The History of Leith

March 19, 2011

Maitland of Lethington and the Leith Tolbooth

Few prisoners of much note have been incarcerated here, as its tenants were generally persons who had been guilty of minor crimes. Perhaps the most celebrated prisoner it ever contained was the Scottish Machiavel, “Maitland of Lethington, who had fallen into the merciless hands of the Regent Morton after the capitulation of Edinburgh Castle in 1573, and who died, as it was said, ” in the Did Roman fashion,” by taking poison to
escape a public execution.
This was on the 9th of July, as Calderwood records, adding that he lay so long unburied, ” that the vermin came from his corpse, creeping out under the door where he died. Such an occurrence, it has been remarked, said little for the sanitary arrangements of the Leith
Tolbootb, and it is to be hoped that it had few
t other prisoners on that occasion.

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