Part 18: And you thought there weren’t anymore castles…silly, silly. GLAMIS!
So tomorrow we leave via Aberdeen, and but there is still time for one more outing; to Glamis Castle in the small town of Glamis in Angus. The town of Glamis is a charming village, but unlike the charming villages of the north, there is a staged quality to them. Like a walk-through at a museum.
The Castle Glamis most recently was the home of the Queen Mother as well as the birthplace of Princess Margaret. There was a strong attachment to both of these women; the Queen Mother because she represented the last of a Victorian culture that was dying out and Princess Margaret, who represented the fearlessness and confidence and spite of the 60s. Though the two women whom the now castle represents are polar opposites, there is an indefinable association. I mean, what family doesn’t have the uptight grand matriarch or the rebellious aunt?
The architecture of Glamis Castle can be traced back to an early Pictish grave:
however, for the most part the construction took place relatively between 1200 and 1400 A.D. however, as is a recurring theme with Castles in this area there is a timeline of additions, remodeling and demolition (either by choice or by war).
The final result is an extremely heavy form that carries with it the battlements, ramparts and a collage of fenestration that shows the evolution of style. The hard thing about analyzing Castles is the lack of a recurring exterior consistency.
It’s a case by case basis as to the aesthetics, and I’ll be honest, while I like the look of Glamis, I think I preferred Fyvie. The true difficulty of these Castles is that they kind of a smack in the face of everything you learn in architecture school. One of the themes that gets pushed down your throat is that everything must have a concept and must have a deep psychological or metaphysical meaning, and that any other solution is something somehow less meaningful or stupid.
In the design of Glamis Castle there is essentially nothing much more in the concept other than power, defense and maintaining image. Here you will find no questioning our place the universe, no romantic-poetesque whimpering about how unfair the world is; rather each move made is not in anyway humble or apologetic and yet, not overly arrogant, strangely balanced in that way. Sometimes I feel like a lot of contemporary Architecture is constantly tripping over itself either to deliberately offend or overly apologize but here the Castle gives off the sense of “Do what you want, I don’t really care”. It’s powerful in its apathy, like those kids in high-school who would hang outside the 7-11 and smoke.
The main problem with the interior of Glamis is that they have too much stuff. While the architecture is apathetically powerful, the interior is hopelessly Victorian; layer after layer of tapestries, ceramics, paintings, oiled wood, and Italian plaster. I mean elegant objects and true elegance are different. To paraphrase:
“Simplicity is the sign of true elegance” and to probably misquote my brother: “Elegance is simplicity and efficiency; Example 1: Violence. Maybe not always the best option, but you cannot deny it’s elegant.”
In addition to tapestries, Glamis Castle is also wallowing in myth and folklore.
Myth 1: It is in this castle that the Literary Macbeth lived. You remember the Historical Macbeth lived in Cawdor. We entered the room which inspired the setting for the murder of Duncan, which was cool, but built about 200 years too late to have been accurate.
Myth 2: Earl Beardie and a few of his guests were playing cards one night on a Saturday and were warned by a servant that it was growing close to midnight and it’s a sin to gamble on the Sabbath. The Earl ignored the warnings and continued to play, just after midnight they were joined by a handsome stranger who played with them. Just before dawn the Earl mentioned how much fun he had had and said “I would play that game til’ the end of time”. Lo, his wish was granted, because the man who had joined them was, in fact, the Devil. It is said that if you put your ear to the stone on Saturday nights, you can people playing away. The game they’re playing? Probably “Patience”.
Myth 3: In the chapel there is always a place saved for “The Grey Lady” thought to be Janet Douglas, The Lady Glamis who had been burned unfairly as a witch in 1537. It is said she wafts in from time to time, says her prayers and disappears.
That any much, much more, next time of Scottish Tragedy Theatre.
The last, and best, part of this castle was the garden, in particular the trees, which ranged from Oak to Cedar. One row of trees looked like topiaries, but when you walk through it’s a wonderful surprise because looking up you see a wild tangle of branches that defy the trimmed and perfect look from the exterior. The madness within.
After Glamis we drove up to Aberdeen and got checked into a hotel just in time to catch the last of Michael Jackson’s funeral.