King Charles III will be presented with the Honours of Scotland during a ‘Scottish Coronation’ Service of Thanksgiving at St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh today, following the Coronation at Westminster Abbey in May. The oldest surviving Crown Jewels in the British Isles, the Honours of Scotland, Seudan a’ Chrùin Albannaich in Gaelic, are usually on display at Edinburgh Castle but will have a leading role in today’s Ceremony, so we are featuring them today!
Crown of Scotland
A circlet of solid gold set with 22 large pearls and twenty gemstones from an older crown, set within frames with leaf-shaped sides and silver and enamel upper and lower sections, with the top edge of the circlet composed of forty gold half circles, with each half circle topped by an alternating sequence of twenty pearls, ten gold fleurs-de-lis, and ten gold crosses fleury. The circlet supports the four solid gold arches from the old crown, each of which is decorated with gold and red-enamelled oak leaves, topped by a gold monde, which is enamelled blue and covered with small gold stars, and topped by a gold cross pattée, set off with black enamel, eight pearls and a large amethyst. The crown has a red velvet bonnet, with four enamelled gold ornaments adorned with a pearl attached to it between the four arches.
The Crown was refashioned in its current form for King James V in 1540 by an Edinburgh goldsmith, John Mosman, and later used for the Coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543 and King James VI in 1567. After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the Honours of Scotland were carried to sittings of the Parliament of Scotland to symbolise the monarch’s presence and the royal assent to legislation, and was used at the Coronation of King Charles I in 1633, and the Coronation of King Charles II in 1651. Since there was no subsequent Scottish Coronation, the Crown has not been worn again, though after being locked away at Edinburgh Castle for over a century, it was presented to King George IV during his visit to Scotland in 1822 and was presented to Queen Elizabeth II during a newly invented National Service of Thanksgiving in 1953. More recently, the Crown has been carried by the Duke of Hamilton, the hereditary bearer of the Crown of Scotland, in a ceremonial procession known as the Riding of Parliament at the Opening Ceremonies of the Scottish Parliament and it was also placed upon the Coffin of Queen Elizabeth II during her lying-in-state at St Giles’ Cathedral. The Crown will be borne and presented to the King by the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon.
The Sceptre, a symbolic ornamental rod held by the Scottish monarchs at their coronation, was a gift from Pope Alexander VI to King James IV in 1494, and replaced a native-made sceptre which dated from at least the 14th century. The Sceptre was made in Italy of silver gilt, and was remodelled and lengthened for King James V in 1536 by the Edinburgh goldsmith Adam Leys. It consists of a handle attached to the bottom of a hexagonal rod, which is topped by a finial. The rod is engraved with grotesques, urns, leaves, thistles and fleurs-de-lis. The finial features stylised dolphins (symbols of the Church), and three figures under canopies; the Virgin Mary, wearing a crown and holding the infant Jesus in her right arm and an orb in her left hand; Saint James the Great holding a book and a staff; and Saint Andrew holding a book and a saltire. The finial is topped by a globe of polished crystal, surmounted with a golden globe topped by a large pearl. The Sceptre will be borne by Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk.
Sword of State
The Sword of State was a gift from Pope Julius II presented to King James IV along with a blessed hat in 1507 as papal recognition of James’s defence of Christendom. The sword was made by Domenico da Sutri and replaced a native-made Sword of Honour that had been made in 1502 to complement the Sceptre. The steel blade is etched on either side with the figures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and the words: JULIUS II PONT MAX (Julius II Supreme Pontiff) in inlaid gold lettering. The 3 silver-gilt handle is decorated with oak leaves and acorns, with two stylised oak leaves which overlap the scabbard, and a crossguard in the form of dolphins.
The Sword of State was borne in procession at services of the Order of the Thistle, until it was found to be too fragile for further use. In 2022, a new sword – named the Elizabeth Sword – was commissioned to be used in place of the Sword of State. The Sword, made of Lewisian gneiss from Iona, and the hilt of oak sourced from Perthshire, and its scabbard were designed and crafted in Scotland and will be presented to the King today. The Elizabeth Sword will be borne and presented to the King by Dame Katherine Grainger DBE.
The Honours are the Crown Jewels of Scotland, and comprise the Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword of State, which are the oddest surviving set of Regalia in the United Kingdom since Oliver Cromwell destroyed the English Coronation Regalia during the English Civil War. During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Cromwell sought to destroy the Scottish Regalia as well, but it was secretly buried at Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, until King Charles II was restored in 1660, though they were not used for any subsequent Coronations. Following the Union of 1707, the Honours were locked away in a chest in Edinburgh Castle, until being rediscovered in 1818 and have been on public display at in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle ever since. The Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle also contains the Stone of Scone, a silver-gilt wand, the 17th-century Stewart Jewels, and the Lorne Jewels, which were bequeathed to Scotland by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll in 1939.