Friday, February 11, 2005

THE OTHER SETON CASTLE

While you may be familiar with Ernest Thompson Seton’s Castle home, built around 1930 near Santa Fe, New Mexico, in southwest United States, did you know there is another castle in northeast Scotland, where Ernest Evan Thompson’s Seton forbears lived? This is Fyvie Castle, a fine example of sixteenth century Scottish baronial castles, located northwest of Aberdeen.
The original Fyvie dated as far back as 1211, changing hands several times before Alexander Seton purchased it in 1596. Seton, who later became Chancellor of Scotland, had the castle considerably enlarged. He also added the upper parts that, according to the illustrated guide book “form the chief architectural glory of Fyvie.” Not content with five beautiful towers, Seton had the south front embellished with “bartizens, crow-stepped gables, skewputs, sculpted dormers and finials in the form of musicians and huntsmen.” He is also credited with building the great “wheel-stair,” said to be Scotland’s finest example of this massive curving staircase. The steps are ten feet across, and on the supporting arches the red crescent which formed part of the Seton crest is displayed. A stained glass window halfway up also depicts the Seton crest with the words “Alexander Seton” framing it.
Despite Alexander being Mary, Queen of Scots’ godson and, after being made Lord Fyvie in 1596, becoming the guardian of the future King Charles I, the Setons did not remain lairds of Fyvie Castle for long. A century or so after the remodeling, one of Alexander Seton’s sons, the 4th Earl of Dunfermline took up the losing Jacobite cause; he was outlawed and died in exile. The estate then reverted to the Crown and subsequently passed to other titled families: first the Gordons, then the Leiths. Fyvie Castle was sold by Sir Andrew Forbes-Leith in 1984 to the National Trust for Scotland. It is well worth a visit.

Editor's Note:
Thanks to Barbara Ellen Witemeyer of Albuquerque, New Mexico for submitting this article.

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