The Real Mary King’s Close tour’s reconstruction of Mary King

Mary King

Mary King is commonly known in present time for the famous Edinburgh close named after her.

Mary was born towards the end of the 16th century.  In 1616, her marriage to a local merchant burgess, Thomas Nemo or Nimmo, is recorded, and together they had four children – Alexander, Euphame, Jonet and William.  Sadly, Thomas died in 1629, leaving Mary to cope alone, and soon after, she moved her young children, who were between 5 and 12 years old, into what was then known as King’s or Alexander King’s Close.

Until his death in 1619, Alexander King of Dryden had been a prominent lawyer in the city and although he was no relation of Mary’s , the coincidence of the same surname was probably at least partially responsible for the close’s gradual change of name to Mary King’s combined with her success as a business woman.  

Closes were named after the most prominent citizen or the most commonly found business to be on the close.  Documents show that Mary King was a prominent businesswoman in the 1630’s.  At that time she was a widow and a mother of four, who traded in fabrics and sewed for a living. It was highly unusual for a close to be named after a woman at that time, indicating Mary’s standing in the town. 

Mary King's Close is an old close under buildings in the Old Town area of Edinburgh. The close was partially demolished and buried under the Royal Exchange, and later being closed to the public for many years, the complex became shrouded in myths and urban legends; tales of ghosts and murders, and myths of plague victims being walled up and left to die abounded.

However, new research and archaeological evidence has revealed that the close actually consists of a number of closes which were originally narrow streets with tenement houses on either side, stretching up to seven storeys high. Mary King's Close is now one of Edinburgh’s highly commercial tourist attractions.


Our thanks to ‘The Real Mary King’s Close’ for their help with this information and providing an image of their own Mary King. If you want more information and/or the chance to meet Mary King herself check out their website to book a place in their infamous tour at


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