The Monster of Glamis: Fact or fiction?
What was the secret?
It was the middle of the nineteenth century. Thomas, Lord Glamis, spoke to his younger brother 'Claude' he said 'I am so sorry that I have to do this to you, but it's important'. The brothers were sitting in the library at Glamis Castle, their ancestral home.
Claude was surprised 'I don't understand you, Tom'. Sorrowfully, his elder brother went on to explain.
'You've heard that we have a dreadful family secret? As my heir, you need to know about it.' Claude agreed that he had heard about the shameful secret but knew no details.
'But I'm not really your heir, Tom. You're still a young man and even though your poor wife died you will marry again and have children'.
The earl shook his head sadly. 'No Claude, I shall not remarry. You are my heir, may the Lord preserve you.' He went on:
'What I have to tell you will change your life forever and this is the saddest thing I have ever done. I am so sorry, my brother'.
Glamis Castle in Scotland, in common with any self-respecting British ancestral pile, boast a variety of ghosts. Every historical building in the UK has a Grey Lady, a Blue Lady, a White Lady and in some cases, a headless lady. These are par for the course.
Glamis is no exception and for hundreds of years, stories have abounded about various (somewhat standard-issue) ghouls, spirits and general things-that-go-bump-in-the-night.
But the castle also boasts a real humdinger. This was a closely guarded secret and, as Thomas explained, something that only the earls and their heirs were privy to - a secret so shocking that it was said that those in the know would never be the same again.
Thomas led his brother to the chapel within the castle.
The chapel was dimly lit and Claude didn't see exactly what his brother did next but he gasped when he saw that a huge stone pillar suddenly seemed to groan and revealed a door-shaped opening. He could see a narrow flight of stone stairs.
'Follow me' his brother said grimly 'and be brave,Claude. We are members of an ancient and noble family. Our ancestors were fierce and brave warriors. Remember that their blood - and strength - runs through our own veins.'
They climbed many stairs led by only the flickering light of the lantern Thomas carried. Claude glanced at their shadows cast onto the ancient stone walls.
They arrived at a heavy wooden door. There was a small iron grille at eye level. Thomas squeezed his younger brother's shoulder as if to give him strength and gestured to Claude to look into the secret room. Claude took a deep breath, thought for a moment about his warrior ancestors and cautiously looked through the bars.
Claude screamed in horror.
Scotland is a mysterious and ancient country.
Even though I was brought up less than two hundred miles from its borders, I know that the country doesn't give up its secrets easily.
Its history includes fierce clans, bloody battles and sturdy castles besieged by marauders. Find out more with this excellent book.
Now, let's get back to the Monster of Glamis.
What happened to the baby born in 1821?
- At the end of 1820, Thomas Bowes-Lyon (the elder) had married.
- Ten months later, his wife Charlotte gave birth to a male child. Although the baby seemed to be healthy, he was horribly deformed.
- Family records show that the child died on the same day.
- But there was no funeral and there is no headstone. Did the child really die?
- Legend has it that the child was banished to a secret room within the castle and despite living to an old age, was never seen in public again. Nevertheless as the firstborn male he was the true heir to the earldom.
- The couple went on to have four more children - two daughters and two sons, the sons being Thomas and Claude.
Despite being the second son, Thomas inherited the castle, its lands, its wealth and the title. This is despite the 'fact' that his older brother was still supposedly alive but hidden away in a secret chamber.
Thomas died without issue and Claude became the earl. His son, also named Claude, was the father of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon - later to become the Queen of England and the Queen Mother.
Fact or fiction?
- Those who believe in the Monster of Glamis Castle point out that the Bowes-Lyons family were not averse to locking away unacceptable members of the family.
- Read here about the mystery of the Queen's cousins
- They also say that a workman who was undertaking some construction at the castle in the late nineteenth century happened upon the secret chamber. The story goes that he was given a considerable amount of money and sent packing to Australia.
- The legend states that when the monster eventually died, the earl at the time simply bricked up the door, sealed it and the remains are still there. The ghost of the monster (naturally) walks through the castle and its ground to this day.
- Have you noticed how fond we are of the 'mad person hidden in a secret room' theory? Mr Rochester's mad wife comes to mind. (Personally, as those were the days of no forensic tests, I would have been inclined to simply put something in her evening cocoa).
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© 2014 Jackie Jackson