Six century old murder hunt begins in Fife

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THE hunt is on to find the body of an heir to the Scottish throne who is believed to have been murdered and dumped in an unmarked grave more than six centuries ago.

David Stewart was the first Duke of Rothesay, the same title now used by Prince Charles when he is in Scotland.

The tragic Duke was just 24 when he was arrested by his ambitious uncle, imprisoned and – it is widely suspected – murdered.

The body of the Duke lies somewhere in these grounds

The body was buried in an unmarked grave 1402 somewhere in the grounds of  Lindores Abbey, Fife, and has lain there for the past 611 years.

Now a team of historians and archaeologists plans to pinpoint the grave, exhume the body, and settle once and for all the mystery of how Prince Charles’ predecessor met his end.

David Stewart, the son of an ailing King Robert III, became Duke of Rothesay in 1398 and the following year “Lieutenant” of the kingdom.

That put him in conflict with his uncle, Robert, the 1st Duke of Albany, who had enjoyed the status of Protector up to that point.

An image believed to be of Robert, the 1st Duke of Albany, who is believed to have murdered his nephew

David was arrested by his uncle in 1401 and imprisoned at Falkland Palace, Fife. The cause of his death the following year remains one of the most enduring mysteries of Scottish history. Legend has it he was allowed to starve to death in the dungeon.

Now the modern-day custodians of Lindores Abbey want to locate the Duke’s grave so that the mystery of his death hopefully be solved and his remains properly buried.

The Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society has revealed it plans to assist in the search by using special electronic gear to scan the grounds for human remains.

Andrew McKenzie Smith, whose family have owned the Abbey for 100 years, revealed: “We’ve been trying to put together a team to apply for funding to do a dig.

“The nice thing would be to find out how he was killed. They could do that with DNA or they will know if someone starved to death as opposed to being poisoned.

“After that he could be buried properly, even if it was here at Lindores.”

Referring to the celebrated “King in the Car Park” case, he added: “If they find him it’s as big a story if not bigger than Richard III.”

The Duke of Albany claimed his nephew’s death was caused by dysentery and the result of “divine providence and not otherwise”.

Andre McKenzie Smith, who now owns the grounds hopes that DNA will tell how the Duke of Rothesay died
Andre McKenzie Smith, who now owns the grounds hopes that DNA will tell how the Duke of Rothesay died

The more lurid tales of the time, however, suggest the dying Duke of Rothesay ate his own hands in a desperate bid to stay alive.

Whatever the truth, his death allowed the Duke of Albany to rule Scotland as regent for many years.

Steve Boardman, head of Edinburgh University’s medieval history section, said a find could shed new light on the Duke.

He said one tradition believed that had the Duke of Rothesay lived he would have proved “personally dissolute and unreliable”.

He added: “There’s a contradictory tradition that emphasises he was a young, active prince who would have excelled as king David the Third.”

Lindores Abbey would later become famous as the birthplace of whisky, with King James IV commissioning a large quantity of “aqua vitae” from a monk at the abbey in 1494.

But the abbey was attacked in 1543 by a mob of John Knox’s supporters during the upheaval of the reformation, and later fell into ruin.

It was announced this week Lindores Abbey would once again distill whisky.

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