The Sceptre is thought to have been a gift to James IV from Pope Alexander VI in 1494. Along with the Crown of Scotland and the Sword of State, it is part of the Honours of Scotland – Scotland’s Crown jewels. The priceless treasures, all objects of immense significance, are on display at Edinburgh Castle. The Honours of Scotland are the oldest Crown jewels in Britain and among the oldest in Europe.
The Sceptre is an example of High Renaissance Italian craftsmanship. In 1536 it was remodelled by Edinburgh goldsmith Adam Leys, who also added to its length.
The Sceptre’s finial (head) is formed from a globe of polished rock crystal, held up by stylised dolphins and three figures. These depict St Andrew, St James the Great and the Virgin Mary. On top of the crystal globe sits a gold orb, capped with a single large pearl.
The lower part of the Sceptre comprises a silver gilt rod, hexagonal in shape, with three divisions. It is decorated with urns, oak leaves, grotesque masks, thistles and fleurs-de-lis.
The Sceptre has been present at many of the major royal ceremonial events over the past five centuries. But the Honours of Scotland have also had a turbulent time. In 1650 they were removed for safekeeping (possibly at Stirling Castle) ahead of Oliver Cromwell’s siege of Edinburgh Castle. Following the Scottish coronation of Charles II in 1651, unable to return them to Edinburgh Castle, the Honours were taken to Dunnottar Castle before being smuggled out during a siege and hidden at Kinneff Kirk. Only with the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 could they return to Edinburgh Castle.
In 1707, following the Act of Union between England and Scotland, they were locked in a chest and sealed away. In 1818 Sir Walter Scott, the famous novelist, rediscovered the Honours.
The Sceptre is on loan from the Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia.