Agnes Dunbar, the Countess Who Saved an Entire Castle by Herself

By Rick Larson Jr.

Agnes (also known as Black Agnes) was the Countess of Dunbar and March. She was given the Nickname Black Agnes because of her dark eyes and hair, and was the wife of Patrick, 9th Earl of Dunbar and March.

The castle is attacked

While her husband was away in 1338, the Dunbar Castle came under siege from the English, with only Agnes, a few servants, and guards at the residence. Agnes was determined to not give up the castle, and was willing to die trying. They were first attacked by huge rocks being catapulted over the castles rampart.

Agnes was tremendously outnumbered, but against all odds came out the victor.

The English led by Salisbury then employed a sow, which is basically a huge siege tower, in hopes to storm and enter the castle. She met the sow with a boulder that had been previously hurled at the castle, to be dropped onto Salisbury’s men and the sow. This essentially destroyed their means of storming the castle.

Do not mess with Agnes. She will crush you. Literally.

Salisbury then tried to bribe the Scotsman who guarded the door with money, and instructed them to leave the entrance in a way that they could easily enter. The Scots took his money, but then made Agnes aware of the plan. When Salisbury and his men entered, Agnes had a portcullis dropped, as to separate him, from his men.

You can’t mess with Black Agnes

At this point, Agnes brother John Randolph became captured and they were threatening to hang him if she did not give up the castle. She responded by essentially saying that her brother’s death would only make her more rich and powerful.

As a last-ditch effort, Salisbury isolated the castle from all roads, and any means of communication, in hopes of starving her until she admitted defeat.

Ramsey of Dalhousie got wind of these events, and sent ships and about forty men to help Agnes fend of the English. The Scotsman surprised Salisbury and his men, eventually pushing them all the way back to their base camp.

Here are the ruins. That is one stubborn castle. Credit: Kim Traynor, CC 3.0 via Wikipedia

Agnes was under attack for five months, until Salisbury admitted defeat on June 10th, and calling off the siege. Salisbury said after their failed attempt, “Cam I early, cam I late, I found Agnes at the gate.”

Agnes was not only a woman in a time when men were seen as much stronger, but was also tremendously outnumbered, but against all odds came out the victor.

About the Author

Rick Larson Jr.
Rick Larson Jr. has educational experience in colonial America, the American Revolution and Civil war, the U.S. Constitution, American History from 1867-Present, American Military history, World-War II, along with Ancient and Modern World history. He has a passion for all aspects of History, with his main fascination and focus being American history.

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