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Lennoxlove House (Lethington Castle)

  • Earlier Houses: Lethington Castle, an earlier 15th century tower house, was incorporated into the current house.

    House & Family History: Described by Historic Scotland as "one of Scotland's most ancient and notable houses," Lennoxlove has, at its core, a 15th century tower house that was originally known as Lethington Castle. Over the years the house has been altered and added to many times, with significant work carried out in the 17th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Robert Maitland of Thirlestane acquired the Lethington Estate in 1345. The Maitlands, later earls of Lauderdale, constructed the earliest part of the house, the L-plan tower house. In 1548, as part of the Auld Alliance, Mary of Guise stayed at Lethington when she came to see Haddington with Piero Strozzi. In 1549 Lethington was burned by English troops. The Lethington Castle Estate was purchased by the trustees of Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, following her death in 1702 for the benefit of her "neare and deare kinsman the said Walter Stuart" (the 6th Lord Blantyre). The duchess's will stipulated that the estate should be called "Lennox's Love to Blantyre," which was quickly shortened to Lennoxlove. Lennoxlove remained in the Stuart (Stewart) family for almost 200 years, until the death in 1900 of the 12th Lord Blantyre without male heirs, whereupon the estate was inherited by his daughter, Ellen, and her husband, Sir David Baird, 3rd Bt. In 1946 the 14th Duke of Hamilton purchased Lennoxlove. In 1941, when Rudolf Hess crashed his plane over Scotland during World War II, he was believed to be on his way to see the duke (who was then living at Dungavel Castle, near Glasgow) to discuss peace between Britain and Germany. It's likely that Hess targeted the Duke of Hamilton because he believed that the duke was sympathetic to Germany. This was most likely because, as a member of the British Parliament, Lord Clydesdale (as he was then) flew his own plane to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin (he had been invited to observe the games by the German government as part of a multi-party parliamentary group). The 14th Duke was a notable and groundbreaking pilot: flying in formation higher than ever before attempted, Lord Clydesdale was the chief pilot on the first flight over Mount Everest in 1933. One of Hess's Messerschmitt engines from his ill-fated flight to Scotland is on display at the RAF Museum; the Imperial War Museum has, in its collection, another engine and part of the fuselage.

    Collections: The outstanding art collection at Lennoxlove features one of Scotland's most important collections of portraits, including works by Canaletto, van Dyck, Lely, Kneller, and Raeburn. The collection also contains the Boulle cabinet given to the Duchess of Hamilton by King Charles II, as well as important pieces of furniture and porcelain, the majority of which came from Hamilton Palace, a former seat of the dukes of Hamilton and Scotland's greatest country house (demolished 1920s). Mary, Queen of Scots, features vividly at Lennoxlove, with a number of objects that belonged to the doomed queen in the collection, including what is believed to have been her death mask and a sapphire ring given by Lord John Hamilton to Mary. A rare early French silver casket (made circa 1493-1510 in Paris) was acquired by the National Museums Scotland in 2022 for £1.8 million. The casket was acquired from Lennoxlove House and had been in the ownership of the dukes of Hamilton since 1674, when it was acquired by Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton. The silver casket was very likely given to Mary, Queen of Scots, by her first husband, Francois II of France, and probably came to Scotland with her in 1561 (Francois died in 1560). It’s believed that it was this casket that once contained the infamous Casket Letters: love poems and letters allegedly written by Mary to her third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, which implicated them both in a plan to murder her second husband, Lord Darnley. It was these letters that were introduced in evidence in December of 1568 at a hearing ordered by Elizabeth I against Mary at Westminster. The letters still remain a subject of debate; many scholars believe they were altered or forged to implicate Mary in murder, proving that, having murdered once, she would unhesitatingly plan the murder of Elizabeth I. This evidence then could then have been used as character background to pave the way for Mary’s execution, which, of course, ultimately happened in February 1587, when she was convicted as part of the Babington Plot to assassinate Elizabeth I. There is also the compass and map carried by Rudolf Hess when he flew to Scotland in 1941 on a mission to meet with the 14th Duke in hopes of ending the war between Germany and Britain. Princess Pauline Borghese's nécessaire de voyage was sold to the National Museums Scotland in 1986 for £390,000. Gilbert Jackson's John Lord Belasyse, dated 1636, was sold at Sotheby's on July 15, 1987 to the National Portrait Gallery, London, for £176,000. Daniel Mytens's 1st Duke of Hamilton, dated 1629, and Oskar Kokoschka's (14th) Duke and Duchess of Hamilton were sold in 1969 to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery for a total of £440,000. Sir Anthony van Dyck's 3rd Marquis (later 1st Duke) of Hamilton was sold for £2.5 million.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The house is set in a park of 460 acres of mixed woodland.

  • Architect: William Bruce

    Date: Circa 1676
    Designed: Coach House

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    Architect: Robert Stodart Lorimer

    Date: 1912
    Designed: Refurbished House for Major William Baird

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  • Country Life: XXXV, 522 plan, 1914. CVII, 230, 1950.

  • Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
    Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
    Year Published: 1990
    Reference: pg. P 560
    Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
    ISBN: 0312046405
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
    Author: Sayer, Michael
    Year Published: 1993
    Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
    ISBN: 0859551970
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Category A

    Park Listed: Designated Garden & Designed Landscape

  • Current Seat / Home of: Alexander Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 16th Duke of Hamilton and 13th Duke of Brandon; Douglas-Hamilton family here since 1946.

    Past Seat / Home of: John Maitland, 1st Lord Maitland of Thirlestane, until 1595; John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, until 1682. Walter Stuart, 6th Lord Blantyre, 18th century. Sir David Baird, 3rd Bt., early 20th century. Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 14th Duke of Hamilton and 11th Duke of Brandon, 1946-73; Angus Alan Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, 15th Duke of Hamilton and 12th Duke of Brandon, 1973-2010.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01620-823-720

    Fax: 01620-825-112

    Email: info@lennoxlove.com

    Website: http://www.lennoxlove.com

    Historic Houses Member: Yes