The Kingdom Honours – Edinburgh

The “Honours of Scotland“, which are the Crown Jewels, consist of a Crown, Sword and Sceptre. The Honours represent one of the oldest royal regalia in Christianity.

The first Scottish kings used to get crowned in the course of an open air ceremony, sitting on the Stone of Destiny, which represented the connection between the king, the earth and the people. The stone was and still is an important symbol for Scotland and its population. The stone was stolen by the English king Edward I in 1296, marking the end of a tradition which had been going on for 400 years. The Stone was taken to London and kept for 700 years inside Westminster Abbey, until the historic restitution to Scotland, which took place in 1996.

Robert I is crowned king with a golden circle

In 1306 Robert I, said “The Bruce“, was crowned king of Scotland with a golden circle. It was actually a new crown. The ancient Honours had been abolished by Edward I of England in 1296. According to the legend, the current crown contains the melt gold which was used for the circle, but there are no real proves of it, although the circle has marked the beginning of the extraordinary history of the Scottish Crown Jewels.

James IV receives the Sword of the State

It was under James IV’s kingdom (1488-1513) that the Sceptre and Sword came to Scotland. They both were donated by the Pope. The Sceptre was donated in 1494, whereas the Sword, the Scabbard and the Belt arrived in 1507. James IV was also the first king of Scotland to wear a crown with arches, the Imperial Crown, the day of his crowning. The arches had been added by his father, James III (1460-1488).

King James and his artisans

James V (1513-1542) made numerous changes to the Honours: the guard was renewed and enlarged, and the crown was ornamented with gold and with precious stones. A brand new purple bonnet in ermine fur was also added.

The crowning of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland

The renewed Honours were used for the first time when a young Mary was crowned Queen by the Scottish. Her son James became King of Scotland and England in 1603. Since then, the two nations ceased to have separate kings.

The last crowning in Scotland

After the two Crowns were unified under one Rein, only two coronations took place in Scotland. Charles I was crowned in Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh in 1633, and Charles II was crowned in Scone on 1st January 1651. This was a period of fights and riots: the civil war was leading the country to its ruin, and the Honours were endangered after the English invasion.

The Honours were saved from Cromwell

After Charles II’s crowning, the Honours were secretly brought to Dunnotar Castle, but the castle was besieged by the English troops, who claimed to have the Honours. Two courageous women made it through Cromwell’s lines and took the Honours to the near Kinnef church, where they were hidden.

The recuperation of the Honors

After Cromwell’s death in 1660, the Honors were brought back to light and returned to Edinburgh Castle.

The Union of the Parliament- the Honours are used for the last time

The main task of the Honors is to represent the king in front of the Parliament. In 1707 they played this role for the last time: when the Sceptre touched the Act of Union, meaning the kings’ acceptance of the Union, Scotland and England were officially unified under the same crown. The Honours were brought back to Edinburgh and locked into a safe located in the Crown Room.

The Honours are found

For 111 years the Honours had remained hidden. In 1818 Sir Walter Scott was granted the king’s authorization to open the Crown Room inside the Castle. The room seals were loosened, and the great safe was open. The Honours were lying exactly as they were placed in 1707. Finally the Crown Jewels were permanently exhibited to public in the Crown Room, where they still lie today. Only during the second world war the Honours were buried under one of the castle towers, in order to protect them from sacks.

The Scottish Crown is made of gold coming from Scottish mines, and it is ornamented with pearls and precious stones like diamonds, amethysts and garnets. In the silver Sceptre a crystal sphere is engraved. The Scabbard, Belt and Sword are decorated with the coats of arms of Pope Jule II and with Christian symbols: dolphins, acorns and oak tree leaves.

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