Located 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.

Sir 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 Scotland.

                                                               Wemyss History

The 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.

The 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.

The 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. Lord Darnley.

By 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.

Mary 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.

Sir Michael Wemyss Granddaughter
“The Maid Of Norway”
Lady and Right Heir of Scotland

After 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,[5] just possibly she had a false pregnancy, and there was even one dubious English claim that she was faking pregnancy.

This, 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 John Balliol.

Far 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 1289.

The 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 Scotland.

That 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.

Edward 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:

Quhen Alexander our kynge was dede,
That Scotland lede in lauche and le,
Away was sons of alle and brede,
Of wyne and wax, of gamyn and gle.
Our gold was changit into lede.
Christ, born in virgynyte,
Succoure Scotland, and ramede,
That stade is in perplexite.

The 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?

As 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.

Part 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.

If 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 whole life.

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