4 JULY 1931, Page 13


BY DR. MARGUERITE WOOD, Keeper of the Burgh Records, Edinburgh. THE palace of Holyroodhouse, once the Abbey of the Holy Rood, is, almost as greatly as the Castle of Edinburgh, part of the fabric of Scottish history. Founded, like many others, by that " sair sanct for the croun," David I, it is distinguished among them by the favours granted to it by the King. Why it was so singled out is nowhere stated. The legend of the appearance of the miraculous stag to King David while hunting is one of comparatively late growth advanced to account for the foundation. The situation in what was at that time a marsh is only capable of explanation in that there appears to have been a cell of CuMees on the spot. It is possible that King David considered that a monastery of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine—who were not an enclosed order—near to his castle and burgh of Edinburgh might prove a convenient habitation for himself and future kings. Similar monasteries were indeed founded at Cambuskenneth, near Stirling, and at Scone. If such were his intentions, events proved him right, for Holyrood has a history more as palace than as abbey.

The Abbey was founded in1128, and itsfirst extant charter may be dated between 1143 and 1147. The canons did not take up residence there till 1176, presumably upon the completion of the buildings. Till that date they lived in the Castle of Edinburgh whose church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was one of the many endowments given by King David. The outstanding privilege granted to them was the right to their own burgh, lying between the abbey and the burgh of Edinburgh, still known as the Canongate —the street of the canons. They appear also to have had the privilege of sanctuary, asserted in the sixteenth century, at least, to have belonged to them "in all tymes bigane past memorie of man." Apart from these privi- leges the history of the abbey does not differ greatly from that of other Scottish abbeys. Never so wealthy as Melrose or Arbroath, it was considerable enough to form a useful patrimony for the natural sons of the Stewart kings. Like Melrose and other Border abbeys it suffered repeatedly at the hands of the "ancient enemy," to rise more beautiful under the care of its abbots, Abbot Crawford, who in 1460 rebuilt it, Abbot Bellenden, who enriched it with bells and brazen font, chalice and pyx of gold and vestments of silk and gold. But wars and reformers have left nothing of these but the service book of the abbey—the Holyrood Ordinale and the font— and that, a prize of war, is at St. Albans.

But as the burgh of Edinburgh grew in wealth and importance, the Scottish kings began to reside there more frequently. At first the palace buildings in the castle served their turn, but changing ideas made them too confined for the kings, their officials and their followers, apart from the fact that to the Stewart kings the castle held ugly reminders of their virtual imprisonment during their long minorities. James III lived much at the Abbey of Holyrood and was married there "in gret dignite." His use of the place makes it tempting to conjecture that he began the building of the palace, but there is no evidence of any construction till the reign of his successor James IV. Between the years 1501 and 1504 much work was done, to make a fit habitation for his bride, Margaret Tudor. But the history of the palace was destined to be no less tragic than that of the abbey, and of his buildings no trace is left, while the oldest existing part, the north-west tower is attributed to his successor, James V, and the rest dates only from the reign of Charles II.

The Stewarts were ever an unfortunate race and their associations with the palace of Holyroodhouse are, in the main, as tragic as their lives. The palace was burned twice during the minority of Mary Stuart and though sufficiently restored to be habitable by her; its history during her reign is mostly as sad as that reign. And for her successors it seems to have been no more fortunate.

Only once in the early years of its existence was Holyrood the place of unrestrained gaiety. The marriage arranged between James IV and Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, was hailed by Scotland as the beginning of a perpetual peace and the king, a great lover of splendour, devoted thern years before the coming of his bride, a child of twelve at the time of the making of the contract, to preparing a palace for her. 4' Diligent and Grete labour" was spent on the building beside the abbey of the Holy Cross, in which King James interested himself greatly.

In 1503 the young Lady Margaret set out on her journey to meet her future husband and the accounts of her progress to Edinburgh and the festivities there read more like a fairy tale or an old romance than sober history. Men had said that the Golden Age of Scotland had passed with the reign of Alexander III, but it must have seemed as though a touch of that age had come again. The chroniclers told—and their words can still be read—of the glories of the palace, the King's chamber, hung with red and blue and a "cloth of estate "of cloth-of- gold, the Great Chamber, of which the hangings bore the " hystory of Troy Towne," on the windows of which were the arms of England and Scotland, party per pale, with a thistle and a rose enlaced through a crown, the King's Great Chamber hung with the story of Hercules, all lit with tall candles of wax by night.

In and around the palace, pageant and play, jousting and dancing succeeded each other, the citizens of Edin- burgh entertained the royal bride and bridegroom with a great display, the poet William Dunbar, expressed the general rejoicing and praise of the new queen in beautiful verse. The King was in all the centre of the picture, now in attendance on his bride, then offering attentions to her ladies, then in friendly converse with the nobles of her suite. It was all so gay and friendly that there seemed no reason why the peace should not be perpetual, for they understood each other so well. But they were all mistaken —it was merely a truce, broken only too easily when King James, led by the persuasions of the King of France, duped with the wild dreams of a crusade of Christendom against the infidel, which he should lead, embarked on the fatal expedition which brought death to himself, death and ruin to his kingdom on the three low hills of Flodden.

But there was no whisper of that, and they were merry and good friends for the time—as they are now.