Holyroodhouse Palace - History and Facts | History Hit

Holyroodhouse Palace

Scotland, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holyroodhouse Palace is the Scottish royal residence famed as having been home to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Lily Johnson

01 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Holyroodhouse Palace

Holyroodhouse Palace in Scotland has a fascinating history stretching back to the 12th century, and is now the official Scottish residence of the King. Its story has been intertwined with that of the monarchy for centuries, with Mary, Queen of Scots another famous resident of Holyroodhouse.

Holyroodhouse Palace history

Holyroodhouse Palace was founded as an Augustinian monastery by David I in 1128, and over the years became an important administrative centre due to its proximity to Edinburgh, with a number of medieval Scottish monarchs crowned, married, or buried there.

Between 1501 and 1504, James IV built a large Gothic palace adjacent to the monastery, likely in conjunction with his marriage to Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, in 1503. Following this, successive monarchs added to and renovated Holyroodhouse over the years, especially Charles II in the 17th century when it was largely rebuilt.

Perhaps the most famous chapter of Holyroodhouse Palace’s tale is linked to Mary, Queen of Scots however. Not only was the palace Mary’s main home between 1561 and 1567, it was where she married two of her husbands – Lord Darnley and the Earl of Bothwell. It was also at Holyroodhouse Palace that she witnessed the brutal murder of her private secretary David Rizzio, when a group of nobles led by Darnley burst into her apartments and stabbed him multiple times.

In the 20th century George V modernised Holyroodhouse, before in the 1920s it was formally designated as the royal family’s official residence in Scotland.

Holyroodhouse Palace today

Today, Holyroodhouse Palace is open to visitors to explore its eminent halls, with most of what remains dating from the 17th century. The State Apartments may be viewed that contain a host of stunning furniture, portraiture, and other artwork, including a collection of Renaissance frescos bought by Prince Albert and a number of French tapestries bought by Charles II.

Inside James V’s Tower dating to the 16th century may be found Mary, Queen of Scots’ apartments, including the oratory where David Rizzio was killed. Details throughout the apartment hark to their famous royal inhabitant, including a carved shields commemorating her marriage to Francis II of France and the monograms of her parents Mary of Guise and James V featured in the ceiling.

The ruined Holyrood Abbey may also be viewed, alongside the large gardens and grounds, featuring a host of picturesque fountains, statues, and greenery.

Getting to Holyroodhouse Palace

Holyroodhouse Palace is located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh just off the A1, with adjacent parking available at Broad Pavement. Edinburgh Waverley train station is a 15-minute walk away, while the nearest tram stop is York Place. Bus services 6 and 35 also stop nearby.

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