The Mercat Cross

Mercat Cross, Edinburgh
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Mercat Cross, Edinburgh

Located just to the east of St. Giles Kirk on Edinburgh's Royal Mile is the Mercat Cross, still the point at which certain important proclamations are formally read to the populous. What exists today was assembled in 1885 at the instigation of William Gladstone (1809-98), Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for Midlothian, who also paid for the work. It incorporates parts of the original early 15th Century Mercat Cross. The unicorn finial was the work of sculptor John Rhind (1828-92).

The old Mercat Cross stood nearby from 1617 following a reconstruction involving John Mylne (d.1621). As well as being the focus for official announcements and business dealings, the Mercat Cross was a place of execution; notably of James Graham, the Marquess of Montrose (1650) and Archibald Campbell, the Marquess of Argyll (1661).

The cross had been dispensed with in 1756, perhaps because it was from here that Prince Charles Edward Stuart proclaimed his father as true monarch in 1745. It was removed as a trophy to Drum House in the south of the city, although the shaft was broken in the process. This old cross was retrieved and restored before being placed on the octagonal platform which was created by Sydney Mitchell (1856 - 1930), a somewhat larger version of the original. A replica of the Cross can still be found in the grounds of Drum House.

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