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The Best Revenge

An Instinctive Jacobite

After five visits, I still get turned around in Rome, but, in Edinburgh, I consulted a map only on the first day.  A quick look around from the summit of any one of the city’s hills is worth more than an hour examining a map.

By the end of our Convivium, I’ve climbed all the hills, and, on our last day, I stand at the crest of Arthur’s Seat, the remains of a prehistoric volcano on the central city’s eastern edge, admiring Edinburgh and catching my breath.  The ascent would have been easier, had I kept to the path; instead, I climbed the slippery makeshift stairs dug by locals into the grassy hillside.  For my trouble: unflattering grass stains on my khakis and a humbling shortness of breath.

And a magnificent view.  In the distance, merchant liners navigate the Firth of Forth, but I, having recently read Mattingly, see the English fleet at last quitting its pursuit of Medina Sidonia’s broken Armada.  Below me stands Holyrood Palace, where the tragic Queen of Scots stood helpless as she watched her husband’s thugs stab to death her faithful Italian secretary, David Riccio.  At the other end of the Royal Mile, atop Castle Rock, sits Edinburgh Castle.  Saint Margaret of Scotland, niece of Edward the Confessor and mother of eight, died in the castle, having four days earlier learned that her husband and eldest son fell in battle with William the Conquerer’s...

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