We have been in the United Kingdom for a month and a half now, have seen Queen Elizabeth II on three separate occasions (she has even followed us to Edinburgh), and have visited a half-dozen of her Royal Palaces and Castles. And, yet, we have not received an invitation to stay at any of her properties. You don't suppose she is still miffed over that "little" misunderstanding between America and the U.K. some 239 years ago?
Anyway, today we visited the Queen's official residence in Scotland, Holyrood Palace ( "rood" in Scottish means "cross", so this literally means Holy Cross Palace). Originally constructed as an Abbey in 1128 by King David I, Holyrood is now the setting for State ceremonies and official entertaining. In 1501, James IV of Scotland (and aka as James I of the U.K.) cleared the grounds around the Abbey and built a palace for himself. Reportedly, he chose the unicorn in chains as part of his Coat of Arms to symbolize that if he was powerful enough to capture this mythical creature, he was powerful enough to rule the unified country. Mary, Queen of Scots, spent most of her life within these walls, marrying her two husbands here and seeing her trusted secretary murdered in her apartments.
By the early 1700's, the palace fell into disuse, as the monarchy of the time preferred Scotland's castles as their residences. During this period, Holyrood became a refuge for "...poor and distressed noblemen." After Queen Victoria had obtained Balmoral Castle, she re-introduced the custom of residing at Holyrood when visiting Scotland. George V and Queen Mary began the tradition of hosting Garden Parties on the grounds of the palace. Today, "Holyrood Week" (which just ended) marks the monarchy's annual official visit to Scotland which includes a number of State ceremonies. The week culminates with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh hosting the traditional Garden Party for some 8000 guests from all walks of Scottish life (again, they somehow "forgot" to invite us). While the repast included cucumber sandwiches, tea, cake, and ice cream, it apparently was not enough to sustain the guests, as we found many of them after the event, still dressed in their finery, taking sustanence in restaurants along the Royal Mile.