On This Day: Lady Glamis executed for witchcraft in Edinburgh

Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, was burned at the stake on charges of witchcraft and treason by order of King James V on July 17, 1537. Her ghost, The Grey Lady, is said to haunt Glamis Castle to this day.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 17th July 2017, 7:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:38 am
A late-16th-century depiction of Edinburgh Castle, where Lady Janet Douglas was burned at the stake in 1537. Picture: Wikicommons
A late-16th-century depiction of Edinburgh Castle, where Lady Janet Douglas was burned at the stake in 1537. Picture: Wikicommons

Lady Glamis was the sister of Archibald Douglas, sxith Earl of Angus, who became the second husband of the Scottish Queen Dowager, Margaret Tudor, in 1514.

James’ father, James IV, had been killed at the battle of Flodden in 1512 and his mother Margaret subsequently ruled Scotland as regent. The role of her new husband, the Earl of Angus, caused resentment among the Scottish nobility and John Stewart, Duke of Albany, was proclaimed replacement regent in 1517.

The on-going feuds between the Stewart and Douglas clans would heavily influence James V, who came of age in 1528 and sought to assert his influence on his kingdom. He was briefly imprisoned by Angus as a young child and he would not forget the insult.

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His anger and desire for revenge later became centred on Janet Douglas. When her husband died, she was left without a protector.

James V accused her of poisoning her first husband, John Lyon, sixth Lord Glamis, when he died in 1528. She was however acquitted and remarried Archibald Campbell in 1532, after ceasing all communication with the Douglas clan in order to try and prove her innocence to James V.

This peace was not long lasting and five years later James once again accused her of attempting to poison him

and also of conspiring with the Douglas clan against him.

These accusations of treason and witchcraft were ungrounded. To combat the lack of proof for these heavy claims, James managed to gather evidence against Lady Janet by torturing her family and servants to the point of extracting false evidence and statements against her nature. It is said that her young son was forced to watch his servants and family being tortured, before being tortured himself on the rack.

The rack was an implement of torture and was used to ‘stretch’ victims to the point of excruciating pain by tying their ankles and wrists separately and pulling them in opposite directions.

Lady Janet was subsequently burned at the stake at Edinburgh Castle, where allegedly her son was forced to watch her burn before he was released.

She is now said to haunt Glamis Castle, 60 miles north of Edinburgh.