Being crowned Queen of England means participating in a sumptuous ceremony based on fascinating traditions, but the Scottish ceremonies were not different: here the monarchs used to wear a crown covered with jewels, holding in their hands an elegant sword and a sceptre.
The Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny were used throughout history for the coronation of Scottish and British monarchs. Their origin go back hundreds of years, but they are well preserved and one can admire them at the Edinburgh Castle.
They date back to the fifteenth century and these are the oldest emblems of the royal family.
Visiting the Castle, I learnt that they were first used to crown the young Maria Stuart at the Stirling Castle in 1543 and they were later used for the coronation of James VI of Scotland and Charles I and II.
The jewels were hidden in the mid-seventeenth century to keep them safe from Oliver Cromwell. Initially hidden at the Dunnottar castle, they were later on subtracted during a siege and buried a few kilometres away in the parish of Kinneff, where they remained for nine years, until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
They were brought back to the royal family and used during the sessions of the first Scottish Parliament to represent the monarchs.
After the Union Act of 1707, the jewels were no longer needed and, just like in a fairy-tale, were locked up in a treasure chest kept inside the Edinburgh Castle and forgotten for over a century.
Thanks to some pressure exercised by Sir Walter Scott, a search was led in the castle and they were eventually found.
They were again hidden during the Second World War in fear of a Nazi invasion and brought back once the War was over.
The provenance of the Stone of Destiny is not known exactly; some theories speak of biblical origins other support its native Scottish origins. Although it’s only a semi-precious stone and it looks like a simple and insignificant object, it has a truly colourful history because the stone was used for the crowning of most Scottish monarchs. The stone was later on moved to England and displayed at Westminster Abbey in London.
On Christmas Day 1950, four Scottish students from the nationalist front removed the stone from Westminster Abbey and took it back to Scotland. After a public protest, the stone was found a few months later at the Abbey of Arbroath, wrapped in a flag depicting the cross of St. Andrew, and was brought back to Westminster Abbey by the English police. It was used for the last time for the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen in 1953 but, on St. Andrew's Day in 1996, the Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland among countless ceremonies and celebrations and is currently held at the Edinburgh Castle alongside the other Honours of Scotland. Approximately 10,000 people line up on the Royal Mile of Edinburgh every year (once a year) to watch the procession of the dignitaries escorting the stone along with the troops from the Palace of Holyrood house down the street to the castle.
Although it’s not possible to photograph the royal jewels for safety purposes, I hope you may enjoy these photos of the Edinburgh Castle, which is perhaps the most photographed castle in the United Kingdom.