Holyrood is the official residence of the British Monarch whilst in Scotland, and it is situated at the bottom end of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh with the Castle at the upper end. The palace has a long history, but most of the current building was built in the seventeenth century on the orders of King Charles II following the Restoration of the Monarchy. That construction was built around the older North-West tower which dates from the sixteenth century.
The Queen visits Scotland for a week at the beginning of the summer and holds investitures, garden parties and receptions. During her time at Holyrood, her personal guard is the Royal Company of Archers. In addition to the Queen, the Prince of Wales also stays in the Palace for a week during the year in his position of Duke of Rothesay.
There has been some form of a royal residence on the site since the early part of the twelfth century when it was constructed by King David I of Scotland though most of the site was an Augustinian Abbey, the remnants of which remain today. It is thought the royal residence was the Abbey guesthouse.
James IV of Scotland, built a Gothic palace on the site between 1501 and 1505, during that time, her married Margaret Tudor. Of that building, the only part that remains is the North-West Tower. The apartments in the tower, include those of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Perhaps astonishingly, one of the buildings was a lion house to house the royal menagerie, including a lion! A side note should perhaps be made that parts of The Tower of London also once held a menagerie.
The palace was damaged during the Civil War, and as said at the beginning Charles II did do some major works to give us the Palace we have today. Though the palace did fall out of favour with our Royal family, it did for a while providing sanctuary to the French Royal Family in the beginning of the eighteenth century, before they went to Austria. It was around this time George IV began using the palace for entertaining guests while staying at nearby Dalkeith Castle, and both George IV and William IV organised repairs, though they stated that Queen Mary’s rooms were to be kept as they would have been in her day.
Queen Victoria was the first monarch for some time to stay at Holyrood, and Prince Albert organised a lot of improvements to the garden, as he did at many of the Royal Palaces. However, in the case of Holyrood, these also included being able to re-route the carriage entrance, so it did not pass through the tenements of Edinburgh, which had been built up during the time when the palace had not been in use. Some of the state apartments were also opened to the public from 1854. The Palace had not though, regained its status as an official residence.
George V carried out significant improvements at the beginning of the twentieth century bringing in central heating and electricity to the palace, and it was he, who in the 1920’s gave the Palace of Holyrood its status as the official residence of the monarch in Scotland. The Palace is also used for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, a right granted to the Church by King William IV. It was also the site of a meeting of the European Council in 1992. Several monarchs and political leaders have stayed there including King Harald of Norway, Queen Margarethe II of Denmark, Francois Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl and more recently Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
The Palace is open to the public apart from when one of the Royal Family is in residence, and there are frequent exhibitions run there administered by the Royal Collections Trust.