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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


tunate creature were chained in '{the good old may be imagined. times " romancists write so glibly of. The origin of all these vaults is lost in antiquity. There prisoners have made many desperate, but in the end always futile, attempts to escape-particularly in 1761 and in 1811. On the former occasion one was dashed to pieces ; on the latter, a captain and forty-nine men got out of the fortress in the night, by cutting a hole in the bottom of the parapet, below the place commonly called the Devil's Elbow, and letting themselves down by a Tope, and more would have got out had not the nearest sentinel fired his musket. One fell and was killed zoo feet below. The rest were all re-captured on the Glasgow Road. In the Grand Parade an octagon tower of considerable height gives access to the strongly vaulted crown room, in whicb the Scottish regalia are shown, and wherein they were so long hidden from the nation, that they were generally believed to have been secretly removed to England and destroyed; and the mysterious room, which was never opened, became a source of wonder to the soldiers, and of superstition to many a Highland sentinel when pacingon his lonely post at night. On the 5th of November, 1794, in prosecuting a search for some lost Parliamentary records, the crown-room was opened by the Lieutenant- Governor and other commissioners. It was dark, being then w.indowless, and filled with foul air. In the grated chimney lay the ashes of the last fire and a cannon ball, which still lies where it had fallen in some past siege ; the dust of eighty-seven years lay on the paved floor, and the place looked grim and desolate. Major Drummond repeatedly shook the oak chest; it returned no sound, was supposed to be empty, and stronger in the hearts of the Scots waxed the belief that the Government, " It was with feelings of no common anxiety that the commissioners, having read their warrant, proceeded to the crown-room, and, having found a11 there in the state in which it had been left in 1794, commanded the king's smith, who was in attendance, to force open the great chest, the keys of which had been sought for in vain. The general impression that the regalia had been secretly removed weighed heavily on the hearts of all while the labour proceeded. The chest seemed to return a hollow and empty sound to the strokes of the hammer; and even those whose expectations had been most sanguine felt at the moment the probability of bitter disappointment, and could not but be sensible that, should the result of the search cmfirnl those forebodings, it would only serve to show that a national affront-an injury had been sustained, for which it might be ditficult, or rather impossible, to obtain redress. The joy was therefore extreme when, the ponderous lid of the chest having been forced open, at the expense of some time and labour, the regalia were discovered lying at the bottom covered with linen cloths, exactly as they had been left in 1707, being I 10 years before, since they had been surrendered by William the ninth Earl Marischal to the custody of the Earl of Glasgow, Treasurer-Deputy of Scotland. The reliques were passed from hand to hand, and greeted with the affectionate reverence which emblems so venerable, restored to public view after the slumber of more than a hundred years, were so peculiarly calculated to excite. The discovery was instantly communicated to the public by the display of the royal standard, and was greeted hy the shouts of the soldiers in garrison, and a vast multitude assembled on the Castle hill ; indeed the rejoicing was so general and sincere as plainly to show that, however altered in other in wicked policy, had destroyed its contents j but ' respects, the people of Scotland had lost norhing of murmurs arose from time to time, as the years went that national enthusiasm which formerly had dison, and a crown, called that of Scotland, was ac- played itself in grief for the loss of those emblematic honours, and now was expressed in joy for their I tually shown in the Tower of London ! of Cardinal York, the Prince Regent, afterwards I Covered with glass and secured in a strong iron,
Volume 1 Page 71
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