Without a doubt the most strategically important castle in Scotland, Stirling changed hands more often than any other Scottish Castle as Scotland fought off the advances of its southern neighbor. It is quite probable that the Picts may have had a fort here, but they were displaced by the Romans who built a Roman fort on Stirling. The Roman Fort, built on castle rock, was replaced by a new castle commissioned by King Alexander I. Alexander also had a chapel built at Stirling Castle and he endowed it with payments from his local followers. King Alexander I died at the Castle in 1124 and his body was taken to Dunfermline for burial beside his mother.
He was succeeded by his brother David and the new King began to set up English style burghs, one of the first being Stirling. Unfortunately nothing remains of twelfth century Stirling, so the exact year in which Stirling was made a burgh is uncertain but it is believed to be between 1124 and 1127.
When William the Lion was captured by the English at Alnwick, he was forced by Henry II to sign the Treaty of Falaise in 1174, which stated that the six most important castles in Scotland should be garrisoned by English soldiers. In 1189 the castle was returned to Scottish hands. Forty years after the Treaty was signed, King William returned to Stirling where he died in December, 1214.
Around the 1280's, because of Stirling's strategic importance and the protection it offered, the castle seems to have been rebuilt in stone. After the accidental death of Alexander III in 1286, Scotland went into internal turmoil with nobles feuding over who would be the next king. Stirling was a particularly important issue, as it was believed that whoever controlled Stirling castle controlled Scotland.
The lack of a Scottish male heir was worsened after the death of the only heir, Alexander's grand-daughter Margaret - the 'Maid of Norway' - who died on her way to Scotland at the age of seven. Subsequently, England's King Edward I demanded that the Scots accept him as their king and hand over their castles to English governors. The Scottish nobles gave over control to the English King and from 1291-1292 Stirling castle was occupied by an Englishman - Norman Darcy
The fire of independence was lit by the gigantic figure of William Wallace, "Braveheart." It was during the Wars of Independence that Stirling really came to prominence. After his triumphal capture of Berwick in 1296, Edward I of England took Stirling with ease. In the following year the Scottish forces of William Wallace gathered at Stirling Bridge and overthrew the English in the most famous defeat ever suffered by an English army.
In the convoluted state of Scottish affairs, the castle was once again in English hands a year later. When the Scots again laid siege, the Governor, John Simpson, appealed for help from King Edward who refused and the castle surrendered and Sir William Oliphant was entrusted with custody of Stirling
In 1304 the castle was the last stronghold in the Scottish rebels' hands and in April of that year King Edward began a great siege. For three months the defenders held out until starvation, rather than the success of King Edward's tactics, forced them to surrender. For ten years the castle was held by English forces until in 1313 Edward Bruce (brother of the would-be Scottish King) blockaded the fortress and forced King Edward II to meet King Robert The Bruce's forces at Bannockburn.
Once again the heavily outnumbered Scottish forces inflicted a disastrous defeat upon the English and the castle was surrendered to King Robert. The first Bruce king then set about destroying the fortifications of Stirling to prevent it being used as a English garrison. However, after the defeat at Halidon Hill, Stirling was once again under English control and English soldiers patrolled its walks.
In 1337 the strengthened castle was besieged by a Scottish army led by Sir Andrew Moray, but Stirling was relieved by King Edward III. Five years later, in 1342 the garrison was forced to yield and the Scots once again controlled Stirling. With the accession of the Stewarts as the Scottish Royal Family, Stirling once more became a Royal abode.
In 1452 Stirling was the site of the murder of William, 8th Earl of Douglas by King James II. Douglas, had been invited to dine at the castle under safe conduct from the King. The Earl was then accused of conspiracy with the Yorkists in England in a group made of Douglas, the Earl of Crawford and the Lord of the Isles. When Douglas refused to repudiate the group and reaffirm his loyalty to James II, the Scots King drew his dagger and stabbed Douglas in the throat. The King's Captain of the Guard then finished off the Earl with a pole axe. The body was thrown from the window into a garden below, where it was later given burial. A stained glass window bearing the Douglas Arms now overlooks "Douglas Garden."
On the 9th of September 1543, the young Queen Mary was crowned in the chapel royal at Stirling. In 1566 Stirling was once again chosen as the refuge of a royal infant when the two month old Prince James, son of Mary (later James VI) was moved there by feuding Scottish lords.
In 1651, General Monk, who was in charge of Cromwell's forces, lay siege to Stirling and the Governor was forced to surrender after a mutiny by his Scottish garrison. After the restoration, the castle reverted to the Earl of Mar and his heirs, but the privilege was withdrawn after King George I accused them of having Jacobite sympathies. Subsequent keepership was held by the Crown until in 1923 King George V restored it to the Earl of Mar and Kellie.
Not surprisingly the castle has a reputation for having many ghosts. It is claimed that Stirling is host to over 1000 lost souls, the most famous of all being the Green Lady.
The varied types of statues and stone carvings that are mounted around the castle walls and on display in the gardens have a wide diversity of sources, ranging from the Devil to Planetary Gods and even sculptures of kings. The statues surrounding the sides of the palace represent the Planetary Gods. If you look closely, you will find one odd statue of a common man. This man is King James. He was known to dress as a common person and blend in with his subjects to discover their true feelings about his kingdom.