Edinburgh Trip Part Three - The Palace of Holyroodhouse

On my recent trip to Edinburgh, I had the chance to visit The Palace of Holyroodhouse. Located at the end of Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile, the Palace is the Official Residence of Her Majesty The Queen when in Scotland. It is a remarkable building with an extraordinary past.

The baronial-style Gatehouse at The Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Entering via the beautiful baronial-style Gatehouse, I entered the spacious Palace Forecourt. This vast space not only allows you the best view of the Palace's grand façade, it is also the site of some really interesting features. At the heart of the forecourt is an ornamental fountain which gives you the impression that it has been there since the Stuart era, but in fact it was a much later addition. Inspired by the fountain within the Courtyard of Linlithgow Palace, it was installed in 1859, and was part of series of major refurbishments to the Palace to accommodate Queen Victoria and her family during her many visits to Scotland. This magnificent forecourt is also home to a memorial to Edward VII, comprising of ornamental wrought-iron gates and railings, and a regal bronze statue of the King himself. Every year in July Her Majesty The Queen takes up residence for a week at the Palace for Holyrood Week. When Her Majesty arrives at the Palace The Ceremony of the Keys is held in the Palace's Forecourt, where the keys of the City of Edinburgh is symbolically offered to Her Majesty The Queen by the Lord Provost. As impressive as the forecourt is, it does not compete with the grandeur of the Palace itself.

 View of the Palace's main entrance and fountain in the forecourt.

View of the Palace's main entrance and fountain in the forecourt.

On first appearances you would think the Palace was built all at the same time, but this was not the case. The Palace we see before us today is a building that has grew and evolved over the centuries. Evidence of this can be seen on the façade itself. This outwardly facing impression of the Palace that lies behind consists of two towers is linked by a two-storey front which bears the Royal Arms of Scotland carved in stone. By 1671 a series of major rebuilding works that would transform the palace into the building we see today.

When the Monarchy was restored in 1660, The rebuilding of Holyroodhouse was necessary to provide a royal residence for the monarch in Scotland. Created to accommodate the needs of the court of Charles II, the Palace was soon to become an architectural statement which symbolised the restoration of the Monarchy in Scotland. The men responsible with the creation of the new palace was the renowned scottish architect Sir William Bruce and was overseen by John Maitland, Earl of Lauderdale.

 View of the ornate fountain in the Palace's Forecourt.

View of the ornate fountain in the Palace's Forecourt.

Stepping through the man entrance, an architectural jewel exists inside. With light flooding in from above, the Palace's Quadrangle is an impressive sight. During the great rebuilding of the Palace, Sir William Bruce retained the Palace's earlier Quadrangular plan with rooms arranged around a courtyard with decorative classical pilasters applied. This was the first time the classical orders of architecture had been conscientiously used in Scotland.

The new Palace's design and magnificent interiors quickly became the very pinnacle of fashion and became a great influence on architecture throughout the country. The new royal apartments were arranged on a similar principle adopted by Charles II's cousin, Louis XIV at his Palace of Versailles. Visiting the Palace today you can still experience the processional route as they were originally planned, each room getting more elaborate as you reach the presence of the Monarch. Within the palace and inside these great rooms many great historical events have taken place and home to many significant figures our country's turbulent past


Some historical figures connected to the Palace of Holyroodhouse:

  • Mary Queens of Scots - Daughter of James V, Mary Queen of Scots is beyond doubt the most famous resident of the Palace. Succeeding the Scottish throne at only 6 days old, Mary spend most of her childhood in France. After a brief time as Queen Consort to King Francis II of France. On the event of the her husbands death, Mary returned home and too the Scotland when up until then had been ruled by a Holyroodhouse. In 1565 she married her second husband at the palace - Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. In her royal apartments located in the James V Tower, Mary witnessed the horrific murder of her secretary, David Rizzio on the 9th of march 1566. the perpetrators of this murder stabbed him 56 times and were led by Mary's husband, Lord Darnley who himself was found dead less than a year later when his residence was destroyed with a bomb. The man who was suspected of his murder was James Hepburn, 4th earl of Bothwell who married Mary at Holyroodhouse one month after he was released from jail. Shortly after Mary was forced to abdicate her throne and was imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth I of England. Later she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie - In 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, captured the city of Edinburgh and took up residence at Holyroodhouse. It was within the staterooms room of the Palace where he conducted all his official business and held court in public view. After only six weeks in residence, Charlie and his army left Edinburgh to march to England.
  • Charles Philippe, Count of Artois - Arriving at the Palace in 1796, the Count of Artois was the exiled younger brother of the French King Louis XVI since the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. Artois remained at the Palace with his family and his servants until 1803. Eventually in 1824, Artois succeeded the French throne as King Charles X. His reign was sadly short lived, as after the July Revolution in 1830 Charles X abdicated and as an exile he returned to Holyroodhouse once again. After staying for two years he left the Palace for the last time to live out the rest of his life in Europe.

The Palace we see today

The Palace's renaissance began as preparation for the first visit to Holyroodhouse of King George V and his consort Queen Mary. During his reign there was a great deal of renovations some of which included the installation of central heating and electric light, as well as new bathrooms and a modern fully equipped kitchen. Due to the money invested into the palace it was decided that the Palace would become the official residence for the Monarch in Scotland. From then until today the palace has been used on a regular basis for state events and less formal visits by the Royal Family. Today the Palace is one of Edinburgh's top visitor attractions and like me anyone can pay the admission and walk round the magnificent staterooms, walk around the grounds, and even enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Café in the Mews Courtyard. I thoroughly enjoy my visit to the palace and if you can visit please do I can not recommend it highly enough.

The next blog about my trip to Edinburgh features the place where the Palace of Holyroodhouse all began, Holyrood Abbey.

To catch up on the previous instalments of my trip please click on the links below:

Thanks for reading!

Hugh at ReClick Photo.