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of the Court, it gradually became the centre where national business was transacted. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Parliaments, and General Councils, and Conventions rarely met in Edinburgh; at its close they seldom met elsewhere. By the reign of Mary, Edinburgh had likewise become the permanent seat of the supreme Court of Law. The Court, known as the "Session," which had been set up by James I., had met at intervals in different towns of the kingdom, but the "Judicial Council," founded in 1504 by James IV., and, still more decisively, the creation of the College of Justice by James V. in 1533 made Edinburgh the headquarters of law in Scotland. Already in 1482 James III. could speak of Edinburgh as "the principal burgh in our kingdom," "23 and by the reign of Mary, it was not only without a rival but even without a worthy second.
We have many descriptions of the appearance which Edinburgh presented in the sixteenth century, but these descriptions are for the most part based on native authorities. It may be interesting, therefore, to note the impression which the city made on the eyes of strangers who would naturally remark what specifically distinguished it from the cities of other countries. It should be said that these testimonies belong to a little later date than the reign of Mary; but the passages I shall quote undoubtedly apply to the town as it
appeared throughout the latter half of the sixteenth century.
The one feature of the city which arrested the attention of every stranger and excited their admiration was the great street that stretched then, as it does now, from the Castle to Holyrood. Its length, its spaciousness, and the cleanness of the thoroughfare struck English and Continental visitors alike as unique in their experience of cities. Their testimony on this point is so unanimous that we cannot doubt that they recorded their genuine impressions. From these testimonies it is clear that the Princes Street of to-day does not impress the stranger more vividly than the High Street with its continuations impressed the stranger of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. "This street," says one, "is the glory and beauty of this city; "24 and another writes that Edinburgh "has no beauty except that of its great street.” "So, leaving the Castle," exclaims a more enthusiastic observer, "I descended lower to the city, wherein I observed the fairest and goodliest street that ever mine eyes beheld, for I did never see or hear of a street of that length which is half an English mile from the Castle to a fair port which they call the Netherbow." 25 Specially noteworthy is the tribute of James Howell, one of the most widely-travelled and accomplished Englishmen of his time, who tells us that, with the exception of Palermo, he had never seen a finer street than that
of Edinburgh. But it was not only the length of this wonderful street that impressed all strangers; its spaciousness appeared to them an equally unique characteristic. It is to be remembered that, as towns had grown up in the Middle Ages, their streets were for the most part mere narrow and dingy wynds, into which the sun never shone owing to the height of the overhanging houses. One of the most fashionable streets in Paris in the sixteenth century was the Rue St Jacques, and, as its lines are still preserved, it enables us to form some notion of the amenity of a European capital of that period. We cannot be surprised, therefore, that a French visitor, who must have been well acquainted with Paris, was astounded at the sight of the High Street of Edinburgh. "This street," he remarks, "is so wide that it seems a market-place throughout its whole extent." 27
Still another feature that attracted attention was the excellent paving which made locomotion pleasant both for riders and pedestrians. It is a critical Englishman who writes as follows of this creditable feature of the Scottish capital. It "is the best paved street with boulder stones (which are very great ones) that I have seen; the channels are very conveniently contrived on both sides the streets, so as there is none in the middle; but it is the broadest, largest, and fairest pavement and that entire, to go, ride, or drive upon. Here they usually walk in the middle of the street, which is a
fair, spacious, and capacious walk." 28 Here, however, truth compels us to add that the admirable paving of the Edinburgh streets was not due to native skill. In the Burgh Records we read that in 1559 the Town Council invited Michel Bré, a French causeway-maker, then resident in Dunbar, to take up his abode in Edinburgh for the rest of his life and become the town paviour, and we find that in the following year Bré responded to the invitation-the arrangement being that he should remain till the causeways were 'compleitlie endit and mendit." 29
Besides its incomparable street, Edinburgh possessed other attractions which made it a notable city. It was situated, we are told, "in a fruitful soil and wholesome air," and "adorned with many noblemen's towers lying about it," and it abounded "with many springs of sweet waters." The immediate environs were equally appreciated: to the north and south of the city were "plain and fruitful fields of corn," and between Arthur's Seat and Holyrood was a "park of hares, conies and deer." 30 The Castle dominating the town was likewise an object of peculiar interest, but not for the reason that raises the admiration of the modern tourist. It was not the picturesqueness of its outlines and its situation, but its appearance of impregnability that arrested the observer of the sixteenth century. "I have seen many strengths,” says one, "in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain,
and England, but they must all give place to this unconquered castle, both for strength and situation." 31
Such, in the eyes of strangers, were some of the pleasant features of the Scottish metropolis. But there were other sides to the picture which were equally emphasised. Regarding its inhabitants we have such unflattering remarks as the following, which native testimony, it is to be feared, goes far to confirm. This "were a most healthful place to live in, were not the inhabitants most sluttish, nasty, and slothful people. I could never pass through the hall, but I was constrained to hold my nose; their chambers, vessels, linen, and meat, nothing neat, but very slovenly; only the nobles and better sort of them brave, well-bred men and much reformed." 32 Even the street which was so much admired had serious blemishes which detracted from its general effect. What appeared specially objectionable was the fact that all the houses were faced with wooden boards, perforated with oval holes which served the purpose of windows, and that the vista of the street was broken by the wooden galleries which projected from the second storeys. This lining with boards," we are told, "wherein are round holes shaped to the proportion of men's heads, and this encroachment into the street about two yards, is a mighty disgrace unto it, for the walls (which were the outside) are stone; so, as if this outside facing of boards were removed,