on May 16, 2008
Holyrood Palace, sitting at the end of the Royal Mile against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, has witnessed Scotland's turbulent past. Within its walls kings planned wars, royals danced deep into the night, murders occurred. In contrast today, the Palace is the setting for State ceremonies, garden parties and official entertaining.The State Apartments have magnificent plasterwork ceilings and collections of tapestries. The longest and largest room in the Palace is the Great Gallery - decorated with 89 of the original 110 Jacob de Wet portraits of the real and legendary kings of Scotland, from Fergus I to Charles II.The room has served many purposes. Here the election of Scotland's representative peers took place after the Union of Parliaments in 1707. George V made the room into the State Dining Room, and today it hosts receptions, State occasions and Investitures.The Palace is best known as the home of Mary Queen of Scots (1542-67). She married the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin of France, at 15 and became a widow at 19. Returning to Scotland she took up her duties as the Queen of Scots after a crowning ceremony at the Palace. A group led by her second husband Lord Darnley believing she was having an affair with Rizzio, her private secretary, stabbed him to death in her private rooms. Lord Darnley in turn suffered a gruesome death following which Mary acquired yet another husband. Her subjects could take no more. Mary escaping captivity fled to England to the protection of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I. Suspected of treason Mary suffered in turn a gruesome death - at the hands of an axe man. In 1501 James IV built his Palace beside Holyrood Abbey. Later kings added extensions until a building resulted with classical facades built round a central quadrangle. Although external appearance of the apartments to the east matches those towards the west the construction is different. The earlier west side has thick walls for defence while the later east is of a residential construction. Mary's son became James I of England and Scotland (1603-25) following the union of the crowns and moved to England leaving the Palace empty. During the Civil War Oliver Cromwell's troops billeted at the Palace caused extensive fire damage.Following restoring of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II (1660-85) added to the Palace. These additions included the new Royal apartment to the east, the Abbey Church made into the Chapel Royal and accommodation on the second floor for the Court during the sovereign's visit, and for officers of state at other times.After the Union of Parliaments in the early eighteenth century the Palace become a sanctuary for poor and distressed 'noblemen'. In 1745 royalty returned when the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, held court there during his attempt to reclaim the throne for his father. The Duke of Cumberland whose troops suppressed the Jacobean Rebellion of 1745 followed. George IV's visit to Scotland on 15 August 1822 provided the impetus for further improvements and the preserving of the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots as in her time - these are open to visitors. It was Queen Victoria who reintroduced the custom of staying at Holyrood making the Palace once again Scotland's premier royal residence. In the 20th century, King George V and Queen Mary modernised the Palace by installed bathrooms, electricity and lifts to make it a proper family home. They also began the tradition of hosting Garden Parties at the Palace. My wife and I have been invited twice and attended the once. It is not at all elitist for otherwise we wouldn’t have been there. It is a colourful occasion with the beverage of choice being iced tea.
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