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Crown Jewels of Scotland Rediscovered

by Sir Walter Scott, 1818

 The "Honours of Scotland" are the crown jewels and they consist of a crown, a sword and a sceptre. They are the oldest Royal Regalia in Britain. The crown was made in 1540 from gold melted down from the previous one, with additional gold mined in Upper Clydesdsale. More precious stones and pearls were also added and the crown was first used by King James V at the coronation of his second queen, Mary of Guise (mother of Mary Queen of Scots).


Pope Julius II presented the sword to King James IV in 1507. It was made by an Italian craftsman, Domenico da Suttri.


The sceptre is the oldest of the crown jewels. It was made in 1494 and was presented to King James V by Pope Alexander VI.


The three Honours of Scotland were first used together at the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots (daughter of King James V) in Stirling castle in 1543.


The "Honours of Scotland"

They were last used at the coronation of King Charles II at Scone on 1 January 1651. During the occupation of Scotland by Oliver Cromwell during Puritan times, the jewels were hidden first in Dunottar castle. When the castle was besieged, the local minister's wife smuggled them out and they were buried under the floor of Kinneff church.


Under the terms of the Treaty of Union in 1707, Scotland's crown jewels were retained in Edinburgh castle.


As the years passed, there were disturbing rumours that the ancient regalia had been quietly removed to London.


Eventually, largely by the intercession of Sir Walter Scott, authority was obtained from the Prince Regent (later George IV) in 1818 to make a search of the castle. In an oak chest within what is now the Crown Room, with Scott among the spectators, there was found the precious regalia, including the crown that had been made in the time of the great Bruce. Scott's emotions have been recorded by the historian James Grant: `The joy was therefore extreme when, the ponderous lid having been forced open ... the regalia were discovered lying at the bottom covered with linen cloths, exactly as they had been left in 1707.


They were put on display in the castle where they have been on view to the public ever since.


The display of the crown jewels was added to on St Andrews Day, 30th November 1996, when the Stone of Destiny was brought back to Scotland - in 1296, 700 years earlier, King Edward had stolen this precious relic on which generations of Scottish kings had been crowned since the days of the Kingdom of Dalriada in the 9th century.  It is now displayed beside the Crown Jewels of Scotland


In Edinburgh, on 4th Feb. 1818 Sir Walter Scott wrote:

My dear Croker, I have the pleasure to assure you the Regalia of Scotland were this day found in perfect preservation. The Sword of State and Sceptre showed marks of hard usage at some former period; but in all respects agree with the description in Thomson's work. I will send you a complete account of the opening tomorrow, as the official account will take some time to draw up. In the meantime, I hope you will remain as obstinate in your belief as St. Thomas, because then you will come down to satisfy yourself. I know nobody entitled to earlier information, save one, to whom you can perhaps find the means of communicating the result of our researches. The post is just going off.

Ever yours truly,

Walter Scott



A few days later, on 7th February 1818 Sir Walter wrote a longer account of the event:

My dear Croker, - I promised I would add something to my report of yesterday, and yet I find I have but little to say. The extreme solemnity of opening sealed doors of oak and iron, and finally breaking open a chest which had been shut since 7th March 1707, about a hundred and eleven years, gave a sort of interest to our researches, which I can hardly express to you, and it would be very difficult to describe the intense eagerness with which we watched the rising of the lid of the chest, and the progress of the workmen in breaking it open, which was neither an easy nor a speedy task. It sounded very hollow when they worked on it with their tools, and I began to lean to your faction of the Little Faiths. However, I never could assign any probable or feasible reason for withdrawing these memorials of ancient independence; and my doubts rather arose from the conviction that many absurd things are done in public as well as in private life, merely out of a hasty impression of passion or resentment. For it was evident the removal of the Regalia might have greatly irritated people's minds here, and offered a fair pretext of breaking the Union, which for thirty years was the predominant wish of the Scottish nation.


The discovery of the Regalia has interested people's minds much more strongly than I expected, and is certainly calculated to make a pleasant and favourable impression upon them in respect to the kingly part of the constitution. It would be of the utmost consequence that they should be occasionally shown to them, under proper regulations, and for a small fee. The Sword of State is a most beautiful piece of workmanship, a present from Pope Julius ii to James iv. The scabbard is richly decorated with filigree work of silver, double gilded, representing oak leaves and acorns, executed in a taste worthy of that classical age in which the arts revived. A draughtsman has been employed to make sketches of these articles, in order to be laid before his Royal Highness [the Prince Regent]. The fate of these Regalia, which his Royal Highness's goodness has thus restored to light and honour, has on one or two occasions been singular enough. They were, in 1652, lodged in the Castle of Dunnottar, the seat of the Earl Marischal, by whom, according to his ancient privilege, they were kept. The castle was defended by George Ogilvie of Barra, who, apprehensive of the progress which the English made in reducing the strong places in Scotland, became anxious for the safety of these valuable memorials. The ingenuity of his lady had them conveyed out of the castle in a bag on a woman's back, among some hards, as they are called, of lint. They were carried to the Kirk of Kinneff, and intrusted to the care of the clergyman named Grainger and his wife, and buried under the pulpit. The Castle of Dunnottar, though very strong and faithfully defended, was at length under necessity of surrendering, being the last strong place in Britain on which the royal flag floated in those calamitous times. Ogilvie and his lady were threatened with the utmost extremities by the Republican General Morgan, unless they should produce the Regalia. The governor stuck to it that he knew nothing of them, as in fact they had been carried away without his knowledge. The Lady maintained she had given them to John Keith, second son of the Earl Marischal, by whom, she said, they had been carried to France. They suffered a long imprisonment, and much ill usage. On the Restoration, the old Countess Marischal, founding upon the story Mrs. Ogilvie had told to screen her husband, obtained for her own son, John Keith, the Earldom of Kintore, and the post of Knight Marischal, with £400 a-year, as if he had been in truth the preserver of the Regalia. It soon proved that this reward had been too hastily given, for Ogilvie of Barra produced the Regalia, the honest clergyman refusing to deliver them to any one but those from whom he received them. Ogilvie was made a Knight Baronet, however, and got a new charter of the lands, acknowledging the good service. Thus it happened oddly enough, that Keith, who was abroad during the transaction, and had nothing to do with it, got the earldom, pension, &c., Ogilvie only inferior honours, and the poor clergyman nothing whatever, or, as we say, the hare's foot to lick.......I must save post, however, and conclude abruptly.

Yours ever,

Walter Scott




Dunnottar Castle

Sir Walter Scott

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