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Honours of Scotland

The Honours of Scotland

The Honours of Scotland, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, are the oldest set of Crown Jewels in the British Isles. They were used in the coronations of Scottish monarchs until and including Charles II in 1651. They have not since been used.

There are three primary elements of the Honours of Scotland: the Crown, the Sceptre, and the Sword.

The Crown of Scotland was made in 1540 for King James V. Made of Scottish gold, the Crown is 22 gemstones, 20 precious stones, and freshwater pearls.

The Sceptre was a gift from Pope Alexander VI to King James IV in 1494; it was remodelled and lengthened in 1536. It is made of silver gilt, and is topped by a globe of crystal 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 was also a papal gift; Pope Julius II presented it to James IV in 1507. The blade 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.

After being used at the coronations of Mary I, James VI, and Charles I, the regalia were last used in 1651 for Charles II's coronation. In England, Charles I had been executed, and the monarchy overthrown. Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, ordered almost all of the English regalia to be broken. However, the Honours of Scotland were hidden and recovered only after the monarchy was restored. After the Restoration, the Honours were not used to crown any future Scottish sovereign.

Until the 1707 Act of Union, which combined England and Scotland into Great Britain, the Honours of Scotland were taken to sittings of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to represent the monarch, who, by virtue of being monarch of both England and Scotland, resided in London. After the Act of Union, the new Parliament sat in London, and the Honours of Scotland were placed in a chest at the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle. They remained locked away or hidden until 1819, when they were put on public display.

In 1941, the Honours were hidden due to fears that they may be lost during a German attack during World War II. They were taken out in 1953 to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II, and then were returned to be displayed in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle.

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