Palace of Holyroodhouse – The official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland

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The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the King’s official residence in Scotland. It is situated at one end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Essentially, it can be compared to Buckingham Palace in London.

Sometimes, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is simply referred to as Holyrood Palace.

Holyrood? What’s in a name?

Holy Rood is the Scottish term for the Holy Cross, a Christian relic believed to be a part of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified and died.

The origins of the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Back in the 12th century, this area of Edinburgh saw the erection of the Augustinian Abbey, Holyrood Abbey. According to legend, this came about in 1128 when King David I of Scotland was out hunting on these grounds. He spotted a stag, but this was no ordinary sighting. The stag had a glowing cross between its antlers. David took this as a sign from God and in response, had the abbey built on the very site.

Robert the Bruce held a parliament here in 1326.

The ruins of the Abbey can still be seen on the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse today.

Holyrood Palace was built for a Queen.

From its inception, the abbey housed royal quarters for the monarch. The early 16th century saw James IV restructure it as a palace.

James IV did so during his marriage to Margaret Tudor, the elder sister of Henry VIII. Essentially, he built it as a wedding present for the new Queen of Scots. In 1512, the Palace of Holyroodhouse saw an interesting addition – a Lion House. It housed both a Lion and a civet as part of an early zoo.

His successor, James V, built the tower at its northwest corner. This famous addition is among the building’s oldest remaining structures to have stood the test of time.

The Palace was then rebuilt for King Charles II in the 1670s in the form we see today. Of course, succeeding monarchs remodelled the palace throughout the reigns of James VI, Charles II, and Queen Victoria.

Holyroodhouse went on to become the Royal Palace in Edinburgh, in which members of the British Royal family resided while in Scotland. The Royal Standard is flown while a sovereign is in residence. At other times, the palace opens its doors to the public as a popular tourist attraction.

Holyrood Palace and Mary Queen of Scots

Holyroodhouse Palace stood many a time over the centuries at the very centre of history. Point of fact would be the palace’s part in Mary, Queen of Scots’ tumultuous, albeit short reign in the mid-16th century.

It was here that Mary Queen of Scots married two of her three husbands.

It was also the scene of one of the most infamous moments of her reign.

The private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, David Rizzio, was killed here by Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley and his men. Mary was accused of cheating with Rizzio and held at gunpoint while Rizzio was stabbed 57 times. Ultimately, this led to Darnley’s downfall and his own murder.

Visit Holyrood palace

The palace has 289 rooms and lies over 87,120 square feet of land. The largest room must be the Grand Gallery with its 110 paintings of Scottish monarchs, dating back to King Fergus I, circa 330 B.C. It is thanks to George V during his reign in the early 20th century that the palace was turned into a modern royal residence, complete with new bathrooms, central heating, and even a lift.

The Palace is usually open from 9:30 in the morning until 16:30 in the afternoon. It is worth checking before you visit as it can close at short notice because it is a working palace.

The Sackings of the Palace of Holyroodhouse

During the period known as the Rough Wooing, The Earl of Hertford, Edward Seymour sacked the city of Edinburgh. The Palace was looted and then burnt.

During the Marian Civil War, the Palace of Holyroodhouse was bombarded with Cannon.

Queen Elizabeth II’s association with the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Queen Elizabeth II went on to also reside in the Place of Holyroodhouse when she travelled to Scotland for engagements. It was she who travelled to the palace annually for Holyrood Week in late June and early July. The Queen’s annual garden party is hosted here every summer during Holyrood Week, attended by some 8,000 guests. Queen Elizabeth II’s last stay in the palace was in June 2022.

On the night of 11 September 2022, the coffin bearing Queen Elizabeth II overnighted in the Throne Room, having been received in Edinburgh following her passing at Balmoral Castle.

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