Made of gold, silver and precious gems, the Crown of Scotland is the centrepiece of the Honours of Scotland – Scotland’s Crown jewels – on display at Edinburgh Castle. The other priceless pieces are the Sword of State and the Sceptre. All are objects of immense significance. The Honours of Scotland are the oldest Crown jewels in Britain and among the oldest in Europe.

James V had the crown made in 1540, likely in part from the earlier Scottish crown, which was by then very damaged. When remodelling the Crown, Edinburgh goldsmith John Mosman added 41 ounces of gold mined from Upper Clydesdale, and additional gemstones and pearls.

There are 94 pearls in total on the Crown and 43 gemstones. The top is decorated with an ornate gold and dark blue enamel orb featuring small stars. A gold cross, mounted on top of the orb, is studded with a large amethyst and eight pearls. On the back of the cross is the mark “IR5”, meaning ‘Jacobus Rex V’. It’s thought that the orb is the work of a French craftsman, bought by James V in Paris in 1537.

James V first wore the refashioned crown – which weighs 1.59kg – at the coronation of Mary of Guise in 1540. Mary Queen of Scots was the first to be crowned using the new crown and sceptre together, in 1543. It has since been used 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. It was only in 1818 that Sir Walter Scott, the famous novelist, rediscovered the Honours.

The Crown of Scotland is on loan from the Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has witnessed many of the defining events in Scotland’s history. Sieges were fought over the mighty stronghold. Royalty lived and died within its walls. Just the sight of the Castle Rock has terrified and inspired countless generations.

Fierce Iron Age warriors defended a hill fort here, and the nation’s oldest poetry tells of a war band feasting here for a year before riding to their deaths in battle.

The castle’s royal connections go back 1,000 years, and the city’s oldest building stands on the site. David I built St Margaret’s Chapel around 1130, as a tribute to his devout mother.

Edinburgh has been besieged more than any other castle in Europe, and the Scots and English struggled over its control during the Wars of Independence. In 1314, Thomas Randolph, a relative of Robert the Bruce, led a daring night raid to reclaim it from the English.

Over the last 200 years, Edinburgh Castle has become a national icon. Today it is Scotland’s leading tourist attraction and a chief element of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Home of royalty

Scottish monarchs commissioned grand buildings here – both as secure lodgings and to show off their wealth, power and good taste. The castle’s royal role continues today.

Monarchs who sheltered here include:

  • Queen Margaret (later St Margaret), who died here in 1093
  • Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace in 1566

Edinburgh was among Scotland’s chief royal residences during the 1400s and 1500s.

Bonnie Prince Charlie – Mary’s great-great-great grandson – captured Edinburgh but failed to take the castle during the 1745–46 Jacobite Rising.

Army headquarters

Edinburgh Castle became more important as a military base from the late 1500s onwards.

After the ‘Lang Siege’ of 1571–3, the castle’s military strength was repaired, maintained and improved. Additions included:

  • the distinctive Half Moon Battery
  • a huge garrison
  • a secure jail for prisoners of war

The military presence remains unbroken – Edinburgh Castle is still an active base today. It also houses three military museums, the Scottish National War Memorial and the Prisons of War exhibition.

Find out more about Edinburgh Castle


Date Made
dia 217mm (dia 8 9/16")
Property Information
Edinburgh Castle
Object Number
Access Status