Fact of the day: 2nd May

On this day in 1568 Mary, Queen of Scots, escaped from Loch Leven Castle.

Mary returned to Loch Leven as a prisoner, from 17 June 1567 until her escape on 2 May 1568. At the “battle” of Carberry Hill on 15 June, Mary surrendered to her noblemen, who opposed her marriage to the Earl of Bothwell.

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She was taken to Loch Leven and given into the custody of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, spending most of her captivity living in the early 16th-century Glassin Tower, at the south-east corner of the castle.

Aside from Sir William, the household included his mother Lady Margaret Douglas, mother of Mary’s half-brother the Earl of Moray, and his brother George Douglas, as well as Willie Douglas, a young orphaned relative.

Mary fell ill on arrival, and sometime before 24 July she miscarried twins that she had conceived with Bothwell. Only a few days later she was forced to abdicate as Queen of Scots, in favour of her infant son James.


Mary recovered during the autumn and winter, and gradually won over George Douglas to her own cause. A contemporary wrote that George was “in fantasy of love wythe hir.”

On the night of the escape, Willie Douglas stole the keys and let Mary, dressed as a servant, out of the castle. She was rowed across the lake to where George Douglas and others awaited her, and they fled to Niddry Castle in Lothian.

The Castle is one of many in Scotland said to be haunted by Mary’s spirit.


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