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During the 16th Century, Edinburgh became a cockpit in which Catholicism and Protestantism - with Mary, Queen of Scots (Mary Stuart) and John Knox as representative champions - fought a battle to the death. The scandals of the Court, as well as of the Church, added fuel to the flames.
All eyes were riveted on Holyrood, on St. Giles', and on the Castle Rock, while the drama was enacted. Its scenes included the murders of Rizzio and Darnley, the birth of James VI., the Bothwell marriage, the flight and capture of Mary, and the siege and surrender of the fortress, which has ever since engaged the interest of the world.
Between Prelacy and Presbytery arose a longer and fiercer quarrel, beginning before the Union of the Crowns in 1603, and lasting a hundred years, till the Revolution of 1688; and again Edinburgh held the centre of the stage.
It witnessed the flinging of "Jenny Geddes's stool" in St. Giles', the signing of the Covenant of 1638 in Greyfriars' Church and in the Tailors' Hall, the executions of Montrose and of Argyll, Cromwell's occupation after Dunbar, and the scenes of the "Killing Time" in the Grassmarket and at the Cross and the Nether Bow.
It had been sadly shorn of prestige and dignity with the removal of the Court to London, although passing gleams of royal favour came with the visits of James VI. and I. in 1617, and of Charles I. in 1633 (when the College of Justice received housing in the new Parliament House), and when the Duke of York, afterwards James VII. and II., played the part of Viceroy at Holyrood.
Through all the changes in Kirk and state in those changeful years, the town, like the kingdom, remained at heart royalist and national, and the Darien failure and still more the Union of the Parliaments, in the early years of the eighteenth century, deepened some of its grievances.
On its social and political sides it was at least as much Jacobite as Hanoverian in the Rebellion of '15 ; and the Porteous Riot in 1736, described by Scott in The Heart of Midlothian.
The retaliatory measures that followed, including the removal of the "Honours of Scotland" and "Mons Meg" to the Tower of London, prepared a considerable part of the population to give a hearty welcome to Prince Charles Edward when, in 1745, he took possession of the Palace of his ancestors and rode in through the city gate.
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