I have a history post for you this week, but it comes without one of my experiments. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time. The kids and I spent the week battling flu and pink eye. Then I went to Cincinnati, Ohio to help my best friend prepare for the grand opening of her new business The Pink Party Palace. If you live in the area, it is just about the cutest place I have ever seen for a little girl’s birthday party. They get spa treatment, a stage to rock out on, and a banquet room that would put most weddings to shame. Here are a few pics I took while I was there:
On the drive home, I tried to figure out what this week’s history topic would be. My head full of princesses and royalty, I decided to post on The Honours of Scotland–Scotland’s crown jewels. Before you write this off as a boring topic, I beg you to keep reading, because the story I’m about to tell you is one of those stranger than fiction bits of history…
The Honours of Scotland
The above picture is a model replica of the Scottish Crown Jewels: a crown, sword, and scepter. The real jewels are on display at Edinburgh Castle. I don’t think they allow pictures, so this is the only photo I could get a hold of without infringing on copyright. Anyway, these are the oldest surviving crown jewels in the British Isles. They were first worn by Mary, Queen of Scots at her coronation in 1543. Yes, this is several hundred years later than I usually post about, but the jewels do play a role in my book.
Skip forward to 1651. The jewels make their last coronation appearance when Charles II takes the throne. But Charles II doesn’t stay monarch for long. Big bad Oliver Cromwell is on the scene, and he sends Charles II running after defeating him at the Battle of Worcester.
So Charles II flees, and Cromwell is on a bit of a rampage. He has ordered that all regalia be broken and/or melted down. He had already destroyed the English Crown Jewels, and the Scots knew it was only a matter of time before he came for theirs. Deciding that was some utter B.S., they hid their jewels in Dunnottar Castle before Cromwell could get his grubby little hands on them.
The jewels had to be smuggled out once again when Dunmottar Castle was besieged by the New Model Army. This time they were hidden under the floor of a parish church, where they remained until the restoration in 1660.
When the jewels resurfaced, they took on a new role. After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, Scotland and England shared the same king. Since the king lived in London, he didn’t often attend meetings of Scottish parliament. Instead they brought the Crown Jewels to represent the King. This made me sad when I read about it. It reminded my of Lily and her “pillow Marshall” on How I Met Your Mother.
Sadly, the jewels lost even their “pillow Marshall” status when in 1707 Scotland and England united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. They were tossed in a chest and stored in Edinburgh castle where they all but forgotten for the next two hundred years.
Sir Walter Scott to the Rescue!
Sir Walter Scott was a novelist, poet, playwright, and oral historian. You might know him as the author of such classics as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy. Though, I have a special love for his novel The Fair Maid of Perth, as my novel Beneath the Destined Stone describes the same historical events (see The Battle of North Inch).
Scott is often credited as the inventor of the historical novel. His obvious love for Scotland’s history impressed George IV (prince regent at the time) so much that he gave Scott permission to hunt for the long-lost jewels. In 1818 Scott and a handful of military men scoured Edinburgh Castle, eventually locating the jewels in a dusty oak chest. The Prince Regent was so pleased by his discovery, he gave Scott the title of Baronet.
I want you to stop and think about how crazy this is for a moment. In America this would be like if the Declaration of Independence went missing and Stephen King found it in the White House basement. Insane, right?
The Honours of Scotland Today
Today you can see the Scottish Crown Jewels on display at Edinburgh Castle. Sadly, I’ve never seen them in person, as I can’t afford the trip to Scotland. For some strange reason no rich patrons have offered to fund my visit :). As you can imagine, writing a book that takes place somewhere I’ve never been can be problematic. But I handle it the way any modern person with internet access would–I ask questions on Reddit.
I asked the following when writing a scene involving the Honours of Scotland:
I’m trying to piece together the layout of the royal palace for a book. I’ve never been there, so I have to go by pictures. I’m interested in the second floor where they keep the crown jewels and stone of destiny. I need descriptions of what the room looks like. I’ve seen pics of wax figures showing Sir Walter Scott finding the jewels and other scenes. Is that where it is? It wasn’t clear. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!