Queen Elizabeth II last stayed at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh in June, 2022

The Queen’s Coffin Heads to the Scottish Palace, Historic Church

Queen Elizabeth II last stayed at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh in June 2022 – Copyright AFP Aamir QURESHI

Holyroodhouse Palace and St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II will rest in the coming days, are saturated with royal history and anti-English sentiment.

Following the Queen’s death at the age of 96 on Thursday, her body was left at her Balmoral estate in northeast Scotland while her eldest son traveled to London to be formally proclaimed King Charles III.

On Sunday, the coffin will be taken on the road to the 500-year-old Holyrood Palace, set against the dramatic backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano that dominates Edinburgh’s sprawling Holyrood Park.

The palace has been used by Scottish and English monarchs for centuries since James IV began construction on the site of Holyrood Abbey (“holy cross”).

According to legend, the abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I after he saw a vision of a deer with a glowing cross between its antlers, which he took as a sign from God.

One of the most famous residents of the palace was Queen Mary of Scots. It was in her private quarters that in 1566 she witnessed the brutal murder of her secretary, inspired by a jealous husband.

In 1633, Holyroodhouse was the site of the Scottish coronation of King Charles I, whose reign led to a civil war in which he was executed and the palace was damaged and abandoned.

After a brief republic, his son returned as King Charles II in 1660 and renovated the palace.

Elizabeth has been a regular visitor during her reign, hosting an annual garden party attended by around 8,000 people, and in 2010 she hosted Pope Benedict XVI there during his visit to the UK.

– Protestant roots –

On Monday, the new king will accompany his mother’s coffin in procession down the Royal Mile to the magnificent St. Giles Cathedral, where he will also hold a vigil.

Founded around 1124 as a Catholic parish church, St Giles’ Church has witnessed key moments in British history.

It was at the heart of the Reformation when the Protestant theologian John Knox was appointed minister there in 1559, the year before Scotland formally abandoned the Catholic Church.

In 1637, a riot broke out after a local woman threw a stool at a preacher in St. Giles to protest Charles I’s attempts to impose English Anglican worship on Presbyterian Scotland.

And in 1707, when England and Scotland joined the Act of Union, legend has it that the bells of St. Giles’ Cathedral sounded to the tune of “Why must I be so sad on my wedding day?”, reflecting the opposition of many Scots to the journey.

St. Giles is also home to the Thistle Chapel, home to Scotland’s highest order of chivalry, the Order of the Thistle.

Elizabeth, as head of the order, was present when Charles was appointed a member in 1977.

Also at St. Giles, she was symbolically presented with the honors of Scotland—crown, sword, and scepter—at a service of thanksgiving for her coronation in 1953.

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