Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Craigievar Castle

Built for display and not for defense Craigievar Castle is the finest tower house in Scotland. The most spectacular example of the late Jacobean style, this is Scotland's  most distinctive contribution to European architecture. An edifice of pink granite and French chateau- inspired turrets and parapets, the tall, thin elevation and fairytale silhouette put up express the Forbes's nobility and ancient lineage.

Craigievar came to the Forbes family in 1610 when the unfinished building was sold  to William, the second son of the  of the neighboring Forbes of Corse. 'Danzig' Willie as he was known spared nothing in his search for the best craftsmen and the finest materials. Perhaps because he knew he would not, as a second son, inherit the family home, he was determined to make the house he built even finer. He had made his fortune importing timber from Danzig to treeless Scotland.

In those days timber was an expensive commodity, even if you did import it herself. While the oak of the floorboards and paneling in the great hall came locally from Drum  everywhere else  Memel pine from the Baltic was used. The great cost of timber in Scotland at the time was one of the reasons that Scottish castles of the period are so tall and thin. They could economize on expensive joists, roof timbers and flooring. The contemporary sprawling Tudor mansions of England used far more timber.

One area where Willie most certainly did not scrimp was the plaster work which is one of the glories of Craigievar. The ornate moulded ceilings are extraordinary and not just in the great hall but in all the rooms of the house while the Scottish royal arms above the fireplace in the great hall are magnificent and spectacular.

The box bath

In 1630 the Forbes Baronetcy was created in the Baronetcy of Novia Scotia  for William Forbes. The 5th Baronet married the eldest daughter of Hugh Semphill, 12th Lord Semphill. Their grandson the 8th Baronet succeeded as  17th Lord Semphill in 1884. The titles remained united until the death of the 19th Lord Semphill and 10th Baronet in 1965. This was when Craigievar passed into the hands of the National Trust for Scotland.

Great controversy followed as Lord Semphill only had female children, the barony and the baronetcy had to be separated. He was succeeded in the barony by his daughter, while the baronetcy had to pass to his closest male relative. His younger sister Betty, Elizabeth Forbes-Semphill had successfully petitioned the High Court in 1952 to be recognized as a male, and had changed his name to Euan Forbes-Semphill. As a result after a two year legal dispute he was recognized as the 11th Baronet, Sir Euan Forbes- Semphill. Sir Euan was a G.P. and a farmer who always wore a kilt.On Sir Euan's death in 1991, the baronetcy passed to the cousin who had challenged the succession.