Enjoy this video and the stories about Crichton Castle. The video is made in collaboration between Archaeology Scotland and Dig It! TV and funded by the Castle Studies Trust.
Although impressive in its own right, Crichton Castle has become notorious in pop culture for its associations with a particularly brutal night in Scottish history: the Black Dinner which served as the inspiration for Game of Throne’s “Red Wedding.” Whether you follow Game of Thrones or not, Crichton Castle is well worth the walk through. Follow along with Dig It TV’s David as he walks us through Crichton Castle’s place in Scottish history.
Crichton Castle was constructed for the Crichton family in late 14th century by John Crichton. The castle originally consisted of just a tower house, which still stands within the castle today. However, being isolated from any towns or other structures, Crichton Tower House would have been an impressive site against the open expanse. However, it would not remain a tower house for long, in the tradition of wanting to makes one’s own mark on the world, John’s son William would greatly expand the castle, building an innovative great hall and kitchen around a new courtyard. He also built a collegiate church nearby, where he paid priests to pray for his family’s salvation.
In 1488, the castle came into the hands of Patrick Hepburn who was soon made the Earl of Bothwell. It was Francis Stewart, the 5th earl of Bothwell, who would greatly make the final expansions to castle, including the construction of a diamond-faceted façade overlooking the courtyard and a Moorish-looking stable. These elaborate, luxurious, and seemingly out of place designs reflected his travels. The castle, as it stands today, reflects these three individual building styles and phases.
The castle is notorious, particularly to modern visitors, because of its associations with the Black Dinner. In 1440, the Douglas family had become increasingly powerful, enough so that they were perceived as a threat. William Crichton (who first expanded the castle) organized a dinner, inviting the 16 year old William, 6th Earl of Douglas, and his younger brother to dine with 10 year old James II of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle. During dinner, a piper began to play, and the head of a black bull was presented to the young earl. This was a Celtic sign of the death. The young brothers were then dragged out of the castle, given a mock trial, and beheaded. As dinner guests were meant to be under the protection by the household who hosted them, this betrayal was particularly upsetting. This brutal scene became the inspiration for Game of Throne’s “Red Wedding.”
Crichton Castle is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland and can be visited year round!