This room is named after Alexander Seton who was Chancellor of Scotland 1604-1622. When James became King of England and Scotland in 1603 and took up residence in London he needed a trusted representative to hold the fort in Scotland. Seton was that man. He was the godson of James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots, and was also entrusted with the guardianship and tutelage of Prince Charles.
He was regarded as one of the finest legal minds of his time and demonstrated humanist ethics, vigorously defending a woman accused of witchcraft in 1614. Seton had also benefitted from a classical education in Italy and France. This is reflected in the magnificent plasterwork on the ceiling, which he commissioned around 1620 shortly before he died.
Seton’s main residence was Pinkie House in Musselburgh but he had lodgings here for when he stayed overnight in Edinburgh. He obviously liked to be surrounded by beautiful objects and the fact that he chose Riddle’s Court reinforces its importance. He is on record as having taken delivery of Spanish and Bordeaux wine in March 1598, most likely for the two royal banquets.
Seton had installed a similar ceiling to this in Pinkie House and the plaster cast thistles and roses celebrate the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland. We believe that John Quhytte, a leading craftsman of his day, might have worked on this ceiling. After the Protestant Reformation there was little demand for decorative work in churches and many craftsmen turned to work in the houses of the wealthy.
The wall panelling probably dates from the early 18th Century. The window bays and the embossed wallpaper date from the 1890s when Geddes established his University Hall in Riddle’s Court.
This was the students’ drawing room and Geddes also installed the distinctive seating booths, possibly to encourage animated one-to-one conversation!
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