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Pleasure palace of the royal StewartsThe majestic royal palace of the Stewarts at Linlithgow today lies roofless and ruined. Yet the visitor still feels a sense of awe on entering its gates. It was begun by James I in 1424, rising like a phoenix from the flames following a fire that devastated its predecessor. It became a truly elegant ‘pleasure palace’, and a welcome stopping-place for the royal family along the busy road linking Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.
An ancient siteLinlithgow Palace stands on a low green promontory overlooking a small inland loch. The name Linlithgow means ‘the loch in the damp hollow’. The location has a history of occupation reaching back at least to Roman times 2,000 years ago. David I (1124–53) was the first monarch to build a royal residence on the site. He also founded the town that sprang up in its shadow.
Their Majesties’ palaceIn 1424 a great fire swept through the town. The old palace was badly damaged. James I (1406–37) started to build anew. Over the course of the next century and more, his heirs completed the great task. The end result was a monumentally impressive quadrangular palace, with four ranges grouped around a central courtyard. At its centre stood James V’s wonderful fountain (1538). James I’s great hall dominated the east quarter, whilst the royal chapel and royal apartments added by James IV (1488–1513) graced the south and west quarters. The north quarter came crashing to the ground in 1607, and was rebuilt by James VI (1567–1625). Alas, that quarter probably housed the queen’s apartment, meaning that the room where Mary Queen of Scots was born in December 1542 no longer exists.