Chapter 11 – Holyrood Palace (concluded)., 74-80.

[Old & New Edinburgh Contents]

The King’s Birthday in 1665 – James Duke of Albany – The Duchess of York and General Dalzell – Funeral of the Duke of Rothes – A Gladiatorial Exhibition – Departure of the Scottish Household Troops – The Hunters’ Company’s Balls – First and Second Visits of the Royal Family of France – Recent Improvements – St. Anne’s Yard removed – The Ornamental Fountain built. 

   IN the Intelligence for the 1st of June, 1665, we have a description of the exuberant loyalty that followed the downfall of the Commonwealth. “Edinburgh, May 29, being His Majesty’s birthday, was most solemnly kept by all ranks in this city. My Lord Commissioner, in his state, with his life-guard on horseback, and Sir Andrew Ramsay, Lord Provost, Bailies, and Council in their robes, accompanied by all the Trained Bands in arms, went to church and heard the Bishop of Edinburgh upon a text well applied for the work of the day. Thereafter thirty-five aged men in blew gowns, each having got thirty-five shillings in a purse, came up from the abbey to the great church, praying all along for His Majesty. Sermon being ended, His Grace entertained all the nobles and gentlemen with a magnificent feast and open table. After dinner the Lord Provost and Council went to the Cross, where was a green arbour loaded with oranges and lemons, wine running liberally for divers hours at eight conduits, to the great solace of the indigent commons there. Having drunk all the royal healths, which were seconded by great guns from the castle, sound of trumpets and drums, volleys from the Trained Bands, and joyful acclamations from the people, they plentifully entertained the multitude. After which, my Lord Commissioner, Provost, and Bailies went to the castle, where they were entertained with all sorts of wine and sweatmeats; and returning, the Provost countenancing all neighbours that had put up bonfires by appearing at their fires, which jovialness continued, with ringing of bells and shooting of great guns, till 12 o’clock at night.” 

   In October, 1679, the Duke of Albany and York, with his family, including the future queens, Mary and Anne, took up his residence at Holyrood, where the gaiety and brilliance of his court gave great satisfaction. The princesses were easy and affable, and the duke left little undone to win the love of the people, but the time was an unpropitious one, for they were at issue with him on matters of faith; yet it is clearly admitted by Fountainhall that his birthday was observed more cordially than that of the king. The duke golfed frequently at Leith. “I remember in my youth,” wrote Mr. William Tytler, “to have conversed with an old man named Andrew Dickson, a golf-club maker, who said that when a boy he used to carry the duke’s golf-clubs, and run before him to announce where the balls fell.” 

   The sixteen companies of the Trained Bands attended the duke’s arrival in the city, and sixty selected men from each company were ordered “to attend their royal highnesses, apparelled in the best manner,” and the latter were banqueted in the Parliament House, at the cost of £1,231 13s. sterling. The brilliance of the little court was long remembered after the royal race were in hopeless exile. One of the most celebrated beauties of its circle was the wife of Preston of Denbrae, who survived till the middle of the last  [18th] century. In the Cupar burial register this entry occurs concerning her:- “Buried 21st December, 1757, Lady Denbrae, aged 107 years.” 

   The duke and duchess are said to have been early warned of the haughty punctilio of the Scottish noblesse by a speech of General Dalzell of Binns, whom the former had invited to dine at the palace, when Mary d’Este, as a daughter of the ducal-prince of Modena, declined to take her place at table with a subject. “Madam,” said the grim veteran, “I have dined at a table, where your father must have stood at my back!” In this instance it is supposed that he alluded to the table of the Emperor of Germany, whom the Duke of Modena, if summoned, must have attended as an officer of the household. 

   The same commander having ordered a guardsman who had been found asleep on his post at the palace to be shot, he was forgiven by order of the duke. 

   In August, 1681, one of the grandest funerals ever seen in Scotland left Holyrood – that of the High Chancellor, the Duke of Rothes, who died there on the 26th July. The account of the procession fills six quarto pages of Arnot’s “History,” and enumerates among the troops present the Scots Foot Guards, a train of Artillery, the Scots Fusiliers, and Horse Guards of the Scottish army. 

   In April, 1705, John, the great Duke of Argyle, took up his residence at the palace as Commissioner to the Parliament, on which occasion he was received by a double salvo from the castle batteries, by the great guns in the Artillery Park, “and from all the men-of-war, both Dutch and Scottish, then lying in the road of Leith.” 

   In 1711 the Scottish Household troops, viz., the Life and Horse Guards, Horse Grenadier Guards, and the two battalions of the Foot Guards, ceased to do duty at Holyrood, being all removed permanently to London, though a detachment of the last named corps garrisoned the Bass Rock till the middle of the last century. 

   A strange gladiatorial exhibition is recorded as taking place on a stage at the back of the palace on the 23rd of June, 1726, when one of those public combats then so popular at the Bear Garden in London, ensued between a powerful young Irishman named Andrew Bryan (who had sent a drum through the city defying all men) and a veteran of Killiecrankie, named Donald Bane, then in his sixty-second year. 

   They fought with various weapons, in presence of many noblemen, gentlemen, and military officers, for several hours, and Bryan was totally vanquished, after receiving some severe wounds from his unscathed antagonist. 

   The annual ball of the Honourable Company of Hunters at Holyrood, begins to be regularly chronicled in the Edinburgh papers about this period, and in 1736 one of unusual brilliance was given in January, the Hon. Charles Hope (afterwards Muster Master-General for Scotland) being king, and the Hon. Lady Helen Hope queen. In the Gallery of the Kings a table was covered with 300 dishes en ambigu, at which sat 150 ladies at a time… illuminated with 400 wax candles. “The plan laid out by the council of the Company was exactly followed with the greatest order and decency, and concluded without the least air of disturbance.” 

   Yet brawls were apt to occur then and for long after, as swords were worn in Edinburgh till a later period than in England; and an advertisement in the Courant for June, 1761, refers to a silver-mounted sword having been taken in mistake at an election of peers in that year at Holyrood. 

   The ancient palace had once more royal inmates when, on the 6th of June, 1796, there landed at Leith, under a salute from the fort, H.R.H. the Comte d’Artois, Charles Philippe, the brother of Louis XVI., in exile, seeking a home under the roof of the royal race that had so often intermarried with his family, and which in their dark days had found refuge at St. Germains. He entered Holyrood under a salute from the castle, while the approaches were lined by the Hopetoun Fencibles and Windsor Foresters. He held a levee next day at the palace, where he was soon after joined by his son, the Duc d’Angoulême. The royal family remained several years at Holyrood, when they endeared themselves to all in Edinburgh, where their presence was deemed but a natural link of the old alliance that used to exist between Scotland and France. 

   The count, with his sons the Duc d’Angoulême and the Duc de Berri, was a constant attender at the drills of the Edinburgh Volunteers, in the meadows or elsewhere, though he never got over a horror of the uniform they wore then – blue, faced with red – which reminded him too sadly of the ferocious National Guard of France. He always attended in his old French uniform, with the order of St. Ampoule on his left breast, just as we may see him in Kay’s Portraits. He was present at St. Anne’s Yard when, in 1797, the Shropshire Militia, under Lord Clive – the first English regiment of militia that ever entered Scotland – was reviewed by Lord Adam Gordon, the commander-in-chief. 

   The Edinburgh Herald of April, 1797, mentions the departure from Holyrood of the Duc d’Angoulême for Hamburg, to join the army of the Prince of Condé, and remarks, “We wish His Highness a prosperous voyage, and we may add (the valediction of his ancestor, Louis XIV., to the unfortunate James VII.), may we never see his face again on the same errand!” 

   The Comte d’Artois visited Sweden in 1804, but was in Britain again in 1806. His levees and balls “tended in some degree to excite in the minds of the inhabitants a faint idea of the days of other years, when the presence of its monarchs communicated splendour and animation to this ancient metropolis, inspiring it with a proud consciousness of the remote antiquity and hereditary independence of the Scottish throne.” 

   His farewell address to the magistrates and people, dated from the palace 5th August, 1799, is preserved among the records of the city. 

   Among those who pressed forward to meet him was a Newhaven fishwife, who seized his hand as he was about to enter his carriage, and shook it heartily, exclaiming, “My name’s Kirsty Ramsay, sir. I am happy to see you again among decent folk!” 

   When the events of the Three Days compelled Charles X. to abdicate the throne of France, he waived his rights in favour of his nephew, the young Duc de Bordeaux, and quitting his throne, contemplated at once returning to Holyrood, where he had experienced some years of comparative happiness, and still remembered with gratitude the kindness of the citizens. This he evinced by his peculiar favour to all Scotsmen, and his munificence to the sufferers by the great fire in the Parliament Square. He and his suite – consisting of 100 exiles, including the Duc de Bordeaux, Duc de Polignac, Duchesse de Berri, Baron de Damas, Marquis de Brabançois, and the Abbé de Moligny – landed at Newhaven on the 20th October, 1830, amid an enthusiastic crowd, which pressed forward on all sides with outstretched hands, welcoming him back to Scotland, and escorted him to Holyrood. Next morning many gentlemen dined in Johnston’s tavern at the abbey in honour of the event, sang “Auld lang syne” under his windows, and gave three ringing cheers “for the King of France.” 

   The Duc and Duchesse d’Angoulême, after residing during the winter at 21, Regent Terrace, joined the king at Holyrood when their apartments were ready. To the poor of the Canongate and the city generally, the exiled family were royally liberal, and also to the poor Irish, and their whole bearing was unobtrusive, religious, and exemplary. Charles was always thoughtful and melancholy. “He walked frequently in Queen Mary’s garden, being probably pleased by its seclusion and proximity to the palace. Here, book in hand, he used to pass whole hours in retirement, sometimes engaged in the perusal of the volume, and anon stopping short, apparently absorbed in deep reflection. Charles sometimes indulged in a walk through the city, but the crowds that usually followed him, anxious to gratify their curiosity, in some measure detracted from the pleasure of these perambulations… Arthur’s Seat and the King’s Park afforded many a solitary walk to the exiled party, and they seemed much delighted with their residence. It was evident from the first that Charles, when he sought the shores of Scotland, intended to make Holyrood his home; and it may be imagined how keenly he felt, when, after a residence of nearly two years, he was under the necessity of removing to another country. Full of the recollection of former days, which time had not effaced from his memory, he said he had anticipated spending the remainder of his life in the Scottish capital, and laying his bones among the dust of our ancient kings in the chapel of Holyrood.” (Kay, vol. ii.) 

   In consequence of a remonstrance from Louis Philippe, a polite but imperative order compelled the royal family to prepare to quit Holyrood, and the most repulsive reception given to the Duc de Blacas in London, was deemed the forerunner of harsher measures if Charles hesitated to comply; but when it became known that he was to depart, a profound sensation of regret was manifested in Edinburgh. The 18th September, 1832, was named as the day of embarkation. Early on that morning a deputation, consisting of the Lord Provost Learmonth of Dean, Colonel G. Macdonell, Menzies of Pitfoddels (the last of an ancient line), Sir Charles Gordon of Drimnin, James Browne, LL.D., Advocate, the historian of the Highlands, and other gentlemen, bearers of an address drawn up by, and to be read by the last-named, appeared before the king at Holyrood. One part of this address contained an allusion to the little Duc de Bordeaux so touching that the poor king was overwhelmed with emotion, and clasped the document to his heart. “I am unable to express myself,” he exclaimed, “but this I will conserve among the most precious possessions of my family.” 

   After service in the private chapel, many gentlemen and ladies appeared before Charles, the Duc d’Angoulême, and Duc de Bordeaux, when they bade them farewell in the Gallery of the Kings, while a vast concourse assembled outside, all wearing the white cockade. Another multitude was collected at Newhaven, where the Fishermen’s Society formed a kind of body-guard to cover the embarkation. 

   “A few gentlemen,” says the editor of “Kay’s Portraits,” “among whom were Colonel Macdonel, the Rev. Mr. (afterwards Bishop) Gillis, John Robinson, Esq., and Dr. Browne, accompanied His Majesty on board the steamer, which they did not leave till she was under weigh. The distress of the king, and particularly of the dauphin, at being obliged to quit a country to which they were so warmly attached was in the highest degree affecting. The Duc de Bordeaux wept bitterly, and the Duc d’Angoulême, embracing Mr. Gillis à la Française, gave unrestrained scope to his emotion. The act of parting with one so beloved, whom he had known and distinguished in the salons of the Tuileries and St. Cloud, long before his family had sought an asylum in the tenantless halls of Holyrood, quite overcame his fortitude, and excited feelings too powerful to be repressed. When this ill-fated family bade adieu to our shores they carried with them the grateful benedictions of the poor, and the respect of all men of all parties who honour misfortune when ennobled by virtue.” 

   In Edinburgh it is well known that had H.R.H. the late Prince Consort – whose love of the picturesque and historic led him to appreciate its natural beauties – survived a few years longer, many improvements would have taken place at Holyrood; and to him it is said those are owing which have already been effected. 

   Southward of the palace, the unsightly old tenements and enclosed gardens at St. Anne’s Yard were swept away, including a quaint-looking dairy belonging to the Duke of Hamilton, and by 1857-8-9 the royal garden was extended south some 500 feet from the wall of the south wing, and a new approach was made from the Abbey Hill, a handsome new guard-house was built, and the carved door of the old garden replaced in the wall between it and the fragment of the old abbey porch; and it was during the residence of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales at Holyrood that the beautiful fountain in the Palace Yard was completed, on the model of the ancient one that stands in ruin now, in the quadrangle of Linlithgow, and which is referred to by Defoe in his “Tour in Great Britain.” 

   The fountain rises from a basin twenty-four feet in diameter to the height of twenty-eight feet, divided into three stages, and by flying buttresses has the effect of a triple crown. From the upper of these the water flows through twenty ornate gurgoils into three successive basins. The basement is of a massive character, divided by buttresses into eight spaces, each containing a lion’s head gurgoil. This is surmounted by eight panels having rich cusping, and between these rise pedestals and pinnacles. The former support heraldic figures with shields. These consist of the unicorn bearing the Scottish shield, a lion bearing a shield charged with the arms of James IV. and his queen, Margaret of England; a deer supports two shields, with the arms of the queens of James V., Magdalene of France, and Mary of Guise; and the griffin holds the shields of James IV. and his queen, Margaret of Denmark. The pinnacles are highly floriated, and enriched with flowers and medallions. 

   It is in every way a marvellous piece of stone carving. The flying buttresses connecting the stages are deeply cusped. On the second stage are eight figures typical of the sixteenth century, representing soldiers, courtiers, musicians, and a lady-falconer, each two feet six inches in height. On the upper stage are four archers of the Scottish Guard, supporting the imperial crown. It occupies the site whereon for some years stood a statue of Queen Victoria, which has now disappeared. 

   Still, as of old, since the union of the crowns, for a fortnight in each year the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland holds semi-royal state in Holyrood, gives banquets in its halls, and holds his levées in the Gallery of the Kings. 

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