The History of Leith

October 21, 2010


In 1522 the town was sacked and burned by an English fleet, under
the command of Sir William Fitz William, and in 1544 King Henry VIII., in resentment for the refusal of the Scottish guardians of the infant Queen Mary, to consent to her betrothal—at two years of age-—to his son, Prince Edward, afterwards King Edward VI., chiefly under the advice of Cardinal Beaton, ordered an invasion of Scotland, under Hertford. The instructions were of the most cruel and merciless
kind. Edinburgh Castle was to be overthrown. Holyrood House, Leith, and other towns were to be sacked, and in the event of resistance, man, woman, and child were to be put to the sword without exception. Fife was to be similarly treated, and the Cardinal’s town of St Andrews was to be spoiled and turned upside down, ” as the upper stone may be the nether, and not one stick stand by another—sparing no creature alive within the same, especially such as either in friendship or blood be allied to the Cardinal.” The cruel Hertford—afterwards Duke of Somerset—did not forget his instructions,
and history records that he made sad havoc on this his first hostile expedition to Scotland. Unhappily the relations of the two countries became worse instead of better, and Somerset returned three years afterwards with a strong army. His fleet came to Leith. and .again that town was grievously plundered and destroyed. This was the expedition that led to the Battle of Pinkie, so disastrous to the Scottish arms.
And how fared the churches and other ecclesiastical buildings in days so dark for Scotland? When Leith was burning, where were the monks of St Anthony, and was the Chapel of St Mary spared from the fire and
cruelty of the English soldiers when all around was ablaze? It was in 1545 that ” that blessed martyr of God, George Wishart, was visited in
Leith by John Knox.”

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