Writing to his friend John Wilson Croker, Scott tells how they lifted the lid of an old oak chest, discovering the Honours of Scotland inside.
The Honours – Scotland’s crown jewels of a sceptre, sword and crown – have had an eventful history. During Cromwell’s occupation of Scotland in the mid-1600s, they were smuggled away to Dunnotar Castle, and kept hidden as precious symbols of Scotland’s nationhood.
But, since the 1707 Union of the Parliaments between Scotland and England, they had been locked away unused. Always with a keen sense of the dramatic, Scott got permission from the Prince Regent – later George IV – to open Edinburgh Castle's Crown Room where they were stored over a century before.
Having been ‘rediscovered’, they were put on public view.
Listen to 'Extreme Solemnity'
Listen to Walter Scott’s letter to his friend John Wilson Croker, describing the moment when they lifted the lid of an old oak chest, discovering the Honours of Scotland inside.
Read 'Extreme Solemnity'
EDINBURGH, 4th February, 1818
MY DEAR CROKER,
I have the pleasure to assure you the Regalia of Scotland were this day found in perfect preservation. The Sword of State and Sceptre showed marks of hard usage at some former period; but in all respects agree with the description in Thomson's work.
The extreme solemnity of opening sealed doors of oak and iron, and finally breaking open a chest which had been shut since 7th March 1707, about a hundred and eleven years, gave a sort of interest to our researches, which I can hardly express to you, and it would be very difficult to describe the intense eagerness with which we watched the rising of the lid of the chest, and the progress of the workmen in breaking it open, which was neither an easy nor a speedy task. It sounded very hollow when they worked on it with their tools, and I began to lean to your faction of the Little Faiths.
However, I never could assign any probable or feasible reason for withdrawing these memorials of ancient independence; and my doubts rather arose from the conviction that many absurd things are done in public as well as in private life.
Sir Walter Scott - Celebrating 250 Years
In 2021-22, Scotland celebrates the 250th anniversary of one of its most famous sons, Sir Walter Scott. This online exhibition and audio trail of his legacies is part of the celebrations.
'Extreme Solemnity' has been performed by Edinburgh actor Gavin Paul, who is looking forward to visiting some of these important historical sights.