For years, the symbols of the monarchy he will one day lead lay hidden in its dark walls. Now Dunnottar Castle has given up its treasure. But the heir to the throne still paid it a visit as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall headed out on a day of engagements in Aberdeenshire.
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, as Charles and Camilla are known in Scotland, arrived at the castle in the sunshine of an early autumn afternoon. And that’s when their quest for the Crown Jewels began.
For Dunnottar was once the place where the Honours of Scotland were hidden from the enemies of royal rule. The fall of the Monarchy and the execution of Charles I in 1649 had been a final triumph for the Parliamentarian forces of Oliver Cromwell. But in 1651, Charles I’s eldest son was proclaimed as Charles II at Scone Palace with the Scottish Crown Jewels.
However, Cromwell was far from happy and his army immediately set off north to capture another king. Charles II fled and the Honours of Scotland were smuggled to safety at Dunnottar Castle, hidden in bags of wool. Months later they were spirited out of the castle again, one legend stating they were lowered on to the beach below and taken once more to safety.
The third man called Charles who is destined to rule visited a very different castle. Dunnottar is now a picture perfect ruin, its famous walls having fallen into disrepair in the centuries after its role in a very royal jewel heist. It’s a popular tourist attraction and has just enjoyed one of its best summer seasons with around 87,000 people touring the old palace, tower house and ruins.
The royal visitors were given their own overview of the site. Prince Charles, in a kilt, and Camilla, already wrapped up warm against the autumn chill in tweed coat and hat, heard from the property’s owner, George Pearson, about the ongoing work to keep Dunnottar’s romantic royal story alive.
The couple’s day in the area also saw them visit nearby Stonehaven where they met local business owners as well as residents. They also spent time at the Tolbooth Museum which was opened in 1963 by the prince’s beloved grandmother, the Queen Mother. While there, Charles and Camilla met some of the volunteers who this year were presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The Duke of Rothesay also spent part of his morning at W M Donald, a family run engineering firm in the area where he heard about the issues facing the area today.
But it was the past that provided the highlight of the day as the man who could call himself Charles III when he takes the throne saw the ancient walls that had protected the crown lost by Charles I only to be reclaimed by Charles II in a battle that would ultimately see the Restoration of the Monarchy.