Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

~ History ~

1128 ~ King David I establishes the abbey of Holyrood on forested land below the slopes of the ancient Arthur's seat.

1195 ~ A much larger abbey is built.

1250 ~ The final building work on the abbey is completed.

1430 ~ King James II is born in Holyrood and later, aged just 7 is crowned King in Holyrood.

1460 ~ Upon the death of King James he is laid to rest at Holyrood.

1469 ~ King James III marries Margaret of Denmark at Holyrood.

1503 ~ King James IV orders the royal lodgings at the abbey to be converted into a Royal palace suitable for his new bride, Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England.

1528 ~ Furthet contruction work on the palace is commissioned by King James V.

1537 ~ King James bride to be Madeleine of Valois, daughter of Francis I, King of France, dies at the palace just forty days after arriving in Scotland.

1538 ~ Links between Scotland and France are preserved with King James second marriage to Mary of Guise, who is crowned in the abbey church.

1540 ~ The abbey suffers badly from English raids into Scotland, much of the building is destroyed. The raids are ordered by King Henry VIII of England to force the Scots to accept his son Prince Edward and future King Edward VI, marriage to the new born Mary, Queen of Scots.

1548 ~ Mary is sent away to France to be bought up in the safety of the French court, leaving Scotland in the care of her mother, Mary of Guise.

1558 ~ Mary marries the the heir to the French throne.

1559 ~ Mary's husband succeeds to the French throne upon the death of King Henry II of France. Unfortunately he too dies within a year.

1561 ~ Mary returns to Scotland and chooses to live at Holyrood.

1565 ~ Mary marries her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, in the palace chapel.

1566 ~ Mary's Italian secretary David Rizzio, is murdered by Darnley in the Queens private apartments, leaving Mary to flee the palace. A few months later she gives birth to her son James at Edinburgh castle.

1567 ~ Darnley is murdered in mysterious circumstances. Mary later marries her third husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, in the Palace of Holyrood. The marriage is widely condemned and after military confrontations with teh Scottish nobility on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Mary is imprisoned and forced to abdicate.

1568 ~ Mary manages to escape her captivity in Loch Leven castle, fleeing across the border into England to her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.

1569 ~ Mary is imprisoned at Tutbury castle by her cousin, fearful she may become a focal point for rebellious Catholics.

1587 ~ Following numerous plots and rumours over Mary's threat to the English throne, Queen Elizabeth finally signs the death warrant. However, without her knowledge, her councillors resolve to carry out the sentence immediately and a week later, Mary is executed, her head severed in three blows.

Elizabeth is furious when she is told that the sentence had already been carried out, and William Davison, to whom she had entrusted the death warrant, is sent to the Tower. The council plead for clemency, claiming they had wanted to spare Elizabeth the pain of having to order Mary’s death. Elizabeth claimed her advisors had betrayed her wishes.

1579 ~ Mary's son, James VI, takes up residence in Holyrood palace. Extensive repairs are made.

1590 ~ King James VI marries Anne of Denmark in the abbey.

1603 ~ Upon King James VI succeedingto the throne of England as King James I, his court moves to London, leaving the importance of Holyrood to fade.

1633 ~ The nave of the abbey is restored in preparation for the Scottish coronation of King Charles I.

1650 ~ Following the execution of King Charles the previous year, Oliver Cromwell travels north to Scotland to impose Parliament's authority on Scotland. After Cromwell's victory ovet the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar, the palace is occupied as a barracks by some of his troops and is later extensively damaged by fire.

1660 ~ Upon the restortation of the monarchy under King Charles II, Holyrood once again becomes a royal palace.

1671 ~ Major rebuilding work on the palace is undertaken, with the King taking a personal interest in the work undertaken.

1679 ~ Despite King Charles II and his queen never having stayed at Holyrood palace, his brother James, Duke of York and his wife, Mary of Modena, take up residence.

1685 ~ Following James succeeding to the throne as King James VII he has the palace and abbey adapted for Catholic worhship.

1688 ~ King James Dutch Protestent son-in-law, William of Orange, lands in Devon to claim the throne on behalf of his wife Mary, James's eldest daughter. King James is forced to flee to France. Upon hearing the news of William's arrival in London, an angry mob in Edinburgh ransack the abbey to destroy all traces of Catholicism.

1707 ~ Following the Act of Union which unites the Kingdom of England and Scotland as one, the Scottish Parliament is disolved, again leaving the importance of Holyrood to deminish.

1745 ~ Prince Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, arrives sets up court at Holyrood and rally point for Jacobite's to reclaim the throne for the Stuart's. With support of the Highland clans he seizes Edinburgh and following victories over the English redcoats is crowned King James VIII of Scotland.

1746 ~ Following a series of victories against Hanoverian forces, Bonnie Prince Charles leads his Jacobite forces across England take the throne. Whilst away troops loyal to the Hanoverian King George II, ransack the palace. Following the Jacobite march back to Scotland they are victorious at the Battle of Falkirk. More Government troops are sent to occupy Holyrood under the command of the Duke of Cumberland, King George's son. He stays in the same room as Bonnie Prince Charles had earlier in the year. The two forces finally meet at the Battle of Culloden where the Scottish forces are defeated with many Highland clan chiefs massacred, resulting in Bonnie Prince Charlie fleeing into the Highlands and eventually back to France.

1758 ~ Stone slabs are added to strengthen the roof, but the increased weight only hastens its collapse ten years later, leaving the abbey in ruins.

1796 ~ Following the French Revolution of 1789, Artois, the exiled younger brother of Louis XVI of France, arrives at Holyrood seeking refuge and sanctuary from his enemies and large debts incurred whilst in exile.

1822 ~ King George V visits Holyrood palace.

1824 ~ Artois succeeds to the French throne as Charles X.

1830 ~ Following the second Revolution, Artois is forced to abdicate and once again forced into exile, returning to Holyrood with his family until his death two years later.


Old Edinburgh


Abbey Strand



The Palace of Holyrood stands in a spectacular setting at the end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh old town, set against the dramatic backdrop of Arthur's Seat, the highest volcanic peak some 350 million years old.

The origins of the Palace lie in the foundation of Holyrood Abbey by King David I. The history of Holyrood is extensive and fascinating, so well worth a read in advance so as you can fully appreciate the footsteps around the palace, abbey and grounds others have trod before you.

The grounds & gardens of the Palace and Abbey make for a lovely walk after exploring both ancient buildings.

Access to the Palace is by foot and we would recommend travelling by train than car if possible, as parking is very much limited and restricted in Edinburgh old town.

As you would expect with any tourist attraction in Edinburgh, it can get very busy with tourists.