the Sieur De La Bastie at nearby Craigmillar Castle. While there, De La Bastie rode out towards Dunbar to confront the rebellious David Home, Laird of Wedderburn. This brave expedition was to prove fatal. En route his horse became stuck in marshy land. His enemies came upon him stranded there, and he was beheaded by George Home. David Home is alleged to have taken Antoine's long hair as a trophy. The event was later chronicled in the 1570s by Lindsay of Pitscottie:

"fearing ane conspiracie, he spurred his hors, and fled towardis the castle of Dunbar; thinking to have won away, because he was weill horsed. But being ane stranger, and not knawing the ground weill, he laired his hors in ane mos, and thair his enemies cam upoun him, and slew and murthered him verrie unhonestlie, and cutted aff his head and carried with thame. And it was said that he had long hair plett in his neck quhilk David Home of Wedderburne knitt to his saidle bow and keipt it."

Acknowledgement: Photo of Tour d’ Arces:

http://www.samuelhuet.com/graisivaudan/arces/arces.html

Next month. After Flodden: Strengthening the burgh's defences.



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