Cardinal Beaton was a man of many properties, during his lifetime. Many of these were acquired due to his position in the church. However, these were dangerous times to be lining your pocket with your parishioners’ silver. After all, the Reformation was a powder keg waiting to explode in Scotland. His own actions were to be the spark which ignited his killers’ fury. To this day he and his mistress are said to wander the halls of some of the places they inhabited during their mortal existence.
Who was Cardinal Beaton?
Cardinal David Beaton was the Archbishop of St Andrews and the last Scottish Cardinal before the Scottish Reformation. He was a hugely powerful man who embroiled himself in the turbulent politics of the day. As such, he was a man of many enemies. The reformers wanted to do away with the vow of celibacy priests were required to make. It was, therefore, particularly galling that Beaton had a mistress, Marion Ogilvy who was the mother to his eight children. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Beaton had a string of mistresses and fathered some twenty illegitimate children. The ordinary Scots deplored this double standard, where wealthy prelates punished those who advocated the marriage of the clergy while living in open concubinage themselves.
Beaton targeted and arrested several Protestant figures. He found his popularity waning after he arrested a Friar called John Rogers for preaching heretical doctrine. Rogers was thrown into the infamous bottle dungeon at St Andrew’s Castle. Rogers “died while trying to escape.”
The Demise of Cardinal Beaton
However, things really came to a head when Cardinal Beaton arrested preacher, George Wishart and had him burnt at the stake. Wishart had many sympathisers and they were intent on revenge.
As dawn broke on the morning of the 29th March 1546, ten or twelve of the conspirators joined with a group of stonemasons waiting for St Andrews castle gates to open. Kirkcaldy of Grange diverted the attention of the Porter while Norman Leslie led a contingent of men inside the castle, walking past Marion Ogilvie as she left the castle.
Finally, his kinsman, John Leslie arrived with four men. Something about them alerted the porter who tried to raise the drawbridge. The conspirators snatched his keys and threw him in the moat. The stonemasons fled and soon the conspirators were herding fifty other people out of the stronghold.
The conspirators set about their grisly business. Cardinal Beaton had been brutal in his pursuit of Protestant ‘heretics’. The Protestant response was equally savage. They roused him from his bed, stabbed him and then stripped him of his clothes. His mutilated body was suspended out of one of the castle windows by an arm and a leg to form the cross of Saint Andrew.
Ghostly Apparitions on May 29th
On May 29th, the anniversary of Cardinal Beaton’s death, every year the ghost of a woman in white is seen waving her handkerchief from one of the top floor windows in Claypotts Castle, outside Dundee. Since this was the date that Cardinal Beaton met his fateful end, tradition holds that the White Lady must be Marion Ogilvie. According to A. H. Millar:
The story was that Cardinal Beaton built Claypotts for his beloved, and that from the upper window she could signal across the Tay to St Andrews Bay, to warn her priestly lover that she was longing for his return. And on the 29th of May, 1546, she had waved her spotted kerchief in vain from the window of Claypotts, for her lover was then lying stark, cold, and still in the courtyard of St Andrews Castle, ruthlessly slain by some of those who had been his dearest friends… And thus every year…the White Lady of Claypotts endures her weary vigil…It is useless to assert that David Beaton never had anything to do with Claypotts… (Haunted Dundee, 1923, 117).
It seems unlikely that the ghostly apparition is that of Marion Ogilvie as the castle was built some forty-two years after his death.
A Connection with Bonnie Dundee?
There is speculation that the White Lady may be connected with John Graham of Claverhouse, or Bonnie Dundee, the Royalist who became infamous for his harsh repression of the Covenanters. He later led a Jacobite Revolt and was killed in action at the Battle of Killiecrankie.
Claypotts is also said to have had a brownie. If a brownie is slighted in any way, the brownie will leave. In this case, the brownie left when one of the servants refused to let it help.
At Halloween, it is said that the castle glows with strange lights while sounds of a demonic orgy can be heard coming from within the castle walls.
Cardinal Beaton and the Ghosts of Saint Andrews Castle
After his untimely demise, the ghost of Cardinal Beaton is said to roam the ruins of St Andrews Castle wearing his distinctive red robes and biretta headgear of his holy station.
One visitor to St Andrews recounted seeing a comely ‘foreign-looking girl’ talking excitedly to a man in ‘fancy dress’ in South Street. A dwarf ran up to them, whereupon, the woman burst into floods of tears. Further research unearthed a tale that the news of the Cardinal’s death was broken to a fair Spanish lady by a dwarf.
St Andrews is a veritable hot spot of supernatural activity.
Cardinal Beaton and Ethie Castle
During his lifetime, Cardinal Beaton resided in many castles. One of these castles is Ethie Castle. It is said that he is usually heard rather than seen, dragging his gouty leg behind him. Mostly he is heard climbing a turnpike stair to a secret door in his own chamber. In the past, there have been manifestations by a Green Lady who was reputed to appear before a death within the occupying family. Could this possibly be Marion Ogilvie?
There was also reports of a ghostly child haunting the castle. Things came to a head when a governess was given a room in a long unoccupied part of the castle. There was a closed-up attic above her room. To her horror, odd sounds emanated from above her room for several nights in succession. First, it was sobbing. Then there were footsteps and then something with wheels being pushed along the floor. Imagine the horror of the servants, who were sent to open up the attic. Inside was the skeleton of a child and the remains of a toy cart. Once the bones were buried the disturbances stopped.
It is also said that the monks from Arbroath Abbey hid their treasures at Ethie Castle after the Cardinal was murdered. These were tumultuous times and the monks hid their treasure there to keep it safe from looting Reformers.
Cardinal Beaton and Melgund Castle
Melgund Castle was built by Cardinal Beaton and it became the favourite residence of Marion Ogilvie after his murder. It is said that Cardinal Beaton’s spirit frequents the castle to this day.
However, another strange tale is connected to Melgund Castle. In the 1630s, it was sold by the Beatons and acquired by the Marquis of Huntly. It is said that many years later, the last Gordon owners of the castle all mysteriously vanished one evening, leaving an uneaten meal on the table and Melgund Castle like a land-bound Marie Celeste.
Cardinal Beaton and Vayne Castle
Ruined Vayne Castle stands on the banks of the Noran Water and according to tradition, was once the home of Cardinal Beaton. According to ‘The history and traditions of the land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns’ by Andrew Jervise (1853):
‘Popular tradition ascribes the erection of the castle of Vayne, or the old manor-house of Fern, to Cardinal Beaton, whither he is said to have resorted “for less consistent purposes than the fulfilment of his vow of celibacy,” and a deep black pool in the river Noran, near the castle, is called Tammy‘s Pot, from a story that one of his sons, whom he had by a Lady Vayne, fell over the precipice and was drowned in it. Such is the tale; but, as shown in tracing the history of the transmission of the barony of Fern, Beaton never had any proprietary interest in the parish.’
However, Beaton’s daughter Elizabeth did marry the owner of Vayne Castle, Alexander Lindsay. One of their son’s was called Thomas, through whether this was the child of the story remains unanswered. There is a tale that the name of the estate was ascribed to an exclamation of the dead child’s father, who upon discovering his body cried, ‘It’s a vain!’
The Devil at Vayne Castle
Vayne Castle might not be haunted by Cardinal Beaton but it is said that the Satan himself roams the Castle and there were those amongst the reformers who might have thought that Cardinal Beaton was the Devil Incarnate. In ‘The History and Traditions of the Land of the Lindsays’ (1882), it states:
“The doings of Satan at this place are proverbial, and the umbrageous ravine through which the Noran tumbles its pellucid waters, is the very place which imagination would picture as his abode, and here, in all conceivable phases he reigned of old, and perhaps reigns still; for, according to provincial rhyme, this locality was his favourite place of residence-
“There’s a Brownie o’ Ba’quharn,
An’ the Ghaist o’ Brandieden;
But of a’ the places i’ the parish,
The De’il burns up the Vayne!”
A Monster at Vayne Castle
In addition, a monster is said to inhabit the castle. In ‘The history and traditions of the land of the Lindsays in Angus and Mearns’ by Andrew Jervise (1853) it says:
‘ An arched cellar or vault forms the ground-floor of the east wing, and is the only roofed part of the building; underneath there is said to be a deep dungeon into which the family, before taking their final departure, threw all their treasure of money and plate! This chamber has often been sought for, and only one person is believed to have found it; but when about to descend in search of the valuables, he was forcibly thrust from the entrance by an uncouth monster in the shape of a horned ox, that departed in a blaze of fire through a big hole in the wall … and, before the terrified treasure-seeker could recover himself, the chasm, which he had wrought so hard to discover, was closed for ever to his view.’
No one has ever had the courage to search for the treasure again!
The Legend of Cardinal Beaton
In death it seems the Cardinal has become a legend: hated in life and given no mercy during his final moments. His remains were pickled in a barrel of brine and left to moulder for several months in the bowels of the dungeon into which he had thrown John Rogers. Is it any wonder his spirit roams restlessly to this day?
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