south of Coaltown of Wemyss in a large, private estate on the shores of
Fife, Wemyss Castle has been the property of the family of that name
since the 13th century.
Michael Wemyss was one of the emissaries sent to bring Queen Margaret,
the “Maid of Norway” to Scotland in 1290. It was Margaret's death in
Orkney, en route from Norway that precipitated the succession crisis in
name of Wemyss is derived from the Gaelic 'uaimh' meaning 'cave'. On
the coast of Fife, below the ruin known as MacDuff's Castle are caves
containing Pictish paintings and it is thought that these gave rise to
local place name of Wemyss. Wemyss has been the seat of the chiefs of
the Clan Wemyss since the twelfth century and they almost certainly
took their name from the land where they made their home.
Wemyss family have the distinction of being one of the few lowland
families directly descended from the Celtic nobility, through the
MacDuff earls of Fife.
family initially ensured their prosperity by supporting the cause of
Robert the Bruce, and thereafter the name multiplied into many
branches. The family seat, Wemyss Castle was built early in the
thirteenth century and has the distinction of being the setting for the
first meeting of Mary, Queen of Scots and her future husband, Henry.
the eighteenth century the Wemyss family were recognised as the senior
representatives of the ancient earldom of Fife. During the Wars of
Independence in the following decades, Wemyss Castle was destroyed by
the invading English army. Rebuilt in the 16th century, the round tower
in the corner may date from the 13th century.
Queen of Scots is said to have met Lord Darnley at Wemyss Castle (in
February 1565). She married Darnley in July of the same year. The
Earldom of Wemyss was created in 1657 and the Wemyss family still
occupy the castle. It has been considerably modified and extended over
the years. Although the Wemyss estate is private, a walled garden is
open to the public on a limited basis.
Michael Wemyss Granddaughter
Maid Of Norway”
and Right Heir of Scotland
King Alexander was buried at Dunfermline Abbey on 29 March 1286, the
magnates and clerics of the realm assembled at Scone in parliament to
select the Guardians of Scotland, who would keep the kingdom for the
right heir. At this time it was thought that Queen Yolande was
pregnant, so that Margaret was not yet the obvious successor. It is
uncertain what happened to Yolande's child; most likely she had a
miscarriage, although other accounts say that her child was still-born
at Clackmannan on Saint Catherine's day (25 November 1286) with the
Guardians in attendance to witness the event, just possibly she had
a false pregnancy, and there was even one dubious English claim that
she was faking pregnancy.
according to the oaths taken, made Margaret the heir, but within weeks
Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale and his son Robert, Earl of Carrick
— the grandfather and father of the future King Robert Bruce — had
raised a rebellion in the south-west, seizing royal castles. This
rebellion was soon suppressed, and a Norwegian ambassador came to
Scotland in the winter of 1286-1287 to argue Margaret's cause. Nothing
came of this, and until 1289 the Guardians maintained the peace in
Scotland between the competing claims of Margaret, Robert Bruce and
from the Scots displaying any desire to bring Margaret to Scotland, it
was again Margaret's father Eric who raised the question again. Eric
sent official ambassadors to Edward I of England, then in Gascony, in
May of 1289, with papers referring to Margaret as "Queen". Negotiations
from this time onwards were between Edward, who returned to England
later in the year, and Eric, and excluded the Scots until Edward met
with Robert Bruce and some of the Guardians at Salisbury in October of
Scots were in a weak position since Edward and Eric could arrange
Margaret's marriage to the future Edward II of England, or some other
if they chose, without reference to the Guardians. Accordingly the
Guardians signed the Treaty of Salisbury, which agreed that Margaret
would be sent to Scotland before 1 November 1290, and that any
agreement on her future marriage would be deferred until she was in
marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales, was in King Edward's mind is clear
from the fact that a papal dispensation was received from Pope Nicholas
IV ten days after the treaty was signed. Sometimes thought to show bad
faith on Edward's part, the Papal Bull did not contract a marriage,
only permit one should the Scots later agree to it. Edward, like Eric,
was now writing of Queen Margaret, anticipating her inauguration and
the subsequent marriage to his son.
and the Guardians continued their negotiations, based on the collective
assumption that Margaret would be Queen and Edward of Wales King, but
all these plans, and those of King Alexander, were brought to nothing
by the death of Margaret in the Orkney Islands in late September or
early October of 1290 while voyaging to Scotland. Her remains were taken to Bergen
and buried beside her mother in the stone wall, on the north side of
the choir, in Christ's Kirk at Bergen. Although derived from a text
written more than a century later, it is thought by some historians
that the earliest Middle English verse written in Scotland dates
from this time:
Alexander our kynge was dede,
Scotland lede in lauche and le,
was sons of alle and brede,
wyne and wax, of gamyn and gle.
gold was changit into lede.
born in virgynyte,
Scotland, and ramede,
stade is in perplexite.
ballad Sir Patrick Spens has sometimes been supposed to be connected to
Margaret's ill-fated voyage. Some years later a woman appeared claiming
to be her, the False Margaret, who was executed by Haakon V, King
Eric's brother and successor, in 1301.
Was she queen?
Margaret was never crowned or otherwise inaugurated, and never set foot
on what was then Scots soil during her lifetime, there is some doubt
about whether she should be regarded as a Queen of Scots. This could
ultimately be a matter of interpretation. Most lists of the monarchs of
Scotland do include her, but a few do not. Some contemporary documents,
including the Treaty of Salisbury (see above) did describe her as
"queen", but it has been argued that she should not properly be
considered Queen regnant.
of the problem here is the lack of a clear historical precedent. In the
whole of Scotland's history as a fully separate country before the
Union of the Crowns in 1603 there was only one occasion when a similar
situation arose i.e. on the death of the monarch the heir was outside
the country and not available to be crowned more or less immediately.
This was when, on the death of Robert III in 1406, his heir, who became
James I, was a prisoner in England. James was eventually released and
crowned in 1424. In the intervening period official documents simply
referred to him as the "heir", and the Regent Albany issued coins in
his own name. Nevertheless, James's reign is now usually considered to
start in 1406, not 1424.
she had lived and the crowns joined the England and Scotland would have
been rules under one crown. Robert the Bruce would never have become
King. William Wallace (Braveheart) would have lived peacefully his
to Return to "The Weems are Peculiar"