Honours of Scotland

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Honours of Scotland
The Queen at the Scottish Parliament.jpg
The Crown of Scotland at the Royal Opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2011
LocationCrown Room at Edinburgh Castle
Size3 objects:
  • 1 crown (1540)
  • 1 sceptre (c. 1494)
  • 1 sword (1507)
OwnerCommissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia[1]
ManagersHistoric Environment Scotland

The Honours of Scotland, informally known as the Scottish Crown Jewels, are the regalia that were worn by Scottish monarchs at their coronation. Kept in the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle, they date from the 15th and 16th centuries, and are the oldest surviving set of crown jewels in the British Isles.[2]

The Honours were used together for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543 until Charles II in 1651.[3] From the Union of the Crowns in 1603 until the Union of 1707, the Honours were taken to sittings of the Parliament of Scotland to signify the monarch's presence. The Sceptre was used to touch the printed copies of Acts of Parliament to signify Royal Assent. Following the Union of 1707, the Honours were locked away in a chest in Edinburgh Castle and the Crown Jewels of England continued to be used by British monarchs as the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.[4] The Honours were rediscovered in 1818 and have been on public display at the castle ever since. The Honours have been used at state occasions including the visit to Scotland by George IV in 1822 and the first visit to Scotland as monarch by Elizabeth II in 1953. The Crown of Scotland is present at each royal opening of the Scottish Parliament.

The Honours of Scotland consist of the Crown of Scotland, the Sceptre, and the Sword of State. The gold crown was made in Scotland and, in its present form, dates from 1540. The sword and sceptre were made in Italy as gifts to James IV from the pope. The Honours also appear on the crest of the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland and on the Scottish version of the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, where the red lion of the King of Scots is depicted wearing the crown and holding the sword and sceptre. Coronation robes, a pair of spurs, a ring and consort crowns were also part of the Scottish regalia, none of which survives today. The gold ampulla of Charles I that held anointing oil at his 1633 coronation now belongs to the National Museum of Scotland.[5]

The Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle also contains the Stone of Scone, a silver-gilt wand, the 17th-century Stewart Jewels (which were added in 1830), and the Lorne Jewels, which were bequeathed to Scotland by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll in 1939.


Early history[edit]

James IV with his regalia in 1507. Tableau at Edinburgh Castle.

In the earliest known depiction of a Scottish king wearing his symbols of sovereignty, King Edgar (reigned 1097–1107) wears a crown and bears a sword and a sceptre on his Great Seal. His brother, Alexander I, is shown holding an orb – a pictorial emblem of divine kingship that was not actually part of the Scottish regalia. By the reign of John Balliol, the regalia consisted of a crown, sceptre, sword and ring.[6] After the English invasion in 1296, the regalia and Stone of Scone, upon which monarchs of Scotland were invested and crowned, were captured by the English army and taken south to London.[7]

New regalia were made for subsequent coronations, and these were gradually replaced by the 16th century with the current set of Honours – consisting of a crown made in Scotland by John Mosman, as well as a sword and a sceptre that were both made in Italy and given to Scotland as papal gifts.[8] A consort crown was made in 1539 for Mary of Guise, wife of James V, but it does not survive among the Honours.[9]

The monarch's regalia were first used together in 1543 by Mary, Queen of Scots.[10] By the second half of the 16th century, they represented royal authority in the Scottish Parliament, and Acts of Parliament were given royal assent when the monarch (or one of the monarch's commissioners) touched it with the royal sceptre.[11]

17th and 18th centuries[edit]

Saving the Honours from Oliver Cromwell. Tableau at Edinburgh Castle.

From the Union of the Crowns in 1603 until the Union of 1707, the Honours were taken to sittings of the Parliament of Scotland to signify the monarch's presence. The Sceptre was used to touch the printed copies of Acts of Parliament to signify Royal Assent. Spurs – emblems of knighthood and chivalry – were presented to Charles I at his Scottish coronation in 1633; the spurs and coronation robes also have been lost.[9] The Honours were last used at a coronation in 1651, when Charles II was crowned at Scone. As Oliver Cromwell had invaded Scotland the previous year, and Edinburgh Castle had surrendered to his army that December, the Honours could not be returned there. The English Crown Jewels had already been melted down and struck into coins by the Commonwealth.[12] With Cromwell's army fast advancing on Scone, in June 1651 the Privy Council decided to place them at Dunnottar Castle in Kincardineshire, the family seat of the Earl Marischal, the custodian of the Honours.[13][14]

They were brought to Dunnottar, hidden in sacks of wool, and Sir George Ogilvie of Barras, lieutenant-governor of the castle, was given responsibility for its defence.[15][16] In November 1651, Cromwell's troops called on Ogilvie to surrender, but he refused. During the subsequent blockade of the castle, the removal of the Honours of Scotland was planned by Elizabeth Douglas, wife of Sir George Ogilvie, and Christian Fletcher, wife of James Granger, minister of Kinneff Parish Church. Two stories exist regarding the removal of the Honours. Fletcher stated in 1664 that over the course of three visits to the castle in February and March 1652, she carried away the crown, sceptre, sword and scabbard hidden amongst sacks of goods. Another account, given in the 18th century by a tutor to the Earl Marischal, records that the honours were lowered from the castle onto the beach, where they were collected by Fletcher's servant and carried off in a creel of seaweed. Having smuggled the honours from the castle, Fletcher and her husband buried them under the floor of the Old Kirk at Kinneff.[15]

At the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Honours were removed from Kinneff Old Kirk and returned to Edinburgh Castle. After the Union of 1707, and with the new Parliament of Great Britain sitting in London, the Honours no longer had any ceremonial role. Article 24 of the Treaty of Union stated that "And that the Crown, Scepter, and Sword of State... continue to be kept as they are, within that Part of the United Kingdom now called Scotland; and that they shall so remain in all Time coming, notwithstanding of the Union."[17]

19th century[edit]

Rediscovering the Honours in 1818. Tableau at Edinburgh Castle.

In 1818 the future George IV, acting as Prince Regent, issued a royal warrant authorising the historian Walter Scott and a group of officials to break open the walled-up doorway of the Crown Room on 4 February.[18] Half expecting to find the oak chest empty, they were relieved to open it and discover the crown, sceptre and sword exactly as they had been left 111 years earlier.[19] The Royal Standard was hoisted above Edinburgh Castle in celebration of the historic moment. Cheers of excitement rippled through the castle, and members of the public gathered outside to hear the news.[20] On 26 May 1819, the Honours went on public display in the Crown Room.[19] They were guarded by two veterans of the Battle of Waterloo dressed in a Jacobean-style Yeoman's outfit.[21]

George IV was crowned king in 1821 and his visit to Scotland the following year was the first by a monarch since 1651. On 12 August 1822, the Honours were escorted in procession to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. There was a carnival atmosphere, with people lining the streets and observing from windows. Three days later, the king arrived at the palace and symbolically touched the regalia. Before leaving the country a week later, he took part in a return procession to the Castle, where the Honours would remain until the 20th century.[22]

20th century to present day[edit]

In 1911 the sword was carried before George V at the official opening of the Thistle Chapel in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh – the first time any of the regalia had left Edinburgh Castle since 1822.[23] During the Second World War, the Honours were hidden at the Castle owing to fears they might be lost if the UK fell to Germany. The crown and Stewart Jewels were buried under the floor of a water closet, while the sceptre, sword and wand were hidden inside a wall. The only officials who knew of the hiding places were George VI, the Scottish Secretary of State, the King's Remembrancer, and the Governor General of Canada.[24] In 1953, they were presented to the newly crowned Elizabeth II at a National Service of Thanksgiving in St Giles' Cathedral.[25] Keen to avoid the service being interpreted as a Scottish coronation, Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister, advised the Queen to dress with relative informality.[26]

From 1971 until 1987 the sword was used at the installation of Knights of the Order of the Thistle, Scotland's highest Order of Chivalry.[23] When the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996 it was placed in the Crown Room alongside the Honours.[27] During renovations in the 1990s, the Honours were temporarily stored at an anonymous bank in Edinburgh.[28] The Crown of Scotland was present in May 1999 at the first sitting of the devolved Scottish Parliament. It was carried on a cushion, the official reason being that it was too fragile for the Queen to wear.[29]

In 2018 plans were announced to renovate the "past its sell-by date" Honours exhibition and improve accessibility.[28]

The Crown of Scotland was placed on the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II in a service in St Giles' Cathedral on 12 September 2022 and remained there whilst she lay in rest.[30]



External video
video icon Cleaning the Scottish Crown Jewels on YouTube (2:00)

It is not known exactly when the original Crown of Scotland was made, but it can be seen in its pre-1540 form in a portrait of James IV in the Book of Hours that was created for his marriage to Margaret Tudor in 1503.[31] Arches were added to the crown by James V in 1532, making it an imperial crown, symbolising the king's status as an emperor of his own domain, subservient to no one but God. Arches first appeared as pictorial emblems on coins under James III, who in 1469 claimed "ful jurisdictione and free impire within his realm".[32]

Close-up of the Crown of Scotland

In 1540, the base was melted down and recast by the Edinburgh goldsmith John Mosman, with the addition of 22 gemstones to the original 20 and an extra 1.2 kilograms (41 oz) of Scottish gold. James V first wore it to his wife's coronation in the same year at Holyrood Abbey. It weighs 1.6 kilograms (3 lb 10 oz), and the base is decorated with alternating fleurs-de-lis and crosses fleury. Two gold arches, preserved from the original, are surmounted by a gold monde – enamelled blue with stars representing the night sky. On top of the monde is a cross decorated with black enamel, pearls and a large amethyst. Originally, a purple velvet cap was manufactured by Thomas Arthur of Edinburgh. This was changed to a red cap by James VII, and the present cap dates from 1993. Four gold ornaments with a large pearl in the centre are attached to the cap between the crown's arches.[31]


The Sceptre of Scotland was a gift from Pope Alexander VI to James IV in 1494, and it was remodelled and lengthened for James V in 1536. It was made in Italy of silver gilt and topped by a finial of polished rock. The sceptre includes grotesques and Christian symbols – stylised dolphins (symbols of the Church) appear on the head of the rod, as do images of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Christ, of Saint James the Great, and of Saint Andrew holding a saltire.[33]

Sword of State[edit]

The Sword of State of Scotland was also a papal gift – Pope Julius II presented it to James IV in 1507 (see blessed sword and hat). It was made by Domenico da Sutri and replaced a native sword that had been made in 1502. The etched blade, measuring 99 centimetres (3.25 ft) in length, includes figures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as the etched name of Julius II. The 38.7-centimetre-long (1.27 ft) silver-gilt handle bears figures of oak leaves and acorns, with a crossguard in the form of dolphins. It is accompanied by a wooden scabbard, which is bound in crimson velvet with silver-gilt repoussé work and hung from a woven silk and thread-of-gold belt that has a silver-gilt buckle.[34]

Ampulla of Charles I[edit]

External video
video icon Coronation Ampulla of Charles I on YouTube (2:35)

A gold ampulla was crafted to hold the oil with which Charles I was anointed king at his Scottish coronation in 1633. The pear-shaped vessel is 13 cm (5 in) tall and weighs 110 grams (3.5 ozt). Never used again, it was discovered in the possession of Sir George Grant-Suttie, 7th Baronet, in 1907 by the Scottish Church Society. In 1948 it was acquired by the National Museum of Scotland. The ampulla bears the following Latin inscription to commemorate its use at Charles I's coronation:[35]

Avrea Sacri olei
Receptaculum quo Carolvs eius nominus primus Scotiae
Anglie Fran; et hib; Rex.
Edinburg; in Ecclesia
S: Crucis unctus fuit
lunii xviii

Other jewels in the Crown Room[edit]


Alongside the crown, sceptre and sword, Walter Scott found a silver-gilt wand. It measures 1 metre (3.3 ft) in length and is topped with a faceted crystal monde surmounted by a cross. The wand has a wooden core and the unknown maker's initials F.G. The object's intended role – if it had one at all – has been forgotten, and its presence among the regalia is still a mystery. Walter Scott thought it may have been carried before the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. Although the Treasurer did have a mace it was a different shape.[36]

Stewart Jewels[edit]

Four objects taken into exile by James VII after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 are also displayed: a locket, a Great George and collar, and a ruby ring. They all returned to Britain 119 years later and were given to Edinburgh Castle on permanent loan by William IV in 1830.[37]

The St Andrew Jewel of the Order of the Thistle is a gold and silver locket suspended from a ribbon that contains an oval piece of chalcedony into which is carved a cameo figure of Saint Andrew. The cameo is bordered with 12 diamonds. Inscribed on the back is the Order's Latin motto: NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT, meaning "no one attacks me with impunity". Inside is a miniature portrait of Princess Louise of Stolberg-Gedern, wife of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the elder son of James VII. The object is variously of English, French, Italian and Dutch origin, was altered several times, and measures 6.5 cm (2.6 in) by 4 cm (1.6 in).[38]

The Collar and the Great George of the Order of the Garter consist of an enamelled gold figure of Saint George, the patron saint of England, slaying a dragon made for Charles II in 1661 suspended from a gold collar made in 1685. The George is set with 122 diamonds and measures 7.2 cm (2.8 in) by 6.4 cm (2.5 in). The saint's cloak and a large suspension loop are both missing. The collar is 1.57 metres (5.2 ft) long and has 26 alternating knots and enamelled badges, each with a tudor rose in the centre.[39]

The Ruby Ring was probably used at the English coronations of Charles I and Charles II, and certainly that of James. It has a large ruby etched with a St George's Cross and bordered by 26 diamonds applied in the 19th century.[40]

Lorne Jewels[edit]

Queen Victoria's fourth daughter Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, died in 1939 and left a necklace, locket, and pendant to the nation of Scotland. The London-made jewellery was a gift to Louise from her husband the Marquess of Lorne (later the Duke of Argyll) in 1871. The necklace contains 190 diamonds and 13 pearls; it suspends the locket, consisting of a large pearl surrounded by 30 diamonds; from which hangs the pear-shaped pendant, set with diamonds, emeralds and sapphires, having a relief depiction of the Galley of Lorne and the motto of Dukes of Argyll: NE OBLIVISCARIS, meaning "do not forget".[41]

Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia[edit]

Under the terms of a Royal Warrant of 1818,[42] the Lord Justice Clerk, the Lord Advocate, the Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland (the First Minister of Scotland), and the Lord Clerk Register, are ex-officio Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia.[43] Since 1996, the commissioners have also been empowered by another Royal Warrant for the safekeeping of the Stone of Scone and for the arrangement of its return to Westminster Abbey for the next British coronation.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Search results for controlling institution "Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia"". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  2. ^ "The Honours of Scotland". Royal family. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  3. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 5.
  4. ^ "The Honours of Scotland". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  5. ^ "coronation ampulla". National Museum of Scotland. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  6. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 12.
  7. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 13.
  8. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 15.
  9. ^ a b Burnett and Tabraham, p. 25.
  10. ^ Whatley, p. 15.
  11. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 31.
  12. ^ Keay, p. 43.
  13. ^ Stevenson (2004).
  14. ^ Groome (1885), pp. 442–443.
  15. ^ a b Baigent (2004)
  16. ^ Henderson & Furgol (2004).
  17. ^ "The Treaty (act) of the Union of Parliament 1706". Scots History Online. Archived from the original on 27 May 2019. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  18. ^ The officials were Lord Granton (the Lord President of the Court of Session), Lord Boyle (the Lord Justice Clerk), William Adam (the Lord Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court), Kincaid Mackenzie (the Lord Provost of Edinburgh), and Sir John Hope (the Commander-in-Chief, Scotland) (Tabraham 2019, p. 7).
  19. ^ a b Burnett and Tabraham, p. 45–47.
  20. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 4.
  21. ^ Bell, William (1829). "Papers Relative to the Regalia of Scotland". p. 51. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  22. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 48.
  23. ^ a b Burnett and Tabraham, p. 51.
  24. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 50.
  25. ^ "Scotland salutes the Queen Honours of Scotland". Moving Image. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  26. ^ Douglas S. Mack in McCracken-Flesher, "Can the Scottish subaltern speak?", p. 146.
  27. ^ "Honours of Scotland and Stone of Destiny". Visit Scotland. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  28. ^ a b Kenny Farquharson (3 February 2018). "Scottish crown jewels will be removed for Edinburgh Castle revamp". The Times. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  29. ^ Robert Crawford in McCracken-Flesher, "The Crown", p. 246.
  30. ^ "What is the Crown of Scotland, and why is it placed on the Queen's coffin at St Giles' Cathedral?". The National. 12 September 2022. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  31. ^ a b Burnett and Tabraham, pp. 24–27.
  32. ^ Andrea Thomas in Goodare and MacDonald, "Crown Imperial: Coronation Ritual and Regalia in the Reign of James V", p. 66.
  33. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, pp. 17, 22–23.
  34. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, pp. 18–21.
  35. ^ Twining, p. 276.
  36. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 52.
  37. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, pp. 52–54.
  38. ^ Piacenti and Boardman, pp. 237–238.
  39. ^ Piacenti and Boardman, pp. 218–221.
  40. ^ Piacenti and Boardman, pp. 199–200.
  41. ^ Burnett and Tabraham, p. 55.
  42. ^ "Scottish Regalia". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 1. United Kingdom: House of Commons. 26 March 1981. col. 395W.
  43. ^ "Stone of Destiny to stay in Edinburgh Castle". The Herald. 14 December 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  44. ^ "20 lesser known facts about the Stone of Destiny". Edinburgh Castle. Retrieved 1 September 2018.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]