Dan Cruickshank visits houses never before open to public view. He is granted privileged access into the world of architect Sir William Bruce at Kinross House.
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Our great country houses.
The most familiar and yet intriguing sights
Britain has to offer.
Standing like sentinels in the landscape.
Hundreds of thousands of us visit them every year,
but not all are open to the public.
I've been granted the privileged opportunity
to pass through the portals of six of our greatest country houses
normally hidden from public view.
They've seen five centuries of British history,
up close and personal.
The families who built these houses
played their part in great affairs of state.
Central to their dreams - the great house, the ultimate status symbol.
But all too often, also the ultimate money drainer.
Few of these families went the distance, but their houses did,
with their secrets intact.
This is their story, but it's also our story,
for these houses offer a guided tour of our nation's hidden history.
Scotland - a land where castles were the seats of power
for longer than anywhere else in Britain.
Since the Middle Ages,
these were the homes of choice
for the ruling elite.
And of course, what a ruler needs if he's to be successful
is a firm grip on power.
And so, the castle became the power base,
a symbol of strength, designed to withstand everything,
even the tests of time.
But in Scotland, in the late 17th century,
something extraordinary happened.
A completely different type of grand house appeared on the scene,
and it started to make castles like this
look as old-fashioned as a medieval suit of armour.
'I'm on my way to see the house that changed everything.'
Here it is, Kinross House. It's fantastic!
There's no winding drive here. The house explodes right in front of me.
It's incredible. A perfect classical villa,
It's like driving into Italy here.
It's astonishing - 300 years old,
but still almost shockingly new.
This was the first fully-classical house in Scotland.
Its architect was William Bruce,
who was every bit as revolutionary in his impact on his country
as his house was on its architecture.
Bruce played a key role
in the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660.
But he flew too close to the sun,
his fall every bit as spectacular as his rise.
Kinross is a stunning monument to his towering success,
but also to his ultimate failure.
For me, this is one of the most beautiful classical buildings in Britain.
It's the epitome of civilised architecture.
A grave and solemn presence
in a wonderful romantic landscape.
Just as the country house displaced the castle in England
a century and a half earlier,
so Kinross made turrets and battlements outdated
as Scotland embraced peace at last.
With Charles Stuart on the throne
after years of civil war,
and then Oliver Cromwell's strict rule,
Scotland regained its own parliament
and sense of destiny and independence.
Kinross was built, and the future finally looked bright,
not just for its owner,
but for his country too.
Hidden here, are insights into the restoration of Charles II in 1660
and insights into Scotland's history,
into those visions of glory and independence,
and into those ghastly moments of bitter despair.
It's thrilling to enter such an important house
that's been secret for so long.
To be granted privileged access.
The entrance hall is wonderful.
I can feel, standing here,
I'm about to meet William Bruce himself,
lurking somewhere in the shadows.
The house has little changed since Bruce started to build in 1685.
But in less than 100 years,
Bruce's classical architecture became Scotland's national style.
The country was shedding its medieval skin.
Edinburgh, just 25 miles away,
would soon become a crucible of the Enlightenment,
a Europe-wide philosophical movement
that ushered in the rational modern world.
At Kinross, Bruce heralded this transformation,
pointing towards Scotland's golden age.
What makes Bruce's building of Kinross even more impressive
is that he wasn't an aristocrat with inherited wealth,
he was a self-made man.
And he never even trained as an architect,
he was a merchant.
Yet he managed to create for himself a miniature royal palace.
The house is Bruce's way of using architecture to proclaim,
He'd been born to minor gentry of modest means,
and had to make his own fortune
before he could even think of building Kinross.
Bruce wanted visitors to be impressed,
so he created for himself a processional route
of a type usually reserved for royal palaces.
And this was a route with a message -
the deeper a guest was permitted to penetrate
towards the more intimate rooms,
then the higher their status.
The large saloon on the first floor
would be a general gathering place for all guests.
You can imagine it, people milling around,
gathered by the fireplaces, enjoying themselves.
And then, the filtering starts by the door over here.
Some people now would be excluded.
Only the cream of local society
would be allowed to enter into the next set of rooms.
The chosen few would have entered here.
This was the state drawing room - now somewhat altered.
Here, the guests would mix on more friendly terms with the family,
but the filtering doesn't stop here.
Through this door is another room.
And even fewer people would have been allowed in here,
the anteroom or waiting room.
They're waiting to be received here,
by William Bruce, in his bed chamber.
This was a sign of great intimacy,
reserved for only the very, very few.
But it didn't end here.
And through here is the holy of holies.
A closet like this formed the end of the route.
It's so small, it really had an enforced intimacy
and it's so wonderfully richly decorated.
It's a miniature architectural wonder.
Look at this terrific fireplace here, rich carving.
Once you'd entered this room, then you knew you had arrived.
This processional route through the sequence of formal rooms,
a barometer that revealed a guest's social standing,
was novel in Scotland.
And there's other evidence in the house to suggest that Bruce
designed Kinross to reflect the most avant-garde architectural ideas.
It was to be a very modern home indeed.
Because Bruce was at the peak of his career and Kinross was a new build,
the house could contain all the latest features.
Menzies reflected increasing concern for comfort,
convenience and privacy.
What that meant essentially was organising the plan,
so the family could be kept away from the servants,
or perhaps more to the point,
the servants could be kept away from the family.
Bruce designed the house to separate the masters from their staff.
Dozens of servants could be tucked away in basements, closets
and mezzanine floors.
This new type of planning became popular in Britain
in the 17th century because of a growing concern for privacy.
The family didn't want to see the servants that waited on them,
or see what they might have in their possession.
A typical job for servants
was to remove night soil from bedrooms in the morning.
Now, the chamber pots could be full to brimming.
I'm simulating that now. There are limits to authenticity!
Then, these chamber pots...
Eugh, I put my finger in it, how disgusting...
Then the servant had to remove the full chamber pot from the house
with great discretion.
They could use this secret, virtually hidden service staircase.
Now, this is going to be something of a challenge.
Oh, no, I've spilt some!
Presumably that's a sackable offence.
Now, it would sting, wouldn't it? This is so small.
I'm rather bigger, I suppose, than the 17th-century servant.
These are now called pages' staircases.
People assume only little boys would run up and down.
Might be the case, but I expect servant girls as well,
carrying chamber pots brimming with human waste.
Oh, dear, this is very... It's terrible!
Not doing very well.
I'm now, ooh, worse and worse,
wading through human waste and dropping my towel in it.
How absolutely disgusting.
This staircase is part of a parallel world created in the house
to ensure that servants and nasty things
are kept out of the sight of the family.
Everything about the house
was just as finely calculated as its hidden servants' quarters.
Not least the splendid exterior.
You'd never guess at Bruce's epic struggle
up the steep slopes of power
by looking at the cool, confident, classical form of his creation.
One of the most impressive things about Kinross House
is the precision and regularity of the stonework.
It's absolutely beautiful, which really enhances
the wonderful harmonic quality of the design of the building.
It feels like it's a building that's going to last for ever,
incredibly strong, a building created for eternity.
And of course, that is just the point.
Bruce was building this to last.
This is his family home. He's creating a dynasty on this land,
it is indeed to last for eternity.
It has a wonderful Roman quality to it.
Bruce's aim was to found a dynasty here.
Visitors at the time would quickly have appreciated
that the house and its estate were fit for a lord.
And that's exactly what Bruce hoped to become.
But they would also have been struck by something the house lacked -
What did Scotland's aristocratic families make of this?
Well, there in the distance is Glamis Castle, wonderful.
It's an ancient building, greatly re-modelled in the 1670s and 1680s
at exactly the time that William Bruce
was designing and rebuilding Kinross House.
It's this sort of architecture with its battlements, pinnacles
and its tower that Bruce was reacting against.
Glamis Castle has a starring role in Macbeth.
It was also the ancestral home of the late Queen Mother.
In the 1680s, it was the seat of Patrick, Earl of Strathmore,
one of the most powerful men in Scotland.
While Bruce was creating the refined Kinross,
Lord Strathmore was busy extending his castle
with more warlike additions, just as his ancestors had always done.
The castle's fortifications are still carefully maintained
by Patrick's successor, Michael, the 18th earl.
Really at Glamis, we've been here as a family since its inception.
And I think Patrick wouldn't have wanted to
raze the castle that was here to the ground
and build, in those days, a modern house.
He wanted to keep re-modelling.
That was important, to have continuity
and not to have a clean sweep and build a, you know,
Italian-style classical building,
but just to really make the castle bigger,
but it still looked like a castle.
Exactly that. I mean, he added the west wing,
which balanced the east wing.
And he did a lot in the gardens
and also the front avenue, or drive, as we call it now.
Obviously glad with his creation, there's a sensational portrait of him there.
He's dressed in sort of skin-tight, skin-coloured Roman armour,
pointing at the newly completed extended castle.
There it is on, on the right.
Well, there indeed he is, with his three sons.
And he's quite rightly very, very proud of his creation.
And as for the skin-tight Roman armour,
I think one can only put it down to the fashion of the time.
Do you know what the 3rd Earl thought of Sir William Bruce
and his sort of rather radical new classical style
introduced at Kinross House?
Would that have been provocative to the 3rd Earl?
Well, I think in terms of different types of architecture,
I mean it's rather like chalk and cheese.
Glamis is completely different from Kinross.
And I'm guessing, but I suspect possibly the 3rd Earl
regarded Bruce's architecture as somewhat nouveau riche.
To an ancient family like the Strathmores,
William Bruce's pile may well indeed have seemed
just a little bit nouveau. A new build made with new money.
But Bruce was clearly determined to strike out in a style
that was new for Scotland.
Not for him old fashioned looming towers and bristling battlements,
the ornaments of the past.
Instead, Bruce wanted cool, clean forms.
Where once was asymmetry, eccentricity and disorder,
now there was harmony, balance and clean, crisp precision.
Bruce turned his back on the castellated world
of the Scottish country house
and was inspired by the architecture of Renaissance Italy,
and by the great modern buildings he'd seen abroad.
And yet for all its newness, William Bruce's house was also organised
around a clear-eyed appreciation of the virtues of the old.
And this, I believe, is where the real magic of Kinross lies.
Sitting here on the roof, I can begin to understand
the power and the meaning of Kinross House.
It's organised around a straight route
that starts right up there by the entrance gates.
It comes down the drive and then into the house.
The straight route continues through the centre of the house,
down these steps, into the garden and has a long way to go.
The route is marked by this grassy path
at the heart of the garden designed by William Bruce.
The route then passes through this splendid gate in front of me,
ornamented with carvings of fishes - wonderful!
I go through the arch here and the route continues onwards and onwards.
I'm looking at the route now back to the house
and the route continues across the loch
and terminates at the castle way over there in front of me.
The house and the garden are all aligned on that castle.
It is the focus of everything.
I'm now going across to see the castle.
It's where Mary Queen of Scots, that most tragic of figures,
was imprisoned in 1567.
She was there for 11 months.
Thousands of tourists make the pilgrimage to Loch Leven Castle every year.
It was here that the reckless and ill advised Mary was forced
to abdicate the throne in favour of her baby son James.
He was later to become James VI of Scotland and James I of England.
Why was Loch Leven Castle so important for Bruce?
Why did he make it the focus of his architectural vision?
Was it because he wanted to use his ancient architecture to
imply that his family was of ancient and noble pedigree?
Did he want to associate himself with Mary Queen of Scots who was,
after all, an ancestor of the ruling monarch?
I believe the answer, what is clear, he was appropriating somebody else's history.
The history of the castle still belonged to a far older
and more important family.
The previous owners of Loch Leven and Kinross, the Earls of Morton.
The Mortons had lived on the estate since the 14th century and it was
a Morton who held Mary Queen of Scots captive at the castle, not a Bruce.
Charles Wemyss has written a PHD focusing on Kinross and William Bruce.
But he's also one of Bruce's few living descendants.
How nice to meet you.
You must be very proud that William Bruce is an ancestor.
Could you give me your assessment of him as an architect?
I am very proud.
Well, I think as an architect he was, he was certainly,
he's always described as the introducer of classical architecture in Scotland,
and I don't think there's any question that is the case.
And he... Kinross House is magnificent.
It's the most beautiful thing, creation.
But whether he was a very nice man is quite another matter.
Whether he was a gentleman architect is how he's been described.
Gentleman is not a word I'd use for Sir William Bruce.
What would you use? I mean he, he's a self-made man obviously.
-Tell me more about...
-Avaricious, ambitious, opportunistic.
To join the nobility of Scotland you have to own an estate,
and William Bruce is one of...
I know of four other individuals who do exactly the same thing.
They're new money, they've made money either as merchants or
men of affairs or working for the Treasury,
the first thing they do with their money is to buy an estate.
But they don't buy it.
They buy the debts and then acquire the estate that way.
What happens with Kinross is that Bruce comes along to
the 9th Earl of Morton who is in real financial distress,
and he says, "Oi, mate, I'll, um, I'll pay off your debts if you give me the estate."
And that's basically how he gets it.
So a good example of Sir William Bruce the opportunist, I think.
But Bruce had to be an opportunist
if he was going to achieve his goal of Kinross.
Born the second son of Lord Bruce of Blair Hall, William always
knew the estate and title would go to his older brother, as was the custom.
From a young age, Bruce was aware he would have to make his own way in the world.
Ah, here he is. William Bruce.
Now, this portrait of Bruce shows him holding a drawing implement,
here it is, suggesting architectural endeavour.
The portrait is dated, over here, 1664, but as far as we know
he didn't design his first building until 1667.
So this in a way is a portrait of a young man with a dream
and a determination to make that dream come true,
the dream of being an architect.
There were many twists and turns before Bruce finally achieved his ambition.
In the mid-1650s he set sail from Scotland to start
work as a merchant, trading wine, coal and timber on the Continent.
He had little experience and even less money.
But he had a powerful secret weapon. Charm.
He knew how to make powerful contacts
and one of the first was a family friend, Sir Robert Murray.
Murray was a member of the royal court in exile,
and close to Charles Stuart, the would-be king.
Some of Murray's letters still survive.
They belong to another descendant of Bruce, Lord Elgin,
who lives outside Edinburgh at Broomhall.
So what we've got here are letters from the 1650s
that mention William Bruce.
They're not from him or to him, they... He's, he's a character in these letters, isn't he?
-Yes, he's a young character who needs discipline.
One moment they say he needs his lug to be pulled.
So these, these are obviously friendly letters.
Who are they from and who are they addressed to?
In this short period from '57 to '59,
Robert Murray was writing to his great friend Alexander Bruce.
But Will Bruce, his name appears at least 19 times in these letters.
Right. I mean can I see some of the letters?
And the references to Will,
-he's referred to in a very friendly way.
-Well, one thought that.
Now this letter, I see here it says half way through, "I send you this from Will.
"In short his voyage and pains have made him no gains
"but diminished his stock very much."
-So obviously he's not a great success as a merchant.
But they, they kept trying. He was irrepressible, as it were, in the way
he went about talking to people and trying to get their interest.
Even though he's lazy and...
there's always a feeling of liveliness about him.
So that's the portrait that emerges.
He's a real character lurking, the third man in the letters,
none by him or to him but about him.
-But he emerges as an amusing character, bit lazy, but he's trying hard.
No, he's an irresistible character.
So, even if Bruce's business career wasn't taking off,
he was now mixing in the highest circles, the Royal Court in exile.
There had to be some way of making irresistibility pay.
I'm on the quay at Leith, Edinburgh,
and this was Scotland's busiest port in the late-17th century.
It was from here that William Bruce sailed on a regular basis
to and from the low countries.
He was, I know, a merchant, but not a very successful one.
Seems to me he must have been doing something else as well.
Through his connections to Sir Robert Murray,
and at Court in exile, Bruce was able to meet General Monk,
the most powerful man in Britain.
Monk was Cromwell's Commander in Chief, who secretly became
the prime mover in the campaign to restore Charles Stuart to the throne.
But only if Charles agreed to become a constitutional monarch,
subservient to the control of Parliament.
It was Bruce who helped Monk to do this.
Well, now we know that William Bruce was sailing
in and out of Leith as a merchant in the 1650s.
But was he doing something else on these journeys, do you think?
There is a suggestion that he was,
and part of the evidence for that is this document here,
which is a pass or a passport issued by George Monk
who's the Cromwellian Governor of Scotland in this period,
-so a very important figure.
-Under Commonwealth, yes.
And it's a passport allowing Bruce to travel all over Scotland
and between Scotland and Holland.
To Holland, which is where Charles,
-the future Charles II, is in exile at that time.
Amongst other places.
So what's your feeling on Bruce's relationship
with the future Charles II, and indeed with the Restoration?
I think that Bruce is very useful in the pre-Restoration period,
working as a go-between in this sense.
I think the crucial point is this document, that it's directly from Monk.
That would suggest it's something more than just a normal merchant's pass.
And it really backs up this idea of Bruce as some kind of go-between,
between the fixers in Holland and those in England and Scotland
who are negotiating for the Restoration.
If he'd been caught by parliamentary forces,
Bruce could have been executed.
But, risky though it was, his passport to travel in and out of Scotland freely
had an unexpected benefit for Bruce.
In his homeland,
there had been few major buildings constructed for nearly 100 years.
But now Bruce had the chance to study the architecture of other lands.
He was in the Low Countries,
where there was a dramatic flowering of classical design,
inspired by the great Italian Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio.
Bruce was impressed by Maastricht and Amsterdam city halls,
and also influenced by the gardens
of the Chateau of Vaux le Vicomte in France.
The seeds of Kinross were being sown.
Although Bruce still was making little money,
his fortunes were about to take a dramatic turn.
On the 25th of May, 1660,
Charles Stuart lands in Dover after nine years in exile,
and was soon crowned King of England as well as of Scotland.
After years of economic and political stagnation,
Scotland began to celebrate.
The Scottish Parliament was restored.
No-one had higher hopes for the future than William Bruce.
As a reward for carrying vital messages between the King-maker
and the would-be King, William Bruce after the Restoration was showered with royal favours.
One of these included being made one of the chief collectors in Scotland
of taxes and custom duties.
He kept a lot of that money, a high proportion, certainly,
for himself, as was usual at the time,
a very lucrative business indeed.
So, it's amazing really - this one time wandering merchant
became one of the richest men in Scotland.
But the job that proved crucial for Bruce's ambitions as an architect
was that of surveyor general to the King's works in Scotland.
He'd been dabbling in architecture since the Restoration.
Now, in 1671, he had an official post.
His first major commission was to redesign the royal palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh.
William Bruce spent 25 years designing other people's houses.
This was possible because in the years after the Restoration
in Scotland, the nation celebrated new stability in masonry and mortar.
All of this was perfect for Bruce.
It gave him the opportunity to hone those skills that he was to apply
in the creation of his masterpiece, his own home, Kinross House.
By now, William Bruce seemed to have it all - money,
power and solid architectural experience.
He was at last ready to build.
What could possibly go wrong?
A death in the family.
In 1685, Charles II, Bruce's patron for 25 years, died of a seizure.
Charles was succeeded by one of the most bone-headed monarchs in British history -
his brother, who became James II.
Where Charles had accepted the limits of a constitutional monarchy
and Britain's status as a Protestant nation, James didn't.
He wanted to reimpose absolute monarchy and Catholicism.
Not great for Bruce, who was a Protestant.
With his building project at Kinross hanging in the balance,
William Bruce knew he had to take action to secure his dream.
So he went straight down to London to see if he could curry favour
with the stiff-backed and awkward new king.
'Letters recounting the success of William's charm offensive still survive.
'They're in the possession of the Montgomery family, who live in Kinross today.'
-I'm Lizzie. How are you?
I've just walked into your house. That's all right, I hope.
That's absolutely fine. How nice to see you.
And it looks wonderful in the light.
-It's such a beautiful day.
Seeing it at its best.
'The letters were written by Bruce's loyal wife Mary, the mother of their two children.
'She was writing to him while Bruce was in London trying to woo the King.'
It is astonishing, isn't it, to have these letters from the late 17th century
-in this house, written by the mistress of the house when it was being built?
It is mind boggling. It's so moving. Here they are.
-They've always been in the house, have they?
As far as we know, they have.
And they're all from Mary Bruce, Sir William's wife? "My dear hart."
She talks about the fact that she loves having his letters and she gives plenty of information to him.
And I think she would ideally like him not to be in London for too long.
But she goes on to say that she understands how important it is for his success.
Yes, yes, yes.
"If you continue in your master's favour,
"I will be well pleased, whatever success you have."
That's amazing. "Your master" being presumably the new monarch. This is a critical date, isn't it?
James II had just come onto the throne before this.
But there's a really interesting little bit on the other page.
"I am glad that my Lord Bruce is again brought into the bed chamber."
Fascinating. So the bed chamber.
In the sequence of rooms in the royal palace, those people who are allowed to progress
as far as the bed chamber, where the King is, that means they're in high favour.
They've got almost to the holy of holies.
Isn't it this year that he's made part of the Privy Council?
That's right. James II appoints William Bruce to the Privy Council of Scotland,
which is essentially the governing body of Scotland, in 1685,
so this is also when he starts to build the house in earnest. It's been on the backburner a bit.
Doing the gardens, planning it, but now he builds. He clearly feels confident.
This letter captures and reveals that moment.
It's an incredibly precious document, isn't it?
It is amazing.
Those letters really were revealing, particularly the one from November 1685,
referring to the new King James II receiving Bruce in his bed chamber.
Obviously at that time Bruce was a very highly regarded courtier.
He had to be to be received by the new King in such intimate circumstances.
And of course it was James that put Bruce on the Scottish Privy council,
essentially the governing body for Scotland,
an incredible achievement for Bruce.
He must have felt very secure in his position, in his wealth, in his power.
And with good reason.
He had, it seemed, charmed the notoriously prickly King James.
He was once again a trusted courtier.
He could start building immediately.
Money was no object.
Kinross would be the most expensive house in Scotland and the finest.
Bruce brought in master stone masons from Holyrood Palace, wood carvers from Holland.
He bought only the best, spending almost £20,000 in today's money on one leather wall hanging alone.
His formal garden took him a decade to create.
100,000 trees and exotic flowers came from all over Europe.
All to realise his vision for a perfect Kinross.
A vision the Montgomerys are still enjoying today.
I can remember when we first moved in, when we evicted my parents 14 years ago.
I can remember driving up the drive
and having to stop and think, "Goodness, I live here, you know.
-"This is ours now, this is our home."
Oddly enough, since then it's been more this side of the house.
You stand there and you suddenly realise you never get bored with the view.
For me, it is one of the stunning views.
You just stare out here when the light's nice,
looking out over the gardens, and you just can't get bored with it.
This is a wonderfully easy house to live in. Yes, it's big.
But it's been fabulously well designed and, you know, it's in very good nick.
The upkeep, the upkeep of it.
-It's well built.
-It's well built, yeah.
Massive, solid, looks it, Roman quality built for eternity, really.
Jamie Montgomery's ancestors used the fortune they'd made
from trade to buy Kinross in the late 18th century.
It's been in the family ever since.
Jamie's father, Sir David, has lived here for 80 years.
In his boyhood, the house entertained a royal visitor.
Oh, Queen Mary came to lunch.
-And that was quite fun because I was...
Did she fancy anything that she had to take with her?
I'll tell you about that in a minute.
But she came to lunch and I was about eight at the time,
and we ended up on the front, on the steps there, watching it.
And I then was allowed after the lunch to go and take her photograph with my little box brownie.
-And we've got that copy of that photo.
-Which is rather fun.
But as you rightly were saying a minute ago,
there was always a question of Queen Mary saying, "I love that little figurine,"
or whatever it was. And you always feel obliged to give it to her.
My father went round putting everything away
and she went into the library where she said, "Oh, I do like that wallpaper."
And my father breathed a sigh of relief and reckoned there was no way he could take the wallpaper off.
-Strip the wallpaper off! She was being merciful that day.
'Today, life is less grand for the Montgomerys.'
Royal visits are a thing of the past and the servants of Kinross have long gone.
The housekeeping is all down to one person - the mistress of the house, Lizzie.
It's the most lovely house to live in, it really is.
And I never mind doing the housework or the dusting.
If you live here, you don't really think about it.
You get on and do it as part of being in a house and loving a house
and being the sort of custodian for one's lifetime, or however long one is here.
You just do the best you can.
Actually, the windows are horrific.
They all need cleaning desperately.
I do clean them and it's got to be reasonably warm
because you can imagine the ladders to come up here are quite tall, quite big.
I try and coincide with the gardeners.
If I fall off, it's not the end of the world.
They can pick me up and normally they stand there waiting for me to fall off, but I haven't done so far.
The main fabric of Kinross took William Bruce years to build and a lifetime to achieve.
As he climbed the greasy pole of politics and royal favour,
the house represented all his dreams of forming a dynasty, dreams that were to be dashed.
What surprised me about Kinross is that the house was not completed by Bruce.
This room, a very important room on the first floor, is not how he would have intended it to be.
Virtually all the detail here dates from the late 18th century.
It's obvious that Bruce was running out of money.
Clearly there's some very bad news lurking here.
Here was Bruce's tragedy.
Kinross was the house of his dreams but he was never able to finish it.
The elaborate plasterwork on the ceilings remained incomplete.
The woodwork in the dining room and staircase wasn't repeated anywhere else.
Bruce only fully finished the basement and ground floor.
Despite his carefully planned processional route fit for a king, no monarch ever paid him a visit.
The great staircase led up to a desolate world.
The grand saloon and state rooms were undecorated shells.
The dream was unravelling.
What happens on pleasant themes and events in people's lives often is a case of out of sight, out of mind.
Where would I hide bad news?
Well, I'd probably bury it in the basement.
Now, in front of me are letters
from Mary Bruce to her husband, Sir William.
These are written towards the end of both their lives in the 1690s.
It's lovely, this one. It says, "For Sir William Bruce at Edinburgh"
with a seal. This is the cover around the letter that's in front of me here.
It says here, "My dearest harte."
She's always very affectionate to Sir William, terrible spelling.
Hard to make sense sometimes.
Oh, no, here we go. Oh, this is... Goodness.
She says here to William,
"As to my coming to you, there is many inconveniences
"in that at the putting you to a great needless expense
"when your purse is grown so light."
Oh, she says why. "For I have hardly any clothes that I could be seen into."
Good heavens, she hasn't got a decent dress to travel to Edinburgh in to see her husband.
But, ah, look. I say she's short of money but not of pride, because she says here,
"I am not so humbled for all that is come as to be content to appear in a contemptible manner."
Good heavens. So Mary hasn't the money to travel
to Edinburgh in a decent new dress to meet Sir William.
They really are clearly strapped for cash.
Bruce's downfall came swiftly and cruelly.
His ambitions rested on royal favour.
Suddenly, it was taken away.
In May 1686, only 12 months after he started building Kinross, James II,
the king Bruce believed he'd wooed and won, turned nasty and sacked him from the Privy Council.
Had Bruce done something to deserve this disgrace?
So why do you think Bruce was dismissed from the Privy Council for Scotland in May 1686?
There's been much supposition but the answer, real answer, is nobody knows.
I suspect it may well have been the character of the man and the factional nature
of Scottish politics, that he was just found to be backing the wrong side at the wrong moment.
He believed that he was about to receive a viscountcy, Sir William Bruce. Viscount Kinross.
Justifying all of this. Now why did that happen, do you think?
-Why did he lose that post?
-I'm sure it is. It's the nature of the man.
He's very ambitious. He's opportunistic.
And this is a period when politics are changing with every reign almost.
I mean, no principle involved?
James II obviously was a whist a wilful fellow for
re-impose autocratic rule, re-impose Roman Catholicism. Perhaps Bruce,
a sort of Episcopalian and maybe as a man with some principles, opposed the King. Is that not possible?
I don't ever see William Bruce as being a man of great principle.
It's very difficult to remain on the up always when things are changing so quickly.
He was described as one of the richest men in Scotland.
By 1703, it's the Scots' legal definition of he is "put to the horn".
His assets were sequestrated and I often wonder to myself whether
the house doesn't actually play a part in his downfall.
Its owner doesn't seem to have come to the same conclusion.
Despite being sacked, Bruce, now in his late 50s, continued to hurl large sums of money at the house.
He'd always landed on his feet in the past.
Perhaps he thought he could win back the trust of the king.
If so, he didn't count for another royal twist of fate.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688.
The Catholic James II was removed from the throne.
The Protestant William and Mary reigned in his stead.
Where King James was unsympathetic to Bruce, King William was actively hostile.
Bruce was singled out as a potential rebel because he'd supported James II.
Here was the profound irony, given Bruce's harsh treatment by James.
His previous form as a Stuart supporter was now to bring about Bruce's ruin.
I'm arriving at the National Archives in Edinburgh, hoping to find out more about
William Bruce's later, less successful and more obscure days.
I'm going through the William Bruce papers and this document, this in a sense
is what I've been hoping to find, to throw light on Bruce's late years, on a sense his downfall.
Because here, this is a "Warrant for removing Sir William Bruce to the Castle of Edinburgh."
Basically it's an arrest warrant.
It says here, "The Lords of His Majesty's Privy Council
"do hereby give order to remove him to the Castle of Edinburgh."
That is 1696.
What an amazing revelation.
This one. Now this warrant, a few years later,
this one is dated, here it is, March 1707.
"These are in Her Majesty's name to authorise and require you, the receiver of this warrant,
"to make strict and diligent search for the person of Sir William Bruce of Kinross.
"And him having found to apprehend and seize for suspicion
"of high treason and treasonable practices."
So there we are. This is, as I say, 1707.
So these documents open a window into the life of Sir William Bruce.
He's arrested - arrested and taken into custody to Edinburgh Castle.
And later on we discover
he's arrested as a man suspected of treason, a rebel, a traitor,
which means, of course, he's liable to the most ghastly and grisly death.
To be hung, drawn and quartered.
What a downfall.
The final insult. Bruce, the man who tried to do away with castles,
was now imprisoned in the most famous Scots castle of all, Edinburgh.
Sir William Bruce
could have been imprisoned in this actual cell.
Certainly we know that people accused of treason or regarded
as rebels were held here in the 17th and 18th centuries.
And what a dismal dungeon this is.
It feels as if the room were cut from the very rock on which
Edinburgh Castle sits, and certainly the floor is the castle rock,
where he'd feel like a ghastly cave.
Think of it.
Dismal, dark, wet, horrible.
And Sir William, a man around 70 years of age, used to power
and privilege, sitting here where I'm sitting, with nothing to do.
Apart, I suppose, from dream of freedom.
Bruce was never convicted of being a rebel, but he was repeatedly held in jail.
As he languished here, Scotland finally lost its battle for independent nationhood.
Bruce's country was broken.
Overwhelming poverty forced the Scottish parliament to agree
to the Act of Union with England in 1707 and rule was lost to London.
Both journeys, for Bruce and his beloved Scotland, once so rich in promise, had come to a bitter end.
I've come to the Bruce burial vault just next to Kinross House.
I want to pay my respects to Sir William.
I'm looking for his grave.
But I can't find it.
There are other Bruces buried here in the vault, a wonderful building.
But not Sir William.
It seems, of course, a great tragedy,
the man that created Kinross House, the garden, has no memorial.
Although, of course, the house, the garden, is his memorial
and as long as they endure, so will the name of Will Bruce.
After his death in 1710, the house only remained in the Bruce family for another 60 years.
Then it was bought by the Montgomery's ancestors.
It was they who finally finished Bruce's house.
Sadly, this long chapter will also soon be over
for Lizzie, Jamie and their two children, Iona and Edward.
Kinross is being sold.
Their beloved house has become a financial drain,
as it costs up to £150,000 a year just to run.
Well, Christmas a few days off.
This probably is your last Christmas here.
Mm, yes, I should think it probably is.
How does it feel?
Well, it's sad, of course it's sad. But...
it's life, really, isn't it? We have to just remember what fun we've had here and move forward.
You're feeling brave, stoical, philosophical about moving,
but of course, in a sense, you are carrying the banner for the family's
previous generations, and I know your father is still alive and living here, or nearby.
What does he feel?
Yes, however hard it's going to hit us when we move out, I just...
It's a fraction, I suspect, of what it's going to affect my parents,
particularly my father, whose entire life has revolved around the house and the estate.
And I can't even begin to think what's going through his mind about this.
But I have to say the bravery he showed to me and everything else, has just been such a support.
I think we've just got... I just really had to make that decision.
It's unfortunate that it's happened on my watch, so to speak,
but it was always going to happen to someone.
Someone was going to have to take the decision and it's been my misfortune that
it's been me that's had to take that.
Of course, secretly, there must be something you're dreading.
-What are you dreading most?
-I am dreading leaving here.
The thought of going off down the drive and knowing that we're not going to be going back in again
is going to be tough.
-So it's the...
-Don't make me cry. I do cry.
No, it's utterly miserable, actually.
It will be very difficult, it will be very difficult.
Can't pretend any of us are looking forward to that particular moment but, you know,
I think one's just got to look forward, move on
and, you know, immerse ourselves in a project of building our new home.
-Which I think, you know, it ought to be able to take our mind
wonderfully off the hurt and anguish of actually moving out of here.
Just as it did for William Bruce, the house has got the better of the Montgomerys as well.
Kinross now awaits its new owner
and the next chapter of its extraordinary life.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Series visiting houses never before open to public view. Historian Dan Cruickshank explores the stunning late 17th century property, Kinross House. Dan is granted privileged access into the world of architect Sir William Bruce, who changed the Scottish landscape by building the first fully classical house in the country.
Kinross House tells a unique story about a man imperative to the restoration of King Charles II - Sir William Bruce. A one time merchant who became one of the richest men in Scotland. With insight from Sir William's descendants, journalists and Scottish aristocracy, secrets long since forgotten are revealed, and offer an explanation into his ultimate downfall.
The programme follows the story of Kinross house from its early beginnings through to its current owners and poignant sale in 2010.