A brief history of edinburgh
Battles between the Scots and various invaders for the custody of Edinburgh Castle are a recurring theme in the history of Edinburgh. Castle Rock, a volcanic crag now crowned by Edinburgh Castle, was created some 340 millions years ago during the Paleozoic Era. With three vertical sides, the rock is a natural fortification. It is believed to have been used as a stronghold as early as the first centuries of the first millennium.
When Agricola, the Roman Governor of Britain, advanced north in AD 79 he encountered the Celtic tribe of Votadinii, who controlled the Forth River valley and are thought to have based themselves around site of edinburgh castle. There is archaeological evidence that the Roman army had a base near edinburgh too, and that they mixed with the locals on a daily basis. But the romans never really mastered Caledonia and by 211 they had retreated behind Hadrian's wall, about a hundred miles to the south of the city, and by 410 they had left Britain for good.
In the 7th century an English King, Edwin of Northumbria, pushed north and won control of much of lowland Scotland. He built a fort on the strategic castle rock and called it Dun Eadain meaning 'Fortress-on-a-Hill'. This fort may have later become known as either Edwin's Burgh or Eadain's Burgh (there has been much debate as to whether this is actually true) and later, obviously, Edinburgh.
In 1018 the Scottish King Malcolm II defeated the Northumbrians and Edinburgh Castle was Scottish again. Until this time Scottish rulers based themselves further north across the Forth, but King Malcolm III built a castle at Edinburgh, and his wife Queen Margaret (later Saint Margaret, Scotlandís only royal saint) built a chapel within its walls - now the oldest building in the city.
Their son, King David I, built the Abbey at Holyrood, a mile to the East along 'The Royal Mile'. The castle and abbey became the anchor points of Edinburgh and a thriving town grew up alongside the road between them, connected to Lieth, Edinburgh's port and trade-link to the world.
As Scotland's capital, Edinburgh grew rapidly grew in size and importance and, with the constant animosity between the Scots and the English, its strategic importance also grew. In 1296 Edinburgh castle was retaken by the English under King Edward I (who was known as Longshanks). This was the time of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace of the Mel Gibson 'Braveheart' film.
After Longshanks death the Scots were increasingly successful against the English under Robert the Bruce and wanted to retake the castle. Shunning the easy route up the Royal Mile, in 1313 a group of daring attackers led by Thomas Randolph, Bruce's nephew, scaled the castle rock's northern face and the castle ramparts in the dead of night, and still had the fight to retake the castle from the English.
To seek to end this cycle of take and retake of the castle, Bruce had it dismantled (except for St. Margaret's Chapel). However, he did grant Edinburgh a royal charter in 1329, as well as jurisdiction over the port of Leith, which lead to greater trading opportunities and wealth for the city. In 1322 Holyrood Abbey was sacked by English again and the Castle was rebuilt in 1368, to became a fortress and a royal palace.
Edinburgh during the 14th and 15th centuries was marked by numerous fierce power struggles, and little else. In 1498 the Palace of Holyrood was built at the site of the Abbey; at this time Edinburgh was also beginning to benefit from the trade and export of wool, and the 'Old Town' was built, including the Grassmarket and Cowgate.
After a bad defeat by the English at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513, the people of Edinburgh began to work on a second wall to surround the city which was to be called the 'Flodden Wall'. Before it was finished Edinburgh was ransacked again by the English, this time under the command of Henry VIII.
The French abandoned all claim to Scotland with the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1560 and in the same year the Flodden Wall was completed. The wall was to form Edinburgh's boundary for the next 200 years. As in England, this was a time of conflict between protestants and catholics. In 1560 the Scottish Parliament created a Protestant church independent of Rome and the Popes authority was rejected.
On her return to Scotland in 1561, Mary Queen of Scots, a pro-French Catholic, set up court in Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace. Espionage and bloodshed was rife at this time, most famously in an incident when Queen Mary watched in horror as her secretary and confidant, David Rizzio, was murdered by a group of noblemen in Holyrood house who were under the orders of her husband, Lord Darnley.
Mary's son became King James VI of Scotland in 1567 when he was only 13 months old. Then in 1603, on the death of the unmarried English Queen, Elizabeth I, King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne too, and he moved his court to London. This was to be the end of the Scottish monarchy as James only ever returned to his native land once.
Edinburgh ceased to be the principal site of the royal court, but it did continue to have its own Parliament. Restricted by the Flodden Wall, Edinburgh may not have grown outwards during this time, but it did grow upwards. By the end of the 1500's Edinburgh, established as the capital of Scotland and its population growing, chose to build high houses close to the protection of the Castle. Many reached as high as 12 storey's and some of these high tenement buildings can still be seen today.
In 1583 Edinburgh University was founded and in 1633 Edinburgh was once more named the capital of Scotland. Also in 1633 King Charles I, the son of James VI, visited Edinburgh along with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They brought with them instructions that a new prayer book be used in Scottish churches. This sparked of a chain of events which was to ultimately lead to a Civil War in England and Scotland, the beheading of Charles I and a brief period as a republic.
In 1645 the Great Plague (or black death) swept through Europe. It reached Edinburgh in the April of that year and, by the time it subsided in the November, 2736 men, women and children had died. Shortly after this, in 1650, Oliver Cromwell invaded Edinburgh.
In 1707 the 'Act of Union' joined Scotland to England and the Scottish parliament, based in Edinburgh until this time, was dissolved. Although parliament ceased, the city prospered. The loch below the north side of the castle was filled and new streets with thousands of houses were built within the city walls in a 'classical' style.
The year 1736 saw the Porteous Riot in Edinburgh, when Captain Porteous of the town guard was lynched in the Grassmarket after opening fire on an unruly crowd at a public execution. And 1745 saw the last significant assault on Edinburgh Castle , when the Jacobite forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie once again took it from the English, this time without too much of a fight.
Edinburgh continued to thrive durining the upheavals and defeat of the Jacobite Rebellion and throughout the peace that followed. By the 18th century the city began to branch out from the city's original Flodden walls and in 1767 the construction of Edinburgh's 'New Town' commenced. The Scottish architect James Craig developed a simple grid design based around three parallel streets - Princess Street, George Street and Queen Street. This plan, and the beautiful Georgian architecture of which was then built, are still in place today and are the envy of many a city around the world.
During the Victorian era the expansion in the city continued. The population exploded - Edinburgh quadrupled in size to 400,000, only around 50,000 less than it has today - and the old city's tenements were taken over by refugees from the Irish famines. A new ring of crescents and circuses was built to the south of the New Town and grey Victorian terraces were built, plus middle-class suburbs such as Marchmont and Morningside sprung up. Industry flourished in Glasgow and Edinburgh remained the preserve of professionals, which it has tended to remain
The Edinburgh & Leith railway line was built in 1831, which linked the port and industrial centre with the city, and the Edinburgh & Glasgow line followed in 1842. Then in 1846 Edinburgh was finally linked by rail to London.
In August 1950 Prince Albert, travelling with Queen Victoria on their way to Balmoral, laid the foundation stone of the National Gallery of Art at the Mound. Then in June 1864 the last public execution took place in Edinburgh (of George Bryce, the Ratho murderer) and in 1871 horse-drawn tramcars appeared in the city, to be followed by electric trams in 1910.
Since the second world war Edinburgh's prestige has continued to rise, not least because of the establishment of the 'Festival'. In 1947 the Edinburgh International Festival was inaugurated, along with the first Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Many people still associate Edinburgh with the Festival, and this has has kept the city at the centre of the international arts scene ever since.
In the 1960's many parts of Edinburgh were being torn down and rebuilt at an alarming rate, but in the 1970's the New Town Conservation Committee stopped this. Since then, Edinburgh's buildings have been restored using traditional and sympathetic methods, helping to make it one of Europe's most beautiful and historically interesting cities.
More recently, in 1996 The Stone of Destiny returned to Edinburgh, some 700 years after it was taken to Westminster to crown Kings and Queens. Then in 1999 the reintroduction of the Scottish parliament, almost three centuries after it was dissolved by the Act of Union, saw the return of Scottish government to Edinburgh, leading to a boom in the city's financial and business affairs.
The capital of Scotland is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It is often referred to as the 'Athens of the North' due to its fine, Palladian architecture and general air of education, refinement and appearance.
Today, outside of London, Edinburgh and its castle are the most popular attractions in the United Kingdom. The castle is at the centre of the various chapters of Edinburgh's history, used at one time or another as a stronghold, palace, barracks and prison, it is saturated with the history of Edinburgh and Scotland too.
Historic monuments in edinburgh
See also edinburgh castle