Darnley Castle was the seat of the Stewarts of Darnley and a round stair tower possibly from the castle is now incorporated into a later building.
From an early time the lordship of Darnley was closely associated with that of Crookston which was granted by Walter fitz Alan, High Steward of Scotland, to one of his vassals, Sir Robert de Croc of Neilston, around 1170. It may be that Darnley was granted in a similar fashion around this time. Darnley may have been the seat of the lands of Crucsfeu, although this is supposition on my part, as in 1490 there is a reference to “the lordship of Darnley, called Cruxfew”.
Certainly Darnley was owned by the Croc family by the 13th century. Sir Robert Croc received Tarbolton from his father, when Crookston Castle was the principal messuage of the regality of Crookston which comprised of the lordship of Darnley and Inchinnan and also of Tarbolton.
Towards the end of the 13th century Darnley seems to have passed out of the Croc family although there are conflicting versions as to how that came to be. One version has it that the male line failed with Sir Thomas Croc while another has it that it failed with Robert Croc, Lord of Crookston and Darnley. Robert’s daughter and heiress, Marion de Croc, is said to have married Sir Robert Stewart, son of Walter Steward of Dundonald, the 3rd High Steward of Scotland, and the Croc possessions passed to the Stewarts.
Other histories state that Robert Croc sold Crucsfeu, presumably including Darnley, around this time, in one version to the family of Glasferth or Glassford and in another to the Annesley family. Two of the nobles on the Ragman Roll of 1296 are Robert Cruk of Fingaledstone and John Aneslye de Crucsfeu which lends weight to this theory. It is supposed that John de Annesley bought the lands of Crucsfeu from Robert Croc and early in the 14th century sold them to Glasferth.
Whatever the true sequence, Adam of Glasferth was in possession of the lands of Crukysfu in 1330 when Robert, 7th High Steward of Scotland (the future Robert II), granted licence to his cousin, Sir Alan Stewart of Dreghorn, to purchase heritably the same lands. Sir Alan died at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333 and was succeeded by his son, Sir John Stewart of Darnley, who in a charter in his favour granted by Robert, 7th High Steward and Earl of Strathearn, was styled as Sir John Stewart, Lord of Crookston, Knight.
Sir John was dead by 1369 and his younger brother, Walter, by 1371, and so Darnley and Crookston passed to their younger brother, Sir Alexander Stewart, who married a sister of Sir John Turnbull of Minto.
Sir Alexander is thought to have died in 1404 or 1406 and was succeeded by his son, Sir John Stewart of Darnley, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Donnchadh, Earl of Lennox, around 1408. Sir John seems to have developed a reputation for himself as an able military commander as when Charles, the Dauphin of France, asked James I for assistance in 1418 he is said to have named Sir John specifically. A Scottish force left in 1419 under the command of Sir John’s cousin, John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, and the following year Sir John was referred to as the Constable of the Scottish Army in France.
He fought at the Battle of Baugé in 1421 and was made the Seigneur de Concressault later that year in recognition of his contribution. The following year the Dauphin ascended the throne of France as Charles VII and made Sir John the Seigneur d’Aubigny. He fought for the French in numerous battles against the English, commanded the Garde Écossaise and was created Comte d’Évreux. He returned to Scotland in 1428 and was involved in the negotiations which led to James I’s daughter, Princess Margaret of Scotland, marrying Charles VII’s son, Louis.
In 1429 he returned to France and fought in the Siege of Orléans but died at the Battle of the Herrings and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Alan, who had fought alongside his father and brothers in France. He inherited his father’s lordships of Aubigny and Concressault and around the same time married Catherine Seton, daughter of the late Sir William de Seton who had died at the Battle of Verneuil in 1424. By 1437 Sir Alan had resigned his French lands and titles to his younger brother, Sir John, and returned to Scotland.
A marriage contract was drawn up in 1438 between Sir Alan and Alexander Montgomerie of Ardrossan, 1st Lord Montgomerie, for the marriage of Sir Alan’s son, John Stewart, and Lord Montgomerie’s daughter, Margaret Montgomerie, however it seems that the marriage did not proceed. Sir Alan was apparently involved in a feud with the Boyd family and in 1439 he was killed by Sir Thomas Boyd of Kilmarnock.
The location of their encounter is named in some sources as Powmathorn or Powmathorne, and is described variously as being three miles from Glasgow, three miles from Falkirk, between Falkland and Linlithgow and between Falkirk and Linlithgow. Polmaise Thorn is one interpretation, although there is also a Pomathorn to the south of Penicuik.
Sir Alan’s brother, Alexander, killed Boyd at the Battle of Craignaught Hill later that year and Sir Alan was succeeded by his son, Sir John, who was later made a Lord of Parliament, possibly at the coronation of James III in 1460. In 1456 the King confirmed a letter from his cousin, John Stewart, Lord of Dernele, to Lord John de Seton granting him the lands of Leynefene or Lenfene.
In 1460 Sir John married Margaret Montgomerie, daughter of Alexander Montgomerie, Master of Montgomerie, and granddaughter of Alexander Montgomerie, 1st Lord Montgomerie. In the same year his grandmother, Isabella, Countess of Lennox and eldest daughter of Donnchadh, Earl of Lennox, died. Her sons and husband had predeceased her, as had her two sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret, and so the Earldom of Lennox was divided between her sister’s heirs.
Sir John was in line to inherit half of the Earldom however it took several petitions to James II and James III, and to Sir John’s cousin the Lord Chancellor, Andrew Stewart, 1st Lord Avandale, by Sir John and his brother, Alexander, to secure Darnley’s inheritance.
The second heir, who was due a quarter of the Earldom, was Agnes Menteith, a granddaughter of Margaret and daughter of Murdoch Menteith of Rusky, who married John Haldane of Gleneagles. The third heir, who was to also inherit a quarter of the Earldom, was Agnes’s sister, Elizabeth Menteith, who married John Napier of Merchiston.
Lord Avandale was also a grandson of Isabella however and coveted the Lennox estates. He used his position as Lord Chancellor and Regent during the minority of James III to frustrate the Lennox heirs in their attempts to receive their inheritance. In 1471 he was granted the liferent of the whole Earldom of Lennox and supported the Haldanes against Darnley in an attempt to strengthen his position and weaken Darnley’s.
Sir John was appointed Governor of Rothesay Castle in 1465 and in 1473 was finally confirmed as an heir of Duncan, Earl of Lennox, by Sir John Colquhoun of Colquhoun, Sheriff of Dumbarton, receiving the principal messuage and half of the lands of the Earldom. However despite apparently having a right to he doesn’t seemed to have used the title of Earl of Lennox after 1475, possibly due to Lord Avandale having obtained the Earldom’s liferent.
Upon the death of Lord Avandale in 1488 the co-claimants to the Earldom of Lennox finally acquired the benefits of their inheritance. In October that year at the newly-crowned James IV’s first parliament Sir John sat as Earl of Lennox and four days later was appointed keeper of the castle of Dumbarton.
The Earl of Lennox, his son’s father-in-law, Robert Lyle, 2nd Lord Lyle, and his son, Matthew, were tasked with keeping control of a district in the west of Scotland including the shires of Dumbarton and Renfrew until the King reached the age of 21. However late in 1488 they joined a rebellion against the young King, or more correctly against his advisers. In June 1489 they were all forfeited and in July an order was issued to besiege Dumbarton Castle, Crookston Castle and Lord Lyle’s Duchal Castle.
Despite their involvement in the rebellion all three had their forfeiture rescinded in February 1490 and their estates restored. In May of that year Elizabeth Menteith and her son, Archibald Napier of Edinbellie, reached an agreement with John, Earl of Lennox, whereby they renounced their claims over the superiority and tenandry of their quarter of the Earldom. In June of that year he resigned the whole of the Earldom of Lennox, the whole of “the lordship of Darnley, called Cruxfew” and the whole of the lands of Galston in favour of his son, Matthew. The Earl of Lennox reached a similar agreement with John Haldane of Gleneagles and his son, James, over their quarter of the Earldom in 1493, and so finally obtained the whole of the Earldom of Lennox without dispute.
Sir John’s eldest son, Matthew, married secondly in 1494 a granddaughter of James II, Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton, and Mary Stewart, and upon his father’s death in 1495 succeeded to the Lennox estates and titles. He served as Lord Provost of Glasgow in 1497.
On the 18th of January 1511 Matthew, 2nd Earl of Lennox, obtained for his good service a confirmation from the King of the charter granted by the High Steward of Scotland to Sir John Stewart in 1361. This charter granted him the lands of Croikisfow, Inchenane and Perthaikscott along with the castle and fortalice of Crokisfow, the manor and palace of Inchenane and the lands of Dernlie, the twenty pound lands of Dormondside, Nethirtoun and Ald-Crukistoun of old extent amongst others. The following day his eldest son, John, married Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of Sir John Stewart of Balveny, 1st Earl of Atholl, and Eleanor Sinclair, daughter of William Sinclair, 3rd Earl of Orkney.
Following the death of the 2nd Earl at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 some of his possessions seem to have passed to Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, a grandson of the 1st Lord Hamilton, before being granted by the King to others. The 2nd Earl was succeeded by his son, Sir John, who in 1521 was bailiff of the barony of Renfrew.
Sir John attempted in 1526 to rescue the young James V from the influence of the Douglases but died in the ensuing Battle of Linlithgow Bridge and was succeeded by his 9 year old son, Matthew. In 1532 the late Earl’s widow sent Matthew and his younger brother, John, to their kinsman Robert Stewart, 4th Lord of Aubigny, in France where they joined the Garde Écossaise. Aubigny was the brother of the younger Stewarts’ grandfather, the 2nd Earl of Lennox. Before they left Matthew received a grant from the King of Crukiston, Crukisfew, the lands of Darnley and others.
Following the death of James V in December 1542 the Earl of Lennox was encouraged to return to Scotland by Cardinal David Beaton to rival his fellow claimant to the throne, James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran. Both claimed descent from Mary Stewart, daughter of James II. When Lennox arrived at Dumbarton Castle in March 1543 Arran had just been appointed Regent to the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, and declared next in line to the throne.
The Regent Arran sought to marry Mary to Edward Tudor, the son and heir of Henry VIII of England however Lennox was part of the pro-French faction opposed to this. Lennox had been lured to Scotland partly by the prospect of marrying Mary’s mother, Mary of Guise, widow of James V. However in 1544 he married Margaret Douglas, daughter of Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, and Margaret Tudor, wife of James IV and sister of Henry VIII.
As part of the marriage settlement he endowed his wife in the lands of Glenrinne, Balloch and Auchintorlies in the Earldom of Lennox, the baronies of Cruckisfew, Inchinnan and Craig of Nielston in the lordship of Darnley and the lands of Erere in Perthshire.
In the same year Lennox changed sides and supported the proposed marriage between Mary and Edward Tudor, however Arran had himself changed sides the year before. Crookston Castle was besieged and captured by the forces of Regent Arran and Cardinal Beaton while the Earl of Lennox was defending Glasgow Castle against the same foe.
The 4th Earl was forfeited and exiled in 1545, settling in England on an estate given to him by Henry VIII. In October of that year the lands of Dernlie were granted by the Crown to Robert Sempill, 3rd Lord Sempill, along with the lands of Cruikestoun, Neilstoun, Kowglennis, Pottertoun, Dikkonisband, Kowanoris, Glanderstanis, Helfeild, Crukisfie, Neilstounissyde and Inschynnane, with the castles, towers and fortalices, which Matthew, Earl of Lennox, had forfeited.
Mary created her half-brother, John Stewart, Commendator of Coldingham, Lord Darnley in 1562 and granted him a portion of the Darnley estates following his marriage to Janet Hepburn, sister of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell.
Lord Darnley died in November 1563 and was succeeded by his infant son, Francis Stewart, whom Mary granted the lordship of the Enzie, the forest of Boyne, Cruckstoun, Inchinnan, Neilstoun and others. However in October 1564 the 4th Earl of Lennox returned to Scotland and was restored in his estates and titles by Mary who provided him with lodgings in Holyroodhouse.
Lennox had been involved in political manoeuvring in an attempt to secure Mary’s hand in marriage for his son, Henry Stuart, better known by his courtesy title of Lord Darnley as heir to the Earldom of Lennox. In February 1565 Lord Darnley travelled from London to Edinburgh and married Mary in her private chapel at Holyroodhouse on the 29th of July.
Lord Darnley was not popular at the Scottish court and concerns about a return to Catholicism which led to a rebellion in August and September 1565. Known as the Chaseabout Raid, it was led by Mary’s half-brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray.
The marriage grew strained and Lord Darnley became jealous of Mary’s friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio. Lord Darnley conspired with some of the nobles who had participated in the Chaseabout Raid and on the 9th of March 1566 he stabbed Rizzio to death at Holyroodhouse in front of the heavily-pregnant Mary. Their son, James, was born on the 19th of June 1566 at Edinburgh Castle, however the marriage was doomed.
Early in 1567 Lord Darnley was recuperating in Glasgow, possibly at Darnley, from smallpox or possibly syphilis. Mary had Lord Darnley brought to Edinburgh where he was accommodated at the Old Provost’s lodging at Kirk o’Field. At around 2am on the morning of the 10th of February the house was blown up by two barrels of gunpowder placed in the room under Darnley’s bedchamber. Several men were seen by witnesses fleeing the scene.
James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, was accused of murdering Lord Darnley however he was found not guilty in April 1567 after his main accuser, the 4th Earl of Lennox, failed to appear at court. Mary was suspected by some of involvement in her husband’s murder and her case was not helped when she married Bothwell in May of the same year. Mary and Bothwell were defeated at the Battle of Carberry Hill on the 15th of June and Mary was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle where she was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son, James.
In 1570 the 4th Earl of Lennox was appointed as Regent for his grandson, James VI. Lennox was shot and killed in a skirmish in Stirling the following year and the Earldom of Lennox returned to the Crown before James VI made a new creation of the title for the 4th Earl’s younger son, Charles, the King’s uncle.
Charles and his heirs were granted the lands of Crokisfow with castle, tower, fortalice and mill, the lands of Inchennane with the manor and palace, the lands of Perthaikscot with the mill, together with their tenants. Also the castle of Cruikisfow, the mains lands of Dernlie, the lands of Dormondsyd, Nethirtoun and Auld Cruikstoun (the 20 pound lands of old extent), the manor and palace of Inchennane and the mains lands of Inchennane, for which he was expected to pay the King a single silver coin at the castle of Cruikisfow.
Charles died in 1576 and the next in line to the Earldom was Robert Stewart, Bishop of Caithness and younger brother of the 4th Earl. In June 1578 the King made a new creation of the title for him, making him Earl of Lennox and Lord Darnley and granting him the possessions of the Earldom including Darnley. In 1579 he resigned the Earldom of Lennox in exchange for the Earldom of March and his nephew, Esmé Stewart, was made Lord of Aubigny, Earl of Lennox, Lord Darnley and Dalkeith and granted the Earldom’s holdings on the 5th of March.
The Earl of Lennox was a favourite of the King and was made Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland in 1581 and was first Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber. On the 5th of August 1581 he was created Duke of Lennox, Earl of Darnley, Lord Dalkeith, Torboltoun and Aberdour.
The Duke of Lennox died in May 1583 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Ludovic, whom in July the King granted the lands, Earldom and lordship of Lennox. He was appointed Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland in 1594, made a heritable appointment for his heirs, and first Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber like his father before him. On the 21st of February 1603 the King confirmed the Duke of Lennox in the dukedom, Earldom, lordship, barony and regality of Lennox. When James VI ascended to the throne of England Lennox followed his King south.
The Duke died in 1624 without legitimate issue and was succeeded by his younger brother, Esmé Stewart, however he too died within a few months of his brother. The Dukedom was inherited by Esmé’s eldest son, James, who the following year was made a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the newly-crowned Charles I. The 4th Duke of Lennox died in 1655 and was succeeded by his young son, Esmé Stewart, however he died at the age of 10 in 1660. The titles passed to his first cousin, Charles Stewart, a grandson of the 3rd Duke, who succeeded as 3rd Duke of Richmond, 6th Duke of Lennox and Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland and was created hereditary Lord High Admiral of Scotland.
The 6th Duke of Lennox married three times, lastly in 1667 to “La Belle Stuart”, Frances Teresa Stewart, a granddaughter of Walter Stewart, 1st Lord Blantyre, however he had no children and upon his death in 1672 his wife was granted the Lennox estates for life while the titles became extinct.
In 1675 the titles were recreated for Charles Lennox, an illegitimate son of Charles II and Louise de Kérouaille. In September of that year he was created Duke of Lennox, Earl of Darnley and Lord Torbolton. He was invested as a Knight of the Garter in 1681 and received a ratification from the King of the lands owned by the late Charles Stewart, Duke of Lennox and Richmond, including the lands of Crookston, Nether Crookston, Old Crookston. These were to be combined with other lands, including some in Ayrshire, into the Earldom of Darnley with “the castle of Darnlie, alias Cruikistoun, to be the principall messuage of the said earledome”.
The Duke resigned all of his Scottish estates in 1704 and these were acquired by James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose. In 1757 William Graham, 2nd Duke of Montrose, sold part of the Earldom of Lennox to John Boyle, 3rd Earl of Glasgow, and part to Sir John Maxwell of Blawarthill, 3rd Baronet of Pollok. Sir John’s part comprised of “the lands of Crookston, comprehending the Mains of Crookston, Byres of Crookston, Netherton of Crookston, Hillbank and Broadcroft, Old Crookston, and the wood of Crookston, the lands of Mains of Darnley, with the mill of Darnley, being all parts of the lands of Crooksfie and Darnley, in the Earldom and late regality of Darnley, with the towers, fortalices, etc.” for which he paid £12,000.
Sir John died unmarried in 1758 and his estates passed to his sister, Beatrix Maxwell, who assigned to her half-brother, Sir Walter Maxwell of Pollok, 4th Bt., the contract of sale of the estate of Crookston and Darnley which had been agreed by the late Sir John and William, Duke of Montrose. Sir Walter died in 1762 and was succeeded by his son, Sir John, 5th Bt., who died in infancy in the same year. The estates then passed to Sir Walter’s younger brother, Sir James, 6th Bt.
The Maxwells seemingly demolished most of Darnley Castle leaving just a round stair tower with an adjoining wing, both roofless. The ruins may have been used as a doocot and were later incorporated into a mill building. Following limited and inconclusive archaeological investigations on the site in 1996 there is some debate as to whether the stair tower represents part of the castle or part of the 15th century mill of Darnley. If it was in fact the remains of the mill then the site of the now-demolished Darnley House (at NS 523 588) has been proposed as the possible site of Darnley Castle.
The stair tower and wing have now been incorporated into a restaurant.
Alternative names for Darnley Castle
Darnelie; Darnley; Darnley Mill; Darnley Mill Farm; Darnley House; Darnley Mill; Darnlie; Dernele; Dernelee; Derneley; Dernelie; Dernelly; Dernlie