Royal Mile: Always centre of atten-shun!

The Queen's Guard from the 1st Battalion the Cameronians set off down the Royal Mile from the Esplanade

The Queen's Guard from the 1st Battalion the Cameronians set off down the Royal Mile from the Esplanade

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THE history of the Royal Mile hit the headlines this week after an old propaganda film was unveiled online.

The Royal Mile was shot in 1943 and commissioned by the British Council to project the best of the Capital as the Second World War raged. The 13 minute film – now digitised – has been made available to the public for the first time, with the British Council also hoping residents of today’s Edinburgh will be able to help identify the people portrayed.

The Royal Mile procession to mark the state visit of King Olav in 1962

The Royal Mile procession to mark the state visit of King Olav in 1962

Today the historic street is still a central focus for events in the Capital, as it has been for centuries.

The story of the film followed a group of soldiers visiting the Capital, and the Royal Mile has long been associated with the military, as it makes its way up to Edinburgh Castle, home of the National War Museum.

In 1961 it was the Queen’s Guard from the 1st Battalion the Cameronians that put their best feet forward as they paraded from the Castle Esplanande down the Royal Mile.

And in 1962 the street was mobbed with eager spectators for the state visit of King Olav of Norway, an event which brought with it an unprecedented display of colour and pageantry as the king was met by Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh.

For one unfortunate trooper it was a day to forget after the NCO of the Sovereign’s escort was unseated when his horse – one of 116 in the procession – missed his footing and stumbled. Fortunately neither was hurt.

As well as playing host to such grand events, however, the Royal Mile has also been a thriving community, and was famously once the home of Protestant reformer John Knox in the 16th century. His house is now the site of the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

gedwards@edinburghnews.com