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How the Honours of Scotland were hidden for safety in World War II

Looking back at the history of the Honours of Scotland, it would seem that they have spent more time hidden in the nooks and crannies of Edinburgh Castle, than they have out in the open.

The Honours of Scotland are the oldest pieces of regalia in the British Isles. The Honours are the Crown of Scotland, a sceptre and the Sword of State. They have not been used the crown a monarch since Charles II in 1651. 

The first time The Honours were hidden was when Cromwell was in power. Never found, they stayed hidden in Edinburgh Castle for years. until Charles II restored the Monarchy in 1660. When the Union was formed in 1707, the Honours had no role and were packed away for over 100 years.

In 1939, with war raging in Europe, it was time, once again to hide the Honours for safe keeping. Packed in an oak chest and covered with sandbags, the regalia was placed beneath the Crown Room to protect them from air raids.

Two years later in 1941, the threat of a Nazi invasion in Britain was becoming more of a reality. It was at this time that the Honours were put into zinc-lined boxes and buried separately. The medieval ruins of David’s Tower, with its many vaults and passageways, was chosen as the best hiding spot. The Crown of Scotland and the Stuart jewels were hidden under the floor of a latrine and the other pieces were hidden in a wall.

Only four officials knew of the location of the Honours. King George VI, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the King’s Remembrancer and the Governor General of Canada, received sealed envelopes that told them of the hiding spots chosen for the regalia.

Luckily, Hitler never succeeded in his attempts to conquer the United Kingdom and the Honours were safe once again.

In 1953, they were presented to Queen Elizabeth II at a National Service of Thanksgiving. The Queen then returned them to the people of Scotland.

In September 2022, the regalia was placed atop Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin as it was lying in state in Scotland. Like his mother, King Charles III will be presented with the Honours in a Service of Thanksgiving at St. Giles Cathedral as his own reign gets under way.