The Castle's History
Proudly conspicuous yet strangely secretive, menacing but still homely and human, a defiant fortress which manages nevertheless to welcome and charm. Edinburgh Castle is a multitude of contrasts that harmonise perfectly. They have evolved into a genuine and magnetic personality that casts a spell on all who come here.
Castle Rock is where Edinburgh began. The site was inhabited - and probably fortified after a fashion - in prehistoric times. We know that when Lothian became a part of Scotland, King Malcolm III lived here with his Queen, Margaret, who died in 1093 and was later canonised. Her son, King David I, built a tiny and charming chapel to her memory. It remains to this day, the oldest surviving structure on Castle Rock.
Much damaged and often changing hands in the long and punishing wars of independence against England, Edinburgh Castle began to assume its present appearance in 1356 when King David II initiated his ambitious defensive works. In the fifteenth century King James III began using the Castle as an ordnance factory - which must have dramatically reduced its desirability as a residence!. The prominent Scottish Renaissance King James IV added the great Hall but the Castle was by then less a royal dwelling than a fortress guarding the Scottish Capital. As such it was sacked for the last time in 1573, falling to the English after Mary Queen of Scots was brought down. Her son, King James VI, was born in Edinburgh Castle. He later reunited the crowns of Scotland and England as James VI of Scotland and I of England.
From time to time it had been starved into submission or betrayed from within, but only twice was Edinburgh Castle ever captured in combat, once through an attacker's stratagem and once - fearsome thought - by direct frontal assault over the walls. On each occasion the victors were Scots vanquishing an English garrison.
In 1753 began the construction of the esplanade, the ceremonial parade ground in front of the Castle where the Tattoo now takes place.
Sixty years later the esplanade was broadened and prettified with walls and railings. The Development marked recognition that the Castle's function as a fortress had ended. Since the '45 its main use has been as a barracks while during the Napoleonic Wars it made a grim and effective prison for French captives.
It is now the Headquarters of Edinburgh Garrison, houses the Regimental and Home Headquarters of several Scottish Regiments, and a number of service personnel still live there. It houses the Honours of Scotland - our Crown Jewels, almost certainly the oldest Royal Regalia in Europe.
In addition it is home to a number of military museums and contains the Scottish National War Memorial. This was built as a memorial to Scottish Servicemen who died in the First World War. However, the names of all Scottish Servicemen who have died on operations since the First World War are now recorded in books in this most moving of memorials where a Service is held each year to recognise their ultimate sacrifice.
Members of the Royal Artillery fire the famous one O'Clock gun at Edinburgh Castle. The one O'Clock gun at Edinburgh Castle is in exact synchronisation with the time ball in Calton Hill's Nelson Monument and Greenwich Mean Time.
Edinburgh Castle is Britain's second most popular tourist attraction. In a paradox of peacetime the very defences which make the Castle what it is also hamper the approaches both of visitors and of those who work there. Recently, therefore, engineers have driven a broad tunnel through the living rock and into the very heart of the Castle, bypassing at a stroke the accumulated fortification of centuries. Nevertheless, Edinburgh Castle still rises magnificently each year to the occasion of the Tattoo. All its atmosphere, power and majesty affirm that this was the proudest and mightiest fortress in the land, a residence and stronghold of kings.
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