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The Honours of Scotland and the British Monarchy

Then Scotland's vales, and Scotland's dales,

And Scotland's hills for me;

We'll drink a cup to Scotland yet,

Wi a' the Honours three!

Scotland Yet

Henry Scott Riddell, 1798-1870.

The Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication in St Giles Cathedral on Wednesday 5 July 2023 was a colourful and patriotic Scottish and British event. King Charles was formally presented with the Insignia of Power in Scotland – the Scottish Regalia – "the Honours Three": the Sword of State, the Sceptre of Scotland and the Scottish Crown.

A Force For Good was there predominantly to give a Scottish voice to counter the London-based group of republicans who had come up from England to shout rudely at the King. We certainly kept the British end up with our Flags and Posters which proudly announced "Charles King of Scots" (see pics).

However, it got us thinking about this ceremony.

How many times has this been performed? Is this a new ceremony, or is it a traditional one which has happened with previous Monarchs? If so, which ones? And what is the meaning of the Regalia? We answer all these questions in this article.

First, some background.


It is important to note that this was not a Coronation. The King was officially crowned King of all the United Kingdom and his other Realms, on Saturday 6th May 2023, at Westminster Abbey. He didn't need to be crowned again.

Rather, this was a Scottish Consecration, a making Holy of the Crown of Scotland, and the Head that Wears it, in the eyes of the world.

Furthermore, the ceremony at St Giles helped to formally acknowledge the existence of the ancient Kingdom of Scotland which, today, resides peacefully within the wider United Kingdom.

In our quest to find answers, we first ask: To which Monarchs of the past would this ceremony have been appropriately applied?


On 27 March 1603, the Scottish King, James VI, became King also of England when Elizabeth I died without any children. James was the nearest relative. We covered the history of this in our Special Edition of Union Heart; Union of Crowns available here.

When his son, Charles I, became King of both England and Scotland in 1625, he had a coronation in both England (1626) and Scotland (1635).

However, a revolution, led by Oliver Cromwell, resulted in the regicide of Charles I in 1649.

His son, Charles II attempted to become King.

The English, under Cromwell, would not accept him or crown him, but the Scots immediately proclaimed him "King of Great Britain", and crowned him at Scone on 1 January 1651 – much to the anger of Cromwell, who invaded Scotland, and who would have destroyed the Honours of Scotland (see below).

[Charles II was the last British monarch to be crowned in Scotland. Charles II would be eventually restored in London in 1660 and crowned (again) in 1661 – we wrote about that here.]

After Charles's Scottish Coronation, the Honours of Scotland were smuggled to safety and they were not to be found again until George IV made his successful visit to Scotland in 1822 (see below).

So, that means there were no such elaborate presentations of the Honours until 1822.

During this time, there had been the following Monarchs:

James VII, 1685-1688 (1689 in Scotland)

William and Mary, 1689-1702/1694

Anne, 1702-1714 (Queen during the Union of Parliaments)

George I, 1714-1727

George II, 1727-1760

George III, 1760-1820

None of these Monarchs visited Scotland, although James VII had done so when a Prince.


Cromwell had destroyed the English Regalia and he would have done the same to the Scottish Regalia if he had found them. Therefore, after Charles's Coronation, they were stored at Dunnottar Castle at Stonehaven.

The Castle fell to Cromwell's forces, but the Honours were saved thanks to Mrs George Ogilvy who was the castle Governor's wife; Mrs Christian Granger who was the wife of the local Minister; and a servant girl (for whom we don't have a name) who worked for Mrs Granger.

The girl regularly collected edible seaweed in a basket, and Mrs Ogilvy took the opportunity to hide the Honours in the basket, which the girl took to the Manse. The Minister buried them under the floor of Kinneff Church.

According to Jean Goodman and Sir Iain Moncreiffe in Debrett's Royal Scotland, Mr and Mrs Ogilvy were tortured, and Mrs Ogilvy would die as a result! (1)

However, Cromwell never discovered where they had been hidden.

Nine years later, after Charles II had returned in triumph to London, the Regalia was moved to Edinburgh Castle, where it would be used in sittings of the Scottish Parliament to acknowledge the presence of "the Crown", albeit not the King in person.

This continued until 1 May 1707 when both the Scottish and English Parliaments were replaced by the British Parliament. At that point, the Regalia was stored in the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle.

In 1819, after a rumour circulated that the Honours may have been stolen, the author, Walter Scott, who had become a good friend of Prince George (later George IV) persuaded him to issue a Royal Warrant to allow Scott to break open a wooden chest in the Castle where the Honours were hoped to be.

Scott describes the scene on 4 February 1819:

The blows of the hammer echoed with a deep an hollow sound…even those whose expectations had been most sanguine felt at the moment the probability of disappointment…The joy was therefore extreme when, the ponderous lid of the chest being forced open, at the expense of some time and labour, the Regalia was discovered lying at the bottom covered with linen cloths, exactly as they had been left in the year 1707…The discovery was instantly announced by running up the royal standard above the Castle, to the shouts of the garrison and the multitude assembled on Castle Hill." (2)


In 1822, Walter Scott organised the first visit of a British King to Scotland since Charles II's coronation in 1651. On the 14 August 1822, the King's ship, the Royal George docked at Leith. The visit was, by all accounts, a resounding success.

A highlight was the Grand Procession from Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle on 22 August.

According to Goodman and Moncreiffe:

the Honours of Scotland were carried before the King in full public view...'Never King was better received by his people. Never King felt it more,' George IV told Scott and, again, there were tears in his eyes [George's]. (3)

Thus, we can say that the 22nd August 1822 was the first time a British King was formally associated with the Honours of Scotland (since Charles II's coronation).

What about the other Kings and Queens since then?


Since George IV (1820-1830), there have been 8 more Kings and Queens to our present day:

William IV, 1830-1837

Victoria, 1837-1901

Edward VII, 1901-1910

George V, 1910-1936

Edward VIII, 1936

George VI, 1936-1952

Elizabeth II, 1952-2022

Charles III, 2022-

William IV never visited Scotland.

It was really only with Victoria, that the United Kingdom started to open up with the advent of easier travel, particularly via the railways. Since Victoria – who really helped to popularise Scotland in the British and world mind – all the Monarchs have spent plenty of time here.

However, there is no evidence that any kind of formal presentation of the Honours of Scotland to the reigning Monarch occurred until Queen Elizabeth, and her formal National Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication at St Giles on 24 June 1953 – 3 weeks after her Coronation in London (2-6-53)

For example, we have evidence that the Sword had previously made one appearance. Wikipedia states that: "In 1911 the sword was carried before George V at the official opening of the Thistle Chapel in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh – the first time any of the regalia had left Edinburgh Castle since 1822." (4)

In June 1937, shortly after their Coronation (12 May 1937), George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) visited Edinburgh as part of their Coronation celebrations. They attended St Giles to appoint the Queen as a member of the Order of the Thistle. However, there is no evidence that they were presented with the Honours of Scotland.

A video of their visit is here>

Therefore, we conclude that this tradition appears to be a modern one, which started with Queen Elizabeth.

This is confirmed by Goodman and Moncreiffe (our emphases):

However, since the Scottish Parliament came to an end in 1707 the Honours of Scotland have only been carried in public on two occasions: for George IV in 1822 and for the present Queen on her accessional visit to her Scottish capital in 1953. In each case they were borne in state procession from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to St Giles' Cathedral. (5)

And again, speaking of Queen Elizabeth's National Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication:

The climax of the visit was the service in St Giles' Cathedral where, for only the second time since the Union, the Honours of Scotland, the Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword, were ceremoniously borne before the reigning monarch at a service of Thanksgiving and Dedication. Previously, for the first time in three hundred years, they had been taken from Edinburgh Castle by the Lord Lyon and Heralds, to the Palace of Holyroodhouse for the State Procession to the cathedral. (6)

What gave the authorities the idea to start this new tradition, and whose idea was it? Interesting questions, to which we don't yet have answers.

FOOTNOTE: Since we published this article (9-7-23) we have discovered (12-8-23) that this was, indeed, a new innovation at Queen Elizabeth's Coronation, and it was a Church of Scotland committee which suggested it to the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. See Appendix 3 below.


The Christian Element is Key to the Ceremony

The Regalia is intended to represent physical symbolism of spiritual and earthly power.

All monarchs in the British Isles have been Christian-consecrated monarchs, from as early in history as we know.

The earliest we have discovered is the possibility of a King Lucius of Britain in the second century who may have been "the first king from the British Isles to request formal baptism into Christianity from the Pope himself." (7)

The British ideal of monarchy is that the King or Queen models themselves after Jesus – the Servant King.

The ideal is that they will follow the injunction of Jesus in Matthew 20:28 (KJV):

"Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (The New International Version translates this "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.")

The first words spoken by King Charles at his Coronation were: "In his name and after his example I come not to be served but to serve." (8)

The Meaning of The Crown

The Crown represents the Monarch's authority which is legitimised by submission to God. This submission is represented by the Cross which sits on top of the Crown.

The Meaning of the Sceptre of Scotland

The Sceptre is a biblical symbol of earthly authority and good government under God; "the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre." Psalm 45:6.


"The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies." Psalm 110:2.

The symbolism of the sceptre comes from the fact that the word can mean a rod or staff, and is related to the idea of a Shepherd's staff.

Thus the earthly King is invested with the Sceptre to be seen, and to act, as a Good Shepherd to his people.

When Charles I was crowned in Scotland on 18 June 1633, he was presented with the Sceptre, with the following words:

"Receive this Sceptre, the sign of Royal power, the Rod of the Kingdom, the Rod of Virtue; that thou mayest govern thyself aright; and defend the Holy Church and all Christian people committed by God to thy charge, punishing the wicked and protecting the just." (9)

It is believed that the Sceptre of Scotland was originally given to James IV in 1494 by Pope Alexander VI, although it may have been the preceding Pope, Innocent VIII, in 1491. It was lengthened and remodelled in 1536.

The Sceptre's head has a rock crystal, held up by dolphins – which are symbols of Jesus's Church, and three figures; Mary holding the Christ Child, St Andrew, and St James.

The Meaning of the Sword of State of Scotland

The Sword invests the King with the power of upholding law and dispensing justice. It has biblical relevance.

"But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Romans 13:4.

"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:" Ephesians 6:17.

At the coronation of Charles II, the last coronation in Scotland, on the 1 January 1651, Charles II was presented with the Sword, with these words:

"Sir, receive this kingly sword for the defence of the faith of Christ and protection of his Kirk and of the true religion as it is presently professed within this Kingdom, and according to the National Covenant and League and Covenant, and for executing equity and Justice, and for punishment of all iniquity and injustice." (10)

There is usually Christian symbolism and/or wording on the Sword and/or Scabbard.

For example, the previous Sword of State – which was considered too fragile to be used at the Service on 5 July 2023 – was a gift from Pope Julius II to James IV in 1507. It bears etchings of the apostles Peter and Paul on the blade, while on the pommel and handle it has papal emblems of oak leaves and acorns, which are symbols of Christ risen.

This has been replaced by the Elizabeth Sword. On one side of the blade is written (in Old Scots) "In my defens God me defend", which is the motto of the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland.


The Honours were presented, one by one, to King Charles with the following words, whereupon he touched each item. The Crown was not placed on his head since this was not a formal "Coronation". (11)


Dame Katherine Grainger DBE: By the symbol of this Sword, we pledge our loyalty, entrusting you to defend our laws, and to uphold justice and peace in our land.

The King: In receiving this Sword, I so promise by God's help.

The Dean: 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.' May God give us grace to seek what is just and right.


Lady Dorrian: By the symbol of this Sceptre, we pledge our loyalty, entrusting you to seek the prosperity of this nation, the Commonwealth, and the whole earth.

The King: In receiving this Sceptre, I so promise by God's help.

The Dean: 'The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.' May God give us grace to seek the welfare of all.


The Duke of Hamilton and Brandon: By the symbol of this Crown, we pledge our loyalty, entrusting you to reign as our King in the service of all your people.

The King: In receiving this Crown, I so promise by God's help.

The Dean: 'What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?' May God give us grace to follow in this way.

Prayer for the King (The Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church) This traditional prayer is attributed to St Columba

Lord Jesus Christ, who from everlasting rules over all earthly governors; we beseech you to strengthen our gracious Sovereign, King Charles, for the duties of the high estate to which you have called him. Exalt him that he may hold the Sceptre of salvation; enrich him with such gifts of your mercy as shall bring him holiness; and grant to him by your inspiration even so to rule his people in meekness and humility, as you did cause Solomon to obtain a kingdom of peace. May he be ever subject to you in fear, and fight for you in quietness; may he be protected by your shield, and remain ever victorious without warfare. And grant that the nations may keep faith with him, and that his counsellors in all his dominions may have peace and love charity. Establish his government in strength and righteousness; and in your mercy bestow upon him a kingdom without end, that he may rejoice to glorify you, who lives and reigns with the Eternal Father, together with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


According to Dr Bob Morris, the first time the Church of Scotland had a role in the Coronation service in England was at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

The role assigned was to present the bible to the Queen using the traditional formula of presentation, actions formerly discharged by the Archbishop himself. (12)

He writes:

The Secretary of State for Scotland wrote to the Prime Minister on 2 May 1952 seeking a place for the Moderator in the Sanctuary, and a Church of Scotland committee suggested a service of dedication in Scotland with the Scottish regalia, at which the Dean of the Thistle suggested the Queen should hold the sceptre. While there was no objection of a Scottish service, it could not appear to be a second coronation – the effect of the Act of Union – and the Dean's suggestion was firmly rejected by the Lord Chancellor's Department in a letter of 17 December 1952. In the event a St Giles service was held; the Queen wore a day dress and carried a handbag (a degree of modesty criticised in some Scottish circles); and the regalia were paraded at the front of an unshowy procession down the nave.

The reference given for this information is "PREM 11/31" [Records of the Prime Minister's Office]. (13)

The Archbishop presiding was Geoffrey Fisher. The Liberal Leader in the Commons, Clement Davies, had suggested that a role might also be found for the Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council. However, Archbishop Fisher was reported to have

said that this point had been most carefully considered and he would have been most pleased if a way could be found to do something of the kind. It would be seen however that in the latter part of the Oath…there was the question 'Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?' It was one of the characteristics of the Free Churches that they were not established by law. Having regard to this it would obviously be extremely difficult to include the Free Churches of England and Wales with the Church of Scotland. The Committee took note accordingly. (14)


1. Jean Goodman in collaboration with Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Bt, Debrett's Royal Scotland, (Debrett's Peerage Ltd, 1983) at 161. Sir Iain was considered one of the world's foremost genealogists of royalty, and an authority on Scotland's clan history and heraldry.

2. Ibid, 161.

3. Ibid, 182-183.

4. See Wikipedia, Honours of Scotland.

5. Op cit, 160.

6. Ibid, 208.

7. David J. Knight, King Lucius of Britain, (Tempus, 2008), back cover.

8. The Coronation 6 May 2023. Full Order of Service, at 20, and which is downloadable as a PDF below.

The Coronation Order of Service
Download PDF • 1.31MB

9. Rev. Professor James Cooper, Four Scottish Coronations, (Aberdeen, 1902), Amazon reprint at 30.

10. Ibid, 45.

11. These are the direct quotes and a prayer taken from the Order of Service at St Giles on 5 July 2023, at 16-18, and which is downloadable as a PDF below.

Order of Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication
Download PDF • 306KB

12. Dr Bob Morris, "The Coronation of Charles III", (London: The Constitution Unit, UCL, Oct 2022), at 23 at

13. Ibid, at 23, Footnote 43.

14. Ibid, at 22. King Charles also swore to defend Protestantism as "established by law" as per the Full Order of Service above at 24.


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