Honours of Scotland

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Honours of Scotland
The Queen at the Scottish Parliament.jpg
The crown at the Opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2011
Country Scotland
Location Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle

3 objects:

  • 1 crown (1540)
  • 1 sceptre (c. 1494)
  • 1 sword (1507)
Managers Commissioners for the Safekeeping of the Regalia
Historic Environment Scotland
Website edinburghcastle.scot

The Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Regalia and the Scottish Crown Jewels, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, are the oldest surviving set of crown jewels in the British Isles.

They were used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from 1543 (Mary I) until 1651 (Charles II). Since then, they have been used to represent Royal Assent to legislation in both the Estates of Parliament and the Scottish Parliament, and they have also been used at state occasions including the first visit to Scotland as sovereign by King George IV in 1822 and the first such visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

There are three primary elements of the Honours of Scotland: the Crown, the Sceptre, and the Sword of State. These elements 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 both the Sword and the Sceptre.


The Honours Saved From Cromwell. Tableau at Edinburgh Castle.
Rediscovering the Honours in 1818. Tableau at Edinburgh Castle.

After being used at the coronations of Mary, Queen of Scots, James VI, and Charles I, the regalia were last used at a coronation in 1651 for that of Charles II. Prior to this event, Charles I had been executed by order of the Parliament of England and the monarchy overthrown. Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, ordered almost all of the English regalia to be broken up or melted down. However, the Honours of Scotland were hidden, firstly in Dunnottar Castle, which was later besieged by the New Model Army, and from where the Honours were smuggled out; secondly under the floor of Kinneff Parish Church, only to be recovered after The Restoration in 1660. Although they had been found, the Honours were no longer used to crown Scottish sovereigns after Charles II.[1][2]

Until the Acts of Union 1707, which united the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England to form the unified Kingdom of Great Britain, the Honours of Scotland were taken to sittings of the Parliament of Scotland to represent the Monarch who, since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, resided in England. After the Act of Union, the Parliament of Scotland and Parliament of England having been dissolved, the Parliament of Great Britain sat in London; the Honours of Scotland, having no symbolic role to play in the unified British Parliament, were placed in a chest and locked away at Edinburgh Castle.[3] There they remained, almost forgotten, until 4 February 1818 when a group, including Sir Walter Scott and Sir Henry Jardine,[4] set out to recover the Honours. Following their discovery, they were put on public display in 1819 guarded by two Yeoman in Tudor style dress, both veterans of the Battle of Waterloo. Sir Adam Ferguson[5] was appointed Deputy Keeper of The Scottish Regalia. Found in the chest along with the Regalia was a silver rod or mace of office for the Treasurer of Scotland. It was apparently deposited there by the Earl of Glasgow. The mace had been mentioned in the discharge granted by the Privy Council to Sir Patrick Murray in 1621.[6]

The Regalia have remained on display ever since, with only one exception. In 1941, the Honours were hidden due to fears that they might be lost should there be a German invasion during the Second World War. In 1953, they were taken out of hiding and presented to the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth and then returned to the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle.[7]

When the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland in 1996, it also was placed in the Crown Room, alongside the Honours.[8]

In May 1999, at the first sitting of the devolved Scottish Parliament, in October 2004 at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament Building, and at subsequent opening ceremonies of each new session of the Scottish Parliament the Crown of Scotland has been present alongside the monarch.[9]



The Crown of Scotland in its present form dates from 1540 when James V ordered the Edinburgh goldsmith John Mosman to refashion the original crown. James wore it to his consort's coronation in the same year at the abbey church of Holyrood.[10]

The circlet at the base is made from Scottish gold and is encrusted with 22 gemstones and 20 precious stones taken from the former crown. Freshwater pearls from Scotland's rivers were also used. The crown weighs 3 lb 10 oz (1644 g). The crown was remodelled in 1540 for James V when the velvet and ermine bonnet were added to bring it to its present form.[11] It is not known exactly when the crown was originally made, but it can be seen in its pre-1540 form in the famous portrait of James IV of Scotland in the Book of Hours that was created for his marriage to Margaret Tudor in 1503.[12]

The four golden arches of the Crown are ornamented with gold and red enamelled oak leaves, apparently of French workmanship. At the point where the arches meet there rests an orb of gold which is enamelled in blue and ornamented with gilt stars. This is surmounted by a large cross decorated in gold and black enamel with an amethyst in rectangular form, in the centre. The upper and two side extremities of the cross are adorned with pearls.[13]


The Sceptre of Scotland was a gift from Pope Alexander VI to King James IV in 1494, and was remodelled and lengthened in 1536. It is made of silver gilt, and is topped by a finial with polished rock (possibly Cairngorm) and a Scottish pearl. The Sceptre includes several Christian symbols: stylised dolphins, symbols of the Church, appear on the head of the rod, as do images of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Christ, of Saint James the Great, and of Saint Andrew holding a saltire.[14]

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). The etched blade, measuring 4.5 feet in length, includes figures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as the etched name of Julius II. The silver gilt handle bears figures of oak leaves and acorns. The sword, an example of Italian craftsmanship, was damaged in 1652 whilst being hidden from Cromwell's troops, as it had to be broken in half to be properly concealed while it was being taken to safety. It is accompanied by a wooden scabbard which is covered with velvet and silver and hung from a woven silk and thread of gold belt.[15]

Commissioners for the Safekeeping of the Regalia[edit]

Under the terms of a Royal Warrant of 1818,[16] the holders of four of the Great Offices of State in Scotland, the Lord Justice Clerk, the Lord Advocate, the Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, and the Lord Clerk Register, are ex-officio Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia.[17] 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.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Did You Know? Honours of Scotland". Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Royal Family
  3. ^ Royal Family
  4. ^ "Jardine Clan History: Jardine family information - Scotweb Information Centre". Scotweb.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-08-04. 
  5. ^ Records of the Clan Ferguson 1895 page 176
  6. ^ Bell, William (1829). "Papers Relevant to the Scottish Regalia". p. 51. 
  7. ^ "Scotland salutes the Queen Honours of Scotland". Moving Image. Retrieved 6 August 2018. 
  8. ^ "Honours of Scotland and Stone of Destiny". Visit Scotland. Retrieved 6 August 2018. 
  9. ^ Royal Family
  10. ^ Royal Family
  11. ^ Royal Family
  12. ^ Wilkie, James. "The Book of Hours of James IV, King of Scots" (PDF). Electric Scotland. Retrieved 6 August 2018. 
  13. ^ Royal Family
  14. ^ Royal Family
  15. ^ Royal Family
  16. ^ "Scottish Regalia". millbanksystems.com. 
  17. ^ "Stone of Destiny to stay in Edinburgh Castle Symbol will not be returned to ancient resting place at Scone". Herald Scotland. 
  18. ^ "Stone of destiny: Royal warrant". Retrieved 5 August 2018. 


External links[edit]