Count d’Artois at the Scottish Palace of Holyrood

After the Count d’Artois fled France he eventually ended up in Great Britain and became a leader of the French émigrés. Although he was welcomed in Great Britain, he wanted the Bourbon monarchy to rule in France and borrowed money to attempt an uprising that failed. When he returned to Great Britain defeated, he was “advised that should he step ashore he would be liable to imprisonment for debt under British law if he did not meet the sum due.”[1] Around this same time, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s young son, Louis-Charles (sometimes called Louis XVII), died on 8 June 1795. The British government wanted the Count d’Artois to have as little influence on British policy as possible and therefore wanted him out of London and because he was in debt, their solution was to allow the Count to find refuge at the ancient Scottish palace of Holyrood located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Engraving of Count d’Artois. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The Scottish palace of Holyrood was within the boundaries of an ancient monastery that had been founded in 1128 by King David. The monastery offered sanctuary to any debtor who stayed within its borders, and, thus, it was reported that as “a privileged place, where the stern ministers of the law could not enter for the purpose of enforcing pecuniary claims, it was fixed upon by the British Government as a residence for the [Count], and some of his family as he might be there enabled to live without molestation.”[2] The Count’s boundaries would be limited to about a three-mile circumference. However, the Count did not always have to stay within the monastery’s boundaries because according to one newspaper, every Sunday, he was free to roam at large on that day as “a writ [could not] … be executed anywhere.”[3]

Scotland with the city of Edinburgh noted. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

When the Count d’Artois arrived in Edinburgh 1796, he received a twenty-one gun salute when he landed. Another salute was fired from the Scottish palace of Holyrood. The Count remained at the palace until 1799, and periodically stayed there until 1803. However, when he first arrived at the palace, it was not ready to receive guests. It had been rebuilt in 1670, but the state apartments had been neglected for about a century. So, until arrangements could be made to bring Holyrood up to appropriate standards, the Count and his entourage crowded into other accommodations. These accommodations were provided by the governor (Lord Adam Gordon) at Edinburgh Castle, a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh from its position on the Castle Rock and is at the opposite end of the Scottish palace of Holyrood.

Scottish palace of Holyrood

Scottish palace of Holyrood 1889. Public domain.

While Count d’Artois stayed at the Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood was brought up to date. However, because his stay at Holyrood was thought to be temporary, he was not consulted on the refurbishing of the palace or the furniture added. To ensure Holyrood could temporarily accommodate the Count and his party, the following was accomplished in about four months:

“Old tapestries were taken down in five rooms, to be cleaned and repaired, and were re-hung in three rooms, the others laid aside. Chimneys were swept, walls repaired, cleaned, and hung with canvas before being papered. Carpets were made up and laid, curtains and pelmets made for windows and bed hangings. Bed and table linen, china, glass, brushes and besoms, door mats, powdering cloths and servants’ aprons were all delivered. High quality mahogany furniture was supplied. … A private chapel was set up at the end of the picture gallery, and a billiard room completely fitted out with cues, markers and a table cost £40. The total bill, for £2,613 13s. 9 1/2d. is dated May 1796, and in July the first installment of £750 on account was paid by His Majesty’s Court of Exchequer for Scotland.

… Recalling the splendours, left behind in France, Holyrood, even when fully furnished must have appeared cold and spartan. There was no bath: not even a tin one was supplied, whereas at his charming Château de Bagatelle … there had been two bathrooms, with baths. … The furniture was good plain mahogany decorated with delicate stringing. The rooms were carpeted with fresh wallpaper in place of old tapestries, and the windows in the main rooms (except the dining room, where the curtains were of red moreen), were hung with printed chintz, lined and fringed, that matched the bed hangings and loose covers of the chairs, stools and even the bidets.”[4]

While the Count d’Artois was in Scotland, the Scottish public commiserated with his plight. Even the “lower orders” showed respect to him and his entourage whenever they encountered them. Despite this respect, the Count tended to mix little with Scottish nobility, although he did meet regularly with the family of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. The Count’s entourage had no such reservations and mixed freely not only with nobility but also with Edinburgh’s elite society.

The only time that the Count left the Scottish palace of Holyrood was on Sundays. That was because it was the one day he could freely walk the streets. Once when he did, he observed the “decorous behavior” of the Scottish and saw that they attended church and honored God.

“On his return to the palace, he forbade his own people to play at tennis, as was usual. Unwillingly relinquishing this amusement, they had recourse to back-gammon. This he also forbade. They were inconsolable under the heavy evil of spending a day without amusement and warmly remonstrated, ‘that their religion required no such austerity.’ ‘True,’ said he, ‘this forbearance makes no part of my religion; but I think it is respect which we owe to the hospitality, and the morally decent conduct of the nation under whose protection we live, to give up a trifling gratification that is incompatible with their ideas of sanctity and decorum.'”[5]

Despite enforcing an austere Sunday, the Count d’Artois apparently enjoyed himself while living at Scottish palace of Holyrood. He was reported to hold levées (court assemblies) twice a week, which were described as

“unusually brilliant, and … attended by the nobility, judges, and the first characters in Scotland. While this tended to sweeten the exile of the illustrious strangers, it also served to raise in the minds of the inhabitants of Edinburgh a faint idea of ‘the days of other years,’ when the presence of their own monarchs communicated splendour and animation to their ancient metropolis, inspiring them with a proud consciousness of the remote antiquity and hereditary independence of the Scottish throne.”[6]

Scottish palace of Holyrood around 1878. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Count left the Scottish palace of Holyrood in 1803 and gained the French throne in 1824 making him Charles X. However, after the July Revolution occurred in 1830, Charles X abdicated and his Orléanist cousin Louis Philippe I eventually gained the throne. Charles X then returned to living exile. He also returned to Scotland and after receiving the following greeting, he settled at the Scottish palace of Holyrood once again:

“About two o’clock yesterday afternoon, an Admiralty steam yacht arrived off Newhaven, and came immediately to anchor, having on board the ex-King Charles X … and suite. At four o’clock, a six-oared boat left the yacht, and shortly landed the ex-King … on the pier. The ex-King looked extremely well; he was dressed in a light brown surtout, and small English hat. … A jolly fishwife … pressed forward, pushing every one aside, until she reached the ex-king, whom she grasped by the hand shook it heartily, saying ‘Oh Sir, I’m happy to see ye again among decent folk.’ Charles smiled, and asked her name, when she replied – ‘My name’s Kirsty Ramsey, Sir, and mony a guid fish I hae gien ye: and mony a guid shillin’ I got for’t thirty years sin syne.’”[7]

This time the ex-King and his family remained at Holyrood until 1832. At that time, he received an invitation from Emperor Francis I of Austria to move there and, so, he and his family moved to Prague. Upon the death of Emperor Francis in 1835, Charles X and his family eventually relocated to Görz (Gorizia), which is where he caught cholera and died on 6 November 1836.

Scottish palace of Holyrood - Engraving of Charles X

Engraving of Charles X. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.


  • [1] K. Carpenter and P. Mansel, The French Emigres in Europe and the Struggle against Revolution, 1789-1814 (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1999), p. 110.
  • [2] John Johnstone, The Schoolmaster, and Edinburgh Weekly Magazine v. 1 (Edinburgh: John Anderson [for John Johnstone], 1832), p. 250.
  • [3] —, “The Compte d’Artois,” Hampshire Chronicle, January 16, 1796, p. 4.
  • [4] Margaret Swain, “Furniture for the Comte d’Artois at Holyrood, 1796,” Furniture History 28 (1992): p. 98–99.
  • [5]  The Percy Anecdotes, (J. & J. Harper, New York, 1847), Volumes 1-2, p. 165.
  • [6] Charles Mackie, The Castles, Palaces, and Prisons of Mary of Scotland (London: C. Cox, 1850), p. 181.
  • [7] —, “The Landing of the Ex-King of France,” Belfast News-Letter, October 26, 1830, p. 4.

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  1. Caroline Roussot on August 25, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Visiting the Museum of Decorative Arts in Bordeaux a few years ago, we found that it also houses a small museum of French royalist / restoration memorabilia, including letters written by the family of Charles X during their exile at Holyrood.

    The collection would certainly repay further close study, but one letter in particular sticks in the mind – a letter from the then-10-y-o Henri de Puiseux (future Count of Chambord) to his mother Princess Caroline of Bourbon-Sicily. Amongst other gems, he dutifully informs his mother that he is working hard at his English:

    ‘Nous travaillons beaucoup a l’anglais, mais le resultat est si mediocre! Ces diables d’Ecossais le parlent si mal!’ (working hard at our English lessons, but with mediocre results. These devils of Scots speak it so badly!)

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