"Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners." Song of Solomon 6:4 (KJV)
William & Agnes Douglas had planned a month long trip to Scotland for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. After discovering a Scottish heritage on ancestry.com, William spent hours researching countless possibilities for tours and romantic sites. Their trip had been amazing, but was nearly over on a cool morning in May. This was the morning William chose to visit Dunbar Castle.
“William Scott Douglas, why’d we walk through fog to see a pile of rocks? I thought we were going to see another castle this morning. You said this was going to be one of the most beautiful spots on our tour of Scotland. What’s beautiful about these ruins?”
“You’d think my bride of fifty years would know me enough to know there is more to this pile of rocks than rubble. There are stories here of war and romance.”
“Well, it looks like a war took out this castle. There’s not much here to look at.”
“There was once a lady with your name who successfully defended this castle. They called her, Black Agnes. I think the poem goes something like:
“‘And do they come? Black Anges cried,
‘Nor storm nor midnight stops our foes.
Well, then, the battle‘s chance be tried,
The Thistle shall out-thorn the Rose!’ ”
“That doesn’t sound very romantic to me. Sounds like you’re comparing me to a thistle.”
“Dear, I’d never do that. I do think you are a strong woman who could stand up to an army. Before you pummel me with your purse, do you want to hear the best story?”
“I suppose you’re going to tell it anyway. Have at it.”
“There once was a Queen named Mary. She was quite the political figure and charming. She had been married to a royal in France, but when he died she decided to try to take possession of power in Scotland. There was a huge conflict between her supposed desire to reinstate Catholic influence and the Protestants desire to stop her. Queen Mary married a Lord Darnley for political reasons. She cheated on him with a guy named Rizzio. Darnley killed Rizzio and escaped with Mary to this castle as a fugitive. They had a brief time of love and romance here. I read somewhere that he even quoted her a poem from King Henry Stuart:
“'The turtle for her mate
More dule may not endure
Than I do for her sake
Who has mine heart in cure,
My heart, which shall be sure
With service to the deed
Unto that lady pure,
The wale of woman heid.
Yet no mirth till we meet
Shall cause me be content!
But still my heart lament
In sorrowful silence sore
Till that time she’s present,
Farewell, I say no more!’”
“That is pretty romantic. So what happened after that?”
“Queen Mary wasn’t really in love with Darnley. She pretended to be, but still cheated on him with someone else. Darnley was eventually mysteriously murdered. Queen Mary was captured and brought back here before escaping again. One of her enemies, a guy named Moray, got an Act of Parliament ordering this castle be destroyed. He felt destroying this castle somehow showed his victory over Queen Mary. Now the castle is only a memory of war and failed romance.
“'Nae licht is schinand in the lodge, and nae porter keeps the door;
Nae warer strides, wi‘ lustie spear, that dreirie lodge before;
Nae harp is heard inurth the ha‘, an dnae sang frae lady brave;
But all is quiet as Eremit‘s howff, and stilliche as the grave.'”
“It still just looks like a pile of rocks to me.”
William smiled as he looked at the pile of rocks and then to his bride. Their next stop would be Dirleton Castle. Maybe Agnes would think it was beautiful. Beauty, after all, would always be in the eyes of the beholder.
Historical accounts and poetry taken from
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