Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace
A 19th century view of Holyrood Palace from Calton Hill


Legend has it that King David I, son of Malcolm Canmore and St Margaret, was hunting one day in 1128. His horse was startled by a stag which appeared from nowhere, and King David found himself hurled to the ground and in mortal danger of being gored by the stags antlers. In desperation he grasped hold of them whereupon they miraculously changed into a Crucifix. This story has echoes in the similar story of St Hubert in France. That night King David pledged to build an Abbey for Canons devoted to the Cross.

Holyrood means "Holy Cross"


By the early 1300's there was already a Royal Residence built adjacent to the Abbey Church. Now, the oldest part, on the left as you look at the entrance and front courtyard, was built in 1528-32 by John Ayton, master mason to James V. Later, in the 17th C, the present much extended form was created during rebuilding for Charles II.


Today the Palace is often used as a Royal Residence, and this means that it is sometimes closed to the public at irregular times. But if you do get a chance it is well worth visiting. The interior is fascinating, both the older Historical Apartments (where Mary Queen of Scots often stayed, and where her private secretary and confidant Rizzio was stabbed to death on instructions from her husband, Lord Darnley), and the State Apartments which are notable for their paintings, decoration, chimneypieces and plasterwork dating from between the 1600's and 1900's.

William Douglas, previously Prior at Coldingham, was Abbot here in 1526 - 1528.


David Douglas was Abbot in 1530 and 1531.


George Douglas, Bishop of Moray, was buried in the church of Holyrood Abbey.


The children of James Douglas-Hamilton, 6th Duke of Hamilton were born in Holyrood.  The Dukes of Hamilton are Hereditary Keepers of Holyrood Palace.


Archibald Douglas, Duke of Douglas, had apartments at Holyrood, where he stayed when Douglas Castle burnt down in 1758.



This page was last updated on 11 August 2021

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