Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


secluded character of the place inust have been destroyed. ?? Queen Mary granted the gardens of -the Greyfriars? monastery to the citizens in the year 1566, to be used as a cemetery, and from that period the old burial-place seems to have and are now said to be among the miscellaneous collections at Holyrood. Begun in 1632, the hall with its adjacent buildings took seven years to erect; but subsequently the external portions of the edifice were almost totally renewed. Howell, the citizens forgot that their Exchange was built over their fathers? graves.? Yet within six years after Queen Mary?s gr.ant, Knox was interred in the old burial-ground. ?Before the generation had passed away that witnessed and joined in his funeral service,? says the author of ? Memorials of Edinburgh,? ?the churchyard in which they laid him had been converted into a public thoroughfare ! We fear this want of veneration must be regarded as a national Characteristic which Knox assisted to call into existence, and to which we owe much of the reckless demolition of those time-honoured monuments of the past which it is sow thought a weakness to deplore.? As a churchyard in name it last figures in 1596 as the scene of a tumult in which John Earl of Mar, John Bothwell, Lord Holyroodhouse, the Lord Lindsay, and others, met in their armour, and occasioned some trouble ere they could be pacified. It was the scene of all manner of rows, when club-law prevailed ; where exasperated litigants, sick of ?the law?s delays,? ended the matter by appeal to sword and dagger ; and craftsmen and apprentices quarrelled with the bailies and deacons. It has been traditionally said that many of the tombstones were removed to the Greyfriars? churchyard; if such was the case no inscriptions remain built here lately,? and regretting that Charles I. did not inaugurate it in person, he adds that ?they did ill who advised him otherwise.? The time had come when old Scottish raids were nearly past, and when revolutions had their first impulse, not in the battle-field, but in deliberative assemblies ; thus the Parliament that transferred its meetings from the old Tolbooth to the new House in 1639 had to vote ?? the sinews of war ? for an aymy against England, under Sir Alexander Leslie, and was no less unprecedented in its constitution and powers than the place in which it assembled was a new edifice. Outside of a wooden partition in the hall was an oak pulpit, where a sermon was preached at the opening of parliament; and behind was a small gallery, where the public heard the debates of the House. To thousands who never saw or could have seen it the external aspect of the old Parliament House has been rendered familiar by Gordon?s engravings, and more particularly by the view of it on the bank notes of Sir William Forbes and Co. Tradition names Inigo Jones as the architect, bit of this there is not a vestige of proof. It was highly picturesque, and possessed an individuality that should have preserved it from the iconoclastic ?improvers? of 1829. ?There was a quaint The Parliament Hall, which was finished in 1639, at the expense of the citizens, costing A11,600 of the money of that time, occupies a considerable portion of the old churchyard, and possesses a kind of simple grandeur ? belonging to an anterior age. Its noblest feature is the roof, sixty feet in height, which rests on ornamental brackets consisting of boldly sculptured heads, and is formed of dark oak tie-and-hammer beams with cross braces, producing a general effect suggestive of the date of Westminster or of Crosby Hall. Modern corridors that branch out from it are in harmony with the old hall, and lead to the various court rooms and the extensive libraries of the Faculty of Advocates and the Society of Writers to the Signet. The hall measures 122 feet in length by 49 in breadth, and was hung of old with tapestry and portraits of the kings of Scotland, some by Sir Godfrey Kneller. These were bestowed, in 1707, by Queen Anne, on the Earl of Mar, ? we are told, ?and the rude elaborateness of its decorations, that seemed to link it with the courtiers I of Holyrood in the times of the Charleses, and its last gala days under the Duke of York?s viceregency. Nothing can possibly be conceived more meaningless and utterly absurd than the thing that superseded it ?-a square of semi-classic buildings, supported by a narrow arcade, and surmounted by stone sphinxes. Above the old main entrance, which faced the east, and is now completely blocked up and hidden, were the royal arms of Scotland, beautifully sculptured, supported on the right by Mercy holding a crown wreathed with laurel, and on the left by Justice, with a palm branch and balance, with the inscription, Stant his feZiciin r p a , and underneath the national arms, the motto, Uni unionurn. Over the smaller doorway, which forms the present access to the lofty lobby of the House, were the arms of the city, between sculptured
Volume 1 Page 158
  Enlarge Enlarge  
THE GREAT WINCOW. ?59 Parliament Hoox.] obelisks, with the motto Bominus cusfodif infroifurn msfrunz. The destruction of all this was utterly unwarrantable. The tapestries with which the hall was hung were all removed about the end of the last century, and now its pictnres, statues, and decorations of Scotland?s elder and latter days replace them. Of the statues of the distinguished Scottish statesmen and lawyers, the most noticeable are a colossal one of Henry first Viscount Melville in his robes as a peer, by Chantrey ; on his left is Lord Cockburn, by Brodie ; Duncan Forbes of Culloden, in his judicial costume as President of the Court, by Roubiliac (a fine example) ; the Lord President Boyle, and Lord Jeffrey, by Steel ; the Lord President Blair (son of the author of ?The Grave?), by Chantrey.. . On the opposite or eastern side of the hall (which stands north and south) is the statue of Robert Dundas of Arniston, Lord Chief Baron of the Scottish Exchequer, also by Chautrey; portraits, many of them of considerable antiquity, some by Jameson, a Scottish painter who studied under Rubens at Antwerp. But the most remarkable among the modern portraits are those of Lord Broiigham, by Sir Daniel Macnee, P.R.S.A. ; Lord Colonsay, formerly President of the Court, and the Lord Justice-clerk Hope, both by the same artist. Thete are also two very tine pQrtraits of Lord Abercrombie and Professor Bell, by Sir Henry Raeburn. Light is given to this interestihg hall by fouI windows on the side, and the great window on the south. It is of stained glass, and trulymagnificent. It was erected in 1868 at a cost of Az,ooo, and was the work of two German artists, having been designed by Wilhelm von Kaulbach, and executed by the Chevalier Ainmiller of Munich. It repre. sents the inauguration of the College of Justice, 01: the Supreme Court of Scotland, by King Tames V., in 1532. The opening of the court is supposed by the artist to have been the. occasion of a grand state ceremonial, and the moment chosen for representation is that in which the young king, surrounded by his nobles and great officers of state, is depicted in the ,act of presenting the charter of institution and of confirniation by Pope Clement VII. to Alexander Mylne, Abbot of Cambuskenneth, the first Lord President, wha kneels before him to receive it, surrounded by the other judges in their robes, while the then Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Gavin Dunbar, ArchbishoF of Glasgow, and afterwards of St. Andrews, with upraised hand invokes a.blessing on the act. In 1870 the four side windows on the west of the la11 were filled in with stained glass Qf a heraldic :haracter, under the superintendence of the late Sir George Harvey, president of the Royal Scottish kcadeniy. Each window is twenty feet high ~y nine wide, divided by a central mullion, the :racery between being occupied by the armorial learings and crests of the various Lord Justice- Zlerks, the great legal writers of the Faculty of Advocates, those of the Deans of Faculty, and the Lords Advocate. This old hall has been the scene of many a ;reat event and many a strange debate, and most Df the proceedings that took place here belong to the history of the country j for with the exception of the Castle and the ancient portion of Holyrood, no edifice in the city is so rich in historic memories. Beneath the old roof consecrated to these, says one of its latest chroniclers, ? the first ?great movements of the Civil War took place, and the successive steps in that eventful crisis were debated with a zeal commensurate to the important results involved in them. Here Montrose united with Rothes, Lindsay, Loudon, and others of the covenanting leaders, in maturing the bold measures that formed the basis of our national liberties ; and within the same hall, only a few years later, he sat with the calmness of despair, to receive from the lips of his old compatriot, Loudon, the barbarous sentence, which was executed with such savage rigour.? After his victory at Dunbar, some of Cromwell?s troopers in their falling bands, buff coats, and steel morions, spent their time alternately in preaching to the people in the Parliament Hall and guarding a number of Scottish prisoners of war who were confined in ? the laigh Parliament House ? below it On the 17th of May, 1654, some of these contrived to cut a hole in the floor of the great hall, and all effected their escape save two; but when peace was established between Croniwell and the Scots, and the Courts of Law resumed their sittings, the hall was restored to somewhat of its legitimate uses, and there, in 1655, the leaders of the Commonwealth, including General Monk, were feasted with a lavish hospitality. In 1660, under the auspices of the same republican general, came to pass ? the - glorious Restoration,? when the magistrates had a banquet Ft the cross, and gave _~;I,OOO sterling to the king; and his brother, the Duke of Albany and York, who came as Koyal Commissioner, was feasted in the same hall with his Princess Mary d?Este and his daughter, the future Queen Anne, surrounded by all the high-born and beautiful in Scotland. But dark
Volume 1 Page 159
  Enlarge Enlarge