4 February 1818: Sir Walter Scott finds the Honours of Scotland

Romantic poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott discovered the Honours of Scotland – Scotland's crown jewels – on this day in 1818, after they had been missing for over a century.

Romantic poet, novelist and proud Scot, Sir Walter Scott was just the man to find Scotland's long lost royal regalia the Scottish crown jewels. The Prince Regent, the future George IV, was among his many fans and tasked Scott with finding them.

On 4 February 1818, Scott directed his team of workmen to prise open an old wooden chest that had sat gathering dust for over a hundred years in a strong room in Edinburgh Castle. In his own words, Scott described it as "neither an easy nor a speedy task".

When the lid was at last heaved upright, Scott beheld the coronation crown, sword and sceptre of the kings and queens of Scotland.

The Honours of Scotland are older than their English counterparts. The crown, made from Scottish gold, was refashioned from an existing one in 1540, while the sword and sceptre were both papal gifts. Scott found them still nestled in the linen in which they had been carefully wrapped in 1707.

That was the year of the Act of Union between England and Scotland. Henceforth the monarchs of the United Kingdom would be crowned in Westminster, and the Scottish crown jewels were stashed away to be forgotten. Scott's discovery laid to rest a long-standing rumour that the Honours of Scotland had in fact been spirited away to England.

Such fears weren't without foundation. Oliver Cromwell had tried to get his hands on them in 1652, presumably to melt down such a potent symbol of monarchical power. But he was thwarted when they were smuggled out under the noses of his soldiers.

It was precisely to allay such fears that Scott set out to find Scotland's crown jewels. "For it was evident the removal of the Regalia might have greatly irritated people's minds here, and offered a fair pretext of breaking the Union, which for thirty years was the predominant wish of the Scottish nation."


28 May 1937: the Volkswagen car company is formed
This day in history

28 May 1937: the Volkswagen car company is formed

On this day in 1937, Volkswagen, now the world's second-biggest vehicle-maker, was founded as the 'Society to Prepare the German People’s Car'.
28 May 2021

Most Popular

Get set for another debt binge as real interest rates fall
UK Economy

Get set for another debt binge as real interest rates fall

Despite the fuss about rising interest rates, they’re falling in real terms. That will blow up a wild bubble, says Matthew Lynn.
15 May 2022
High inflation will fade – here’s why

High inflation will fade – here’s why

Many people expect high inflation to persist for a long time. But that might not be true, says Max King. Inflation may fall faster than expected – and…
13 May 2022
What the Ukraine crisis might mean for ESG investing
Advertisement Feature

What the Ukraine crisis might mean for ESG investing

The Ukraine crisis has brought many of the issues around ESG investing into sharper focus. Where does the sector go from here?
3 May 2022