Olivia Papp ’23
The story of Edinburgh Castle is one of complexity, power, and war. Edinburgh Castle is an expansive property located in the heart of Scotland’s capital city: Edinburgh. The imposing structure stands tall at 443 feet. Nestled directly on top of what once was volcanic rock, Edinburgh Castle peers down at its bustling city all through the day and night. The Castle was built in the eleventh century under the reign and supervision of King David the 1st. It was he who headed the construction of the beautiful and historic castle that now resides on Castle Rock. King David the 1st also led a team in building a chapel for his mother, Queen Margaret, which is now known as the oldest structure in Edinburgh. While the site saw much destruction during the Wars of Scottish Independence, the site prevailed and is a wonderful and accessible memorial of history. During the Iron Age, people saw much militaristic potential in situating a fort atop this natural rock. In doing this strategic move, these people had a clear advantage over invading troops. The Castle was used for thousands of years as both a place of royal residence and a military fortress.
In the Middle Ages, Edinburgh Castle became known as the primary castle of Scotland. The Castle gained prominence as it became the headquarters for Edinburgh’s sheriff, the place where military troops were stationed, as well as the location where all the crown jewels were stored.
The cobblestone road leading up to the castle is known as the Royal Mile. The road has coined this name because of the royal figures who traversed this street to their place of residence. This street is the only way to approach Edinburgh Castle. Interestingly enough, the royal families were not the only ones taking this road up to the castle. In fact, the great walls surrounding Edinburgh castle endured attack after attack from the English. Due to these sieges, Edinburgh Castle has hosted an array of leaders… not exclusively Scottish.
The first change in leadership was Edward the 1st, an English king, in 1296. This siege took three days of battle. It only took seven more years following the death of the king in 1307 for the leadership of the Castle to change again. Thirty men quietly attacked the Castle in the night, scaling the rocky cliff surrounding the royal residence. Sir Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray led this exposition and succeeded, as he reclaimed the Castle in a moment of English weakness. Only two decades later was the Castle retaken again by the English. But, seven years after that the Castle was taken back again by a Scottish nobleman and knight who went by the name of Sir William Douglas. For this siege, the troop disguised themselves as merchants before conducting a surprise attack on Edinburgh Castle.
In 1370, David’s Tower was built by David II during the reconstruction era of Edinburgh Castle. This reconstruction was completely necessary following the Wars of Independence, as the Castle was in a damaged state. This tower was three stories high and served as another barrier of defense against attackers. However, in the late 1500s during the time of the Lang Siege, the tower came crashing down. The Lang Siege happened as a result of Mary, the Queen of Scots, marrying James Hepburn who was the Earl of Bothwell. The union struck a chord with the people of Edinburgh, leading to many rebellions against the throne and castle. Queen Mary was forced to flee to England though the castle was held for her by loyal companions who supported her reign.
In 1633, Charles I was the last monarch to hold residence in Edinburgh Castle as King of Scots. The Jacobite rebellions happened constantly during the 18th century. The Jacobite rebellion happened because there was a political movement that sought to reinstate the Stuart monarchs to their rightful thrones in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Jacobitism in Edinburgh was focused on returning James VII of Scotland and II of England. In 1715, the Jacobites nearly claimed the castle by way of climbing the steep rock around Edinburgh Castle. The 1745 Jacobite rebellion resulted in the Jacobites overtaking the Holyrood Palace at the end of the Royal Mile opposite Edinburgh Castle. However, the Castle remained intact. No attacks occurred following this point in time.
On May 26th, 1819, it was decided that people could be let into Edinburgh Castle. The Castle now serves as a tourist destination, a military station, and a Scottish National War Memorial. The Edinburgh Castle has captured the minds and hearts of everyone in Edinburgh. One only needs to look up to the Castle to be traversed back in time.