St Giles Cathedral – Edinburgh, Scotland

St Giles Cathedral

St Giles Cathedral

Photograph © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

St Giles’ Cathedral, on High Street, is the historic City Church of Edinburgh. With its famed crown spire it stands on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle.

This cathedral is prominently featured in my novel DARK LORD, book two of the Dark Birthright trilogy.  (Just a bit of background, Dughall Gordon is the Duke.)

Here is an excerpt from a chapter named “Ominous News“:

The Duke stood and replaced the book in a glass-faced case and then gazed out the window.  Several of his men were away on missions and were expected to return soon.  His spirits brightened.  In the courtyard, he saw Jamison dismount his steed and hand the reins to a stable boy.  The servant helped an unfamiliar woman off a red mare and sent her in the direction of the bakehouse.  Minutes passed as the man traversed the square and entered the castle.  Jamison had been sent to Edinburgh to investigate rumors of religious unrest.  The King was imposing a new prayer book on his Protestant subjects, insisting that it be read in the capital.

The Duke was aware of the gravity of the situation.  Weeks ago, Robert MacNeil paid them a visit, sailing the Bonnie Fay into the harbor.  What he’d thought would be a cordial reunion with his uncle from Whinnyfold turned into an unpleasant confrontation.  Furious at the prospect of religious persecution, Robert expected Alex to accompany him to Edinburgh.  Dughall protested, but stopped short of forbidding his father from leaving.  Worse yet, Robert had been angry that he’d become a Catholic.

The Duke sighed.  Now Alex was gone on a potentially dangerous mission.  Sailing to Edinburgh was risky in a fourteen foot scaffie, not to mention the trouble they might get into.  Perhaps Jamison had news of him.  As he waited, Dughall examined a world globe, tracing the countries of Scotland and England.  He wondered how long the border would be accurate, given the rumors.  There was a knock on the door and his servant entered.  His clothes were musty and his beard was unkempt.

Dughall sensed his concern.  He sat at his desk and motioned for the man to join him.  “Ye’ve been gone a long time.”

Jamison grunted.  “Aye, my Lord.”  He took a seat and cleared his throat.  “Forgive my tardiness.  I have much to tell ye.”

The young Lord was glad to see him, but reserved his welcome for later.  These were strange times when business and politics came before friendship.  “What did ye find?”

Jamison scowled.  “Edinburgh is in an uproar!  I witnessed riots, a lynching, and open defiance of the King’s edict.  It looked like madness, but I can hardly blame them.”

The servant had his attention.  “Tell me about it to the smallest detail.”

Jamison seemed tense.  “When I arrived in the city, I learned that the liturgy book was to be read in churches on Sunday.  The people were outraged and from what I saw, ministers were rousing the crowds.”

“Which ministers?”

Jamison stroked his scraggly beard.  “Henderson and Dickson…  They claimed to have consulted Sir Thomas Hope and Lord Balmerino to get approval for their plans.”

The Duke knew that this meant trouble.  “Do we know this Lord Balmerino?”

Jamison nodded.  “He was a friend of yer Grandfather.  We received a letter from him when ye became Duke.”

Dughall remembered dozens of letters, but he’d been too grief-stricken to pay attention.  “What did the ministers say?”

Jamison took a flyer out of his pocket and leaned forward in his chair.  “These pamphlets were scattered about the city.”  He began to read with passion. “Beware of the new and strange leaven of man’s inventions, against the word of God and the beliefs of the Kirk!  The idolatry of kneeling at the moment of Communion, crossing in baptism, and the obeying of men’s holy days shall not prevail!”


“The new fatherless Service-Book is full of gross heresy, popish and superstitious, without warrant from Christ our savior!  Obey not these bastard canons that come from the Antichrist’s foul womb…”

Dughall took a sharp breath.  It was a serious matter indeed, if they were invoking the Antichrist.  “What happened when the book was read?”

Jamison narrowed his eyes.  “That Sunday, I stood in the back of St Giles, a grand cathedral with four massive pillars.  I’ve never in my life seen such a church.  By dawn, it was so packed that there was no way to get a seat.  Serving women sat on three-legged stools, keeping places for their mistresses.  I spoke with one, a lass named Jenny Geddes, who was determined to stop the blasphemy.  Never before have I seen a woman with such fire in her belly.”  He reddened slightly.  “When the time for services came, members of the King’s Privy Council arrived to show support for the book.  They brought armed guards.”

“To the church?”

The servant frowned.  “Aye.”

“Go on…”

“Dean Hanna appeared carrying the leather-bound book and entered the grand pulpit.  As he started to read the new service, the crowd protested, stamped their feet, and hissed to drown him out.  It might have stopped there but for Jenny Geddes.  She said, ‘Villain!  Dost thou say mass at my ear?’”

“What happened?”

“Jenny threw her stool, narrowly missing his head.  Others joined in, tossing rotten cabbages.”

“Did they injure the man?”

“Only his pride…  Then the Bishop of Edinburgh entered the pulpit.  He tried to quiet the crowd, but as he spoke things got worse.”

Dughall’s head ached.  “How could they get worse?”

“They called him a beast, a false Christian wolf!  The offspring of a devil and a witch…”  Jamison coughed into his fist.  “Pardon the words, my Lord.  They’re not mine.  Some said that it was better that he be hanged as a thief than live to be such a pest to God’s church.”

“Strong words, indeed.”

Jamison snorted.  “I wish it had stopped at words…  Guards forced the parishioners into the streets, where they rioted and threw stones at the cathedral’s windows.”

“They defaced a house of God?”

“Aye.  When the Bishop left, a mob pursued his carriage, hurling stones and curses.  They say that he shit himself.”  The servant’s expression darkened.  “Edinburgh is up in arms.  Nearly a hundred were arrested and thrown in the Tollbooth.”

Dughall’s stomach turned.  “Was my father there?”



“Nay.  Why did he go?”

The young Lord gritted his teeth.  “It’s a long story.  My uncle insisted that he accompany him to the reading.”

Jamison frowned.  “He wasn’t at St Giles on Sunday.  Perhaps he was at Greyfriar’s.  Shall I go back for him?”

Dughall decided to trust his sight.  “Nay.  Let’s wait a week to see if he returns.  So, my friend…  What’s yer assessment of the situation?”

“The people are on fire with religious fervor.  It won’t be long before it reaches the Highlands.”

Dughall reflected on this dangerous situation.  Most of his subjects were Catholic, but more than three hundred were Protestant, including his father and mother.  Given Alex’s reaction, he wondered how it would affect them.  Religious fervor was one thing, but acts of lawlessness would have to be punished.  His main concern was about what the King would do.  He had a reputation for stubbornness and cruelty.  “We’re a long way from Edinburgh.  The unrest may not travel this far.”

Jamison paled.  “My Lord.  I am afraid that I have rendered that impossible.”

Dughall’s stomach knotted.  “How so?”

“After the riot, I sought out Jenny Geddes to inquire about the will of the people.  We spent a week together visiting her contacts and discussing the rebellion.  We ate, drank, and slept together.  After that I married her.”

This was too much to bear.  “What!?  Ye brought her here?”  He recalled the lass in the courtyard.

Jamison hung his head.  “Forgive me, my Lord.  Ye did encourage me to marry.”

“Aye, but to bring a rabble rouser in our midst…”

“I can control her.”

Dughall was unsure about that.  The women in his life were not easily controlled…


Read more in DARK LORD


Jenny Geddes - illustration from Dark Lord

Jenny Geddes – illustration from Dark Lord


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