In 1128, the Palace was founded as an Augustinian monastery by David I of Scotland. It is believed he saw a cross (known as a rood) which belonged to his mother; materialize in the antlers of a stag that was charging at him. In 1501, James IV built a palace near the Abbey for his new bride Margaret Tudor. Even though Edinburgh was the royal residence, the Abbey property became the preferred location because of its woodland setting.
One of the most famous residents was Mary Queen of Scots whose husband killed her secretary David Rizzio because he believed they were having an affair. Oliver Cromwell’s troops stayed at the palace during the Civil War and destroyed it. When monarchy was restored in 1660, Charles II began extensive renovations and expansion of living quarters. At the beginning of the 18th century when the Union of Parliaments took place, Holyroodhouse fell into neglect and became the residence of many noblemen who lost their position.
The roof of the Abbey collapsed in 1768 and the ruins still stand today. Extensive renovations to the palace began in 1822 by King George IV with the insistence that the apartments of Mary Queen of Scots be untouched. Queen Victoria decided to revive the custom of the royal family staying at Holyroodhouse when on business in Scotland so it became and it still remains the official royal residence in Scotland. Today, the palace is used for official state ceremonies and entertaining.
What to See at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Visitors enter the palace at the entrance to the Great Stair which features exquisite tapestries. Next on the tour is the Royal Dining Room with beautiful and rich place settings. The Throne Room was the site of the coronation of King George IV who was instrumental in preserving many of the rooms in the palace.
Most impressive are the State Apartments featuring the rooms (including her bed) and personal belongings of Mary Queen of Scots. There are separate rooms for her husband, Lord Darnley. Visitors are able to see a wide selection of antiques, paintings and tapestries. The rooms are decorated with rich paneling and ornate plaster detailing. The Royal Apartments which are currently used by the royal family are not open to the public.
In the spacious Picture Gallery, the walls are lined with 110 portraits of former Scottish monarchs. Many of these pictures date back to the 17th century. More recently, the Queens Gallery was opened and it features changing exhibits of art from the private royal collection.
On the palace grounds, visitors can see the ruins of the Abbey which was the first structure built on the site. The gardens are professionally landscaped and maintained for the Queen’s garden parties.