Bishop Roger de Beaumont, chancellor of Scotland, built St Andrews castle in the year 1200 to provide essential protection for himself and his property, and as a reflection of his status. Most of what stands today, however, dates from later periods, as the earlier structure was destroyed during the Wars of Independence, which took place between 1296 and 1357. During this time the castle was taken by the English and retaken by the Scots several times before being razed in 1337. After 1385 the new bishop, Walter Trail, rebuilt the castle from its foundations. The pentagonal layout he established remained the basis for all of its later development.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle reached its peak as the splendid residence of some of the most powerful men in the Kingdom. The bishop of St Andrews was the most important churchman in Scotland and among the most powerful nobles in the kingdom. He had his secular headquarters in the impressive castle and presided over the magnificent St Andrews Cathedral. The bishop divided his time between his spiritual and worldly domains. In his religious role, he was responsible for conducting services, consecrating churches and providing moral leadership to ensure the spiritual wellbeing of his flock. In his noble capacity, the bishop was a great landowner and a close advisor to the king. He was influential in the government of the realm and a key player in the intrigues of Scottish politics. The bishop would often also be entrusted with important tasks, such as diplomatic missions and the eduction of young kings and princes.
The bishops and archbishops of St Andrews were closely associated with the Scottish royal court and often entertained noble and Royal guests. In the 1450s, the youthful King James II frequently stayed at the castle, where he discussed political issues with his influential host, Bishop James Kennedy. At this time, the main rooms would have been lavishly adorned with decorative trappings, exuding a magnificence virtually unmatched in Scotland at the time.
The heyday of the castle was probably in the time of Archbishop James Beaton (1521-1539), renowned for his extravagant hospitality, and his nephew, David Beaton, who succeeded him and became a major political figure during the time of Mary Queen of Scots.
Through the 1540s, the bishops and archbishops continued to enjoy lavish lifestyles. An elegant loggia, of which only the stumps of the pillars survive, indicated how refined and sophisticated the buildings of the courtyard of the castle were. The loggia was uncommon in Scotland and inspired by Italian fashion.
- Information signs at St Andrews Castle
- Official Souvenir Guide: St Andrews Castle, Cathedral and Historic Burgh
COVER IMAGE: Official Souvenir Guide: St Andrews Castle, Cathedral and Historic Burgh