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Leith is situated on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, just over a mile north of Edinburgh. Leith figures as Inverleith in the foundation charter of Holyrood Abbey (1128). In 1329 Robert I. granted the harbour to the magistrates of Edinburgh, who did not always use their power wisely. They forbade, for example, the building of streets wide enough to admit a cart, a regulation that accounted for the number of narrow wynds and alleys in the town. Had the overlords been more considerate incorporation with Edinburgh would not have been so bitterly resisted.

Several of the quaint bits of ancient Leith yet remain, and the appearance of the shore as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even at a later date, was picturesque in the extreme. During the centuries of strife between Scotland and England its situation exposed the port to attack both by sea anti land. At least twice (in 1313 and 1410) its shipping was burned by the English, who also sacked the town in 1544 when the Earl of Hertford destroyed the first wooden pier in 1547.

In the troublous times that followed the death of James V., Leith became the stronghold of the Roman Catholic and French party from 1548 to 1560, Mary of Guise, queen regent, stayed there not deeming herself secure in Edinburgh.

A house in Coalhill is thought to be the handsome and spacious edifice erected for her privy council by Mary of Guise. The wall, pierced by six gates, was partly dismantled on the death of the queen regent, but although rebuilt in 1571, not a trace of it exists.

The old tolbooth, in which William Maitland of Lethington, Queen Marys secretary, poisoned himself in 1573, to avoid execution for adhering to Marys cause, was demolished in 1819. Charles I. is said to have received the first tidings of the Irish rebellion while playing golf on the links in 1641.

Cromwell in his Scottish campaign built the Citadel in 1650 and the mounds on the links, known as Giants Brae and Lady Fifes Brae, were thrown up by the Protector as batteries. In 1698 the sailing of the first Darien expedition created great excitement. In 17I5 William Mackintosh of Borlum (1662-1743) and his force of Jacobite Flighlanders captured the Citadel, of which only the name of Citadel Street and the archway in Cooper Street have preserved the memory.

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