ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
The Regalia of Scotland

Visitors to Edinburgh Castle ascend a curving stair, pass a massive steel door and enter a small room, resplendent with royal heraldry, to view three precious objects of gold, silver and steel. These, are the Scottish regalia, more than anything could sum up the independent character of a country with its particular custoiils. traditions and history. So precious are the three pieces to the concept of nationhood that a clause in the 1707 Treaty of Union states that they must never be removed from Scotland. The Honours have been at the centre of our country’s story, they have been altered, hidden and ignored, but still they have the power to draw thousands of visitors to their resting place in the stronghold of Edinburgh.

Two of the Honours were papal gifts, reminders that the Scottish Church was a ‘special daughter’ of Rome. James IV received a golden rose and a sceptre symbol of kingly power, in 1494 from Pope Alexander. Julius II, patron of Michealangelo and Alexander VI’s successor, presented a papal hat and sword to the king a few years later – singular expressions of papal favour. The golden rose and hat have long since disappeared but the sceptre and sword, the first, altered, and the second now showing signs of age, are still with us.

The sceptre, of silver gilt, was lengthened by James V in 1536. He caused thistles and fleurs-de-lis to be added to a new part of the shaft and the head was restored in places by casting from the original Italian metalwork. The head is formed of three dolphins enclosing small statuettes of the Virgin and Child, St Andrew and St James. The final is an oval globe of rock crystal substance that had mystical significance in the Middle Ages, surmounted by a Scottish pearl. The symbol of kingly justice, sword of state, also bears dolphins as part of its great silver-gilt hilt. Hilt and blade have a total length of 44 ft [137cm], with silver work in Italian Renaissance style. The beauty of this style is seen to better advantage in the scabbard, which is constructed of wood, covered in crimson silk velvet and bound with repousse silver decoration. The decoration is enhanced with polychrome enamel which includes the papal arms of Julius II.

Following the alteration to the sceptre, James V turned his attention to the ultimate symbol of kingship, the crown. He had inherited an arched crown that possibly contained gold from the simple circlet once worn by Robert Bruce. It was decorated with pearls and at least 18 precious and semi-precious stones, but one of several fleurs-de-lis that formed the upper part of the crown had broken off and been lost. The king commissioned an Edinburgh goldsmith named John Mosman to refashion the old crown and increase its weight. Stones and pearls were’ purchased, and additional gold was obtained from the mines on Crawford Moor in Lanarkshire to provide the extra weight. Mosman retained the arches from the old crown, along with the mound and cross that they supported.

The transformation was completed in January 1540, and the crown is now the oldest in existence in the United Kingdom. It consists of a deep circlet carrying 10 floriated crosses and 10 fleurs-de-lis. Circlet and crosses are set with precious stones and pearls, many of them surrounded by enamel work. Today there are 8 diamonds, 3 white topazcs, 9 carbuncles, 4 jacinths, 4 amethysts and 2 rock crystals, together with 61 oriental pearls and 11 Scottish pearls. Over the years a further 11 pearls
have disappeared and three settings, which contained diamonds and blue enamel, are empty. Attached to the circlet arc the arches from the older crown, decorated with stylised oak leaves. The arches in turn bear the French-made mound and cross of gold with blue and black enamel. The cross carries a panel containing the initials ‘J R S’ (King James V) and is further enriched with an amethyst and eight oriental pearls.

Also forming part of the crown is the velvet bonnet of estate trimmed with ermine. This was originally purple but the colour was changed in 1687. The present bonnet of crimson silk velvet is one of several replacements made since 1818, but it still carries the four 16th-century gold and enamel ornaments, each set with a pearl.
James wore the new crown for only two years before his death in 1542 gave Scotland a female infant sovereign, who was crowned queen of Scots at the age of nine months. The Honours of Scotland were kept in the secure refuge of Edinburgh Castle and remained there throughout the civil strife that broke out after Mary’s abdication. The castle was held by the ‘queen’s men’, so when crown, sceptre and sword were required for a session of the Scottish parliament in 1571 substitutes had to be made. These dummy regalia were employed a second time in January 1573, but in May of that year the castle was surrendered and James VI obtained his rightful insignia.

During the reign of James an important piece of state ritual developed into a spectacular ceremony. This was the Riding of Parliament, the public display that preceded the opening of a parliamentary session of the Three Estates. Members of the Estates rode from the palace of Holyroodhouse, up the High Street of Edinburgh to the Kirk of St Giles, where they dismounted before walking to Parliament House. The procession was marshalled in strict order, with the Honours of Scotland in pride of place immediately in front of the king. Horses and riders were dressed for the occasion, each horse having a footmantle - an elaborate saddlecloth reaching almost to the ground.

Inside Parliament House the Honours
were set on a table before the king, and an Act became law when he touched the document with his sceptre. This continued to be the practice even after James VI left Scotland to receive the crown of England, his place being taken by the royal commissioner or the lord chancellor of Scotland.

The Honours were used for the Scottish coronation of Charles I at Holyrood on 18 June 1633, but thereafter the policies of the king led to disharmony, struggle and civil war. The Crown Jewels of England were sold and melted down, but the Honours of Scotland survived, and when Charles II was crowned at Scone on 1 January 1651 the Honours played the central role in the coronation service. Crown, sceptre and sword were then removed to a safer place, so that they would not fall into the hands of Cromwell’s troops.

The sea-girt stronghold of the Keith family, Dunnotar Castle, on the east coast, was chosen as a secure refuge, .but the location of the Honours was discovered, and the castle was besieged by the English. Thanks to the courage of the wife of James Granger, minister in the neighbouring parish of Kinneff, the Honours were smuggled out of Dunnotar, and buried under the floor of his kirk, where they remained hidden from 1652 until 1660 and the Restoration of Charles II. ‘As testimony of their sense of her service’, the Scottish parliament awarded Mrs Granger 2000 merks for saving the Honours of Scotland, and crown, sceptre and sword appeared at all the meetings of parliament and were seen publicly at each Riding. The crown, how-ever,
was never again used for the coronation of a king of Scotland.

A long period of neglect for the Honours of Scotland began in 1707, when the earl of Seafield, lord chancellor, took the sceptre in his hand and touched the Treaty of Union. With that act the independent Scottish parliament disappeared and the parliamentary function of the Honours ceased. They were returned to the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle on 26 March 1707, placed inside a large oak kist, which was then locked - and
soon forgotten.

For a century the Regalia lay undisturbed inside the box. Occasionally people asked if they had been lost or taken to England, but nobody seemed to know. In 1818 Sir Walter Scott persuaded the prince regent to grant him authority to open the Crown Room so that a search could be made. This was done, the oaken kist was found and, in the words of Scott. ‘the ponderous lid of the chest being forced open, at the expense of time and labour, the Regalia was discovered lying in the bottom covered with linen cloths, exactly as they had been left in the year 1707.’
The prince regent was crowned George IV in 1821 and the following year paid the first royal visit to Scotland by a reigning sovereign since 1651. Amid scenes of great popular excitement the ancient Honours of Scotland were removed from Edinburgh Castle and displayed to the king at the entrance to the palace of Holyroodhouse.

From 1822 crown, sceptre and sword were kept secure within the walls of the castle, no longer unseen but accessible to Scots and an increasing number of tourists. In 1953 the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth paid an accession visit to her northern kingdom. The State visit was masterminded by Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Innes of Lcarney, who, conscious of historical precedent, arranged for the Honours of Scotland to be symbolically accepted by the new sovereign within the High Kirk of St Giles. And so on the 23 June 1953 the Honours were solemnly carried from the castle to the palace of Holyroodhouse. From there they formed part of a procession through the streets of Edinburgh, immediately preceding the Queen, as in the ancient custom of the Parliamentary Ridings. Once again the potent symbols of independent majesty held the attention of the Scottish people.

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