Friday, 15 April 2011

Treasures of Glamis Castle

The staff of Archive, Records Management and Museum Services visited Glamis Castle on Thursday and were given a rare opportunity to visit the Castle’s Archives. The tour was organised by the Glamis Castle Archivist and former ARMMS colleague, Ingrid Thomson. After a tour of the Castle we climbed the 91 steps of the spiral staircase in the clock tower to reach the Archives. Ingrid had selected various items for us to see that revealed the historical wealth of the Castle’s collection. These included a Papal Bull from 1575, a menu book from 1666, items relating to the wedding of Prince Albert and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (now topical because of The King’s Speech), hunts books and the memoirs of Mary Eleanor Bowes. A visitor book contained the young princesses signatures ‘Lilibet’ and ‘Margaret Rose’.

Mary Eleanor Bowes, the ancestor of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, left a journal detailing her eventful life. As a young heiress with a considerable fortune she set her sights on John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore, marrying him on her eighteenth birthday in 1767. The marriage, although fruitful in terms of children, was ultimately an unhappy one for Mary Eleanor and she found comfort in a series of extra-marital relationships. When he died she was pregnant at the time by a lover, George Gray.

The following year she had the misfortune to encounter the Anglo-Irish adventurer Andrew Robinson Stoney. He fought a duel with the editor of the Morning Post newspaper to defend her honour for publishing defamatory articles about her private life. Apparently suffering a mortal wound, he persuaded the Countess to grant him a last dying wish and marry him; he was even stretchered to the altar. Stoney did not die however and had in fact staged the duel with the cooperation of the editor in order to marry Mary Eleanor and gain access to her wealth. She suffered eight years of mental and physical abuse for the Countess that culminated in a brutal abduction after she began to file for divorce. Eventually she gained her freedom and Stoney was imprisoned for the kidnapping.

ARMMS has a strong connection with the Glamis Castle Archives. Researchers wishing to consult the Glamis material do so in the University of Dundee Archive Services search room. In addition the Glamis Cataloguing Project – a cooperative venture with the University Archives - has developed a database of item level descriptions of the Castle’s archive material. The database was named the Mary Young Glamis Castle Databse, in memory of our colleague who passed away last year and is still greatly missed by all.

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