Archaeologists hope to unearth more about the massacre that inspired Game of Thrones’ most shocking scene ‘ The Red Wedding’, which sent shocking waves through fans of the series.
A king had died. So had his new wife. And his mother had her throat cut. It was supposed to be a celebration.
Instead, it was a story of broken promises, betrayal and the complexities of human nature.
But it was a case of art imitating life. In this case, a clan-based slaughter in Scotland.
The brutal slayings, while not weddings, were regarded as particularly heinous.
Like the Red Wedding, a breach the time’s strict moral codes of hospitality.
In 1691 a terrible betrayal saw many of the key members of clan MacDonald massacred.
Now, archaeologists are unearthing the lost settlement at the heart of this horrendous night.
The Scottish clans had been summoned to produce a signed document swearing allegiance to the English monarch King William of Orange. The MacDonald clan, delayed through a series of misfortunes, missed the oath ceremonies by six days.
The MacDonald clan chief Alistair McIain was promised his documented oath would still be regarded as valid.
But, several months later, a troop of 120 men under the king’s Captain Robert Campbell arrived at the hamlets in the MacDonald’s estates in the glen of Glencoe.
They claimed shelter from the harsh weather, as was their right.
Hospitality was duly offered, and they spent a fortnight of enjoying the MacDonalds’ food, drink and card-games as blizzards raged outside.
But Captain Campbell was there on a mission.
Under the king’s own order, the Campbells had been told to “put all to the sword under seventy. This is by the Kings special command … for the good & safety of the Country, that these miscreants be cut off root and branch.”
On the night of February 13, 1691, the soldiers moved through the glen — killing the MacDonalds as they slept and torching their buildings.
All of the women and children that managed to escape would quickly die of exposure in the surrounding hills.
The night would become known as the Glencoe Massacre.
So far they have found several clues that Achtriochtan was not completely destroyed by the massacre. Some finds appear to date from the following century, indicating survivors — or clan mates — may have returned after the massacre to restore the clan’s heritage.
But it was all in vain.
The settlement was finally abandoned as the introduction of sheep farming upturned the local economy in the 19th century.
The NTS hopes to build a replica of Achtriochtan’s largest house as a memorial to the Gelncoe Massacre.
Glencoe wasn’t the only such Scottish massacre.
Another will have contributed inspiration for George R.R. Martin’s “Red Wedding”.
The story has come down through history as “The Black Dinner”.
In 1440 the young Earl of Douglas (traditionally called the Black Douglas), 16, and his younger brother David were invited to dine at Edinburgh Castle with 10-year-old king James II.
It was to be a celebration of reconciliation. The previous Earl of Douglas had been an enemy of the throne.
The story goes that the young nobles were getting along like a house on fire, enjoying food, entertainment and each other’s company until deep into the evening. Suddenly, legend has it, the severed head of a black bull — a sign of sudden death — was dropped on the dining table.
The two Black Douglas boys were dragged outside, given a mock trial, and beheaded.
The young king is said to have pleaded for the lives of his new, young friends. He was not likely to have known of the plot. The Chancellor of Scotland, Sir William Crichton, had organised the ‘celebration’ as he felt the Black Douglas clan had grown too powerful.=======================================