Linlithgow Palace

North East Tower, Linlithgow Palace
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

North East Tower, Linlithgow Palace

One of the most magnificent of Scotland's ancient monuments, Linlithgow Palace stands on a promontory jutting into Linlithgow Loch, with vistas north the M9 Stirling-Edinburgh motorway. It is likely that this promontory was originally an island, as past water levels are estimated to have been some 12m (40 feet) above those of today. The Palace, which was a royal residence from the 12th to the late 16th century, was occupied in 1298 by King Edward I of England on his way to the Battle of Falkirk. In 1301 he returned to establish the town as his headquarters for the campaign of 1301-2, erecting a new castle and reinforcing the Palace's defences. This castle was partially destroyed soon after in an ambush led by farmer William Bunnock, but it was later restored. Following Bannockburn (1314), King David II razed the English fortifications and built a royal manor, later destroyed by fire in 1424. The construction of the present building was begun in 1425 for King James I and completed over the next century.

Among those born at the Palace were King James V (1512) and Mary Queen of Scots (1542). James V added the magnificent fountain in the centre of the courtyard (1538, restored 2007) and an impressive forework, or outer gateway, which features the arms of the four European orders of chivalry to which he belonged, picked out in rich colours. From the middle of the 16th C. the palace became home to a succession of 'Keepers', most notably the Earls of Linlithgow. Following the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the Palace fell into neglect and King Charles I was the last king to sleep here in 1633.

The Scottish Parliament met here several times, ultimately in 1646. Other notable visitors have included Oliver Cromwell (1650-1) and Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1745), when the courtyard fountain is said to have flowed with wine in his honour. The Duke of Cumberland, in pursuit of the Jacobites, occupied the palace in later 1745, his Government troops destroying much of the building. Without a roof, the Palace was abandoned. Still the property of the Crown, this large and dramatic shell has been maintained and consolidated since the later 19th C. and is now the responsibility of Historic Environment Scotland, welcoming around 62,000 visitors per year (2012). The space is regularly used for various events and as a location for film and television, including the fantasy television series Outlander (2014).

A 2.1-m / 7-foot high statue of Mary, Queen of Scots, was unveiled outside the Palace in 2015 by Margaret Lumsdaine, President of the Marie Stuart Society. This was the first statue of Mary in Scotland.

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