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Junior Warden Challenge 5: Charles II

Illustration of Palace wardens

Holly and Rudy ©

Hello from Holyroodhouse!

Welcome back to the Junior Warden Challenge.

In this challenge we’d like to introduce two brothers, Charles II and the Duke of York (who later became James VII and II.)

They REALLY liked to impress their visitors. Charles rebuilt most of the Palace when he was King in the 1600s. 

Today we’re going to find out about a giant staircase, a ceiling that tells a story, a room so big you can fit 10 buses inside it, and some paintings with a mysterious connection.



Let’s start with some facts about these kings:

Illustration of Charles II

Charles II ©


Charles II was forced off the throne for ten years by a man called Oliver Cromwell – during this time there was no King. 

He got power back for his family in 1660 and ruled for 25 years.

His favourite pet was a spaniel. In fact, he loved this breed of dog so much that it was named after him - the King Charles Spaniel!

It is said that the character of Captain Hook was inspired by portraits of Charles. They look very similar don’t they?

James became the next King. We’d already had six kings named James in Scotland, so we called him James VII. They’d only had one before in England and Ireland, so they called him James II.

Have you heard of Bonnie Prince Charlie? James was his grandfather. We’ll find out more about him next week.

When Charles II eventually took power back from Cromwell, he wanted people to see that he was a strong and powerful king.

The Palace was designed to show this and every visitor was to leave feeling suitably impressed.

Ceiling of Great Stair

Ceiling of Great Stair ©


Charles asked James to live at the Palace for a time and help him govern Scotland.

James was still the Duke of York then, but it was good training for when he became the King himself.

If you were invited to meet James, you had to pass through a number of rooms that got grander and grander as you went. 

BUT, how far you got depended on how important you were; only really important visitors got into most private rooms.

First stop was the Great Stair.  The ceiling towers 12 metres above the first step (imagine the height of a giraffe standing on top of two elephants!)

There are angels in each corner of the ceiling. They hold the Scottish Crown Jewels – a crown, a sword and a sceptre. 

The real ones – called The Honours of Scotland – are kept in Edinburgh Castle, but this decoration was a way for the King to say you were in HIS home.

Illustration of James VII and II

James VII and II ©


At the top of the stairs, visitors were told to wait in an enormous guard room until they were summoned to the Presence Chamber.

If you were important enough you’d go even further - into the the Privy Chamber ('privy' meaning 'private').

Charles spent a fortune on making this room look impressive, especially the ceiling.

It is decorated with symbols of royalty and strength – giant eagles, ferocious lions, leaping unicorns, the Crown Jewels and the letters CR in every corner. 

These were the King's initials, Charles Rex – ‘rex’ is Latin for 'king'.

There was one more meeting room for only the most important visitors - the King’s Bedroom!

It was a great honour if you were invited here, everything about it was magnificent and kingly.

There was a grand four poster bed, wooden carvings and giant tapestries decorating the walls and, best of all, the story of a superhero on the ceiling! 

Ceiling painting from Charles II Bedchamber

Ceiling painting from Charles II Bedchamber ©





Take a closer look at this scene.

The man at the bottom is Hercules – the stongest and bravest man that ever lived.

He is being taken up to the home of the gods in the heavens.

So why is this picture in the King’s bedroom?

It was supposed to make people think about Hercules when they met the King.

In the stories, Hercules is half man, half god – a sort of ancient superhero.

And that’s how the King wanted to be seen too – a powerful, god-like ruler.

Photograph of Great Gallery

Great Gallery ©

Lastly, let’s tell you about the largest room in the Palace - the Great Gallery. It is nearly 45 metres long and so big that you can park 10 double-decker buses inside it!

Charles decorated this grand room with over 100 portraits of the kings and queens of Scotland, going right back into the mists of legend.

Portraits of Charles and James were hung beside these paintings to show that the brothers were connected to all of these past rulers.

Today this room is used for royal events – but we will tell you more about that another in another challenge.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this journey through the Palace.  Now it’s time for your challenges.

Challenge 1: Guess the connection

Portrait of Charles II

Charles II, Jacob de Wed, RCIN 403311 ©

Instead of guessing a mystery object in this challenge , we’d like you to guess a connection. 


Charles II wanted to show visitors his links to the Scottish royalty that came before him.

Compare his portrait to some of the others that hang in the Great Gallery.

Can you spot something that looks the same on all of them?


Find out if you were right in the next challenge!

Challenge 2: Complete one of the activities below

Design a cypher

Make your own Great Gallery

Illustration of Palace warden

Rudy ©


Before we go, here is the answer to the last challenge's mystery object:


Queen Victoria loved to write

But she couldn’t without me

Fill me up, but don’t tip me over

I’d make a mess, you see!



In the next challenge we are going to find about James’s grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Join us then for another story and more challenges!

If this is the last challenge that you have wanted to complete ask your teacher, parent or carer to email us at [email protected] and we will send you your Junior Warden Challenge certificate!