Edinburgh Castle under Siege 1559–1573

David H. Caldwell


In a previous volume of this journal the author reviewed the
information on sieges of Edinburgh Castle from 1093 to 1547. In the latter year many contemporaries would have believed that recent events had shown that the castle was impregnable, and its capture was not viewed as an appropriate objective by the English, then hoping to hold large parts of Scotland and cow the Scots into submission. Nor were serious efforts taken to win the castle in the fighting in 1559 and 1560 which saw the end of the French supported administration of Mary of Guise and the establishment of the Reformed Church. The ‘long siege’ of 1571–73 is the main subject matter of this article, one of the great sieges of British history. Its conclusion marked a significant turning point in the reign of the young King James VI, helping to create the political conditions in which he eventually united the British Isles by succeeding to the throne of England. It also showed that even an impregnable fortress like Edinburgh could not withstand effective bombardment by large guns.

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