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The Battle of Corrichie lead to the downfall of the Duke of Gordon and Huntly Castle

The Battle of Corrichie and the Fall of the Cock of the North

The Battle of Corrichie took place on the 28th October 1562 and saw the downfall of one of Scotland’s great Magnates, George Gordon the 4th Earl of Huntly. As Clan chief of the Gordons, he was given the traditional epithet, The Cock of The North. The Gordons could have been powerful allies to the young Mary Queen of Scots. After all, they were Catholic like Mary, in a country gripped in the Protestant Reformation. Alas, the Gordons were becoming too powerful with the result that the crown felt threatened. Mary, Queen of Scots came to the north in person to deal with the situation.

Defeat at The Battle of Corrichie

The Earl of Huntly had been loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots but when the widowed queen returned to Scotland in 1561, she fell under the influence of her half-brother James Stuart, the illegitimate son of her late father. In 1562 Mary gave her brother the title of Earl of Moray. Gordon also laid claim to the title. This led to a collision course between himself and the crown. It culminated in the Battle of Corrichie on the 28th of October 1562.

Huntly made a tactical mistake. As the queen’s vanguard crumbled, the Gordons threw away their spears expecting to use their swords in a pursuit. Moray and his second line stayed firm with extended pikes. The pikemen won the day because of the length of their pikes, which Huntly’s men were unable to approach. Mary watched the battle unfold from the hill of Meikle Tap, sitting in the hollow of a rock, which would afterwards be called the Queen’s Chair.

Prophecy Fulfilled at the Battle of Corrichie

Huntly’s wife had a reputation for having a dominant personality and like many other strong women, had a reputation as a witch. Allegedly, before the battle, she was assured by her demon familiars that her husband would end the day unwounded in Aberdeen Tolbooth. The prophecy was fulfilled.

Huntly was taken prisoner along with his sons Sir John Gordon, George and Adam of Auchindoun. That night, Huntly, described as being ‘ gross and corpulent’ collapsed and died. His unmarked body slung over a horse and carried to Aberdeen Tolbooth.

Huntly’s Bizarre Trial

His corpse was then disembowelled, salted, and pickled.  An ancient law stated that in cases of treason against the monarch, the offender, living or dead, should be brought in front of Parliament for trial. His embalmed body was dispatched to Edinburgh by sea.

In May 1563, seven months after his death, Huntly’s corpse was set up in front of a full session of Parliament, with Mary sitting on her throne. The grisly relic was solemnly declared to be guilty of treason. The body was then left in Blackfriars priory in Edinburgh, and it was not until April 1566 that the body was released.

The Earl was finally laid to rest in the family tomb at Elgin Cathedral.


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