Edinburgh Castle, located in Edinburgh, Scotland, is built on the summit of an extinct volcano, 390 feet above sea level. Archeological evidence shows that the site was possibly settled during the early Iron Age, which makes it the longest continually occupied site in Scotland.
The first documented reference to a castle on the site appears in a fourteenth-century account of King Malcolm III’s death in 1093, written by John of Fordun. The Scottish Parliament met at the castle for the first time in 1140. During this time, there were a number of timber buildings and two stone buildings built in the twelfth-century. One of these buildings, St. Margaret’s Chapel, still remains.
Seat of Government
In 1296, King Edward I of England invaded Scotland. It became known as the First War of Scottish Independence. Edinburgh Castle soon came under the control of the English. In 1314, however, the Scottish regained the castle after a surprise attack by the Earl of Moray. Robert the Bruce, the Scottish king, ordered the castle’s defenses destroyed. The wars ended in 1357 and King David II began rebuilding Edinburgh Castle. The castle became David’s seat of government.
By the fifteenth century, the castle was used as an arsenal. The first purchase of a gun was in 1384. The great gun known as Mons Meg was purchased in 1457. At the same time, the royal family began staying at the Abbey of Holyrood. King James IV built the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the spot and it became his principle residence while in Edinburgh.
Mary, Queen of Scots
In 1565, Mary, Queen of Scots married her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley at Edinburgh Castle. One year later, she gave birth to her son, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England. After her abdication, Edinburgh Castle was held by Moray in the name of the infant king. James’s son, King Charles I, stayed at Edinburgh Castle on the eve of his coronation as King of Scotland in 1633. This was the last time a reigning monarch stayed at the castle. After the Acts of Union in 1707, Edinburgh was one of four Scottish castles, along with Stirling, Dumbarton, and Blackness, assigned to be maintained and garrisoned by the British army.
The last military uprising to take place at the castle was during the Jacobite Rising in 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie captured Edinburgh in his effort to become king. Edinburgh, however, remained in royal hands. During the next hundred years, the castle was used as a prison for prisoners of war from a number of conflicts including the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and both world wars. In 1991, care of the castle was given to Historic Scotland and it was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The Castle Today
Today Edinburgh Castle is still occupied by a military garrison, although this is mainly for ceremonial and administrative purposes. In August of each year a series of performances known as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo take place in front of the Castle. The Tattoo is a parade of the pipes and drums of the Scottish regiments and is broadcast around the world.