The Monster of Glamis Castle

The eerie allure of Glamis Castle has captivated the imagination for centuries, with its roots deeply embedded in Scottish history. The castle, known as the ancestral home of the Bowes-Lyon family, including Claude Bowes-Lyon, 13th Earl of Strathmore and great-grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II, has always been surrounded by tales of mystery and tragedy. The castle's formidable presence is accentuated by its central tower, boasting walls 16 feet thick, rumored to conceal numerous secret chambers.

Historical Context

Glamis Castle's reputation for mystery dates back to 1034, when King Malcolm II of Scotland met a violent end within its walls—a story immortalized by Shakespeare through the character Macbeth. The castle we see today was significantly expanded in the 15th century, becoming the family seat of the Earls of Strathmore.

Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle

The Sinister Secret

By the 19th century, the castle was notorious for harboring a dark secret involving a hidden room and a concealed passage. According to Victorian whispers and the writings of Sir Walter Scott—who noted the castle’s oppressive atmosphere during his 1790 stay—it was believed a monstrous heir was kept out of sight, hidden in this secret chamber. This unfortunate soul, often referred to as the "Monster of Glamis," was rumored to be a severely deformed member of the Bowes-Lyon family, born in the early 19th century but officially recorded as deceased shortly after birth.

Eerie Encounters and Literary Contributions

Throughout the years, various guests and residents of the castle reported uncanny sightings and experiences, such as strange shadows on the "Mad Earl’s Walk" and unexplained noises within the castle’s thick walls. The intrigue deepened with tales of a workman in the 1860s who stumbled upon a mysterious passage and was subsequently encouraged to emigrate, suggesting an urgent desire by the Earl to keep the secret contained.

The Burden of Secrecy

laude Bowes-Lyon, reflecting the burden of the family secret, reportedly insisted that his wife never speak of it. It was a tradition for the Earls of Strathmore to initiate their heirs into this grim secret upon their 21st birthday, which often led to a noticeable change in their demeanor, hinting at the heavy weight of the knowledge they carried.

The Decline of the Mystery

By the mid-20th century, the secret of the Monster of Glamis seemed to fade from the family narrative, with the 16th Earl, in conversations with historian James Wentworth-Day, claiming ignorance of any family secret. This transition marked a shift in the family’s approach to the legend, potentially indicating the end of the need for secrecy as the "monster" may have died, thus concluding the scandal.

A Family's Silent Pact

Despite the fading of the secret, the legacy of the mystery remained a sensitive topic within the Bowes-Lyon family. Rose, Lady Granville and aunt to Queen Elizabeth II, encapsulated the family’s stance by acknowledging that discussion of the matter was strictly forbidden during her childhood, highlighting a deep-seated tradition of silence that pervaded generations.


The Monster of Glamis remains one of Scotland’s most chilling legends, weaving together historical events, familial secrets, and a castle filled with hidden chambers and silent whispers. While the truth behind the legend may never be fully uncovered, the allure of Glamis Castle’s mysterious past continues to intrigue scholars, historians, and visitors alike.

For those interested in delving deeper into the mysteries of Glamis Castle, further information can be found in this Smithsonian Magazine article.

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