The building is shown in NT0077 : Sheriff Court
, and, in that picture, the entrance is at the right.
In the present photograph, the plaque bears a representation of the Regent Moray, who died after being shot, near here, in 1570. For a closer look at the plaque itself, see NT0077 : Regent Moray plaque, High Street
The plaque's inscription is as follows (the spelling "Murray" is correct, for reasons given below, but the actual date of the event is given by other sources as the 23rd of January):
"ON THE STREET OPPOSITE THIS TABLET
JAMES STEWART EARL OF MURRAY REGENT
OF SCOTLAND WAS SHOT BY JAMES HAMILTON
OF BOTHWELLHAUGH ON 20 JANUARY 1570.
ERECTED IN 1875"
Mary Queen of Scots had been forced to abdicate a few years earlier, and the Earl of Moray was acting as Regent for her infant son, James VI. Moray was riding through Linlithgow, on the way to Edinburgh, when he was shot and mortally wounded by one of Mary's supporters, James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh (which was near the town of Hamilton).
A Linlithgow Heritage Trail leaflet (2011) comments that "this was the world's first recorded assassination of a head of state by firearm".
The book "The History of Scotland" (1984), by Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry, explains that Hamilton had placed some linen sheets, as though hanging them out to dry, in front of the wooden first-floor balcony of a house on the High Street (the house belonged to his uncle, the Archbishop of St Andrews, who had knowledge of the plot); the authors add that Hamilton stood on a feather mattress to deaden the sound of his boots, and that he poked the muzzle of his gun through a hole in the sheets. Thus hidden from view, he shot Moray at close range. In the resulting confusion, he was able to slip out of the back of the house, and to escape, on a fast horse, to Hamilton (NS7255
); he later made his way to France.
[Note, regarding the spelling used in the plaque's inscription, that "the comparatively modern fashion of spelling the name Stuart and Moray were probably adopted from the French, or from Buchanan's Latinised form, but the Regent himself uniformly wrote his name Stewart and Murray" [PSAS, Vol 6 (1864-66), footnote on page 49]. [George] Buchanan's Latin form, referred to in that note, is "de Moravia", for "of Murray/Moray".]