FEATURED WRITER : Of castles and power struggles by Sireesha Vedula
It is the first half term break here in England (Autumn) and we planned to drive up north to the Lake District and to Edinburgh, Scotland for some sightseeing. As typical tourists who were interested in all historical sites, my husband and I visited the famous “Edinburgh Castle”.
We had visited a couple of castles in our tenure in the UK and I had noticed every single castle had some sad story to share of sieges, violence, bloodshed and the greed, jealousy, selfishness and most importantly egos of the so called ‘noble men’ of History!
Whenever I read these stories during our visits, I got chills down my spine imagining what might have gone through the victims or the mindset of the culprits! And I got a feeling of grayness and gloominess for the rest of my visit to these Castles. I also ended up reading a lot about other historical events related to these sites after getting back home.
And Edinburgh Castle is no different! It stands gorgeously on top of a hill and near the North Sea and the views from the Castle are indeed breathtaking. On a clear day, one can see miles and miles of all the sights of the surrounding area! No wonder, it has been built so meticulously to protect itself from the attackers way ahead of time! And this is one of the castles with a higher success rate in terms of withstanding the attacks and sieges.
I also understood that this castle has been witness to many betrayals! The most infamous of them all is an event named the ‘Black Dinner’ which they say served as an inspiration to so many writers, authors and has even been incorporated in the famous series ‘Game of Thrones” Going briefly into the details of the Black dinner-
Back in 1440, the 16-year-old William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas, and his younger brother were invited to dine with the ten-year-old King James II of Scotland. Later called the Black Dinner, the occasion was organized by the Lord Chancellor, Sir William Crichton, and James Douglas, 7th Earl of Douglas who inherited the young earl's wealth and titles. While they ate, a black bull's head, a symbol of death, was brought in and placed before the Earl. Over the tearful protests of the 10-year old King James II, the two brothers were then dragged out to Castle Hill, given a mock trial and beheaded. The Clan Douglas then laid siege to Edinburgh Castle. Perceiving the danger, Crichton surrendered the castle to the king and was rewarded with the title Lord Crichton. It is still unclear exactly who else was ultimately responsible. However, it was James Douglas and his son who profited.
What broke my heart the most was the idea of the young tearful 10-year old King pleading for the lives of his guests and what a long life these 16-year-old teen Earls would have had ahead of them, if not for their selfish Uncle!
Alas! I guess this has always been the case right from Mahabharata, to all the centuries of Civic unrest in European territory to the current border struggles happening between various countries across Middle East and Asia! The struggle for Power…
Despite knowing that we are all mortals and someday only our ‘actions and ashes’ remain!
About the Writer
This piece was written as Sireesha's final assignment for a six-week Creative Nonfiction writing workshop.