The Palace of Holyroodhouse and St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the remains of Queen Elizabeth II will rest on Sunday before being transported to London, are both steeped in a checkered royal history – and the complexity of the relationship Anglo-Scottish.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse
This imposing stone palace that stands at the end of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare, is the monarch’s official residence in Scotland. Its name, “Holyrood”, means “Holy Cross”. While Elizabeth II mainly stayed at her Balmoral castle when she was in Scotland, she traditionally took up residence at Holyroodhouse each early summer for a week of royal events, including a garden party with some 8,000 guests.
The palace, used for 500 years by Scottish and English kings, was originally an abbey, founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland on the spot where, according to legend, he saw a stag bearing a luminous cross between its woods. The site includes very early royal apartments, converted into a palace around 1503 by King James IV of Scotland. Mary Stuart, famous Queen of Scotland with a dramatic reign, lived there from 1561 to 1567. In 1566, she witnessed, in her private apartments, the murder of her personal secretary, fomented by her jealous husband.
It was also at Holyroodhouse that the Scottish coronation of Charles I, King of England and Scotland, took place in 1633, according to an Anglican rite perceived as a propaganda exercise on Presbyterian land. His reign leads to a civil war in which he is executed and the palace damaged. When the monarchy was restored, Charles II launched a vast renovation of the castle, which took on an appearance close to that which we know today. In June 1965, aged 16, Prince Charles, now King Charles III, undertook his first public engagement in Scotland, a meeting with hundreds of students.
A kilometer from Holyroodhouse along the Royal Mile, the building, founded around 1124, is named after the city’s patron saint. Badly damaged by raids by the English army in the 14th century, the church was gradually transformed into a Gothic style.
Initially Catholic, it then fell into the heart of the Scottish Protestant Reformation of 1560. From 1559, a Scottish priest converted to Calvinism, John Knox, took possession of the church with his faithful and preached there for the first time, before become its pastor.
King Charles I elevated it to cathedral status in the 1630s in an attempt to link it to Anglican worship. In 1637, violence broke out in the cathedral against the introduction of an English prayer book. It is today still attached to the Church of Scotland, Presbyterian, independent of the Anglican Church of which Elizabeth II was supreme governor.