Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


Stuart monarchs-a new era began in its history, and it took a stahding as the chief burgh in Scotland, the relations of which with England, for generations after, partook rather of a vague prolonged armistice in time of war than a settled peace, and thus all rational progress was arrested or paralysed, and was never likely to be otherwise so long as the kings of England maintained the insane pretensions of Edward I., deduced from Brute the fabulous first king of Albion ! In 1383 Robert 11. was holding his court in the Castle when he received there the ambassador of Charles VI., on the 20th August, renewing the ancient league with France. In the following year a truce ended; the Earls of March and Douglas began the war with spirit, and cut off a rich convoy on its way to Roxburgh. This brought the Duke of Lancaster and the Earl of Buckingham before Edinburgh. Their army was almost innumerable (according to Abercrombie, following Walsingham), but the former spared the city in remembrance of his hospitable treatment by the people when he was among them, an exile from the English court-a kindness for which the Scots cared so little that they followed up his retreat so sharply, that he laid the town and its great church in ashes when he returned in the following year. In 1390 Robert 111. ascended the throne, and ir. that year we find the ambassadors of Charles VI. again witnessing in the Castle the royal seal and signature attached to the treaty for mutual aid and defence against England in all time coming. This brought Henry IV., as we have said, before the Castle in 1400, with a well-appointed and numerous army, in August. From the fortress the young and gallant David Duke of Rothesay sent a herald with a challenge to meet him in mortal combat, where and when he chose, with a hundred men of good blood on each side, and determine the war in that way. " But King Henry was in no humour to forego the advantage he already possessed, at the head of a more numerous army than Scotland could then raise ; and so, contenting himself with a verbal equivocation in reply to this knightly challenge, he sat down with his numerous host before the Castle till (with the usual consequences of the Scottish reception of such'invaders) cold and rain, and - twenty feet in length, with three or four large saws, I for the common use, and six or more " cliekes of castles, resorted to the simple expedient of driving off all the cattle and sheep, provisions and goods, even to the thatch of their houses, and leaving nothing but bare walls for the enemy to wreak their vengeance on; but they never put up their swords till, by a terrible retaliating invasion into the more fertile parts of England, they fully made up for their losses. And this wretched state of affairs, for nearly 500 years, lies at the door of the Plantagenet and Tudor kings. The aged King Robert 111. and his queen, the once beautiful Annabella Drummond, resided in the Castle and in the abbey of Holyrood alternately. We are told that on one occasion, when the Duke of Albany, with several of the courtiers, were conversing one night on the ramparts of the former, a singular light was seen afar off at the horizon, and across the s t a q sky there flashea a bright meteor, carrying behind it a long train of sparks. '' Mark ye, sirs ! " said Albany, " yonder prodigy portends either the ruin of a nation or the downfall of some great prince ;a and an old chronicler omits not to record that the Duke of Rothesay (who, had he ascended the throne, would have been David III.), perished soon after of famine, in the hands of Ramornie, at Falkland. Edinburgh was prosperous enough to be able to contribute 50,000 merks towards the ransom of James I., the gifted author of " The King's Quhair " (or Book), who had been lawlessly captured at sea in his boyhood by the English, and was left in their hands for nineteen years a captive by his designing uncle the Regent Albany ; and though his plans for the pacification of the Highlands kept him much in Perth, yet, in 1430, he was in Edinburgh with Queen Jane and the Court, when he received the surrender of Alexander Earl of ROSS, who had been in rebellion but was defeated by the royal troops in Lochaber. As yet no Scottish noble had built a mansion in Edinburgh, where a great number of the houses were actually constructed of wood from the adjacent forest, thatched with straw, and few were more than two storeys in height ; but in the third Parliament of James I., held at Perth in 1425, to avert the conflagrations to which the Edinbiirghers were so liable, laws were ordained requiring the magistrates to have in readiness seven or eight ladders of his progress or retreat."* When unable to resist, the people of the entire town and country, who were not secured in * Wilson's ''Memorials." . fired ;' and that no fire was to be conveyed from one house to another within the town, unless in a covered vessel or lantern. Another law forbade' people on visits to live with their friends, but to
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