Occupying the space between Blaqkfriars Wynd and Toddrick’s Wynd, the archiepiscopal palace afforded a striking example of the revolutions effected by time and change of manners on the ancient abodes of the opulent and the noble. As it appeared before its demolition no doubt could be entertained that some portions of it had been rebuilt, to suit the requirements of its last humble
denizens, but much remained to form connecting-links in the long chain of ages. The whole of the entrance floor had been strongly groined with stone, built on solid pillars, calculated to afford protection during the brawls and conflicts of the times.
Within the. arched passage that led from the Wynd a broad flight of steps led to the first floor of the palace, a mode of construction common in those days, when the architect had to consider
security, and how the residents might resist an attack till terms were obtained, or succour came. In early times the whole of the space occupied by the Mint in the Cowgate and other buildings to the north thereof had been the garden grounds of the archiepiscopal residence. Here it was, as we have related, that the Earl of Arran and his armed adherents held their stormy conclave on the 3oth of April, 1520, concerting the capture and death of Angus, whose war array held the High Street and barricaded the close-heads ; and here it was that Gawain Douglas, the Bishop of Dunkeld, and translator of Virgil, whose two brothers fell at Flodden, called on the archbishop, and strove to keep the peace in vain, for the prelate was already in his armour, and the dreadful conflict
of ” Cleanse the Causeway” ensued, giving victory to the Douglases, and compelling the fugitive archbishop, during 1525, the time they were in power, to seek safety in the disguise of a,shepherd, and, literally, crook in hand, to tend flocks of sheep on Bograin-knowe, not far from his diocesan city of Glasgow.
James V. took up his abode in the archiepiscopal palace in 1528, preparatory to the meeting of Parliament, and the archbishop, who had been one of the most active promoters of his liberation from
the Douglas faction, became his host and entertainer. Here, in after years, resided his nephew,, David Beaton, the formidable cardinal, who, in 1547, was murdered so barbarously in the castle of
St. Andrews, and here also was literally the cradle of the now famous High School of Edinburgh, as it was occupied as the “Grammar Skule ” in 1555,. while that edifice, which stood eastward of the
Kirk-of-field, was in course of erection. We next hear of the little palace in the reign of Mary. On the 8th of February, 1562, her brother, the Lord James Stewart, ” newly created Earl of Mar (afterwards Moray) ” was married upon Agnes Keith, daughter to William Earl Marischal,” says the Diurnal of Occurrents, ” in the kirk of Sanct Gdl, in Edinburgh, with solemnity as the like hasnot
been seen before; the hale nobility of this realm being there present, and convoyit them down to Holyrood House, where the banquet was made, the queen’s grace thereat.” After music and dancing, casting of fire-balls, tilting with fire-spears,-and much jollity, next evening the queen, with all her court, came up in state from Holyrood “to the cardinal’s lodging in the Blackfriar Wynd,
which was preparit and hung maist honourably.” Then the queen and her courtiers had a joyous supper, after which all the young craftsmen of the city came in their armour, and conveyed her back to Holyrood. Up Blackfriars Wynd, past the house of the late cardinal, Queen Mary proceeded on the fatal night of the 9th of February, 1567,. about the same time nearly that Bothwell and his accomplices passed down the next alley, on their way to the Kirk-of-field. She had dined that day at Holyrood, and about eight in the evening went to sup with the Bishop of Argyle. At nine she rose from the table, and accompanied by the Earlsof Argyle, Cassilis, and Huntly, escorted by her archer-guard and torch-bearers, went to visit Darnley in the lonely Kirk-of-field, intending to=
remain there for the night, but returned home. As she was proceeding, three of Bothwell’s retainers, Dalgleish, Powrie, and Wilson, in their depositions,, stated that after conveying the powder-bags to the convent gate, at the foot of the Blackfriars. Wynd, they saw “the Quenes grace gang an before them with licht torches,” on which Powrie, as if conscience-stricken, exclaimed to Wilson, ” Jesu ! Pate ! What na gate is this we are ganging? I trow it be not gude.”
source-Old and New Edinburgh