Scotland’s Coronation Traditions

Until King Edward I stole many of the traditions, Scotland had its own unique ceremony for coronating its monarchs. Today we will look at what it was, what happened to it, and where you can find it today!

To begin with we have the Honours of Scotland:

The honours are Britian’s oldest remaining regalia and the crown jewels of Scotland, though they are not the original items used. The scepter and sword were gifts from the papacy. The scepter was a gift to mark Scotland as a Catholic nation under the Papacy’s care, given by Pope Alexander VI to King James IV in 1494 (it was lengthened in 1536).  The Sword of State was given by Pope Julius II to James IV in 1507. The Crown origin date is unknown, but James V remodeled it in 1540, and it was used to coronate his daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543. The last monarch to wear it was Charles II in 1651 at Scone when Oliver Cromwell was attempting to have it destroyed. It would be the last coronation to take place in Scotland. After Charles was restored to power they would hold a ceremonious role as a symbol of the English monarch joint rule over the sovereign countries until the Union of the Crowns in 1707. In the United Kingdom, the jewels would have no role, and they would be hidden away until 1819 when they were permanently placed on display in Edinburgh Castle. That is where you will find the regalia today.

The Crown is built on a circlet of Scottish gold, laid and designed by John Mosman, and covered with a red cap (it was originally purple). They decorated the crown with 22 gemstones and 20 precious stones complimented by freshwater pearls from Scottish rivers. These are set upon gold strawberry leaves and fleur-de-lis. Above this, surrounding the cap, are four arches that lead to a blue orb meant to represent the night sky and called a monde. The monde is topped with a golden cross.

The Sceptre is silver with images of the Virgin and Child, St. James, and St. Andrews under Gothic canopies and dolphins. The top has 3 parts: a crystal globe, a rock crystal polished, and a substantial Scottish pearl. 

The Sword of Scotland is a meter long, with a silver-handle that has symbolism for Christ with oak leaves and acorns. The long blade has a break from traveling to avoid Cromwell, but the surface is decorated with the inscription of Pope Jullius II and sketches of St. Peter and St. Paul. It was last used in connection with the Order of the Thistle in 1987.

To get a better look at the Honours of Scotland visit https://royalexhibitions.co.uk/scottish-jewels/ 

Stone of Destiny: For being a significant part of Scottish history, little is known about the origins of it past when it arrived in Scone and when Edward I stole it in 1296. The most common myth begins in biblical times, stating that Jacob used this as his pillow at Bethel. It then became the Pedestal of the Ark in the Temple in Jewish legends before beginning its journey to Scotland. King Gathelus brought the stone with him from Syria to Egypt. When he was chased from Egypt he traveled to Spain. One of his descendants took it to Ireland and used it in a ceremony to be crowned as King of Ireland. Sometime after it was taken to Scotland. Kenneth I, King of Dalriada, moved the stone to his capital of Scone after uniting the Scots and Picta around 840AD. It remained there until Edward I stole it (though there are rumors that the stone was swapped for another before he had the chance, and that the current is an imposter. Which could explain why the stone looks more local to Scotland).

The stone remained in England until it officially returned to Scotland in 1996 and is on display at Edinburgh Castle with the Honours. There is one exception to this. In 1950 four college students stole the stone from Westminster Abbey and was not found for three months; it turned up on the altar of Arbroath Abbey.

Scone Palace: Located in Perth, was once the coronation sight of Scottish Kings. Kenneth I started the tradition in 840AD and it continued even after the Stone of Destiny was stolen with Robert I. Not every Scottish King was crowned here, but it continued to hold historical significance. Charles II was coronated here as the last King to have the honor in 1651 before regaining the English throne nine years later.

Photo Credit: Edinburgh Castle <https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/see-and-do/highlights/the-stone-of-destiny>

The palace has been maintained well through the years and you can tour the palace and the gardens (when COVID is not a concern anymore, at least), have your wedding or special event here or even stay here in five-star luxury.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the unique details of Scottish coronations and thank you for your support!

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