The History of Leith

February 21, 2012

Moray House described in 1883

By far the most important private edifice still remaining in this region of ancient grandeur and modern squalor is that which is usually styled Moray House, being a portion of the entailed property
of that noble family, in whose possession it remained exactly 200 years, having become the property of Margaret Countess of Moray in 1645 by an arrangement with her younger sister, Anne Home, then Countess of Lauderdale, by whom the mansion was built. ” It is old and it is magnificent, but its age and magnificence are both different from those of the lofty piled-up houses of the Scottish aristocfecy of the Stuart dynasty.”
Devoid of the narrow, suspicious apertures,, barred and loopholed, which connect old Scottish houses with the external air, the, entrances and proportions of this house are noble, spacious,
and pleasing, though the exterior has little ornament save the balcony, on”‘enormous trusses, projecting into the street, with ornate entablatures over their great windows and the stone- spires of
its gatewayr^There are two fine rooms within, both/of them dome-roofed and covered with designs in bas-relief.
The initials of its builder, M. H., surmounted by a coronet, are sculptured on the south window, and over another on the north are the lions of Home and Dudley impaled in a lozenge, for she was the
daughter of Lord Dudley Viscount Lyle, and then the widow of Alexander first Earl of Home, who accompanied James VI. into England. She erected the house some years before the coronation of Charles I. at Edinburgh in 1633; and she contributed largely to the enemies of his crown, as appears by a repayment to her by the English Parliament of £70,000 advanced by her in aid of the Covenanters; and hence, no doubt, it was, that when Cromwell gained his victory over the Duke of Hamilton in the north of England, we are told, when the (then) Marquis of Argyle conducted Cromwell and Lambert, with their army, to Edinburgh, they kept their quarters at the Lady Home’s house in the Canongate, according to Guthrie, and there, adds Sir James Turner, they came to the terrible conclusion ” that there was a necessitie to take away the king’s life;” so that if these old walls had a tongue they might reveal dark conferences connected with the most dreadful events of that sorrowful time. In conclave with Cromwell and Argyle were the Earls of Loudon and Lothian, the Lords Arbuthnot, Elcho, and Burleigh, with Blair, Dixon, Guthrie, and other Puritans. Here, two years subsequently, occurred, on the balcony, the cruel and ungenerous episode connected with the fallen Montrose, amid the joyous banquetings and revelry on the occasion of Lord Lome’s marriage—that Lome better known -as the luckless Earl of Argyle—with Lady Mary Stuart, of the House of Moray.
In the highest terrace of the old garden an ancient thorn-tree was pointed out as having been planted by Queen Mary—a popular delusion, born of the story that the house had belonged to her
brother, the subtle Regent; but there long remained -the old stone summer-house, surmounted by two greyhounds—the Moray supporters—wherein, after a flight from ” the Union cellar,” many of the sigmatures were affixed to the Act of Union, while the cries of the exasperated mob rang in the streets without the barred gates.
When James VII. so rashly urged those measures in 1686 which were believed to be a prelude to the re-establishment of the Catholic hierarchy, under the guise of toleration, a new Scottish
ministry was formed, but chiefly consisting of members of the king’s own faith. Among these was the proprietor of this old house, Alexander Earl of Moray, a recent convert from Protestantism,
then Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament, and as such the representative of royalty in festive hall as well as the Senate; and his mansion, being in the very centre of what was then the most aristocratic quarter of the city, was admirably suited for his courtly receptions, all the more so that about that period the spacious gardens on the south were, like those of Heriot’s Hospital, a kind of public promenade or lounging place, as would appear chiefly from a play called ” The Assembly,” written by the witty Dr. Pitcairn in 1692.
The union of the kingdoms is the next historical event connected with Moray House; and that much of the intrigue and discussion, and of the foul and degrading bribery connected with that
event took place within its walls, may safely be inferred from the fact that it was the residence of the Earl of Seafield, then Lord High Chancellor, and one of the commissioners for the negotiation of the treaty, by which he pocketed £490, paid by the Earl of Godolphin; and he it was who, on giving the royal assent by touching the Act of Union with the sceptre, said, with a brutal laugh, ” There ‘s an end of an auld sang.”

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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