Secrets of Great British Castles (2015–…): Season 2, Episode 1 - Edinburgh Castle - full transcript

Historian Dan Jones continues his exploration of the turbulent history of some of Britain's most famous castles, commencing with Edinburgh Castle. He explores the history of the site from the Iron Age up to the present day.

DAN JONES: For me, a great British castle
is a fortress, a palace, a home.

And a symbol of power, majesty and fear.

For nearly a thousand years,

castles have shaped
Britain's famous landscape.

These magnificent buildings have been home

to some of the greatest heroes
and villains in our national history.

And many of them
still stand proudly today,

bursting with incredible stories

of warfare, treachery,
intrigue, passion and murder.

Join me, Dan Jones,

as I uncover the secrets
behind six great British castles.

This time, I'm in Edinburgh,

these days,
home to the famous yearly spectacle

that is the military tattoo.

But over its 1,000-year history,
it's earned the accolade

of being the most besieged castle
in the land.

Edinburgh Castle
is a truly iconic British landmark,

with a truly deadly history.

It's been the scene
of legendary betrayals,

backstabbing and conspiracies,

as well as some of the most
epic battles ever witnessed

between England and Scotland's
kings and queens.

Edinburgh Castle
is most the fought-over castle in Britain.

It's been attacked 23 times,

by everyone from warring Scottish clans
to English kings and even German airships.

It has survived them all,

and today it still stands,
dominant over the surrounding landscape,

bristling with cannon,
unbroken and magnificent.

One of the greatest fortresses ever built.

And one that still packs a punch today.

This is the One o'clock Gun.

And a gun like this has been fired
from the walls of Edinburgh Castle

every day except for Sundays,
Christmas Day and Good Fridays since 1861.

Now, the boom it makes
echoes over the city of Edinburgh below

and out to the Firth of Forth,
where it helped shipping keep time.

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Now, that explosion is a daily reminder

that Edinburgh Castle still has
a working military garrison.

This is a living fortress,
and a very impressive one, too.

Wherever you walk, for miles around,

you see this mighty castle
looming over the countryside.

The very granite it stands on
is a natural wonder.

Edinburgh Castle
sits on top of Castle Rock,

a vast outcrop of volcanic rock

that first erupted from the earth
350 million years ago.

Now, the volcano that produced it,
well, that's long extinct,

but the rock remains
the focal point of the city.

It's also the perfect defensive spot
to put a military settlement

declaring to everyone for miles around,

"We are here to dominate you."

People have lived on Castle Rock
since the Bronze Age.

That's nearly 3,000 years ago.


And for at least half of that time,

it's been the base
for warriors to get together

before going off to battle.

To eat, to fight
and of course, to get drunk.

We know that there was a castle
full of warriors at Edinburgh

from as far back as 1,400 years ago,
because it's mentioned

in one of the earliest known poems
in British history, the Gododdin.

The Gododdin celebrates the deeds
of one of these warriors and it says,

"There was no one who more completely,
from the fortress of Eidyn,

"scattered the enemy."

The fortress of Eidyn,
well, that's Edinburgh Castle.

And the poem also says
that these warriors spent a full year

feasting and drinking mead
before they went out to fight.

By the Middle Ages,
Scotland was becoming a unified kingdom.

Edinburgh was its leading city,

and the castle was controlled
by the Scottish kings and their families.

And that's when the castle we see today
started taking shape.

One tiny building
within the sprawling castle complex

lets us peer inside
that long-forgotten world.

It's this chapel,
dedicated to Scotland's only royal saint.

This is St. Margaret's Chapel,

and it was put up nearly 900 years ago,
in 1130, by King David I of Scotland

in memory of his mother, Queen Margaret.

Queen Margaret was an English princess

who came to Scotland
to marry King David's father,

the powerful, long-ruling Scottish king,
Malcolm III.

Tragically, she died three days

after learning
that her husband, King Malcolm,


and her eldest son
had been killed in battle by the English.

Three of Margaret's surviving sons
went on to become kings of Scotland,

each of them consolidating
Edinburgh's place

as the seat of Scottish royal power.

But hostilities with the kings of England
would continue for centuries.

And none was deadlier

than the war
with the English warrior king, Edward I,

who would earn the nickname
the Hammer of the Scots.

In March 1296, Edward's army
invaded Scotland and marched on Edinburgh.


Now, people didn't call Edward I
the Hammer of the Scots for nothing.


He was a warrior king

with a vast collection of siege catapults
known as trebuchets.

And arriving in Edinburgh,
he deployed the most fearsome of them all,


Said to be the largest
trebuchet ever made,

Warwolf needed 30 wagons to transport it

and could hurl missiles
weighing around 300 pounds.

After a three-day battering,
the Scottish defenders of Edinburgh Castle

quite sensibly gave up
and the English moved in.

They installed their own garrison,
and humiliatingly for the Scots,

they stayed here for the next 18 years.

It would take nearly two decades

for the Scots to dislodge the English
from Edinburgh Castle.

Edward I's invasion
marked the beginning of a conflict

known as the
Wars of Scottish Independence,

which would rage between the two sides
for over half a century.

When they weren't fighting the English,

competing claimants to the Scottish throne
plotted against each other.

Give him fire!

This grinding period of unrest

meant Edinburgh Castle
would be the scene of a litany of murders,

massacres and jaw-dropping treachery,

as conflicting sides
fought over this mighty fortress.

In the Middle Ages,

England's warmonger king, Edward I,
invaded Scotland.

He used the latest military machinery
to smash Edinburgh Castle into submission

and he took the castle for himself.

The English then held it
for nearly 20 years.

This fortress, built to house
and protect Scottish royalty,

had become a humiliating sign
of English triumph.

The Scots didn't have the firepower
to retake Edinburgh Castle by force.

But what they did have was stealth,

cunning and a little bit
of top-secret information.

In 1314, a wily Scottish nobleman
called Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray,

hatched a simple
and astonishingly brazen plot

to regain this monster of a castle.

He was going to climb over the wall.

You look at that cliff and it's pretty
daunting, but that's the point.

The whole reason the castle is up there

is because that is supposed
to be impossible to climb.

But that's not what Moray thought.

According to chronicles of the time,
he'd learned about a secret route

up the rock face, over the wall
and into the castle at the top.

Historian David Caldwell

thinks he's got to the bottom
of this incredible story.

They knew it was possible
because they met up with a guy

who was the son of a previous governor
of the castle...

-...William Francis.

And he used to escape over the wall,
at that point, at night,

to go and visit his woman in town.

So, he knew it was possible with the use
of a ladder over the wall at the top.

But how on earth
did Moray get up this rock face?

With a great deal of difficulty, I think,
and by the look of it, but I don't know.

I mean, you can just imagine that

they could have got up
that sort of gully there.

And you can see there's a sort of platform
and quite a substantial ledge.

JONES: Yeah.

Now, I think that's where 30 men
could have had a rest,

as we know
from the accounts of the escapade.

-Just a rope ladder to get over?
-Just a rope ladder, yeah.

And there were just 30 of them

and the garrison of the castle
was probably about 200.

So, even just getting into the castle
was still a major risk

that they could actually overpower
the garrison and take it.

JONES: Unbelievably, Moray's plan worked.

He and his men climbed the sheer rock,
jumped the walls,

and slaughtered
the English soldiers inside.

In the blink of an eye,

Edinburgh Castle
was back in Scottish hands.

And Moray was a hero.

But there was plenty
more trouble still to come.

Less than 100 years after Moray's climb,

a new Scottish royal family
was on the throne.

They were called the Stuarts.

The Stuarts would become one of the most
famous dynasties in British history.

But not always for the right reasons.

And Edinburgh Castle
saw them at their very worst.

For centuries,
this was a place of backstabbing,

skullduggery and intrigue

as kings of Scotland and their enemies
played a real-life Game of Thrones.

And no episode better showcases
this castle's deadly history

than something that took place

somewhere above our heads
during the 15th century.

It's one of the most notorious events
in all of British history,

The Black Dinner.

In 1437, the Stuart king,
James I, was murdered.

This left his young son,
James II, as king.

James II came to the throne
when he was just six years old

and on his mother's orders,

he was kept in Edinburgh Castle
for his own safety.

By the time he was 10,

the real power lay in the hands of the
governor of the castle, William Crichton,

and his treacherous ally,
Alexander Livingstone.

These two would stop at nothing
to protect their hold over the young king.

Their scheming and plotting came to a head
one fateful night in November 1440.

Crichton and Livingstone's main rivals
for influence with James II

were the infamous Douglas clan,

a family who'd been powerful members
of the Scottish aristocracy for 300 years.

Like the king, the heads
of the Douglas clan were very young.

William, Earl of Douglas, was 16,

his brother was even younger.

Nevertheless, Crichton and Livingstone
still saw them as a dangerous threat

and they hatched a dastardly plot
to silence them forever.

In November 1440,

the Douglas boys were invited
to Edinburgh Castle for dinner.

It would be the last meal they ever ate.

While the young men
were enjoying their dinner,

a servant brought out a very unusual dish,

the severed head of a black bull.

It was a signal.

The Douglas boys
were dragged from their seats.

Outside, they were subjected to
a sham trial.

Then both of them were beheaded.


This grotesque double murder
is now known as the Black Dinner.

You might have thought
the horrific events of the Black Dinner

would have put James II
off bloodshed forever,

but instead he grew up
to be a king who relished war.

He particularly loved one lethal weapon

that took Europe by storm
during his lifetime,

the cannon.

Thanks to James,
Edinburgh Castle is full of cannons,

and one in particular really stands out.

This massive cannon is called Mons Meg,

and she came to Edinburgh Castle
in the middle of the 15th century

as a gift to the King James II

from his wife's uncle,
the Duke of Burgundy.

Now, Mons Meg
was actually a wedding present

and if she's not very romantic,
she certainly was deadly.

This monster
could fire a stone nearly two miles,

and not any old cannonball.

The balls that came out of here
would have weighed 150 kilograms,

that's nearly twice my body weight,

and had a diameter
of around 500 millimeters,

which isn't too far
from a modern Tomahawk missile.

So, this wasn't just any old cannon,

she was a medieval weapon
of mass destruction.

I met up with medieval firearms expert
Professor Ronald Hutton

to check out the sort of cannon

that James II
would have loved to play with.

It's owned and operated by Colin Herriett.

Colin, this looks like a pretty serious
piece of military hardware.

Hefty ol' piece of iron.

It's a copy of a 16th-century port piece,
same as was on the Mary Rose.

This is a shortened version
and she's a breech loader.

She's not a muzzle loader.

Everything don't get
stoked in from that end,

it gets stoked in from this end.

And this is a gun stone.

Wow, that's heavy!
How much do you think that weighs?

-HERRIETT: About 20 pounds.
-And how do you aim her?

-Well, we squint along the barrel.
-All right.

And aiming is probably the wrong word,

-but pointing is more like it.

It's quite worrying when you're firing it
and that's what we're going to do now.

So, we're going to fire

-this piece of marble...

-... into that van?

So, you chaps had better clear off
into a safety place, I think.

-HUTTON: With pleasure.
-Because hopefully it's going to go bang.

What would a 14th- or 15th-century
cannon be made from?

It's a disgusting tub of metal

in which you put stone
or sometimes metal balls,

and as often as not
in the early days, it blows up.

So, this was something
very dangerous to fire?

It's extremely dangerous
and they smell horrible,

but everyone senses, rightly,
that they have a future, and they have.

Until now, it would take
a couple of months to reduce a castle.

Now you can take one out
in less than a week.

JONES: That's extraordinary.

Preparing to give fire. Giving fire!




My ears are ringing,
but I'm glad I wasn't in that van.

-Ronald, can you see what it's done to it?
-Yes, I can see.

Whoa! Wow!

That... That was a loud one.

I mean, it's ripped the metal
clean off the top.

HUTTON: That is horrific.

I mean, you need only a little imagination
to imagine what that does to personnel.

It changes the world.

Nothing is ever the same
once they learn how to use gunpowder.

I think that's the point, isn't it?

As soon as... You know,

castles have been these great edifices
that would take you months to get through,

but as soon as a weapon
like that comes along,

the whole game is changed.

Mons Meg would only get one outing
against the English

and it wasn't at Edinburgh Castle,
but instead in Northumberland.

Although she made a big bang,

her great weight
made her impractical to carry around.

But James II continued to line
the walls of his castles

with the very latest in gun technology.

And cannons were to be his undoing.

James II's love of guns
quite literally backfired on him.

In 1460, he was besieging Roxburgh Castle

and trying to fire a new type
of cannon from Flanders

called the Lion, but it exploded
and it blew the king to pieces.

He was just 29 years old.

But his successors were just as keen
on collecting artillery as James was,

and under the Stuart kings,
Edinburgh Castle

became one of the most
heavily armed fortresses in Britain.

Which was just as well,

because Edinburgh Castle
had plenty of enemies

who would stop at nothing
to try and breach its mighty walls.

And one of the bloodiest assaults of all

came from Britain's
most infamous king, Henry VIII.

Edinburgh Castle has been besieged

more times
than any other fortress in Britain.

But no attackers ever caused
as much trouble for this grand old lady

as Britain's most notorious
royal dynasty, the Tudors.

The Tudors' poisonous relationship
with the Stuart kings of Scotland

led to wars, invasions,
attempted kidnappings,

and even a plot to kill a queen.

But it all started with a marriage,

which, amazingly, is still commemorated
on the walls of the royal palace,

this incredible and lavish suite of rooms
built in the heart of Edinburgh Castle.

These are the royal apartments
and there's an image here

that crops up all over the castle.

It's the image of a rose
and a thistle entwined,

and that's more than just
a pretty piece of decoration.

The rose is a symbol of the Tudors,

that great English dynasty
of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

And the thistle represents
the Stuart kings of Scotland.

And the fact that they are entwined
is a reference to the marriage in 1503

of James IV of Scotland
and Henry VIII's sister, Margaret.

Now, that marriage was supposed
to bring about peace

between the two families,

but as with many families,
there were as many fights

as there were hugs and smiles.

In fact, when the Tudors
and the Stuarts clashed,

the whole of Britain had to take cover.

And once of the bloodiest fallings out
happened right here at Edinburgh Castle.

Henry VIII and James IV of Scotland
may have been brothers-in-law,

but they were also deadly rivals.

So, just 10 years
after the Tudors and Stuarts

had joined their families in marriage,

their armies were at war.

King James IV was killed in 1513
at the Battle of Flodden.

His death was Henry VIII's
most significant military achievement.

In 1542, James' son, James V, also died,

following another military humiliation,

this time at the Battle of Solway Moss.

That left James V's 6-day-old daughter
as the new monarch.

She would come to be known
as Mary Queen of Scots.

And her reign plunged Scotland
and Edinburgh Castle into crisis.

That crisis began straightaway

as Henry VIII ordered the Scots to marry
little Mary to his own son, Edward,

so that England and Scotland
would one day be united.

The Scots were having none of it.

They refused to be bossed around
by the arrogant Tudor king of England.

Henry was furious.

He decided to teach the Scots a lesson.

In 1544,

he sent an army to Edinburgh
to settle things the way he knew best,

with the sword.

This is the Firth of Forth,

where the North Sea meets land
just outside the city of Edinburgh.

And in May 1544,
all this water was teeming with ships

packed with English soldiers
on a very simple mission.

They had instructions from Henry VIII.
And he said,

"Put all to fire and sword,
burn Edinburgh,

"as there may remain forever
a perpetual memory

"of the vengeance of God
lightened upon them

"for their falsehood and disloyalty."

Henry VIII wanted control
of Mary Queen of Scots,

and if he couldn't have her,

then Edinburgh and her castle
would be the first to suffer.

They called this period,
with typical Scots gallows humor,

the Rough Wooing.

For eight years, Scotland was battered
by English military force.

But they refused to be beaten.

The accounts of the invasion
are pretty chilling.

Twelve thousand men piled off
the English ships in just four hours.

There are records of the English
commandeering local fishing boats

just to speed up the landing process.

And once the men hit the shore,

they started burning buildings
between the Firth of Forth

and the city of Edinburgh.

The noise, the violence,

the sheer size of the invasion
must have been absolutely terrifying.

On the 3rd of May, 1544,
the English stormed the city,

blowing open the medieval gates
and killing hundreds of defenders.

Those who survived the assault

retreated behind the safety
of the castle walls.

The English set fire to the town,

withdrawing to their base
at Leith for the night

to watch Edinburgh burn.

Over the next three days,
the burning and looting continued

not just in Edinburgh,
but also in the surrounding towns.

Reports of the time say that,

"Neither within the walls
nor in the suburbs

"was left any one house unburnt."

-So, you had boats coming from the Forth.

And you had troops coming
across the border from England.

-This is an incredible time in the city.

What the English had been ordered
by King Henry VIII to do

was to burn Edinburgh, take the castle,

do a lot of destruction,
get lots of loots,

in order to encourage them
to have Mary Queen of Scots marry his son.

How much damage did they do to Edinburgh?

Some of the main gun positions

fired right down
the High Street of Edinburgh,

and at various times,

that's exactly what
the holders of the castle did,

and what they evidently did in 1544.

They fired the guns right down
the High Street to hit the English.

So, actually,
you could come into Edinburgh

and do as much damage
in the surrounding area as you want,

but taking the castle
was a totally different matter.

And they failed in their
one key objective,

which was to capture Mary Queen of Scots.


Mary Queen of Scots was barely a year old
at the time of the Rough Wooing.

The nobles governing Scotland in her name
sent her to France,

where she was betrothed
to the heir to the French throne.

In 1558, when she was 15,

she and her husband were crowned
king and queen of France.

But two years later,
her husband died of a mysterious illness.

Now a widow in a foreign land,

and with her mother-in-law, the feared
and powerful Catherine de Medici,

making it clear she was no longer welcome,

Mary decided
her future lay back in Scotland.

Despite her years in France,
she was still queen of Scotland,

and eager to reclaim her throne

from the nobles
who'd ruled in her absence.

But when she arrived in Edinburgh,
she received a mixed reception.

This flame-haired, intelligent woman
had French clothes and manners

and was also a Catholic.

Much of Scotland was now Protestant,
and in 1560, while she was away,

the Scottish Parliament had adopted
Protestantism as the state religion.

Many Scots were now suspicious of Mary.

How was Mary received?

Joy, that at last a queen,
an absent queen,

had returned to Scotland
and that she was no longer a minor,

and would be ruling,

but at the same time,
a recognition that her religion

was going to be unpopular
in some quarters.

In 1565,
five years after her return from France,

the headstrong young Queen of Scots
married for a second time.

She chose a Scottish nobleman

who was also her cousin,
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

JONES: Why did she marry him?

DR. DORAN: She was attracted to him,

and politically there were reasons
why she thought

it would be advantageous to her.

It would help her claim to be
Elizabeth I of England's successor.

Henry Darnley was born in England,
so there was a political advantage.

JONES: But Darnley was bad news.

Described as spoilt, vain and vindictive,

he had no interest
in helping Mary run the country.

Instead, he spent his time drinking
and chasing women.

His disrespectful behavior
quickly made him unpopular with the Scots

and dragged down Mary's reputation, too.

Despite their troubled marriage, by 1566,
Mary was pregnant with her first child.

But there were rumors
the child was not Darnley's.

What Darnley did next
doomed their marriage.

It resulted in Darnley
conspiring against her,

and conspiring, ultimately,
to possibly seize the queen,

but certainly murder one of her favorites,
whose name was David Riccio.

Because she was, I think,
fairly fearful for her life

and possibly concerned
that if she died in childbirth,

her son would become
a prisoner of Darnley,

and Darnley would seize the throne,

that she decided to give birth

in this very well-fortified
castle of Edinburgh.

In this period, women,

about 20% between the ages of 20 and 35,

died from childbirth.


And so, Mary wrote out her will.
In fact, she wrote out three wills.


Which would make provision if she died
and her son survived

or if both died in childbirth.

So, she was very,
very well aware of the risks.

JONES: Mary gave birth to a son,
whom she named James,

and she survived the birth.

But the turmoil
that marked her ill-fated reign

was about to get worse.

Within months of the birth
of Mary's child,

Darnley himself would be murdered.

His naked body was found
not far from Edinburgh Castle,

strangled in the garden of a house
that had been blown up with gunpowder.

Mary was suspected
of having a hand in his death.

She became increasingly unpopular
and the country descended into civil war.

A group of rebellious Scottish lords

forced her to abdicate
in favor of her 1-year-old son, James,

and she fled to England in 1568,

hoping for support from
her English cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

But she was out of luck.

A suspicious Elizabeth had her arrested
and the crisis in Edinburgh escalated.

The Scottish lords
were now deeply divided.

One side supported
Mary's Catholic claim to the throne,

while the rebels backed
her young son, James VI,

who'd been placed on the throne
in her absence

and had spent his childhood
up the road in Stirling Castle.

The standoff between the two sides
would take two long years to resolve,

and it would nearly destroy
Edinburgh Castle,

whose defenders were still loyal
to the queen's cause.

In May 1571, Elizabeth's English troops
marched on Edinburgh

and joined forces
with the supporters of James VI.

Using the latest guns and mortars,

they literally blasted the castle
into submission.

After a month-long bombardment,
the walls were breached.

David's Tower,
the centerpiece of the medieval castle,

and the tallest tower, was demolished.

Mary's demoralized Catholic supporters
within the castle surrendered.

James VI was now secure
as king of Scotland.

But his mother, Mary Queen of Scots,
remained an English prisoner.

She would be shunted around
various English castles for 19 years

before finally being beheaded
for plotting against Elizabeth, in 1587.

Yet, the Scots had the last laugh.

When Elizabeth I
died without any children,

her Scottish cousin, James VI,

was named her heir
and crowned James I of England in 1603.

The thistle and the rose
were finally reunited.

But for Edinburgh Castle,
there was plenty more drama still to come.

For hundreds of years,

Edinburgh Castle was besieged,
battered and bombarded

as war raged between Scotland and England.

The conflict left its mark

on the very stone
of this incredible fortress.

And nowhere more than here
at the Half Moon Battery,

built after the Tudor
Queen Elizabeth I's army

knocked down the old medieval building
called David's Tower.

After David's Tower was demolished
during Elizabeth's siege of 1571,

the rebuilding program

included one of the most
distinctive features

of Edinburgh Castle today.

The Half Moon Battery wraps right around
the southern face of the castle

and is designed to give the men
firing these cannon

the maximum range of fire
over the area below.

It's not the prettiest area of the castle,
but I think it's utterly magnificent.

You can't look at all this

without understanding why
they call Edinburgh Castle

the most besieged castle in Britain.

It looks as though it's still ready to go.

Despite the fortified majesty
of Edinburgh Castle,

its days as a royal home
ended more than 400 years ago.

For all its formidable defenses
and palatial apartments,

by the start of the 17th century,

Edinburgh Castle had long ceased to be
a place for kings and queens to live.

Instead, royalty preferred to stay
in the sumptuously decorated rooms

of Holyrood Palace,

at the other end of the Royal Mile.

Occasionally, visiting kings
would hold court in Edinburgh Castle,

but for the most part,
that grand old fortress

was now a military barracks.

During the middle of the 17th century,

Charles II turned Edinburgh Castle
into a military headquarters

fit to house a large standing army.

In the 18th century,

new buildings and barracks
were added to the castle complex

to prepare against the threat
of foreign enemies

like the infamous French dictator
Napoleon Bonaparte.

But as well as a barracks,
Edinburgh Castle also became a jail.

The castle vaults,
rooms dug into the giant rock,

were made into detention blocks.

Chris, this room was once a prison vault.

How many prisoners
would have been in here?

There would be over 1,000 people
in these vaults in Edinburgh Castle.

Most of them were French,
because in the 18th century,

um, Britain spent
most of its time fighting the French.

But other countries
were sucked into the conflicts,

Spanish, Italian, Dutch, American
and even some British prisoners of war.

JONES: So, these are the prison rations,
are they?

Well, these are the prison rations
for Americans.

They got half rations

because Americans
weren't really a nation then,

they were still considered British.

So, they were traitors.

I mean, it doesn't look too bad.
I mean, what do you get?

A quart and a half of beer every day,

a pound of bread every day,

three-quarters a pound of beef every day,

well, apart from Fridays,
when you have cheese, do you?

Yes, they would have their fish
or their cheese they got on Friday.

And this was the basic diet,

but could you supplement this
if you were a prisoner?

Oh, yes. They were able
to make things and sell them

to people from the town of Edinburgh
who come up to the castle.

They could buy their fags,
then their tobacco, for their pipe.

The more you tell me about prison
in Edinburgh Castle in the 18th century,

the more it doesn't sound
like too bad a deal.

You got your beer, you got your fags,
you got a bit of writing paper.

I don't think
I'd need anything more in life.

-Unless you're an American.
-Unless you're an American.

And you were denied all that!

JONES: When the 20th century dawned,

most castles had long been left behind
as tools of war.

But when the First World War
broke out in 1914,

Edinburgh Castle still managed
to find itself in the firing line.

This time, the threat came from above.

During this war, Britain was bombed
from the air for the first time,

and in the sky above Edinburgh,

there appeared monstrous new air balloons
laden with explosives.

They were called zeppelins.

The zeppelin was named after its inventor,
Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin.

Before the war,
they were used for passenger flights,

but from 1915, the Germans adapted them
for bombing raids to Britain,

and from 1916,
they were targeting Edinburgh.

And you can imagine
how terrifying that must have been.

For the first time, civilians were facing
the threat of bombing raids from above.

The war could literally
break into their homes at any moment.

On the evening of Sunday,
the 2nd April, 1916,

two German zeppelins
reached the Firth of Forth

and carried out
the first-ever air raid on Scotland.

Reports of bombs exploding
came shortly before midnight.

In less than an hour,
24 bombs landed on the city of Edinburgh.

Thirteen people were killed,
24 were injured,

and buildings across the city
were destroyed.

The bombs rained around the castle.

One bounced from the road
up to the main gate,

another landed here in the Grassmarket,
shattering windows and damaging homes.

But that was as close as they got.

That old castle was built to withstand
a battering from medieval trebuchets,

but it stood up pretty well
to 20th-century aerial bombardment, too.

Thankfully, Edinburgh Castle's
active military duty

is now a part of history.

But it's celebrated every summer

in one of the world's most popular
military pageants, the Edinburgh Tattoo.


ANNOUNCER: The Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

A sight to stir the Scottish heart
and a feast of sound to go with it.

JONES: The tattoo's roots
are in the 16th century,

when drummers would be sent out
from the garrison

at the last post each night
to inform the local innkeepers

that it was time to turn off the beer taps
and send the soldiers back to barracks.

Today, over one and a half million
tourists a year flock to Edinburgh Castle.

And while they're in the castle,

they can also
look at the Scottish crown jewels

and the Stone of Scone,

an ancient rock on which
the monarchs of England and Scotland

still sit for their coronations.

They call Edinburgh Castle
the most besieged place in Britain,

and it's hard to disagree

when you think of the number of times
it's been assaulted

by everyone from medieval soldiers
with rope ladders

to German airships dropping bombs.

But I think its greatest claim to fame

isn't the number of times
it's been attacked,

but the fact that it's always survived.

And it's still here today
looming from its rocky perch,

towering over the city around it.

Booming its gun from the walls every day

to remind the world that it is,
as it always has been, unbreakable.