I can not believe that it is just over a week since I was exploring Edinburgh. Not been a particularly good week so recalling one of the most exciting historical adventures I have had for you dear readers will be nice.
Sometimes it is not just the historical figures that capture the historians mind and imagination. The settings, places such as castles and palaces all have witnessed history and have a tale of their own to tell those who care to listen.
HolyroodPalace in Edinburgh is one such place. Like many locations of historical events, we historians wish that the walls could talk and tell us what they have seen happen unbiased and first hand. As well as the palace its self, there is the extra added bonus of the now haunting and beautiful if sad ruins of the Abbey of Holyrood.
Just like the other royal collection visitor attractions such as Windsor, the Queens Gallery and the Royal Mews, there tickets can be gift aided and be stamped at the end of your visit to validate them for year. I really liked the staffs uniforms most especially the capes that the staff outside wore, navy with a trim of tartan very tasteful and something I would love to wear too. There were complimentary audio guides included in the price of the entrance feel. The guides are clear and informative however if you are familiar with the history then you will find the information basic.
The court yard holds an ornate stone fountain with a crown upon its top. Beyond this is the entrance above which is the Royal Crest with 2 unicorns this leads on to a central quod which is very reminiscent of the Georgian quod at Hampton Court Palace.
Entering the palace that had once been the home of first Scottish monarchs and then British monarchs, walking through their rooms following the path of petitioners and courtiers all seeking an audience brought Goosebumps to me. The palace was literally smelt, felt and oozed history.
The rooms were like many in historical palaces however there were a few Items that caught my eye along the route, a portrait of the late queen mother above a fire place, the thrones in the throne room, a picture of Charles II in armour an image I don’t associate with the pleasure king, war and armour and lastly the beautiful tapestries brought to Holyrood from Buckingham palace by Queen Victoria.
But the rooms in the Palace that ticked my historical geek spot were the rooms belonging to Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. It was due to the exhibition in the national Museum of Scotland that I found myself in that city. (see previous post for review of the exhibition) The only moment I was remotely unhappy was walking up a precarious small spiral staircase that I felt very uncomfortable on but it was worth the fear to get to the bed chamber of Mary Queen of Scots. The bed chamber, a small cubby with a desk, a famous cabinet with hearts on which lead on to a smaller bed chamber darker with bigger bed and very small the space was dominated by a copy of the Blair memorial portrait of Mary Queen of Scots walking to her execution with her crucifix and book of hours and black gown to the left wee see her kneeling over the block having revealed the red petty coat the colour of Catholic martyrs. This small intimate space leads on to her outer chamber.
The Outer chamber has a grizzly history of its own as it was the scene of one of the most victious murders in history, the butchering of Mary’s Private Secretary David Rizzio. Rizzio Italian Catholic and was her confident as and friend as well as her secretary. Darnley the feckless king was jealous of their relationship, a man of double standards who went chasing after both men and women. On 9th March 1566 he and a gang of lords barged into the Queens outer chamber and grabbed Rizzio. The poor Italian was clinging to a heavily pregnant Marys skirts. To stop Mary from helping him Darnley held a pistol to her stomach. In front of Mary the lords went on to stab Rizzio more than 50 times in a frenzied and brutal attack. A bronze place is on the wall where it happens and if you look at the right angle in the right light there is still a faint stain of the poor mans blood.
Also within this room the walls are covered with some of the most famous pictures to scholars of this period. Among them Henry VIII, his children including a very unflattering picture of Elizabeth I. There was also a case containing the embroidery of Mary. The famous one of the Cat and the Mouse made by Mary while under house arrest at Hardwick Hall.
When you alight a better flight of steps down and exit the palace you find yourself in the haunting and beautiful ruins of Holyrood Abbey. Founded by King David I of Scotland in 1128 the ruins have the hall marks of all 12th century cathedrals.
It had been looted and ruined several times over the centuries including during the Scottish reformation triggered and lead by John Knox, and again in the 18th and 19th centuries. What is left is both beautiful and sad. As you move around the glassless windows the empty epitaphs the detail in the remaining vaulted ceilings pillars and engravings are beautiful.
The flying buttresses on the side remind you of the skill it took to make such a building in the 12th century. The gardens of the palace has a famous mound that Victoria used to roll Easter eggs down with her large family. And in the back ground the beautiful lowland mountains in mixture of greys, greens and lavenders it truly beautiful place.
The rest of the gardens are well kept the only complaint was there was a lack of places to rest weary legs in the lovely peaceful grounds. The café attached to the Queens Gallery (which I didn’t go to) is a great pit stop with lovely staff I recommend the cakes and humbug tea.
I have imaged this palace in my minds eye since I completed my under grad dissertation. I had been urged by my tutor to head up and its only taken me 10 years to do it and I can honestly say it was well worth the wait, it magical and lived up fully to my expectations and even bettered them. The history and the pride taken in caring for it was evident and it’s good to know it will be there for future generations to learn about. I only wish that closer so that I could come back again going slowly and even looking at the other parts of history that this amazing palace has witnessed.