Honours of Scotland

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Crest of the Royal coat of arms of Scotland, depicting the Honours of Scotland: Crown, Sword and Sceptre.

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 Crown of Scotland[edit]

Main article: Crown of Scotland
The crown was carried by the Duke of Hamilton, hereditary bearer of the Crown of Scotland, as Queen Elizabeth II left the Chamber following the Opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2011.

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.

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. It is not known exactly when the crown was originally made, but it can be seen in its pre-1540 form in the famous portrait of James IV of Scotland in the Book of Hours that was created for his marriage to Margaret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.

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.

The Sceptre of Scotland[edit]

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.

The Sword of State of Scotland[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.

Historical background and current location[edit]

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.[1][unreliable source?]

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. There they remained, almost forgotten, until 4 February 1818 when a group, including Sir Walter Scott and Sir Henry Jardine,[2] set out to recover the Honours. Following their discovery, they were put on public display in 1819 and have remained so 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 World War II. 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.

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

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. Due to their age and condition the sword and the sceptre are considered too delicate to be present alongside the crown at such occasions.

Commissioners for the Safekeeping of the Regalia[edit]

Under the terms of a Royal Warrant of 1818,[3] 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.[4] Since 1996, the commissioners have also been been empowered by another Royal Warrant for the safekeeping of the Stone of Scone and for the arrangement of its return to Westminster Abbey in the event of any future coronation.[5]

See also[edit]


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