Official British Royal Residences: The Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh, Scotland
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.
Holyrood Abbey was founded by David I, King of Scots, in 1128, and the abbey’s position close to Edinburgh Castle meant that it was often visited by Scotland’s monarchs, who were lodged in the guest house situated to the west of the abbey cloister. James IV constructed a new palace adjacent to the abbey in the early 16th century, and James V made additions to the palace, including the present north-west tower. Holyrood Palace was re-constructed in its present form between 1671 and 1679 to the Baroque design of the architect Sir William Bruce, forming four wings around a central courtyard, with a west front linking the 16th-century north-west tower with a matching south-west tower. The Queen’s Gallery was formed within the shell of the former Holyrood Free Church and Duchess of Gordon’s School built in the 1840s adjacent to the palace and opened to the public in 2002 to exhibit works of art from the Royal Collection.
Queen Elizabeth spends one week in residence at Holyrood Palace at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.
The ruined Augustinian abbey that is sited in the grounds was founded in 1128 at the order of King David I of Scotland. The name derives either from a legendary vision of the cross witnessed by David I, or from a relic of the True Cross known as the Holy Rood or Black Rood, and which had belonged to Queen Margaret, David’s mother. As a royal foundation, and sited close to Edinburgh Castle, it became an important administrative centre. A Papal legate was received here in 1177, while in 1189 a council of nobles met to discuss a ransom for the captive king, William the Lion. Robert the Bruceheld a parliament at the abbey in 1326, and by 1329 it may already have been in use as a royal residence. In 1370, David II became the first of several Kings of Scots to be buried at Holyrood. Not only was James II born at Holyrood in 1430, it was at Holyrood that he was crowned, married and laid to rest. James III and Margaret of Denmark were married at Holyrood in 1469. The early royal residence was in the abbey guesthouse, which most likely stood on the site of the present north range of the palace, west of the abbey cloister, and by the later 15th century already had dedicated royal apartments.