Abertarff – The year is 1593…

Abertarff House is the oldest house in Inverness and was constructed in 1593. This was during the reign of King James VI of Scotland, who would go on to become King James I of England in 1603. Five years prior to the house’s construction the Spanish Armada sailing for England was defeated, and both Scotland and England were participating in the Eighty Years War (AKA the Dutch war for independence) on the side of the Dutch Republic, which would end in 1648. 

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Abertarff House

But, this blog post covers some of the other historical events that were happening at the same time as Abertarff was built. What else was happening around the world in the year 1593? 

One event in Scotland that took place was a clan battle called the Battle of Dryfe Sands (6th December). This battle took place in Annandale in the south of Scotland and its lead-up began eight years before Abertarff was built with various feuds the clans of Maxwell and Johnstone. Finally everything came to a head in 1593.  The battle was fought between 2,000 soldiers from clans Maxwell, Grieves and Pollock and between 600-800 soldiers from clans Johnstone, Scott and Graham. Both forces met at the Dryfe Waters, a river that flows near Lockerbie. Despite having fewer men Johnstone’s forces had the height advantage and rushed Maxwell’s troops killing 700, including Lord Maxwell himself, and claimed victory. Abertarff House would have witnessed many clan rivalries like this during it’s time. 

Further south in England William Shakespeare, perhaps the most famous playwright in the world, had just published his first work in April 1593. Called “Venus and Adonis” it was a narrative poem involving a love story between the two gods.  This poem was printed from Shakespeare’s own manuscript and was an instant hit, being reprinted around 15 times before the year 1640. Shakespeare’s decision to publish poetry was the result of the London Plague of 1592-1593. This plague closed theatres and other public venues, which allowed Shakespeare to publish both ‘Venus and Adonis’, and another poem the following year. Given the class of gentry that enjoyed Shakespeare’s work perhaps the original owners of Abertarff read his work too. Maybe they read Shakespeare’s 1593 bestseller in their brand-new townhouse? 

Elsewhere in England Queen Elisabeth I met with a very intriguing person. In 1593 she met with the Irish pirate queen Grace O’Malley (or Grainne Ní Mháille). O’Malley was born in 1530 when the English Tudor monarchs sought more control over Ireland. O’Malley gained a reputation for leading men into battle – her attack on Doona Castle in the North West of Ireland gained her the title of “Dark Lady of Doona.” 
As English power grew in Ireland, O’Malley and her family were captured and she was taken to England to petition to Queen Elisabeth I for their release. The two met at Greenwich and are said to have spoken to each other in Latin. Despite some deals being struck, England would continue to push Ireland and would result in the Nine Years War starting in April 1593. 

Outside the British Isles much was still going on. 1593 saw the end of the “Hundred Years’ Croatian–Ottoman War” between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdoms of Croatia, Hungary and the Habsburgs monarchy. This war ended with the Battle of Sisak on the 22nd June with a Habsburg victory halting Ottoman expanse into central Europe. The peace that followed lasted a whole thirty-seven days; the Long Turkish War would start on the 29th July 1593 and last for thirteen bloody years.  

The Battle of Sisak

Obviously however the most exciting thing to happen in the year 1593 was the construction of Abertarff House. Despite the fact we don’t know who built it, the house has withstood the test of time and has survived for 427 years – here’s to it withstanding another 427 years! 

We hope you enjoyed this post. As always please like, comment, share and tweet!

All the best,

The Culloden (& Abertarff) Team

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