« VorigeDoorgaan »
The romantic capital of Scotland owes not a little of the peculiar character which renders it so remarkable among the cities of Europe to the singularity of its site.
The central county of the Lothians, in which it is situated, forms towards the south-east an extensive and wild hilly district, rising at some points to upwards of two thousand feet above the level of the sea. The Muirfoot, the Soutra, and the Lammermuir bills, all range, with varying elevations, around the same pastoral district ; while beyond these, and within a few miles of the Frith of Forth, are the Pentland Hills, with their outlying heights nearly reaching to the sea. On the lower group of these, at the base of Arthur's Seat, the ancient Caledonians fixed the singular site of the Scottish capital.
The history of all great cities is in some degree linked with that of the district in which they are situated, and few capitals of northern Europe can compete with Edinburgh, either in the imposing grandeur of its aspect, or in the romantic associations which cling to it.
The veracivus chroniclers of the middle ages assigned to it an origin nearly coeval with Jerusalem, and on more trustworthy evidence it is ascertained to have been occupied while the Roman legions retained precarious hold of the country north of the Tyne. The true era, however, in which its authentic history begins, is that of Malcolin Canmore, and his amiable queen Margaret, sister of the Anglo-Saxon prince, Edgar Atheling, who brought with her to Scotland the more advanced civilization of England.
The victory at Hastings, which brought the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in England to a close, exercised a remarkable, though indirect inAuence on Scotland in various ways, and in none more so than by the changes effected by means of the Saxon princess whom Malcolm Canmore promoted to share his throne. Christianity had then been introduced into Scotland by St. Ninian, St. Coluinba, and other primitive missionaries, for upwards of six centuries. We have little reason to believe that it had not partaken of the decline and corruption which so speedily marred the beauty of the spiritual edifice established by its Divine Founder. There were, however, among the Scots and Picts of the north, few of the worldly attractions by which it speedily debased at Rome; and its errors appear
rather to have arisen from the extravagances of asceticism than from the corruptions of wealth and dissoluteness. Much has been written on the early history of the Scottish Culdees, or servants of God, as their Celtic name implies ; and there is not wanting evidence indicative of great simplicity and earnest zeal, as well as the cultivation of learning and piety, among these primitive fraternities. At the period of the Anglo-Saxon princess's marriage, there appears to have been little intercourse with Rome, and scarcely any attempt to conform to its usages. The existing fraternities, or families as they were termed, were associations of a much more voluntary character that the monastic institutions of a later age, and many of the practices of the Romish church, including even the celibacy of the clergy, appear to have been either set aside or-never adopted in Scotland.
The reform of all this, according to the standards of the Romish church, if to such a change the word reform can be applied, was the work of the princess Margaret, the queen of Malcolm Canmore. There can be no doubt, however, that she found much requiring reformation among a barbarous people, fresh from recent struggles with the Norse invaders, and the distraction of civil war. The king, her husband, appears also to have been one of those stern and bloody warriors whom a life of struggle moulds out of a fierce and indomitable spirit. His affection for his queen, however, seems to have been both sincere and lasting. Her gentle disposition, tinctured though it was by the asceticism of the period, softened his impetuous fierceness, and made his wild nature bend subservient to her designs. In these she was no doubt mainly guided by Turgot, her confessor and biographer, whose great aim appears to have been to assimilate the church of Scotland to that of Rome. Provincial councils were accordingly summoned, at which Malcolm acted as the interpreter between the Celtic clergy and their
The favourite palace of Malcolm and his queen was at Dunfermline, on the north side of the Frith of Forth, but the stronghold of Edinburgh Castle was a more suitable residence amidst the troubles of a warlike age, and there accordingly the queen appears to have most frequently abode, and to have fixed her court during the absence of her husband on his martial expeditions. We accordingly find abundant evidence of the extensive additions which she made to the castle in the descriptions furnished of it even so late as the sixteenth century, where such names occur as St. Margaret's Gate, St. Margaret's Well, her tower, her chamber, etc.; all of which appear to have remained until the siege of the castle in 1572, when it was held out by the gallant sir William Kirkaldy, of Grange, on behalf of queen Mary, until the cannon of sir William Durie had nearly battered it to a shapeless heap of ruins. One highly characteristic relic of the good