This imposing feature dominates St Andrew Square – loosely based on Trajan’s Column in Rome – is dedicated to and features a statue of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville.
A leading Scottish lawyer, he eventually ascended to Lord Advocate, and was widely respected. He gradually retired from the legal profession to take up public service positions. In 1774 he was elected MP for Midlothian, and became renowned for his persuasive and thoughtful arguments, and in 1791 joined the cabinet when he became the first Secretary of State. Unfortunately he became known for something far less salutory, when he continually obstructed the abolition of the slave trade, in which Scotland had many financial interests.
He failed to redeem himself when appointed Minister of War during the Wars of the French Revolution, and is widely thought to have a lack of organization and poor planning, one critic going so far as to say he was:
so profoundly ignorant of war that he was not even conscious of his own ignorance
A move to First Lord of the Admiralty seemed more successful, with Dundas making advancements in several areas. However suspicions arose concerning the handling of the Admiralty’s finances when Dundas had been Treasurer, and in 1805 a committee of enquiry’s report on the matter was enough to see Dundas impeachment trial – the last time one was ever held in the House of Lords.
Dundas was aquitted of any wrong-doing, and slowly retired from public life. He declined an earldom in 1809.
Multrees Walk, on the south-east corner of St Andrew Square, is probably the most presigious shopping center in Scotland. A dedicated leader of fashion, the complex houses some of the biggest names in the world of style, including Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, Sassoon, Kurt Geiger, Armani and Mulberry, to name but a few.
The centerpiece is Harvey Nichols flagship Scottish store. Whether you’re looking for a new handbag, a new haircut, or simply want to browse the latest fashions from all over the world, it’s swiftly become one of the country’s leading shopping attractions.
Edinburgh has its fair share of literary superstars – J.K. Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin are household names the world over. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, however, there was one name that eclipsed all others: Sir Walter Scott.
The author of around twenty novels and numerous essays, poems and short stories, Scott was the first truly international bestseller.
In 1783, at the tender age of 12, Scott began studying classics at the University of Edinburgh. While there he met Thomas Blacklock, the blind poet whom the Southside pub is named after, and a Ayrshire friend of his named Robert Burns, setting the stage for a literary career. When Scott completed his studies he moved to the legal profession, but his love of writing stayed with him. In 1796 his friend James Ballantyne founded a printing press in Kelso, and Scott jumped at the chance to have his first works published, with his breakthrough coming in 1805 with The Lay of the Last Minstrel, a collection of poems which swiftly captured the public imagination. In 1813, only a few years after rising to public attention, he was offered the position of Poet Laureate, which he declined.
When Scott first tried his hand at writing a novel (Waverley, a tale of the Jacobite rebellion) he decided to do so anonymously – prose was considered a very poor second to poetry at the time, and Scott did not wish to be associated with it should the book fail. His fears were unfounded however, and Waverley was a huge hit. Scott continued to write further books in the series, maintaining the veil of secrecy as “The Author of Waverley”, although in the close knit literary circle of the day his identity was an open secret – he was even invited to dinner as “The Author of Waverley” by George Prince Regent, later to become George IV and unwitting star of Blackadder (including a portrayal of Dr Samuel Johnsone, another contemporary of Scott’s).
In a twist that would seem more suited to Blackadder, Prince George gave Scott permission to embark on a hunt for the semi-mythical Scottish Crown Jewels, a mission which Scott was remarkably successful in, unearthing them in a vault at Edinburgh Castle in 1818 and earning Scott the title of Baronet. This success led to him being asked to “stage-manage” the entry into Edinburgh of the newly crowned George IV. Scott’s theme of tartan is widely credited as creating the modern style of Scottish formal dress and the reintroduction of the kilt, which had been banned during the 1745 rebellion against England – it would appear that not even the King’s choice of a kilt over bright pink tights could put people off the plaid!
Harder times were to follow in 1825 however, when a banking crisis led to a financial crash. Scott had invested heavily in Ballantyne’s publishing house, and found himself very publically ruined. Rather than be declared bankrupt Scott bravely transferred his house and income into a trust in his creditor’s names, and began to write himself out of debt. Seven years later Scott died, still in debt, although his works continued to sell well enough to pay off the trust and his debt was eventually discharged.
The Scott Monument, just behind Tiles bar on Princes Street, was commissioned by an act of Parliament. Following a competition to find an architect a (suitably pseudonymous!) entrant who went by the name of “John Morvo” was chosen. The foundation stone was laid in 1840, and the “stone rocket” soon became a defining feature of Edinburgh’s famous skyline.