Huntly Castle

Originally known as The Peel of Strathbogie,
the first castle was built around 1180 A.D. as
a motte & bailey castle by Duncan, Earl of Fife
(Clan MacDuff) at the confluence of the Rivers
Deveron and Bogie to command the most
important route from Moray south to Strathdon, Kildrummy Castle, and Deeside.  
Strathbogie was a wooden defence built around a man-made circular mound (motte)
and supported by a larger, lower rectangular defensive mound (bailey). The motte can
still be seen today to the west of the ruins of the castle; it measures approximately 24 m
in diameter. The bailey was reused in later incarnations of the castle.

In 1306 the castle was held by John of Strathbogie, Earl of Fife and Atholl, a staunch
supporter of Robert the Bruce who used the castle in 1307 as a base . After John of
Strathbogie's execution by King Edward I for his support of Robert the Bruce, the castle
was inherited by his son, David of Strathbogie who unwisely changed his clan's support
to Edward early in 1314 just prior to the Bruce's final victory at Bannockburn. Robert the
Bruce confiscated the lands and awarded them to Sir Adam Gordon of Huntly (in
Berwickshire) for his more faithful support.

Sir Alexander Seaton, Lord Gordon by right of his wife, cleared away the wooden castle
around 1410 and built a stone tower house at the north end of the bailey. Only the
foundations of this tower remain. The tower was burned in 1452 by the Earl of Moray
(Douglas) and the Earl of Huntly as head of the Gordons destroyed the Black Douglas
family in retaliation for the tower's demise. A larger building replaced the tower, only this
time being placed on the south side of the bailey. The third castle was built over this
and only the cellars under later castle remain of the 1452-1460 building.

Strathbogie officially became known as Huntly Castle in 1506 when Alexander, 3rd Earl
of Huntly was granted a charter changing the name of the castle and surrounding area
so that the main family holdings would reflect his title.

George, 4th Earl of Huntly, rebuilt the castle from basement level up. The building was
finished in time for Mary of Guise to visit her Lord Chancellor of Scotland .Ironically,  his  
strong Catholicism & independent political views lead to problems for him with her
daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, who defeated him by his death at the Battle of Corrichie,
near Aberdeen. Huntly Castle was looted and George's younger son was executed.

George, 6th Earl of Huntly after joining a plot against James VI saw Huntly attacked
further damaging the building still under repairs from Mary's troops. The remains of the
tower (on the north of the bailey) were blown up at this time. By 1599 George was in
good stead again with James VI and began another round of building around 1600.

This remodelling included several unique fireplaces, one of which is dated 1606,
decorative oriel windows, and inscription on the exterior of the upper floor. The
inscription reads: "George Gordon First Marquis of Huntlie 16" and below "Henriette
Stewart Marquesse of Huntlie 02".  Thus dating the completion of this part of the work to
1602.  The frontispiece stretching vertically above the main entrance on the courtyard
side is ‘probably the most splendid heraldic doorway in the British Isles’. (Innes, T 1935
‘Heraldic decoration in the castles of Huntly and Balvenie’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 69
(1934—5), 388.) From bottom to top are depicted:

Personal arms of George Gordon, 1st Marquis of Huntly and his lady, Henrietta Stewart,
that is, Gordon and Lennox, side by side. They are supported on the left side by the
collared deer-hound of the Gordons, and on the right side by the wolf of Lennox. Above
the arms are the Gordon and Lennox family mottoes - BYDAND and AVAND DARLY
(Darnley) - and below, the initials GMH and HSMH for George marquis of Huntly and
Henrietta Stewart marchioness of Huntly. The coronet at the top of the panel carries
both the stag's head crest of the Gordons and the bull's head of Lennox.;

The royal arms of Scotland (James VI) beside those of his Queen, Anne of Denmark.
The left-hand supporter of the panel is the Scottish unicorn carrying the royal banner
while the right-hand supporter is the Danish Wyvern carrying a banner depicting
another wyvern. Beneath the shield is the badge of St Andrew and, over all, the royal
crown with the royal crest of Scotland and, on either side, the initials IR6 and ARS for
Jacobus Rex Sextus and Anna Regina Scotorum. Above this is the royal motto IN

The crucifixion of Jesus, and finally the triumph of good over evil on the Day of
Judgement. Described by Simpson:
Huntly Castle Tower foundations from 1410-1452 Castle
Huntly Castle South View
Huntly Castle Southeast View
Armorial Doorway to Huntly Castle
"This next compartment contains the Five
Wounds of Christ (the Pierced Heart,
Pierced Hands and Pierced Feet), with the
instruments of His Passion, and two
supporting figures, probably St Mary and St
John. Above is the text (Gal. 6: 14): ABSIT
forbid that I should glory save in the Cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ . . . Over this is a
circular panel (likewise defaced) displaying
the Risen Christ in glory, within a circle of
clouds, accompanied by the proclamation
with divine power’. On one side of this panel
is the Scottish lion, and on the other side
the twin-headed eagle of the Holy Roman
Empire. . . . Above all is the figure of St
Michael, the warrior archangel, triumphing
over Satan. In 1545 the fourth Earl of Huntly
was created a knight of that illustrious
French Order of Chivalry." (Simpson, W D
1960 Huntly Castle. Edinburgh p. 16)

From left to right on the door lintel are four
shields bearing the arms of Huntly; a
monogram combining the initials of the 1st
Marquis and his Lady; the arms of Lennox;
the date 1602. Between them are deer-
hounds - the Huntly supporters.
Armorial Fireplace at Huntly Castle
In 1640 Huntly Castle was occupied by the Covenanting Army which severely defaced
the sacred carvings on the frontisp\iece as well as the fireplaces. In 1644 it was held for
the King by the Duke of Montrose. And in 1647 Lord Charles Gordon defended it against
General Leslie's Covenanters, but was starved into submission and on surrender he
and all the defenders were executed. In 1650, King Charles II stayed en route to his
coronation as King of Scotland.

Huntly Castle's last active role in Scottish History was in 1746, when it was held  
against the Jacobites by Government Troops. Much of it's stones were later used in
buildings in the town of Huntly prior to its value as an attractive ruin was appreciated in
the late 1800s. It was turned over to the State in 1923 and is currently in the care of
Historic Scotland.

Located 12 miles south-east of Keith, off A96; Huntly Castle is well signposted in the
parkland just north of Huntly Centre.
Tel: 01466 793191.
Opening Hours: The Castle is open all year as follows.
April to September 9.30am to 6.30pm every day. October to March: Monday to Saturday
9.30am to 4.30pm (closed Thursday afternoon and all day Friday) and Sunday 2.00pm
to 4.30pm.
Admission: Adult £3.00, Child £1.00, Reduced £2.30. Last ticket sold 30 minutes before
Huntly Castle North View and Visitor's Center
Huntly Castle South View
Southeast View
Left: Huntly circa 1450 original painting by
Andrew Spratt. Right: Tower Foundations
Site Design & Layout Copyright House of Gordon, Virginia 2004
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Huntly Castle circa 1450, original painting by Andrew Spratt
North View & Visitor Center