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"Of all the palaces so fair,
Built for the royal dwelling.
About half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow lies the venerable old town of Linlithgow, on the shore of the beautiful lake (or loch, as it is called in Scotland,) of the same name. The name signifies " the lake of the broad valley," from the fact that it is situated in the centre of a fine fertile plain, and not surrounded with rocks and hills, as sheets of water like this usually are.
Like many old towns, it consists of but one street, and that a very crooked one, of about three quarters of a mile in length, containing a population of 4,000 souls. Few places are more intimately associated with Scottish history than this. It was connected with the wars of Wallace and Bruce—was the birthplace of Queen Mary—while its palace was long the residence of the Stuarts. Too much cannot well be said of the exceeding beauty of the lake; while upon its banks, on a charming grassy knoll, one of the most lovely positions that could well be imagined, stands the ruins of the old palace. The town itself is a queer looking place; most of the houses are very old and venerable—some standing with their gable ends to the street. One of these bears the date of 1597, and has for a motto, "Ve Big Ye Se Varly," (we build you see securely.) Some of the houses are finished inside with stuccoed ceilings and wainscoated walls, and are vaulted with stone on the ground floor—having been, in former times, the residences of the nobility. One old edifice near the railway station belonged to the Knights Templars, and afterward to the order of St. John.
I was much interested in wandering through this strange old town: it is the best preserved specimen of the past I have ever seen. The railway seemed to be the only prominent modern interpolation. This town is celebrated for its fine water, with which it is bountifully supplied. Surmounting one of the hydrants, stands a statue of St. Michael (to whom the town is dedicated), with the inscription below, "St. Michael is kind to strangers." In front of the townhouse stands the Cross Well, a very curious and elegant piece of work. The present structure was built in 1807, but it is said to be a fac simile of the original, erected in 1670. The sculpture is very elaborate, and the water is made to flow in large quantities from the mouths of a multitude of grotesque figures. These figures evidently have some satirical reference to the Monks and Friars of that time. What is very remarkable, this curious work was chiseled the last time, by a man who had but one hand, his mallet being fastened when at work to the stump of his arm.
The palace is of square form, with a large court in the centre. At each corner is a high tower, with a narrow winding stair leading to the top. I ascended one of these stairs to "Queen Margaret's bower," a small room in the turret, overlooking the country for many miles, where Queen Margaret sat watching for her husband James the IV., while absent at Flodden field. Over the door is cut in the stone, the following lines from Marmion:
"His own Queen Margaret, who in Lithgow's bowers
In the kitchen, on the first floor, is one of those enormous fire-places so peculiar to the olden time, some fourteen feet in width, by eight in depth, and large enough to roast several oxen at once. The parliament hall is a fine room, with a gallery for the ladies at one side. But perhaps the most interesting room in the palace, from its historical associations, is the one in which Mary Queen of Scots was born. H,er father, who then lay on his death-bed at Falkland, on being told of her birth, replied, " Is it so?" reflecting on the alliance that had placed the Stuart family on the throne; " then God's will be done ; it came with a lass and it will go with a lass." With those words he turned his face to the wall, and died of a broken^heart. The room which was occupied as a sleeping apartment by the third, fourth, and fifth of the Jameses, has an opening through the tiles of the floor into a small square cell, about large enough to hold one person. In this narrow place James V. lay concealed during a rebellion of his nobles. The tile being replaced after his entrance, an old woman sat upon it spinning, to prevent suspicion. The walls are enormously thick, and contain secret passages and receptacles almost innumerable. A large portcullis once guarded the entrance, but it is now out of order. During the wars of Robert the Bruce, when the palace was occupied by the English, a stern Scotch farmer in the neighborhood, named Binnock, determined to secure it for his own sovereign, King Robert. He was in the habit of supplying the garrison with hay. He put a number of stout yeomen on his cart, concealed among the hay, fully armed, and drove' under the portcullis, which had been raised for his admission. When the hay was directly under the gate, he cut the traces of the horse. The cart and its load frustrated all attempts at getting the portcullis closed. The men among the hay rushed in upon the garrison; others, who lay in ambush near by, joined them, and in a few minutes the Scottish colors floated from the ramparts.
The gate was built by James V. Over the arch are four panels, containing the arms of Charles V. of Germany, Francis I. of France, Henry VIII. of England, and the royal arms of Scotland; thus forming a memorial of the political state of Europe at the period of its erection. Pope Julius II., to confirm the king in the Catholic faith, sent him a consecrated cap and a sword of state. These presents not being suitable for