This morning we awoke to a sunrise over the sea outside of Queensferry which is where the port for Edinburgh is located.
Oh yes, and Edinburgh is not pronounced Edinborough, it’s pronounced Edinburg, or at least similarly with the Scottish brogue. The Scottish brogue is comforting, homey. It feels like the language of the people.
Today began with tendering into the port. That means that the ship can’t get close enough to actually dock. So they took 3 or 4 lifeboats and lowered them, amongst much swearing in languages I don’t understand, but it was still quite recognizable as such. When they had trouble getting the flag raised on those boats, it didn’t do much to instill confidence. In any case, we did get to port, eventually, but we were an hour late for our tour to begin. Here’s our Carnival cruise ship, anchored beyond the bridge and we are standing in port
We were greeted one final time in port by bagpipers. I’ve enjoyed those greetings so much. Music touches the soul in ways nothing else can. This ancestral music is ingrained in the lives of my ancestors, and therefore, in me.
The earliest known human habitation in the Edinburgh area is from Cramond where evidence was found of a Mesolithic camp-site dated to circa 8500 BC. Traces of later Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been found on Castle Rock, Arthur’s Seat, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills. People have been here for a very long time.
By the time the Romans arrived in Lothian at the end of the 1st century AD, they discovered a Celtic Britonnic tribe whose name they recorded as the Votadini. At some point before the 7th century AD, the Gododdin, who were presumably descendants of the Votadini, built the hill fort of Din Eidyn or Etin. Although its exact location has not been identified, it seems more than likely they would have chosen a commanding position.
“Edin”, the root of the city’s name, is most likely of Brittonic Celtic origin, from the Cumbric language or a variation of it that would have been spoken by the earliest known people of the area. It appears to derive from the place name Eidyn mentioned in the Old Welsh epic poem Y Gododdin.
In 1603, King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne, uniting the crowns of Scotland and England in a personal union known as the Union of the Crowns, though Scotland remained, in all other respects, a separate kingdom. In 1638, King Charles I’s attempt to introduce Anglican church forms in Scotland encountered stiff Presbyterian opposition culminating in the conflicts of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Subsequent Scottish support for Charles Stuart’s restoration to the throne of England resulted in Edinburgh’s occupation by Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth of England forces – the New Model Army – in 1650.
In the 17th century, the boundaries of Edinburgh were still defined by the city’s defensive town walls, which you can see, along with the castle, in the drawing from 1670 by Wenceslas Hollar, above. As a result, expansion took the form of the houses increasing in height to accommodate a growing population. Buildings of 11 stories or more were common, and have been described as forerunners of the modern-day skyscraper. Most of these old structures were later replaced by the predominantly Victorian buildings seen in today’s Old Town.
By the first half of the 1700s, despite rising prosperity evidenced by its growing importance as a banking centre, Edinburgh was being described as one of the most densely populated, overcrowded and unsanitary towns in Europe. Visitors were struck by the fact that the various social classes shared the same urban space, even inhabiting the same tenement buildings; although here a form of social segregation did prevail, whereby shopkeepers and tradesmen tended to occupy the cheaper-to-rent cellars and garrets, while the more well-to-do professional classes occupied the more expensive middle storeys.
A census conducted by the Edinburgh presbytery in 1592 recorded a population of 8,003 adults spread equally north and south of the High Street which runs along the spine of the ridge sloping down from the Castle. The population rose rapidly, from 49,000 in 1751 to 136,000 in 1831, primarily due to migration from rural areas.
In the second half of the 1700s, Edinburgh was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, and had become a major intellectual center, earning it the nickname “Athens of the North” because of its many classical buildings and reputation for learning, similar to Ancient Athens. The University of Edinburgh was established by royal charter in 1583 preceded by the Royal College of Physicians in 1506.
My ancestor, George McNiel and his two brothers were supposed to have studied at the University of Edinburgh for the ministry before sailing for America where they arrived about 1750. He was born about 1720, so if this is true, he would have been in Edinburgh between about 1735 and 1750, or so. Below is an engraving from about 1753, so this would have been what George McNiel would have seen, if he was in Edinburgh.
We arrived in Edinburgh about half an hour after leaving the port and drove through the city to the old town to visit the castle. Edinburgh castle was a heavily fortified castle built on a massive granite hill in the center of the city.
Surrounding the city are actually 3 volcanoes, dormant now, but giving great height and character to the city itself. One rises in the middle of the city.
In this photo of old town from above, you can see one of the volcanoes as well.
The castle itself holds, among other things, the Scottish crown jewels. I love mysteries, and there is a good one that goes along with the crown jewels. In 1707, the crown jewels were sealed in a box. I don’t remember the political problem at hand, but in 1818, Scotland’s sovereignty was restored and the box was opened. When it was opened, there was the crown of course, and the sword and the scepter, but there was also another scepter that they have absolutely no idea why was included. Personally, I think it was Merlin’s!
The oldest part of the castle and indeed, the oldest building in Edinburgh is St. Margaret’s chapel at the very top built by one of the earliest monarchs to honor his mother who died in 1097. Very old and very small but so very full of history.
This is probably where Alexander Campbell said his final prayers in this lifetime. I don’t know if he was my direct ancestor, but I do know that he was my relative.
The Kings were Celtic, but some of the wives became Christian and started bestowing names like Richard, James and Alexander on the sons instead of traditional Celtic, pagan, names.
Mary Queen of Scots gave birth here to the eventual King James I of England in the room known as the Mary Room or the Birth Chamber in June of 1566, which caused me to wonder about the DNA of the royal family and royal houses.
As I’ve traveled throughout the British Isles and learned about the history of the monarchy, it has become apparent that while the British monarchy was considered well, British, “the monarchy” as a whole was much more. In fact, the monarchs of the various countries and regions made it a point to marry strategically so that politics and power would come and go with spouses. So, I had to wonder, has anyone actually looked at and identified the DNA of the various “houses” of European royalty? How closely related are they? I’ll make it a point to do some research on this when I return home.
This castle was extremely well fortified. It had 6 different gates at different levels, draw and drop bridges, a mote of course and it sat on top of a huge granite mountain, to begin with. Here’s the castle from another angle.
And a view across all of Edinburgh, from the castle compound.
All of the heads of the clans would come here to meet. I know my ancestors were here. The Campbells would assuredly have been included. They would have arrived for important meetings and walked on these very cobblestones where we step today.
It’s easy to see through their eyes in a place like this as I walk in their footsteps.
We know, beyond a doubt that the Campbells were here, because the portcullis gate, the main entrance, above, is situated beneath the state prison, better known as Argyll’s Tower, as the 9th Earl of Argyll, Archibald Campbell, the Marquis of Argyll, was imprisoned there prior to his execution in 1685 by “the maiden.” I didn’t know this until after my visit when I was doing research on the history of Edinburgh castle. Amazing that I was in the right place and literally walked where my ancestors had been, and didn’t even know it.
Below, the Earl and his second wife, Lady Anne Mackenzie. His first wife was Lady Mary Stuart who was the mother of his 7 children, including son, Archibald, the 10th Earl and first Duke of Argyll. You can see the Campbell pedigree chart here.
The Earl was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, ironically, within view of the Castle (in the background, below) where he met his demise.
From the castle, we walked down High Street, the old town, now known as the “miracle mile” which is where all of the shopping is located.
Jim and I found a Starbucks and had a nice coffee and then did some shopping. I bought myself something very Scottish, a penannular. This brooch or pin is used to pin and hold wool scarves. Mine is antique and beautiful. This one is from the National Museum of Scotland.
Below, a contemporary penannular at CeltArts (which is available to purchase) shows how a penannular is used. By the way, these aren’t just for women. Men wear them with the scarves slung over their shoulders.
One of my favorite things in old cities is the little alleyways between buildings that are connected above the alleyway. They weren’t alleyways originally, but now they are both too narrow and too steep for anything but foot traffic. I took pictures of several. Many are just wide enough for a person.
In Edinburgh, there are several private schools for children and there is a lot of academic competition to be admitted. There are two from which it’s believed that the inspiration for Hogwarts was derived.
It’s a beautiful city and the ultimate in what it means to be Scottish. It’s not unusual to see men walking around in kilts as a business suit, complete with kilt, coat and tie, or sometimes kilts and sweatshirts. Kilts, here, are the ultimate in manly. For those who want to see what I mean, here’s a link for you. Yes, it’s family friendly, but word of warning, you’ll change your mind about kilts forever.
I had to laugh, because in Scotland, I’m reminded of this cartoon about restroom confusion.
On the return trip, our guide talked about history and then we were back at the docks. The bridges here are very interesting and artful. One, the suspension bridge at left below, reminds me of the bridge connecting the lower peninsula of Michigan with the upper peninsula at Mackinaw City and could be its twin.
Our towel guy tonight wears a celtic tartan scarf with the beautiful penannular I purchased in the wonderful little antique shop below Edinburgh castle as we wandered. I don’t know why these penannulars enchanted me so, but they did. Probably because these reach back in time, probably to the beginning of Celts and shawls, to hold them in place. They aren’t contemporary and they have character already. They are quintessentially Scottish as well, and are heirlooms. The shop had a few new ones too, and they are shinier and unscathed, but the antique ones had character. My ancestors wore penannulars, certainly, and now, so will I.
Our towel guy also has a little book from Edinburgh Castle chapel and a small contemporary watercolor painting of the castle.
British Monarchy’s DNA
After I returned home, I set out to see if anyone had done any genetic work on the DNA of the British monarchy.
The answer, it turns out, is yes. In August 2013, Bradley Larkin published a paper about the Y DNA of the British Monarchy in honor of the birth of the Prince of Cambridge.
Bradley said: “A review was made of existing genetic genealogy findings that infer characteristics of the Y-DNA of members of the British Monarchy. Nine sustained Y-DNA lineages since the year 927 CE were noted as dynastic groups. Haplogroup and haplotype characteristics of three of the dynasties were presented with two more dynasties noted as testable but unpublished. Cultural and geographical origins of these dynasties were considered as context for their DNA haplogroups. Specimen candidates for further testing were identified noting that some will require Ancient DNA (aDNA) recovery and analysis.”
Bradley identified the dynasties of the British monarchy beginning in the year 927 and ending in 2013, as shown below.
- Knytlinga (Viking)
Bradley then researched each dynasty and lineage. If lines have been tested, he provides the results. Several lines have no male descendants, so for those, we would need ancient DNA. The connections and interconnections are fascinating.
To view the detail and summary data about each dynasty, read Bradley’s paper here, especially the summary table near the end.
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