Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Monster Of Glamis

Thomas George Bowes-Lyon and Charlotte Grimstead, Lord and Lady of Glamis and heirs to the Earldom of Strathmore, are the great, great grandparents of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. On October the 21st 1821, Lady Glamis gave birth to her second child and her first son. His name was Thomas Bowes-Lyon, and sadly for all involved he is recorded as passing away that very same day. But was that really the end of the story?

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

Little Thomas was born in poor health and deformed in some unidentified ways. The midwife left soon after his birth but it would seem lacked the decency to keep his difficult birth a secret and spread word around the nearby village of Glamis. When his death was later announced few believed it, and when no gravestone was forthcoming to mark his passing these suspicions turned into wild rumour.

Glamis Castle, Angus, United Kingdom

The story goes that he did not die on the day of his birth but instead was brought up in a secret room of his parent's Glamis Castle where he would be kept alive but denied his right to the title of Lord Glamis.

The room was supposedly 10 ft by 15 ft and accessible only via the chapel, he was fed though a barred slot by the "factor" of the estate (basically the estate manager) who was, along with the Earl of Strathmore, the heir to the earldom (once they had reached 21) and the families lawyer , one of the few people to know of the existence of the monster.

Peter Underwood described the monster as being “an enormous flabby egg” with short arms, legs and an almost non-existent neck on a hairy round body. The short arms and legs suggest some form of limb deficiency, an extremely common deformity but the hairy round body seems less likely.

This story, like so many other "historical" stories here in Britain, has become embellished ad infinitum with a hundred different varieties. Trust me, once a castle or house is taken over by a trust and opened to the public these stories just run and run!! For instance some locals are said to have encountered the "monster" being taken for walks by two assistants, although he was extremely ungainly on land. However he is reported to have been able to swim like a fish when allowed to do so!

One very famous story is that some time in the 19th century the Earl of Strathmore had guests around. Whilst he was off out somewhere they bribed the butlers to allow them to open all the windows in the house. Once done they attached a handkerchief, towel or bed linen (delete as appropriate) to each and went outside. They found that despite having gone to every accessible room they could see four windows (or sometimes just the one) that were still dark and shut. At this point the Earl returned and angrily made them leave for their impertinence (no offense but I would have too! Disgustingly bad manners).

Another story is of a workman who happened upon the entrance to the monsters secret room and upon seeing what lay there promptly ceased work. He was only silenced with a large gift of money and a transport to Australia.

Perhaps a more detailed version of that event lies with the story of one of the factors of the estate, Andrew Ralston, being told the secret and from that moment forth refusing to spend a night in the castle and on one snowy evening even making the servants dig a path back to his residence some distance away!

Finally, the story goes, it is said the beast lived for many years well into the 20th century. When Her Majesty's grandmother enquired as to the mystery (how she would know given it was a SECRET I don't know) with the aforementioned Ralston she was supposedly rebuffed with:

“It is fortunate that you do not know it and can never know it, for if you did know you would not be a happy woman.”

Perhaps there is a kernel of truth to the story. It's possible that young Thomas did survive but was very disabled. Being loving, but Victorian, people his parents were too ashamed to tell anyone but continued to provide for him quietly. Perhaps trusted servants did take him for walks and even for a swim but the ignorant and backwards folk of Glamis saw not a disabled human being but a "monster" and embellished things from there. Could it be that this is not the tale of a monster but instead of some poorly understood disabled child?

Otherwise the ever changing details and the fact that the monster was meant to be a secret suggest to me this story is an early urban myth, a ghost story to keep adults amused and children thrillingly terrified. And really there's nothing wrong with that!

If you want sources and even more details then this article can't possibly be a better place to start

Further Reading

The A-Z of British Ghosts: An Illustrated Guide to 236 Haunted Sites - Peter Underwood (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

The Queen Mother's Family Story - James Wentworth-Day (UK Amazon, US Amazon)

Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places - Brad Steiger (UK Amaon, US Amazon)

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

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