Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Englishman Who Knew Too Much?


Strange chap, James Wentworth Day (1899-1983), by my standards at least (and I do not pretend not to be odd myself).  Certainly to be admired as a prolific writer with a profound love of his country and  his native region of East Anglia, he was an arch traditionalist, an ardent countryman and a right wing Tory.  His type is both profoundly old fashioned and absolutely enduring.  He had an interest in the supernatural and was staunchly behind the Royal Family.  Both these facets of character stood him in good stead when he wrote a book about the family of the Queen Mother, snappily called  The Queen Mother’s Family Story (first published 1967; revised edition 1979).

James Wentworth-Day

   More than a mere fawning filler filled volume on the Scottish antecedents of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the volume offers a thoughtful, though selective, exploration of events concerning the family of Glamis.  He also interviewed several members of the Strathmore family, as detailed below.  Some of his omissions are peculiar, to my eyes.  There is a good chapter on the involvement of the Bowes-Lyon family supporting the Jacobites in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, for instance.  But strangely he does not mention the murder of Lord Strathmore in 1728.  It was not because he despised lurid historical drama, since he lavishly documented the extraordinary soap opera concerning Lady Mary Eleanor Bowes and her psychopathic lover Andrew Robinson.  (Four chapters are devoted to this sad saga.)

Instances of Second Sight.

  In my previous post I mentioned a story about the early 18th century earl, John, 4th Earl of Strathmore, who was told that his four sons would all be earls by a man he met on the road.  John stated that he hoped they would not be, because the prediction necessarily meant that at least three of his sons would die premature deaths.  And so it happened.  Wentworth Day’s book has a story which is strangely analagous to the previous prognostication.  Some time around 1907, when the future Queen Elizabeth and her sister were playing on the road in the village of Glamis, a gypsy or tinker woman told her fortune:  ‘You shall be a queen and the mother of a queen.’  A story about her siblings in the same chapter suggests that abnormal insight was also demonstrated within her own family.  Fergus Bowes-Lyon had been killed in the First World War and the next eldest brother, Michael, was reported dead.  Another brother, David, insisted, despite the evidence that Michael was not dead and accurately reported ‘seeing’ him convalesce in a large house somewhere, which eventually proved to be true.

   The meat of the matter, as far as the folklore of Glamis is concerned, comes in Chapter 11 of the book, which is entitled ‘The “Monster” of Glamis’, and it deserves to be examined in detail.  The chapter covers the broad spectrum of myths:

The  Household ‘Beardie’ Legend.

 The author repeats the fallacy that the ghost of the old knight seen in the 19th century represents the 4th Earl of Crawford, when of course he died as a relatively young man, even by medieval standards. Although Wentworth Day summarises the written authorities  such as Lord Halifax about the legend, he also gives the established view of the Glamis household.  So, he gives the tour guide type summary of the tale given to him by Timothy Patrick, 16th Earl of Strathmore.  The earl showed the author an uninhabited room in a tower, replete with trap door.  This version says that the Lord Glamis of the day threw Beardie down the stairs as the result of a gambling quarrel.  Beardie  demanded someone else gamble with him, but the chaplain forbade it.  He swore that, if no man would play with him, he would dice with the Devil.  Cue appearance of the Unspeakable One.  An inquisitive butler put his eyeto the keyhole of the room where man and Satan gambled and his eyes was seared yellow.  Beardie died five years later. 
The 16th Earl of Strathmore

   Regarding the Monster legend, the earl told the author that that he believed the secret of the ‘hidden heir’ died with his father (Patrick, 15th earl, who died in 1949), or with his own brother. Wentworth-Day was also told by Sir David Bowes-Lyon of the story of the mysterious Jack the Runner who races across the castle lawns on moonlit nights. 

   Further to the earl’s rather bland take on the tale, there was the added testimony of his ‘apple-cheeked Australian born cook’, Florence Foster.   Said cook told Wentworth Day, ‘I’ve heard them [Devil and the Earl of Crawford] rattle the dice, stamp and swear.’  She had also heard someone 9 was it Beardie, though, or someone else?) knock three times on her bedroom door, but no-one was there.  And she lay in bed afterwards shaking with fear. (Other sources state that the cook reported the same story to a newspaper in 1957.)

Mrs Maclagan’s Story

   Wentworth Day also includes what he describes as a hand-written copy of the account of Mrs Maclagan, previously published at length (though not word for word apparently) in The Ghost Book of Lord Halifax.  While the Maclagan account in Halifax occupies many pages, the verbatim account in The Queen Mother’s Family Story  runs to a disappointing two paragraphs.  Here the story related is confined to the tall, cloaked figure seen by Dr Nicholson, Dean of Brechin, in ‘Earl Patrick’s Room’.  The Dean met Dr Forbes, Bishop of Brechin, in Glamis the following year, along with the Provost of Perth.  He Provost told the Dean he had seen the same figure in the same room.  Forbes offered to exorcise it, but the 13th Earl of Strathmore was too afraid to sanction it. 

Lady Granville’s Gossip

  The writer asked Lady Granville, an elder sister of the Queen Mother (Rose Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville born Rose Constance Bowes-Lyon, 1890 – 1967), who was apparently at Glamis when he visited.  She told him that children often woke at night screaming in the upper storeys, saying a huge bearded man leant over them  All furniture was cleared out of that particular room twelve years previously and nobody now slept there (nor in the Hangman’s Chamber).

   Lady Granville authoritatively told Wentworth-Day that her parents [Claude, 14th earl and his wife]would never allow the children to discuss the matter of the Monster.  Claude and the 13th earl, also Claude, ‘refused absolutely to discuss it’.  This, as we have seen elsewhere (and will examine again in the future), runs counter to some others’ version of what the Strathmore family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was prepared to say. Lady Granville also told Wentworth-Day that she had seen the Grey Lady in St Michael’s Chapel (and the earl said the same thing).  Other revelations were the bloodstain that used to be seen on the floor of King Malcolm’s Room (until boarded up by Rose’s mother), and an unseen ghost which  pulled the sheets off the bed in a room.  It was once a bedroom, but the haunting prompted it to be converted and it was later the Queen Mother’s Bathroom.

Lady Granville


The Monster of Glamis:  a Lurid Version

   Wentworth-Day steps up a gear to describe the ‘Monster’ of Glamis, which he does with obvious relish.  According to his take on the story,  he vaguely states that some time over a century previously a seriously deformed bot – ‘shaped like an egg’ – was born into the family and kept untyil adulthood in the castle.  He states that the Monster was house in the  Secret Room constructed by the Earl of Strathmore in 1684.  But there are two problems with this theory:  firstly, the cited evidence of The Book of Record written by Earl Patrick in the late 17th century hardly conclusively records ‘a man with a passion for secret hiding-places’ as supposed; secondly, why was this supposedly Secret Room constructed?  Had it lain idle and empty – in wait as it were – from the late 17th century until the early/mid 19th century when the Monster took up its tenancy?

   Physically, the deformed boy had an exceptionally strong body, but underdeveloped arms and legs.  The heir to the earldom was shown the wretched captive when he came of age.  The child lived to an immense age and an un-named admiral told the author that he lived until 1921.

  Departing from other versions, Wentworth-Day states that four people at a time (not three) knew of the secret of the Monster at any one time:  the earl, his heir, the family lawyer, and the estate factor

The Factors of Glamis:  Proctors and Ralstons

   James Wentworth-Day quite rightly states the the office of estate factor at Glamis was passed down through only two families from 1765 to the 1940s, the Ralstons and the Proctors.  Peter Proctor served from 1765 to 1815, succeeded by his son, David, who died in 1860.  Then came Andrew Ralston (factor for fifty-two years), follwed by his son Gavin Ralston.

   The author does not mention it, but the first Proctor was the amiable gentleman who welcomed the young Walter Scott to Glamis and got him so ‘fou’ with wine that he went on the wrong road when he departed.  The Proctors were an old family in the parish, Jacobite minded like the Lyons, and a Peter Proctor, recorded as a workman from Glen Ogilvy, is recorded as having fought with the rebel army in the ’45.  In the parish records (dated 5th August 1832) we find the reference to another likely family relative:  ‘Francis Proctor and his wife Isabel Isles...were rebuked for the sin of antenuptial fornication & rebuked from church scandal.’  Another member of the extended family was Robert Proctor, Writer to the Signet, son of Patrick Proctor, writer at Glamis Castle, who died 5th January 1823.

   Andrew Ralston (1831-1914) is a better known figure, and it was he who allegedly told a Countess that she was better off not knowing the secret of the Monster of Glamis.  The other well-known anecdote is that he refused to stay one night under the castle room, but insisted on workmen digging a path through snow drifts one night so he could reach his own home.  (This house was probably the Glamis House or New House near the village.)  Wentworth-Day follows tradition by stating this first Ralston was dour and ‘hard-headed’, though much respected, as was his son Gavin Ralston (1870-1951). Andrew married Jane Wallace and raised six children in Glamis, including Andrew Ralston (1866-1926), who was factor to the Earl of Hopetoun.  Another son, William Henry Ralston (1863-1943), was employed by the Strathmore family on their English estates.  Other sons were Claude Lyon Ralston (born 1867), who worked for a time for the Earl of Airlie, and Charles Ralston (born 1864), an employee of the Duke of Buccleuch.   


Gavin Ralston and the future Queen Mother


The Paul Bloomfield Version

   Following a length summary of Lord Halifax’s  stories from The Ghost Book, Wentworth-Day turns to the theories presented by the journalist Paul Bloomfield.  The key points here are as follows: the real Monster was the son of Thomas, Lord Glamis, the son and heir of Thomas, 11th earl.  This Lord Glamis married Charlotte Grimstead on 21st December 1820.  Their first recorded son was Thomas George, who became the 12th earl, born 22nd September 1822.  Bloomfield speculates that there was another son born before this child.  He cites Douglas’s Scots Peerage which states that Thomas and Charlotte had a son who was born on 21st October 1821 and who died the same day.  Cockayne’s  Complete Peerage states the same, but give the date as 18th October 1821.

Which Earls Knew?  Shane Leslie and Sir David Bowes-Lyon

   Wentworth-Day follows other accounts by saying that the Monster was long lived, but the 14 earl Claude George was not told of the secret when he attained his majority on 14th  March 1876. 
   Sir Shane Leslie (1885-1971) wrote Wentworth-Day a letter which stated that Pat Lyon was the last family member to know about the secret, plus Abbot Oswald (David) Hunter-Blair (1853-1939) had two interesting theories about the family Monster, which Leslie unfortunately never recorded.


   Last word should be given to Sir David who told the author that a great amount of rubbish was written about Glamis in the Victorian era.  ‘Most of them seized on the monster as a peg and then thought up the most unutterable bosh.’


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