History of Edinburgh

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The huge rock upon which Edinburgh Castle now stands is a natural stronghold, and warring Celtic tribes would use it as such during the first centuries of the first millennium. King Edwin of Northumbria is thought to have built the castle here in the 7th century and the settlement's name was anglicised to Edinburgh. In 1018 King Malcolm II defeated the Northumbrians and Edinburgh Castle became Scottish.

Essentially the town took its starting point from the Castle, and developed down the slope of Castle Rock. In 1128 an abbey was founded at Holyrood, at the foot of the rock, and what's now called the 'Canongate' took its name from the presence of its canons who founded a separate burgh there.

Since the 9th century there has been a church on the site where St Giles' Cathedral now stands, but little is known about it until the building founded by Alexander I in 1120.

The developing route - from the Castle, along Lawn Market & High Street (past St Giles Cathedral), to Canongate became known as the 'Royal Mile'.

A brief spell under the English & some ferocious power struggles marked the 14th & 15th centuries. During this time, Edinburgh received a royal charter from Robert the Bruce and in 1498 the Palace of Holyrood was built at the site of the Abbey. Also Edinburgh was beginning to benefit from the trade and export of wool, and the 'Old Town' was developing - creating the Grassmarket & Cowgate.

After a hefty defeat by the English, at the battle of Flodden in 1513, the people of Edinburgh began work on the Flodden Wall in a desperate attempt to defend themselves against possible invasion. Completed in 1560, it marked Edinburgh's boundary for the next 200 years.

Also in 1560 Protestantism was declared as Scotland's official religion. Two factions were now set against each other. They are best represented here by the two leaders who personified them in Scotland: John Knox - zealous Protestant reformer; & Mary Queen of Scots - pro-French Catholic.

Espionage and bloodshed suffused every level of Edinburgh society, most famously in an incident when Queen Mary could only watch in horror as her favourite and (alleged) lover, David Rizzio, was murdered by a group of noblemen in Holyroodhouse under the orders of her husband, Lord Darnley. Their son became King James VI of Scotland in 1567, when he was 13 months old. In 1582 Edinburgh University was established, and 1603 saw the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne.

In 1633 Edinburgh officially became the capital of Scotland. Then, in 1707 the Act of Union joined Scotland to England and the Scottish parliament was dissolved.

By the 18th century it was decided to branch out of the city's original ('Flodden') walls - a 'new town' was to be built. Scottish architect James Craig developed a simple grid design based around three parallel streets: Princess Street, George Street and Queen Street. This plan, and the beautiful Georgian architecture of which it is comprised, are still in place today.

The Victorian era was another time of expansion. Middle-class suburbs such as Marchmont & Morningside were born. The Edinburgh & Leith railway line was built in 1831, linking the port and industrial centre with the capital city, & the Edinburgh & Glasgow line followed in 1842.

Many people associate modern Edinburgh with The International Festival, which has been keeping the city at the centre of the international arts scene since 1947.

More recently still, the re-introduction of the Scottish parliament, three centuries after it was dissolved by the Act of Union, has meant a return of Scottish government to Edinburgh.