Honours of Scotland: Crown Jewels and Ancient Tradition

The Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Crown Jewels, represent the rich history and royal legacy of Scotland.

These priceless artefacts were worn by Scottish monarchs during their coronation ceremonies and are considered the oldest surviving set of crown jewels in the British Isles.

Housed in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle, these regal treasures date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Coronation Tradition of Scottish Monarchs

Scottish monarchs, from Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543 to Charles II in 1651, wore the Honours of Scotland during their coronations. After the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and until the Union of 1707, the Honours symbolized the presence of the monarch and their acceptance of the Parliament of Scotland’s power.

Following the Union of 1707, the Honours were locked away in Edinburgh Castle, while the Crown Jewels of England were used by British monarchs as the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

In 1818, the Honours of Scotland were rediscovered and have since been on public display at Edinburgh Castle. They have been used on state occasions, such as George IV’s visit to Scotland in 1822 and Elizabeth II’s first visit as monarch in 1953.

The Crown of Scotland is present at each Opening Ceremony of the Scottish Parliament.

The Components of the Honours of Scotland

Honours of Scotland: Crown Jewels and Ancient Tradition
Image: The Scottish Parliament., CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Honours of Scotland consist of three main elements: the Crown of Scotland, the Sceptre, and the Sword of State.

The Crown of Scotland

The gold crown, made in Scotland, dates back to 1540 in its current form. The sword and sceptre, crafted in Italy, were gifts to James IV from the pope.

The Honours are also featured on the crest of the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland and the Scottish version of the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.

The Sceptre

The Sceptre, an ornamental rod symbolizing the monarch’s authority, was a gift from Pope Alexander VI to James IV in 1494.

Made in Italy of silver gilt, it was remodelled and lengthened for James V in 1536 by the Edinburgh goldsmith Adam Leys.

The Sword of State

The Sword of State, a symbol of royal power and authority, was a gift from Pope Julius II to James IV in 1507.

Made by Domenico da Sutri, it replaced a native-made Sword of Honour that has since been lost.

Additional Treasures in the Crown Room

The Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle houses not only the famed Honours of Scotland but also an array of other significant historical artefacts that provide a fascinating glimpse into the country’s rich royal heritage.

One of the most prominent artefacts found in the Crown Room is the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny. This ancient relic holds immense historical and cultural significance for Scotland.

It has been used for centuries in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish and British monarchs. The Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996 after a long sojourn in Westminster Abbey and is now displayed alongside the Honours of Scotland.

Another intriguing item in the Crown Room is the silver-gilt wand. Measuring one meter in length, this wand is topped with a faceted crystal monde surmounted by a cross.

The wand’s purpose remains a mystery, with some speculating that it may have been carried by the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. The wand’s maker remains unknown, with only the initials “F.G.” inscribed on it.

The Crown Room also contains the 17th-century Stewart Jewels, a collection of four precious objects that were taken into exile by James VII following the Glorious Revolution in 1688.

These jewels include a locket, a Great George and collar, and a ruby ring. The Stewart Jewels were passed down through the Stuart family and were eventually returned to Britain 119 years later. In 1830, they were given to Edinburgh Castle on permanent loan by William IV.

The Lorne Jewels, another set of valuable items, were bequeathed to Scotland in 1939 by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll. These exquisite pieces, which include a necklace, locket, and pendant, were crafted in London and given as a wedding gift to Princess Louise by her husband, the Marquess of Lorne (later the Duke of Argyll) in 1871.

The intricate necklace is adorned with 190 diamonds and 13 pearls, while the locket features a large pearl surrounded by 30 diamonds. The pendant, set with diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, bears a relief depiction of the Galley of Lorne and the Dukes of Argyll’s motto, “Ne Obliviscaris” (Do not forget).

These extraordinary artefacts, displayed alongside the Honours of Scotland in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle, offer visitors a rare opportunity to explore Scotland’s rich royal history and marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship of these priceless treasures.

The Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia

The Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland (the First Minister of Scotland), the Lord Clerk Register, the Lord Advocate, and the Lord Justice Clerk are ex-officio Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia.

Since 1996, the commissioners have also been responsible for the safekeeping of the Stone of Scone and arranging its return to Westminster Abbey for future British coronations.

The Honours of Scotland are not only precious relics of Scotland’s royal heritage but also symbolize the country’s rich history and cultural significance.

The Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle allows visitors to witness these magnificent artefacts firsthand, connecting them to the centuries-old traditions and ceremonies of Scottish royalty.

*Feature Image: The Scottish Parliament., CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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