In The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough, the search for the Bough ends at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh. I like to use real-life locations as much as possible in my stories and weave my tales to fit some of the information that already exists about them. Here’s some of my research on Holyrood House – a beautiful palace with an interesting history.
Restored by order of Charles II, Holyrood Palace has been the residence of the Scotland monarchy since the 1700s. It now bears the title of the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. It is located at the end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and some sections of the castle are available for public viewings when no members of the royal family are on the compound. These 14 rooms include the State Apartments and parts of Queen Mary’s chambers.
In 1128, the site was first used by the monarchy when King David I was hunting in the area and miraculously avoided being killed by a stag. As a result he ordered the construction of The Monastery of the Holy Rood, which quickly grew in size and popularity to become an abbey. Unfortunately, this abbey is now in ruins, but before its devastation had become the place where many of the members of the royal family were both crowned and married.
In 1498, James IV ordered a guesthouse near the abbey to be enlarged and this became The Palace of Holyrood House. Within a century of its construction the castle was extensively damaged, however, during several attacks. When Charles II ordered its restoration in the 1670s, Sir William Bruce was hired to design and supervise these proceedings. Even though King Charles II never actually visited the palace, The Earl of Lauderdale, as the Secretary of State for Scotland, immediately settled on the premises. In addition, many other nobles began occupying a grace and favour apartment in the building.
Mary, Queen of Scots, was the most well-known member of the Scottish monarchy to live at Holyrood House Palace, and her bedroom and Audience Chamber are now the most popular areas for tourist viewing.
No palace would be complete without its resident spectre, and Holyrood House is no different. Agnes Sampson, often called Bald Agnes, was stripped and tortured in 1592 after being accused of witchcraft. It is believed that her naked ghost walks the corridors of the palace to this day.
One week at the beginning of every summer, Queen Elizabeth visits Holyrood House and hosts several official ceremonies, beginning with the presentation of the Key to the City. Whenever she is in residence either the Royal Standard of Scotland or the Scottish variant of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is displayed. Prince Charles also visits for another week in order to carry out other official royal duties.
In April 2016 a two-year project worth £10 million was launched in order to restore many areas surrounding the palace, including the grounds and Holyrood Abbey. By 2018, it is hoped that much of the grounds original grandeur will be restored, and this will make it an even more popular site-seeing destination.