Edinburgh - Covenanter Capital

The ECW travelogue packed a toothbrush, passport, a jumper, and a big coat and headed north to Edinburgh, home of the Covenanters. Whilst driving north, the inappropriateness of calling the travelogue the ECW travelogue became rather prescient. But it is too late to start calling it the Wofthe3Ktravelogue now!

The Covenant

If you can tear yourself away from the pipers, tartan shops, and traditional Scottish shortbread, there are a wealth of places and artefacts connected to the Covenanters for you to see.

Greyfriars Kirk

First stop has to be Greyfriars Kirk, which once you get past all the Greyfriar's Bobby razzmatazz is bursting with Covenanter related history. In the 1638 the Covenant was signed in the kirkyard. 

There are believed to be about 50 copies of the Covenant: there are six copies held in Edinburgh, one is on display inside the kirk's small museum. 

The Covenanter memorial

Whilst in the church yard, there is a large memorial to the Covenanters, this is a replica - the original memorial is on display in the Edinburgh Museum.

The Covenanter Stone on display at Edinburgh Museum

Also located in the kirkyard there is a Covenanter's prison - which held over 1000 Covenanter prisoners after the Battle of Brig 1679.

Alexander Henderson is buried in the kirkyard, and has an impressive memorial. In 1637-8 he was active in drawing up the National Covenant along with Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston. In 1638 he was the Moderator of the Glasgow Assembly, which deposed the bishops and renounced the control of Charles I over the church.

There are a large number of memorial stones, relevant to the Covenanters, both King Charles, and a few stones that inspired J.K.Rowling's stories about a boy wizard (they are easy to spot, as they have safety barriers around them).

Edinburgh Museum

Edinburgh Museum's copy of the Covenant

Edinburgh Museum is located in a number of sixteenth century buildings on the Royal Mile. It too has an original copy of the Covenant on display.

Detail of the 'Cromwell sword'

It also has a zischagge and a 'Cromwell sword' on display. Although, they do point out that the sword dates from the early 1700s, and is clearly a fake.
Edinburgh Castle at night

You'd be quite hard pressed to miss Edinburgh Castle, as it towers above the city. The Covenanters twice captured the Castle during the Bishops Wars, which suggests the Covenanters were either really really good at besieging castles, or the castle isn't quite as impenetrable as it looks. The castle was captured by Cromwell after the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. He turned the fortress palace into a military garrison.

The Great Hall
There's lots of Wars of the Three Kingdoms era arms and armour on display in the Great Hall

There are a number of museums located within the Castle, with a number of relevant artefacts dispersed amongst them.

Saving the 'Honours' (crown jewels)

The Scottish Crown Jewels museum tells the story of how the jewels were hidden from Cromwell's men.

The Argyll Tower, mostly a Victorian rebuild (it didn't look medieval enough)

The Argyll Tower was used as a prison for some of the more important Covenanters: Montrose was imprisoned here prior to his execution at...Grassmarket Monument.
The Covenanter Memorial marks the gallows site

The Grassmarket is the site of the old medieval market place, and the Monument marks the site of the gallows.

Located further down the grassmarket is the White Hart pub, which claims to be Edinburgh's oldest pub. Its welcome board, rather tenuously invites you to follow in the footsteps of Cromwell, Wordsworth and Burns.

St Giles

St Giles' High Kirk - it was here that Charles I tried to impose his new prayer book on Scotland in 1637, a local woman named Jenny Geddes picked up her stool and threw it at the preacher, starting a riot. Some argue that Jenny Geddes was in actual fact a heavily disguised man...

A memorial stool, commemorating Jenny Geddes

St Giles's copy of the Covenant

Another original copy of the Covenant is on display here. During the Civil Wars, a captured royalist named Sir John Gordon of Haddo was imprisoned in a room above the North Porch of St Giles’, which came to be known as Haddo’s Hole.

The site of Haddo's Hole, or more properly the Albany Aisle

James Graham, Marquis of  Montrose had been executed, and his body quartered in 1650. Normally his torso would be given to relatives to bury, but in Montrose's case he had been excommunicated so his torso had been buried in unconsecrated ground.  His niece sent men, in the dead of night, to remove his heart. This charming keepsake was lovingly cared for by the family until it was lost during the French Revolution. But I digress. In 1661, the now restored Charles II, paid £802 for a lavish state funeral for Montrose. Three of his limbs were recovered (his limbs had been sent to Dundee, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Stirling), his right arm had been nailed to the gates of Dundee but disappeared south to England and wasn't buried with the rest of him*; what remained of his torso was dug up again; and his head was removed from the spike it had been placed on outside the Old Toll Booth (which was located just outside St Giles). 

Montrose's tomb

The rather grand tomb is a Victorian addition from the 1880s. Queen Victoria was somewhat disheartened that his burial place was marked by a simple stone slab, and ordered that a fitting monument be erected.

The Argyll Memorial

On the opposite side of the cathedral is the tomb of Montrose's nemesis, Archibald Campbell, better known as the Marquis of Argyll. 

National Museum Scotland has a large display of Scotland and the seventeeth century. Notable artefacts are swords, Rev Alexander Peden's mask, and you guessed it two original copies of the Covenant. The Museum has a number of original Covenanter flags in it's collection; due to their fragile condition, not all of them are on display. The museum also has a Coronation Ampulla of Charles I which was used at the Scottish coronation of Charles I, held some eight years after his coronation in London.

Alexander Peden's mask

A memento mori on a Covenanter gravestone

One of the Museum's two copies of the Covenant

The Museum's other copy


An original Covenanter ensign...

...and what it would have looked like

The Museum has five Covenanter ensigns in its collection, three are on display

St Andrew's flag taken at Dunbar

The maiden

Charles I lockets

The Montrose display

The Coronation Ampulla

Trumpet banner, Charles II coat of arms

Holyrood Palace
Holyroodhouse is the royal residence in Edinburgh. Built on the site of an Abbey, the abbey is now crumbling. As Holyrood is still a royal residence, I'm afraid no photography is allowed inside. 

Charles I was baptised in the Chapel Royal of Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh on 23rd December 1600.The Palace and Abbey were renovated in 1633 for Charles's Scottish coronation, which took place in the Abbey.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

In 1650 a fire broke out on the east side of the Palace during a visit by Cromwell and his soldiers. After this, much of the Palace was abandoned, except for an area used as a barracks.

Holyrood Abbey

Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, and Holyroodhouse once again became a royal palace. Renovations and rebuilding of the Palace began in earnest in 1671., although Charles didn't use the palace, his brother, the Duke of York (future James II) did.

As one would expect there are a number of significant portraits on display here: CharlesII, Henrietta Maria, James II, Mary of Modena, and Catherine de Briganza all by Peter Lely; Charles I by Daniel Mytens; Charles II on the throne by Michael Wright.

My favourite room is the Great Gallery, resplendent with portraits of all the Scottish Kings and Queens; the portraits were commissioned by Charles II, and all of the portrait subjects feature Charles II's nose, apparently to reinforce Charles II's claim to the Scottish throne, and clearly not to dispel any salacious gossip about who his biological father was...

The Darnley Room has a few interesting artefacts on display: another Charles I portrait and bust, a chest bearing Charles I's cipher, a 'lobster pot' dating from the 1660s, an armoured riding gauntlet, and a set of back and breast plates.

Finally, in the jewel room is a locket that houses a lock of Charles I's hair; which was taken when George IV opened the royal vault at Windsor, the lock of hair was taken and added to the locket.

Holyrood Abbey

In 1650 Cromwell tried to lure Leslie out of his position in Leith into open battle. They would eventually meet at Dunbar. 

Salisbury Crags

Initially Cromwell positioned his artillery atop of Salisbury Crags, from where he could bombard Leslie's positions in Leith. Leslie had fortified his position with earthworks; which Robert Chambers argues provides the existence of Leith Walk to these earthworks which were constructed between Calton Hill and Leith.

Without wishing to cause a diplomatic incident I include the town of Leith here too, Leith and Edinburgh have almost become one due to urban sprawl.

Leith Citadel was built in 1651. After Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scottish army at Dunbar he occupied both Edinburgh and Leith. Under his Officer in Charge, General Monck, Leith was made 
a free port but he used the Leith buildings and churches to house his artillery and munitions and to stable his horses. He needed a new fort or citadel and this was built in North Leith, on the site 
of the medieval chapel of St Nicholas. Construction was completed by 1656 but it was never used during conflict. The Citadel gradually fell into disuse and all that remains above ground today is the old Eastern Port or gate which opened on to what is now Dock Street.

The two National Galleries have a number of relevant paintings, most notably a portrait of Royalist spy Elizabeth Murray, Duchess of Lauderdale by Benedetto Gennari at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

* The arm was photographed in 1909, but what happened to it I can't find any trace.

In case you are now thinking "but he mentioned six copies of the Covenant and has only mentioned five"... well done for paying attention. The sixth copy is securely held in the National Records of Scotland office.

Postcodes for SatNavs
Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place EH1 2QQ
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street EH1 1JF
Museum of Edinburgh, Canongate, EH8 8DD
Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill EH1 2NG

Grassmarket Monument, Grassmarket EH1 2JU
St Giles' High Kirk, Royal Mile EH1 1RE
Holyrood Palace
National Gallery, The Mound EH2 2EL
National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street EH2 1JD
Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Park, Queen's Drive EH8 8HG
Leith Walk EH6 8SD
Leith Citadel, Dock Street EH6 6HU

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