Charter of William I. – Trial of the Scottish Templars – Prendergast’s Revenge – Charters by Robert II. and III. – The Lord of the Isles – Coronation of James II. – Marriages of James II. and III. – Church, &c. Burned by the English – Plundered by them – Its Restoration by James VII. – The Royal Vault – Description of the Chapel Royal – Plundered at the Revolution – Ruined in 1768 – The West Front – The Belhaven Monument – The Churchyard – Extent of Present Ruin – The Sanctuary – The Abbey Bells.
KING WILLIAM THE LION, in a charter under his great seal, granted between the years 1171 and 1177, addressed to “all the good men of his whole kingdom, French, English, Scots, and Galwegians,” confirmed the monks of Holyrood in all that had been given them by his grandfather, King David, together with many other gifts, including the pasture of a thousand sheep in Rumanach (Romanno?), a document witnessed in the castle, “apud Edensebvrch.”
In 1309, when Elias II. was abbot, there occurred an interesting event at Holyrood, of which no notice has yet been taken in any history of Scotland – the trial of the Scottish Knights of the Temple on the usual charges made against the order, after the terrible murmurs that rose against it in Paris, London, and elsewhere, in consequence of its alleged secret infidelity, sorcery, and other vices.
According to the Processus factus contra Templarios in Scotia, in Wilkins’ “Concilia,” a work of great price and rarity, it was in the month of December, 1309 – when the south of Scotland was overrun by the English, Irish, Welsh, and Norman troops of Edward II., and John of Bretagne, Earl of Richmond, was arrogantly called lieutenant of the kingdom, though Robert Bruce, succeeding to the power and popularity of Wallace, was in arms in the north – that Master John de Soleure, otherwise styled of Solerio, “chaplain to our lord the Pope,” together with William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, met at the Abbey of Holyrood “for the trial of the Templars, and two brethren of that order undernamed, the only persons of the order present in the kingdom of Scotland, by command of our most holy lord Clement V.” Some curious light is thrown upon the inner life of the order by this trial, which it is impossible to give at full length.
In the first place appeared Brother Walter of Clifton, who, being sworn on the Gospels, replied that he had belonged to the military order of the Temple for ten years, since the last feast of All Saints, and had been received into it at Temple Bruer, at Lincoln, in England, by Brother William de la More (whom Raynouard, in his work on the order, calls a Scotsman), and that the Scottish brother knights received the statutes and observances of the order from the Master of England, who received them from the Grand Master at Jerusalem and the Master at Cyprus. He had then to detail the mode of his reception into the order, begging admission with clasped hands and bended knees, affirming that he had no debts and was not affianced to any woman, and that he “vowed to be a perpetual servant to the master and the brotherhood, and to defend the Eastern land; to be for ever chaste and obedient, and to live without his own will and property.” A white mantle had then been put upon his shoulder (to be worn over his chain armour, but looped up to leave the sword-arm free); a linen coif and the kiss of fraternity were then given him. On his knees he then vowed “never to dwell in a house where a woman was in labour, nor be present at the marriage or purification of one; that from thence forward he would sleep in his shirt and drawers, with a cord girt over the former.”
The inquisitors, who were perhaps impatient to hear of the four-legged idol, the cat, and the devil, concerning all of which such curious confessions had been made by the Florentine Templars, now asked him if he had ever heard of scandals against the order during his residence at Temple in Lothian, or of knights that had fled from their preceptories; and he answered:-
“Yes; Brother Thomas Tocci and Brother John de Husflete, who for two years had been preceptor before him at Balantradoch (Temple), and also two other knights who were natives of England.”
Being closely interrogated upon all the foolish accusations in the papal bull of Clement, he boldly replied to each item in the negative. Two of the charges were that their chaplains celebrated mass without the words of consecration, and that the knights believed their preceptors could absolve sins. He explained that such powers could be delegated, and that he himself “had received it a considerable time ago.”
Sir William de Middleton, clad in the military order of the Temple, was next sworn and interrogated in the same manner. He was admitted into the order, he said, by Sir Brian le Jay, then Master of England, who was slain by Wallace at the battle of Falkirk, and had resided at Temple in Lothian and other preceptories of the order, and gave the same denials to the clauses in the bull that had been given by Clifton, with the addition that he “was prohibited from receiving any service from women, not even water to wash his hands.”
After this he was led from the court, and forty-one witnesses, summoned to Holyrood, were examined. These were chiefly abbots, priests, and even serving-men of the order, but nothing of a criminal nature against it was elicited; though during similar examinations at Lincoln, Brother Thomas Tocci de Thoroldby, a Templar, declared that he had heard the late Brian le Jay (Master of Scotland and afterwards of England) say a hundred times over, “that Christ was not the true God, but a mere man, and that the smallest hair out of the beard of a Saracen was worth any Christian’s whole body;” and that once, when he was standing in Sir Brian’s presence, certain beggars sought alms “for the love of God and our Blessed Lady,” on which he threw a halfpenny in the mud, and made them hunt for it, though in midwinter, saying, “Go to your lady and be hanged!” Another Templar, Stephen de Stapelbrvgge, declared that Sir Brian ordered him at his admission to spit upon the cross, but he spat beside it.
The first witness examined at Holyrood was Hugh Abbot of Dunfermline, who stated that he had ever viewed with suspicion the midnight chapters and “clandestine admission of brethren.” Elias Lord Abbot of Holyrood, and Gervase Lord Abbot of Newbattle, were then examined, together with Master Robert of Kydlawe, and Patrick Prior of the Dominicans in the fields near Edinburgh, and they agreed in all things with the Abbot of Dunfermline.
The eighth witness, Adam of Wedale (now called Stow), a Cistercian, accused the Templars of selfishness and oppression of their neighbours, and John of Byres, a monk of Newbattle, John of Mumphat and Gilbert of Haddington, two monks of Holyrood, entirely agreed with him; while the rector of Ratho maintained that the Scottish Templars were not free from the crimes imputed to the order, adding “that he had never known when any Templar was buried or heard of one dying a natural death, and that the whole order was generally against the Holy Church.” The former points had evident reference to the rumour that the order burned their dead and drank the ashes in wine!
Henry de Leith Rector of Restalrig, Nicholas Vicar of Lasswade, John Chaplain of St. Leonard’s, and others, agreed in all things with the Abbot of Dunfermline, as did nine Scottish barons of rank who added that “the knights were ungracious to the poor, practising hospitality alone to the great and wealthy, and then only under the impulse of fear; and moreover, that had the Templars been good Christians they would never have lost the Holy Land.”
The forty-first and last witness, John Thyng, who for seventeen years had been a serving brother of the order in Scotland, coincided with the others, adding, “that many brethren of the Temple, being common people, indifferently absolve excommunicated persons, saying that they derived power from their lord the Supreme Pontiff;” and also, “that the chapters were held so secretly that none save a Templar ever had access to them.”
So ended the inquisition at Holyrood, “which could not be made more solemn on account of the daily incursions of the enemy” – i.e., the Scottish patriots under Bruce.
We may conclude that on the departure of John of Solerio, the preceptor and his companion were set at liberty; but on the suppression of the order throughout Scotland, their vast possessions were given to their rivals, the Knights of St. John at Torphichen.
In 1337, about the time that John II. was abbot, sanctuary was given in Holyrood church to a remarkable fugitive from the Castle of Edinburgh, which at that time was held by an English garrison under Thomas Knyton. In one of the forays made by him in search of supplies, he had been guided to a rich booty near Calder Muir by a soldier named Robert Prendergast, an adherent of Baliol, who served under the English banner. Upon returning to the castle, instead of being rewarded, as he expected, the Scottish traitor, at dinner in the hall, was placed among the serving-men and below the salt.
Filled with rage and mortification, he remained silent, and declined to eat. Thomas Knyton observing this, asked the reason in a jesting tone, and on receiving a haughty and sullen reply, passionately struck Prendergast on the head with a weapon that lay near, and so severe was the blow that his blood bespattered the floor. He affected to bear with this new outrage, and nursing his wrath, quitted the fortress; but next day, when Thomas Knyton rode through the gate into the city with a few attendants, Prendergast rushed from a place of concealment – probably a Close head – and passing a long sword through his heart, dashed him a corpse on the causeway.
He then leaped on Knyton’s horse, and spurring down the street, reached Holyrood, where he sought sanctuary in the chapel of St. Augustine; there his English pursuers found him on his knees before the altar.
As they dared not, under pain of excommunication, violate the sanctuary, they set a guard upon the church, resolving to starve him into surrender; but fortunately for Robert Prendergast, the monks of Holyrood were loyal to their king, and thinking probably an Englishman less in the world mattered little from a Scottish point of view, they conveyed to him provisions every night unseen by the guard. For twelve days and nights he lurked by the altar of St. Augustine, until, disguised in a monk’s cowl and gown, he effected an escape; and more than ever intent on revenge, joined Sir William Douglas, the Black Knight of Liddesdale, whose forces lay in the fastnesses of Pentland Muir.
From there one night he led the Liddesdale men, and being well acquainted with all the avenues to the then open and unwalled city, attacked the English, and left 400 of them dead in the streets. Sir William Douglas re-captured the fortress in the following year.
In 1370 David II. was interred with every solemnity before the high altar, the site of which is now in the Palace Garden. It was inscribed, “Hic Rex sub lapide David inclitus est tumulatus,” as given by Fordun.
On the 18th of January, 1384-5, Robert II., under his great seal, granted to David, Abbot of Holyrood, a piece of land within the Castle of Edinburgh whereon to erect a house, to which the monks, their servants and families, might repair in time of peace and war. This piece of ground was eighty feet in length and eighty in breadth, wherever the abbot might choose, “beyond the site of our manor” (the royal lodging?); “the said abbot and his successors paying therefor to us and to our heirs a silver penny at the said castle on Whitsunday yearly, if asked only, so that the foresaid abbot and his successors and their servants shall be bound to take the oath of fidelity for the due security of the said castle to the keeper thereof, who may be for the time, have free ish and entry to the said castle at accustomed and proper hours.”
On the 5th April, 1391, King Robert III., under his great seal, granted a charter to the Abbey of Holyrood, confirming the charter of David II. to the abbey, dated 30th December, 1343. It is dated at Edinburgh. When the abbey became a species of palace has never been distinctly ascertained, but Robert III. appears sometimes to have made Holyrood his residence. James I. occasionally kept his court there; and in the abbey his queen was delivered of twin princes, on the 16th October, 1416 – Alexander, who died, and James, afterwards second of that name.
In 1428 a remarkable episode occurred in the abbey church. Alexander, Lord of the Isles, who had been in rebellion against James I., but had been utterly defeated by the royal troops in Lochaber, sent messengers to the king to sue for mercy. But the latter, justly incensed, refused to enter into any negotiations with an outlawed fugitive. Alexander, driven to despair, and compelled to fly from place to place, was compelled at last to trust to the royal clemency. Travelling secretly to Edinburgh, he suddenly presented himself, upon a solemn festival, before the high altar of Holyrood, and holding his drawn sword by the point, he presented the hilt to the astonished king, in token of his unconditional submission, and falling on his knees, in presence of Queen Jane and the whole court, implored the royal mercy. The ill-fated James granted him his life, at the tender intercession of his royal consort, but sent him a prisoner to the sequestered castle of Tantallon, on its sea-beat rock, under the charge of his nephew, the Earl of Angus. The island chief eventually received a free pardon, was restored to all his honours, castles, and estates, and stood as sponsor for the twin princes, Alexander and James, at the font.
In 1437 the Parliament met at Edinburgh, on the 25th March, after the murder of James I., and adopted immediate measures for the government of the country. Their first act was the coronation of the young prince, in his sixth year, on whose head at Holyrood, as James II., the crown was solemnly placed by James Kennedy, Bishop of St. Andrews, in presence of a great concourse of the nobles, clergy, and representatives of towns, amid the usual testimonies of devotion and loyalty.
On March 27th, 1439, Patrick Abbot of Holyrood and his convent granted a charter to Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig, and his heirs, of the office of bailie over their lands of St. Leonard’s, in the town of Leith, “from the end of the great volut of William Logane, on the east part of the common gate that passes to the ford over the water of Leith, beside the waste land near the house of John of Turyng on the west part, and common Venale called St. Leonard’s Wynd, as it extended of old on the south part, and the water of the port of Leith on the north, and… in the ninth year of the pontificate of our most holy father and lord, Eugenius IV., by Divine Providence Pope.”
Chronologically, the next event connected with the abbey was the arrival of Mary of Gueldres in 1449. In company with John Railston, Bishop of Dunkeld, and Nicholas Otterburn, official of Lothian, the Lord Chancellor Crichton went to France to seek among the princesses of that friendly court a suitable bride for young James II.; but no match being suitable, by the advice of Charles VII. these ambassadors proceeded to Burgundy, and, with the cordial concurrence of Duke Philip the Good, made proposals to his kinswoman, Mary, the only daughter and heiress of Arnold, Duke of Gueldres, and in 1449 the engagement was formally concluded. Philip promised to pay £60,000 in gold as a dowry, while James, on the other hand, settled 10,000 crowns upon her, secured on land in Strathearn, Athole, Methven, and East Lothian, while relinquishing all claim to the Duchy of Gueldres, in the event of an heir male being born to Duke Arnold; and the Parliament met at Stirling, resolved that the royal nuptials should be conducted on a scale of splendour suited to the occasion.
The fleet containing the bride anchored in June in the Forth. She was “young, beautiful, and of a masculine constitution,” says Hawthornden, and came attended by a splendid train of knights and nobles from France and Burgundy, including the Archduke Sigismund of Austria, the Duke of Brittany, and the Lord of Campvere (the three brothers-in-law of the King of Scotland), together with the Dukes of Savoy and Burgundy. She landed at Leith amid a vast concourse of all classes of the people, and, escorted by a body-guard of 300 men-at-arms, all cap-à-pie, with the citizens also in their armour, under Patrick Cockburn of Newbigging, Provost of Edinburgh and Governor of the Castle, was escorted to the monastery of the Greyfriars, where she was warmly welcomed by her future husband, then in his twentieth year, and was visited by the queen-mother on the following day.
The week which intervened between her arrival and her marriage was spent in a series of magnificent entertainments, during which, from her great beauty and charms of manner, she won the devoted affection of the loyal nobles and people.
A contemporary chronicler has given a minute account of one of the many chivalrous tournaments that took place, in which three Burgundian nobles, two of them brothers named Lalain, and the third Hervé Meriadet, challenged any three Scottish knights to joust with lance, battle-axe, sword, and dagger, a defiance at once accepted by Sir James Douglas, James Douglas of Lochleven, and Sir John Ross of Halkhead, Constable of Renfrew. Lances were shivered and sword and axe resorted to with nearly equal fortune, till the king threw down his truncheon and ended the combat.
The royal marriage, which took place in the church at Holyrood amid universal joy, concluded these stirring scenes. At the bridal feast the first dish was in the form of a boar’s head, painted and stuck full of tufts of coarse flax, served up on an enormous platter, with thirty-two banners, bearing the arms of the king and principal nobles; and the flax was set aflame, amid the acclamations of the numerous assembly that filled the banquet-hall.
Ten years after Holyrood beheld a sorrowful scene, when, in 1460, James, who had been slain by the bursting of a cannon at the siege of Roxburgh on the 3rd August, in his thirtieth year, was laid in the royal vault, “with the teares of his people and his haill army,” says Balfour.
In 1467 there came from Rome, dated 22nd February, the bull of Pope Paul II., granting, on the petition of the provost, bailies, and community of the city, a commission to the Bishop of Galloway, “et dilecto filio Abbati Monasterii Sanctæ Crucis extra muros de Edynburgh,” to erect the Church of St. Giles into a collegiate institution.
Two years afterwards Holyrood was again the scene of nuptial festivities, when the Parliament met, and Margaret of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, escorted by the Earl of Arran and a gallant train of Scottish and Danish nobles, landed at Leith in July, 1469. She was in her sixteenth year, and had as her dowry the isles of Orkney and Shetland, over which her ancestors had hitherto claimed feudal superiority. James III., her husband, had barely completed his eighteenth year when they were married in the abbey church, where she was crowned queen-consort. “The marriage and coronation gave occasion to prolonged festivities in the metropolis and plentiful congratulations throughout the kingdom. Nor was the flattering welcome undeserved by the queen; in the bloom of youth and beauty, amiable and virtuous, educated in all the feminine accomplishments of the age, and so richly endowed, she brought as valuable an accession of lustre to the court as of territory to the kingdom.”
In 1477 there arrived “heir in grate pompe,” says Balfour, “Husman, the legate of Pope Xystus the Fourth,” to enforce the sentence of deprivation and imprisonment pronounced by His Holiness upon Patrick Graham, Archbishop of St. Andrews, an eminent and unfortunate dignitary of the Church of Scotland. He was the first who bore that rank, and on making a journey to Rome, returned as legate, and thus gained the displeasure of the king and of the clergy, who dreaded his power. He was shut up in the monastery of Inchcolm, and finally in the castle of Lochleven. Meanwhile, in the following year, William Schivez, a great courtier and favourite of the king, was solemnly consecrated in Holyrood Church by the papal legate, from whose hands he received a pall, the ensign of archiepiscopal dignity, and with great solemnity was proclaimed “Primate and Legate of the realm of Scotland.” His luckless rival died of a broken heart, and was buried in St. Serf’s Isle, where his remains were recently discovered, buried in a peculiar posture, with the knees drawn up and the hands down by the side.
In 1531, when Robert Cairncross was abbot, there occurred an event, known as “the miracle of John Scott,” which made some noise in its time. This man, a citizen of Edinburgh, having taken shelter from his creditors in the sanctuary of Holyrood, subsisted there, it is alleged, for forty days without food of any kind.
Impressed by this circumstance, of which some exaggerated account had perhaps been given to him, James V. ordered his apparel to be changed and strictly searched. He ordered also that he should be conveyed from Holyrood to a vaulted room in David’s Tower in the castle, where he was barred from access by all and closely guarded. Daily a small allowance of bread and water were placed before him, but he abstained from both for thirty-two days. He was then brought forth, nude, in presence of a multitude, who regarded him with fear and wonder, and to whom he affirmed “that by the aid of the Blessed Virgin, he could fast as long as he pleased.”
“As there appeared to be more simplicity than guile in his behaviour, he was released, and afterwards went to Rome, where he fasted long enough to convince Pope Gregory of the miracle. From Rome he went to Venice, where he received fifty ducats of gold to convey him to Jerusalem, in performance of a vow he had made. He returned to Scotland in the garb of a pilgrim, wearing palm-leaves, and bearing a bag filled with large stones, which he said were taken out of the pillar to which the Saviour was bound when he was scourged. He became a preacher, and in an obscure suburb of the city performed mass before an altar, on which his daughter, a girl of beauty, stood with wax tapers around her to represent the Virgin – a double impiety, which soon brought him under the ridicule and contempt he deserved.”
In 1532, the “Diurnal of Occurrents” records, there “was made ane great abjuration of the favouraris of Martene Lutar in the abbey of Holyrudhous;” but the days of its declension and destruction were at hand.
The English army which invaded Scotland under the Earl of Hertford, in 1543-4, barbarously burned down the temporal edifices of the abbey; and among other plunder there were carried off the brass lectern which has been already described, and a famous brass font of curious workmanship, by Sir Richard Lea, knight, captain of English Pioneers, who presented it to the Church of St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, with the following absurd inscription, which is given in Latin in Camden’s “Britannia”:-
“When Leith, a town of good account in Scotland, and Edinburgh, the principal city of that nation, were on fire, Sir Richard Lea, knyght, saved me out of the flames, and brought me to England. In gratitude for his kindness, I, who heretofore served only at the baptism of kings, do now most willingly render the same service even to the meanest of the English nation. Lea the conqueror hath so commanded! Adieu. The year of man’s salvation, 1543-4, in the thirty-sixth year of King Henry VIII.”
Father Hay records that among other things brought to the abbey by Abbot Bellenden were “the gret bellis and the gret brasin fownt.”
During the civil wars in the time of Charles I. this relic was converted into money by the Puritans, and in all probability was utterly destroyed.
After the battle of Pinkie, in 1547, the English troops returned to complete the destruction of the abbey, which in the interval had been completely repaired, and their proceedings are thus recorded by one of themselves, Patten, in his account of the expedition into Scotland:- “Thear stood to the westward, about a quarter of a mile from our campe, a monasterie; they call it Hollyroode Abbey. Sir Walter Bonham and Edward Chamberlayne got license to suppress it; whereupon these commissioners, making first theyr visitacion there, they found the moonkes all gone, but the church and mooch parts of the house well covered with leade. Soon after thei pluct of the leade and had down the bels, which wear but two, and, according to the statute, did somewhat hearby disgrace the hous. As touching the moonkes, becaus they wear gone, they put them to their pencions at large.”
These repeated destructions at the hands of a wanton enemy, rather than any outrages by the Reformers, were the chief cause that now we find nothing remaining of the church but the fragment of one tower and the shattered nave; though much of the choir and transepts were in existence for many years later, and might have been so still had proper exertions been made for their repair and preservation, particularly by the Bishop of Orkney, and ere it shrank to the proportions of a chapel. But even when the Reformation was in full progress the following entry appears in the accounts of the Lord High Treasurer, under date the 8th February, 1557-8:- £36 “to David Melville, indvveller in Leith, for ane pair of organs to the chapel in the palace of Holyroodhouse.”
The remains of George Earl of Huntly, who was slain at the battle of Corrichie, when he was in rebellion against the Crown, were brought by sea to Edinburgh in 1562, and kept all winter unburied in the Abbey of Holyrood – most probably in the church. Then an indictment for high treason was exhibited against him in the month of May following, “eftir that he was deid and departit frae this mortal lyfe,” and the corpse was laid before Parliament: in this instance showing the rancour of party and the absurdity of old feudal laws.
It was somewhere about this time that the new royal vault was constructed in the south aisle of the nave, and the remains of the kings and queens were removed from their ancient resting-place near the high altar. It is built against the ancient Norman doorway of the cloisters, which still remains externally, with its slender shafts and beautiful zigzag mouldings of the days of David I. “The cloisters,” says Wilson, “appear to have enclosed a large court, formed in the angle of the nave and transept. The remains of the north are clearly traceable still, and the site of the west side is occupied by palace buildings. Here was the ambulatory for the old monks, when the magnificent foundation of St. David retained its pristine splendour, and remained probably till the burning of the abbey after the death of James V.,” who was buried there beside his first queen in December 1542, and his second son, Arthur Duke of Albany, a child eight days old, who died at Stirling.
In the royal vault also lie the remains of David II.; Prince Arthur, third son of James IV., who died in the castle, July 15th, 1510, aged nine months; Henry, Lord Darnley, murdered 1567; and Jane, Countess of Argyle, who was at supper with her sister, the queen, on the night of Rizzio’s assassination. “Dying without issue, she was enclosed in one of the richest coffins ever seen in Scotland, the compartments and inscriptions being all of solid gold.” In the same vault were deposited the remains of the Duchess de Grammont, who died an exile at Holyrood in 1803; and, in the days of Queen Victoria, the remains of Mary of Gueldres, queen of James II.
Among the altars in the church were two dedicated to St. Andrew and St. Catharine, a third dedicated to St. Anne by the tailors of Edinburgh, and a fourth by the Cordiners to St. Crispin, whose statutes were placed upon it.
On the 18th of June, 1567, two days after the imprisonment of Queen Mary, the Earl of Glencairn and others, “with a savage malignity, laid waste this beautiful chapel,” broke in pieces its most valuable furniture, and laid its statues and other ornaments in ruins.
On the 18th of June, 1633, Charles I. was crowned with great pomp in the abbey church and amid the greatest demonstrations of loyalty, when the silver keys of the city were delivered to him by the Provost, after which they were never again presented to a monarch until the time of George IV.; but afterwards the religious services were performed at Holyrood with great splendour, according to the imposing ritual of the English Church – “an innovation which the Presbyterians beheld with indignation, as an insolent violation of the laws of the land.”
In 1687 the congregation of the Canongate were removed from the church by order of James VII., and the abbey church – now named a chapel – was richly decorated, and twelve stalls were placed therein for the Knights of the Thistle. An old view of the interior by Wyck and Mazell, taken prior to the fall of the roof, represents it entire, with all its groining and beautiful imperial crowns and coronets on the drooping pendants of the interlaced arches. They show the clerestory entire, and within the nave the stalls of the knights, six on each side. Each of these stalls had five steps, and on each side a Corinthian column supported an entablature of the same order, each surmounted by two great banners and three trophies, each composed of helmets and breastplates, making in all twenty-four banners and thirty-six trophies over the stalls. At the eastern end was the throne, surmounted by an imperial crown. On each side were two panels, having the crown, sword, and sceptre within a wreath of laurel, and below, other two panels, with the royal cypher, J.R., and the crown. Wyck and Mazell show the throne placed upon a lofty dais of seven steps, on six of which were a unicorn and lion, making six of the former on the right, and six of the latter on the left, all crowned. Behind this rose a Corinthian canopy, entablature, and garlands, all of carved oak, and over all the royal arms as borne in Scotland; the crest of Scotland, the lion sejant; on the right the ensign of St. Andrew; In defence on the left the ensign of St. George. Amid a star of spears, swords, and cannon were two ship’s masts, fully rigged, one on the right bearing the Scottish flag, another on the left bearing the English. “Above all these rose the beautiful eastern window, shedding a flood of light along the nave, eclipsing the fourteen windows of the clerestory. The floor was laid with ornamental tiles, some portions of which are yet preserved.”
In the royal yacht there came to Leith from London an altar, vestments, and images, to complete the restoration of the church to its ancient uses. As if to hasten on the destruction of his house, James VII., not content with securing to his Catholic subjects within the precincts of Holyrood that degree of religious toleration now enjoyed by every British subject, had mass celebrated there, and established a college of priests, whose rules were published on the 22nd of March, 1688, inviting people to send their children there, to be educated gratis, as Fountainhall records. He also appointed a Catholic printer, named Watson (who availed himself of the protection afforded by the sanctuary) to be “King’s printer in Holyrood;” and obtained a right from the Privy Council to print all the “prognostications at Edinburgh,” an interesting fact which accounts for the number of old books bearing Holyrood on their title-pages. Prior to all this, on St. Andrew’s Day, 30th November, the whole church was sprinkled with holy water, re-consecrated, and a sermon was preached in it by a priest named Widerington.
Tidings of the landing of William of Orange roused the Presbyterian mobs to take summary vengeance, and on being joined by the students of the University, they assailed the palace and chapel royal. The guard, 100 strong – “the brats of Belial” – under Captain Wallace, opened a fire upon them, killing twelve and wounding many more, but they were ultimately compelled to give way, and the chapel doors were burst open. The whole interior was instantly gutted and destroyed, and the magnificent throne, stalls, and organ, were ruthlessly torn down, conveyed to the Cross, and there consigned to the flames, amid the frantic shrieks and yells of thousands. Not content with all this, in a spirit of mad sacrilege, the mob, now grown lawless, burst into the royal vault, tore some of the leaden coffins asunder, and, according to Arnot, carried off the lids.
By the middle of the eighteenth century the roof, which had become ruinous, was restored with flag-stones in a manner too ponderous for the ancient arches, which gave way beneath the superincumbent weight on the 2nd of December, 1768; and again the people of Edinburgh became seized by a spirit of the foullest desecration, and from thenceforward, until a comparatively recent period, the ruined church remained open to all, and was appropriated to the vilest uses. Grose thus describes what he saw when the rubbish had been partly cleared away:- “When we lately visited it we saw in the middle of the chapel the columns which had been borne down by the weight of the roof. Upon looking into the vaults which were open, we found that what had escaped the fury of the mob at the Revolution became a prey to the mob who ransacked it after it fell. In A.D. 1776 we had seen the body of James V. and others in their leaden coffins; the coffins are now stolen. The head of Queen Margaret (Magdalene?), which was then entire, and even beautiful, and the skull of Darnley, were also stolen, and were last traced to the collection of a statuary in Edinburgh.”
In 1795 the great east window was blown out in a violent storm, but in 1816 was restored from its own remains, which lay scattered about on the ground. In the latter year the north-west tower, latterly used as a vestry, was still covered by an ogee leaden roof. Ultimately this also fell.
The west front of what remains, though the work perhaps of different periods, is in the most beautiful style of Early English, and the boldly-cut heads in its sculptured arcade and rich variety of ornament in the doorway are universally admired. The windows above it were additions made so lately as the time of Charles I., and the inscriptions which that unfortunate king had carved on the ornamental tablet between them is a striking illustration of the vanity of human hopes. One runs:-
“Basilicam hanc, Carolus Rex, Optimus instauravit, 1633.”
“HE SHALL ESTABLISH ANE HOUSE FOR MY NAME, AND I WILL ESTABLISH THE THRONE OF HIS KINGDOM FOR EVER.”
In the north-west tower is a marble monument to Robert, Viscount Belhaven, who was interred there in January, 1639. His nephews, Sir Archibald and Sir Robert Douglas, placed there that splendid memorial to perpetuate his virtues as a man and steadiness as a patriot. A row of tombs of Scottish nobility and others lie in the north aisle. The Roxburgh aisle adjoins the royal vault in the south aisle, and in front of it lies the tomb of the Countess of Errol, who died in 1808. Close by it is that of the Bishop of Orkney, already referred to. “A flattering inscription enumerates the bishop’s titles, and represents this worldly hypocrite and intriguing apostate as one of the greatest and best men of his time.”
In the churchyard, now all turned into flower-beds and garden ground, there long remained a few plain grave-stones, the inscriptions on some of which are preserved by Menteith in his “Theatre of Mortality,” and by Maitland in his “History.” One alone remains now, that of Mylne (the builder of the palace), which was removed from its old site (the north-east angle of the ancient choir) in 1857, and placed against the eastern wall of the church.
The extent of the ruin as it now remains is 127 feet in length by 39 feet in breadth, within the walls; and there still exist nominally six deans and seven chaplains of the Chapel Royal, all, of course, clergymen of the Church of Scotland.
The whole ruin has an air of intense gloom and damp desolation; the breeze waves the grass and rank weeds between the lettered grave-stones, the ivy rustles on the wall, and by night the owl hoots in the royal vault and the roofless tower where stands the altar-tomb of Belhaven.
For a considerable space around the church and palace of Holyrood – embracing a circuit of four miles and a quarter – the open ground has been, since the days of David I., a sanctuary, and is so now, from arrest on civil process. This spacious range “is of a very singular nature to be in the vicinity of a populous city, being little else than an assemblage of hills, rocks, precipices, morasses, and lakes.” It includes Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Craigs, and, of course, as a refuge, originated in the old ecclesiastical privilege of sanctuary, with the exemptions of those attached to a monarch’s court. When the law of debtor and creditor was more stringent than it is now, this peculiarity brought many far from respectable visitors to a cluster of houses round the palace – a cluster nearly entirely swept away about 1857 – as varied in their appearance as the chequered fortunes of their bankrupt inmates; and it is believed to have been in a great measure owing to some private claims, likely to press heavily upon him, that Charles X. in his second exile sought a residence in deserted Holyrood.
The House of Inchmurry, formerly called Kirkland, in the parish of St. Martin’s, was a country residence of the abbots of Holyrood.
One of the bells that hung in the remaining tower was placed in the Tron church steeple, another in St. Cuthbert’s chapel of ease, and the third in St. Paul’s, York Place, the congregation of which had it in their former church in the Canongate, which was built 1771-4. This last is small, and poor in sound.