From Royalty to Peasants and all the history in between

Prince Edward

Today was the day we would discover the Castle of Edinburgh and delve into the history of Burke and Hare. First stop: The Castle of Edinburgh. On our way, we noticed a royal vehicle and caravan outside of the University of Edinburgh, so we stopped and asked who was here. We were told a member of the Royal Family would be out shortly! We waited and were able to see and meet Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh. This was a real highlight of Dr. McCormick and Meena’s trip!  

Afterwards, we headed up the Royal Mile towards the Castle, where the paths take you through time. The castle is home to many historical figures including Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth here to future King James VI of Scotland and the 1st of England and Ireland.

Edinburgh Castle is perched atop the rocky cliffs of Castle Rock and stands as a formidable symbol of Scotland’s historical legacy. Its origins date back to the Iron Age, making it one of the oldest fortified places in Europe. The area around Edinburgh Castle started as Din Eidyn, a busy Roman settlement. After the Goddidin King of the Edinburgh invaded the land that is now known as England in AD 638, the castle became known as Edinburgh.  The town grew from the castle, with the first houses built in what’s now known as Lawnmarket and then down the rock’s slope, forming a single street, later referred to as the Royal Mile. This street got its name because royalty often traveled the route to the castle. Over the centuries, the castle has witnessed countless sieges, royal ceremonies, and pivotal moments in Scottish history. Its role varied over history from a royal residence to a military stronghold to now storing the Scottish crown jewels and being a major tourist attraction. This iconic fortress, with its storied walls and strategic location, offers a fascinating glimpse into Scotland ‘s history.

After our morning at the Castle some of us went to find the classic scone with clotted cream. We enjoyed this for the first time at the British Museum, and were excited to try it again in Scotland.

On the way to lunch, some of the students ran across CREW; a clinic whose main goal is to reduce drug and sexual health related harms and stigma. They also advocate for improving mental and physical health without judgment. CREW’s values are acceptance, genuineness, empathy, justice, and accountability. This organization enhances public awareness of sexual disease and stigmas through experts that built their reputation in the community of Edinburgh. They also influence policies to improve the community of Scotland. CREW serves as a place of inclusion in the community and helps facilitate social justice while challenging modern stigmas. They mainly focus on young people to help reduce drug related deaths. To combat these deaths, CREW offers free drug tests to ensure that the drug is safe to consume. They also fight the war against drug related deaths by providing naloxone for anyone in need. Congruently, CREW provides other preventive and protective products such as PREP and PEP. CREW also offers free condoms, period products, STI testing, and HIV testing.

Materials from CREW

Our next stop of the day gave us an in-depth illustration of the realities of living in Edinburgh in the 1800s. This experience delved into the history of surgery and allowed us to learn how the medical students of the time mastered human anatomy. For this, they needed human cadavers which were hard to come by in 1828. This cadaver shortage created a grave robbing economy which led to new rules on how anatomical specimens could be acquired. This led to body snatching, or what was referred to as “resurrectionist”, where body would be dug up from their grave and sold to people teaching/studying anatomy. In fact, we noticed that in Greyfriars Kirk, there were many graves that still had cages over them to deter body snatchers. Two of the most infamous for providing bodies to Dr. Robert Knox, head of the anatomy school in Edinburgh, was William Burke and William Hare. In the year 1828, over the course of seven months, this dynamic duo murdered 16 individuals and received payment from Dr. Knox for each body. This first was a person who was in debt to these men and died in their inn. To recoup their missing funds, they brought the body to Dr. Know where they received 8 pounds in return. Through this experience they decided to continue procuring bodies through suffocation which allowed for perfectly presentable cadavers. These men were caught in October of 1828 and Hare was granted amnesty by turning Burke in. In 1832, the Anatomy Act was enacted in response to public revulsion at the illegal trade in corpses. This highlights the importance of ethical integrity when advancing public health and medical knowledge and illustrates the consequences when those boundaries are crossed.

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