Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present


HISTORICAL AND DESCRIPTIVE NOTES. BY WILLIAM BALLINGALL. -- THE Royal Exchange is situated immediately opposite the eastern wing of Parliament Square. On the north side of the quadrangle, under the piazza, is the entrance to the Council Chambers, the main approach from the High Street being through an archway, as shown in the Engraving. Here, in September 1842, Queen Victoria, on her first visit to Edinburgh, was presented with the keys of the city. Hugh Miller in describing the Royal progress writes :- ' There was the gleam of helmets, the flash of swords ; the shout rose high ; and as the vehicle in front moved on, there was a fluttering of scarfs and kerchiefs at every casement and in every gallery, as if a stiff breeze had swept by and shaken them as it passed. The city Magistrates in their scarlet robes had formed a group in front of the Exchange, and here the Royal vehicle paused, and the Lord Provost went through the ceremony of delivering the city keys into the hands of the Sovereign.' As a link between the present and the past, the Corporation met in the Council Chambers on the 16th of August 1876, for the purpose of proceeding to Holyrood to present her Majesty with the keys of the city. On entering the presence-chamber at the Palace, the Lord Provost read the following address :- ' May it please your Majesty,-We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council, offer for your Majesty's gracious acceptance the keys of your good town of Edinburgh j we thus surrender to your Majesty the custody of the city, and place the hearts and persons of the citizens with unfeigned devotion at the disposal of your Majesty; and we earnestly beseech the Almighty that He may bless and long continue your Majesty's reign over us, and ever have your Majesty and the members of your Royal House in His loving and holy keeping.' The silver keys, to which are attached white and black ribbons, lay on a crimson velvet cushion in a silver salver. (For illustration see titlepage.)
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56 EDINBURGH PAST AND PRESENT. On the following day her Majesty unveiled the Albert Memorial in Charlotte Square. James Smith in his poem-a copy of which the Queen was graciously pleased to accept-writes :- ’ ‘ Welcome to lair Dunedin’s bowers : Her lordly halls and regal towers, Enwreath’d with bannerets and flowers, Fond wishes breathe to thee. Hark to the shouts that greet thy name ! Hark to the bugle’s loud acclaim I Roll on, the chariot of thy fame, Queen of the Brave and Free I Through mighty myriads, vast and dense, Thou rovest void of fear ; The people’s love thy sure defence,- Thy buckler, sword, and spear. God’s blessing possessing, Thy days illustrious shine With glory; while o’er thee, Peace, love, and joy entwine. Lo I mid the warlike trumpet’s blare, And cheers that rend the balmy air, Behold unveil’d a Statue Gr,- True likeness of the dead ! Calmly majestic and serene; Prince Albert looks upon his Queen, Who thinks on all that once hath been, And lowly bows her head. Memorial from the hardy North, Embalm’d in sighs and tears; Fond tribute to departed worth, Through all the rolling years Descending, unending ; The grandeur, the splendour Proclaiming, Queen of Fame, That crowns thy Husband’s name.’ On this occasion the sculptor, John Steell, R.S.A., and Professor Oakeley, received the honour of knighthood, and Lord Provost Falshaw the dignity of a Baronetcy. With reference to an earlier Royal visit to Holyrood, the Queen in her Diary says:--‘We saw the rooms where Queen Mary lived, her bed, the dressing-room into which the murderers entered who killed Rizzio, and the spot where he fell, where, as the old housekeeper said to me, “if the lady would stand on that side,” I would see that the boards were discoloured by the blood. Every step is full of historical recollections, and our living here is quite an epoch in the annals of this old pile, which has seen so many deeds, more bad, I fear, than good.’ Let 11s now suppose ourselves, as the scene in thk Engraving suggests, by the Tron Church on a New Year‘s eve. Looking down the street, the house of John Knox projects a little into the roadway; nearer the eye, on the right of the picture, a modem turret leaning against the midnight sky marks the site of old Blackfriars’ Wynd; while in the foreground the tall ‘lands’ on the left tell us where Fergusson the poet was born, and ’ Whaur . . . Ramsay woo’d the Muses In days long past.‘ A light from Hunter Square falls upon the church, and looking above the
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