Traveling from Inverness to Aberdeen, Scotland, I realized that we were close to Cawdor Castle. Macbeth, Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, begins with a Scottish general becoming Thane of Cawdor. Told by 3 witches that he’s destined to become King of Scotland, Macbeth and his ambitious wife invite the current King to their castle at Inverness and murder Duncan. Macbeth becomes King, puts his trust in 2 further witch predictions, and soon dies horribly.
It wasn’t until the end of the Cawdor Castle tour that I learned that it has zero actual connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Desiring to flatter his new King and potential patron, James I of Scotland, Shakespeare apparently delved into history chronicles, began inventing, and created a problem for the real Cawdors. His evil Macbeth is total fiction. The real one lived in the 11th century, killed Duncan in battle, was a well-liked king for 14 years, promoted Christianity, and traveled to Rome. The 5th Earl of Cawdor once said, “I wish the Bard had never written his damned play!”
The current Cawdor Castle, advertised as “the most romantic castle in the Highlands”, dates from the 16th century and, like a hot-hot Hollywood property, shows frequent remodeling. Seeking a Macbeth connection, I traipsed through a series of what appeared to be mostly bedrooms and decided that Cawdor Castle could easily become a Trump b&b. The Tapestry Bedroom contained the four-poster marriage bed for Sir Hugh Campbell and Lady Henrietta Stuart, who wed near Darnaway Castle in 1662. In the wonderfully named Woodcock room was Lady Caroline Campbell of Cawdor’s 1789 four-poster marriage-bed. The next room had twin beds and was historically known as the withdrawing room until it became the Dome Room because of the shape of its ceiling. Yawn.
Cawdor Castle’s brochure encouraged me to stroll through its gardens, take a nature trail, feed the ducks, play 9 holes of mini-golf, and buy a special souvenir. Part castle theme park, I wondered about the current Cawdors and, finally, overheard a staff member tell a guest that the current Lady Cawdor lives elsewhere but occasionally stays over.
Grabbing this thread, I discovered that there is a tenuous connection to Shakespeare after all. The current Lady Cawdor sounds a bit like Lady Macbeth. Her real name is Angelica Countess Lazansky von Bukowa, and some plotting worthy of The Bard has apparently occurred. After fathering 5 children with Cathryn Hinde, Hugh John Vaughan Campbell, The 6th Earl of Cawdor, divorced Cathryn in 1979 and married Angelica that same year. When he died in 1993, instead of leaving Cawdor Castle and 50,000 acres to his son Colin, the 7th Earl of Cawdor, he left it all to Angelica. Daughter Liza has called her Diabolika and in 2006 published a book about her father named Title Deeds: a Work of Friction.
I asked a staff member what he thought would happen when Angelica dies. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “No one knows.” I fully expect Donald Trump to be involved.