4th February 1818

Scotland’s lost crown jewels are found

The Scottish Crown Jewels, comprising a crown, sword, and sceptre, were used for Scottish coronations from James V until the English Civil War, when Charles I lost his head, and the country was proclaimed a republic. Parliament decreed that the English Crown Jewels, being no longer needed, should be melted down to make coin, but the keepers of their Scottish equivalents had other ideas. They hid the jewels for the duration of the war, and revealed them 11 years later, for the coronation of Charles II and the restoration of the monarchy.

Acts of Union

Charles II was the last monarch to use the jewels, also known as the Honours of Scotland, at his coronation as, a little over 40 years (and a few short-lived reigns) later, the Acts of Union of 1707 went one step further than uniting the thrones of the two countries and merged them entirely to create a larger state. This had been precipitated in part by the disastrous Darien scheme to establish a Scottish colony in what is today Panama.

The Honours of Scotland were thus locked in a chest in Edinburgh Castle and, seemingly, overlooked. Several changes were made to the layout of the castle over the next century, and the jewels largely forgotten about, but George IV commissioned Sir Walter Scott to find them. Scott broke into the crown room on 4 February 1818 and, much to everyone’s relief, there they were, in the chest in which they’d been stored more than 100 years earlier.

Covered in dust

Nobody had touched them in the interim. An issue of the Tyne Mercury published the day before the chest was opened, noted that “the dust (about 6 inches thick) presented a surface perfectly uniform and level [on the lid of the chest], which could not have been the case had the chest been opened at any great distance of time after it had been placed in the crown office.”

“As soon as the existence of these venerable relics of our national independence was ascertained, the royal standard was hoisted, and the soldiers cheered a salute,” reported The Scotsman on 7 February (still a weekly newspaper at the time). The paper said it was sure that the Prince Regent, George IV, would “order measures for gratifying the public”, which was naturally very curious about the jewels and keen to set eyes on them. The Honours of Scotland are now on display at Edinburgh Castle.



Other events that occured in February

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