11. Mons Meg

Tudor & Stewart World in 100 Objects

Mons Meg
Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle

Mons Meg was a huge cannon (or bombard) originally given to James II by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, the uncle of James’ wife, Mary of Guelders.

The six-ton gun, which could fire a 330lb ball a mile and a half was escorted to Scotland by fifty men-at-arms.

Although her size made her impressive, it limited her practical use. In 1460, she was dragged to besiege Roxburgh Castle, held by the English. The unfortunate James was blown up by one of his other canon, although the castle was taken.

Mons Meg was heaved painfully back to Edinburgh, but made another sortie to Norham Castle, in Northumberland, in 1497. The Treasurer’s accounts note that the men were paid ‘drinksilver’ of 18s by the King’s own command. From time to time the gun was maintained, including having the wheels greased with Orkney butter.

The gun was fired again in 1558, to mark the wedding of Mary, Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France, but then remained silent until 1681, when a celebratory firing to mark the birthday of the Duke of Albany (later James II of England and VII of Scotland) caused the canon to explode.

Mons Meg was removed to the Tower of London in 1754, remaining there until 1829, when she was returned after a petition to George IV. She was dragged up from Leith to Edinburgh Castle in procession and placed on the battlements, where she remains. The old carriage collapsed, and was replaced in 1835.