A woman’s place is in the castle

Historian article

By Morvern French and Iain A. MacInnes, published 24th November 2022

A woman’s place is in the castle: two besieged noblewomen in medieval Scotland

This article looks at the role of two fourteenth century Scottish noblewomen, on opposing sides in the strife between Bruce and Balliol, who were left to defend their properties during their husbands’ absences.

The Scottish Wars of Independence were fought over several decades of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as English and Scottish warriors struggled for conquest and freedom. At the same time, civil war within Scotland was a recurring aspect, as supporters of alternative kings fought for supremacy and for the throne. While military men are to the fore in accounts and tales of this period, women too played an important role in the events of these war years. This article focuses on two examples of militarily active noblewomen who have received little scholarly attention.

In 1335, during the Second Scottish War of Independence, Kildrummy Castle in Aberdeenshire was besieged. Shortly after, in 1335–36, Lochindorb Castle in Moray was likewise subjected to siege. These two military events in northern Scotland were closely related not just in time and place but also in terms of the people involved. Both castles were defended by noblewomen – Christina Bruce, sister of Robert I, and Katherine Beaumont, countess of Atholl – but on opposing sides and with differing experiences of the conflict...

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