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How Scotland arrived in Westminster

This week I’ve been re-reading Alison Weir’s The Lost Tudor Princess, Alison Weir’s book about Margaret Douglas, Henry VIII’s niece via his sister Margaret, who married the King of Scotland.  When her husband died, she married again for love, and had Margaret, who, because she was born on English soil became a legitimate heir of the perpetually heir-less Henry VIII.  It’s a complicated story of her pregnant mother fearing for her life and escaping to Berwick only a few weeks before her daughter was born, but it effectively put Margaret into the line of succession in England.

Lost PrincessWhen Margaret was very young and her life in Scotland was unstable thanks to the perpetual clan infighting that went on there, she and her mother were welcomed to the English Court where the younger Margaret would stay for decades.  She stayed in a palace called Scotland in Westminster, close to Henry’s palace at Whitehall, just south of Charing Cross.  Scotland in Westminster?  Huh?  I know that area pretty well, having worked just off the Strand and spending many evenings high-tailing it down to Westminster Abbey for Evensong service after work.  I didn’t know there was a Scotland there.  How did I miss this?

Ahhhh, I thought.  Oh, hang on.  I know what that is!  That’s Scotland Yard!  England’s police force got its name from the name of the street on which the building was situated.  New Scotland Yard.  But how did New Scotland Yard arrive in Westminster?

We have a partial answer from John Stow and his Survey of London.  In his book on Westminster and Charing Cross, Stow says that, “On the left hand from Charing Cross bee also divers fayre Tenements lately builded, till ye come to a large plotte of ground inclosed with bricke, and is called Scotland, where great buildings hath beene for receipt of the kings of Scotland, and other estates of that countrey; for Margaret Queene of Scots and sister to King Henry the eight, had her abiding there, when she came into England after the death of her husband, as the kings of Scotland had in former times, when they came to the Parliament of England.”

So it seems to have been what they called a palace where the Kings or nobles of Scotland would stay when they visited London.  Even before this, in 1436, a jury that was looking at land ownership said that this area had been given by a former King of England to a former King of Scotland so that the Scottish King could build a house there to stay when attending parliament.  But because the two countries never managed to get along properly, the house was never built.  The jury added that because of a war with Scotland, the King of England took the land back.

There’s a second story which contradicts the first a bit.  Apparently in the early days, the hermitage that was at Charing (before it became Charing Cross) was a part of this “Scotland” land.  So when the King took Scotland back, a grant was made to the hermitage for the land.  In the grant of 1462 it reads that the property was bequeathed to various people, but eventually wound up reading that it would go to “Cicile Crawford, all her land, meadow and gardens called Scottes Grounde…”  

Either way, it appears that the space was reserved for the use of the Scottish nobility, but by 1519 King Henry VIII had it back, granting it to Cardinal Wolsey until his fall in 1529.  For a while it was then an empty piece of ground, and there was a dock by the river known as Scotland Dock. 

Much of Whitehall Palace and the attached grounds burned down in 1698 (Inigo Jones’ Banqueting Hall survived), but the name Scotland Yard survived, eventually becoming the entrance to the Metropolitan Police department.   And that’s how we know it today.

You can read the full story, with footnotes and lots of Big Words here: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol16/pt1/pp158-164