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If you like castles, but want more bang for your castle quid than the disappointing palace at Brighton, I recommend Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The official residence of HRH Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, Holyrood sits at the bottom of the Royal Mile between the city and the Salisbury crags.


You can’t go up into the apartments that the royal family use now, but you can wander through the public reception rooms and the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots (which are really much more interesting anyway).
Mary liked both of the castles on the Royal Mile; her son James was born up the hill at Edinburgh castle, and she spent some time decorating her rooms at Holyrood to mimic the “sophisticated interior style of the South”.
A tiny room off her bedchamber was used as a dining room where Mary would sit with her ladies in waiting and entertain her private secretary David Rizzio. Her second husband Lord Darnley took issue with how close a relationship Mary had with her secretary, and one day he and a gang of personal thugs stormed into the queen’s bedchamber at Holyrood and stabbed Rizzio fifty-seven times while he clutched desperately to Mary’s gown.


Rizzio was buried out here. Seems unpleasant king consorts can kill anyone they want without getting into trouble. Even their wife’s boyfriend

Now that’s a crime of passion. But not really. While Lord Darnley probably wasn’t jealous of the romantic relationship Rizzio may have had with Mary, he was a little concerned about the how the closeness between the two might effect his proximity to the throne. He had previously attacked Mary in attempt to cause her to miscarry, and was otherwise an unpleasant, violent, syphilis riddled drunk.

He was eventually strangled/exploded somewhere here in Edinburgh’s Old Town. By someone. Possibly Mary.
Nemo me impune lacessit
Nemo me impune lacessit. Rough translation: Don’t mess with the queen.



He claimed with dreary pride, ‘I suppose I’m real Brighton’, as if his single heart contained all the cheap amusements, the Pullman cars, the unloving weekends in gaudy hotels, and the sadness after coition.

Graham Green’s gang-war novel, Brighton Rock, gives you a slightly different view of Brighton to the Royal Pavilion. A hundred years after George the paint is still cracking, the dirty weekends away still dirty, but Green’s anti-hero Pinkie can’t rely on a Royal edict to sort out his problems.

The novel begins as Pinkie kills a man by choking him with a stick of Brighton rock candy, and follows his increasingly desperate attempts to take out the witnesses. Steadfast in his Catholic faith but resigned to eternal damnation, Pinkie takes the reader on a tour of Brighton’s underbelly in the 1930’s.

Cos opolitan

While I enjoyed Brighton Rock, some aspects of the narrative are a little trying. All female characters fall into two types: either bony, timid and manipulative or buxom, bawdy and motherly. Both types are viewed by Pinkie with barely contained disgust. It reflects the main character’s fear of women well, but was a bit difficult for me to read at times.

The novel has some really nice poetic parts, like when he’s trying to trick his wife into killing herself in a fake suicide pact: “He put out his mouth and kissed her on the cheek; he was afraid of the mouth – thoughts travel too easily from lip to lip.”

Green divided his novels up into ‘serious’ works and ‘amusements’. Brighton Rock was one of his serious novels. To me it read more like a good tawdry thriller, but I can imagine that for others the story of tested faith in Godless times might be quite moving.


I was interested to read that Graham Green is related to Robert Louis Stevenson. Robert Louis Stevenson is everywhere.

July 2018
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