Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Castles, Castles, and More Castles III: Edinburgh Castle and The Scottish Regalia

A rare sunny day in Edinburgh

Sitting atop a tall rocky hill the castle Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of the capital of Scotland. From the train station we could see the it sitting upon castle rock, looking down on us as peasants with all its grandeur. We had to walk a bit to get up to the castle but as most things in life, it was well worth the journey.

The Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle
The esplanade which guides visitors into the castle is quite intimidating with the expanse of the medieval buildings behind it. Several witches were burnt at the stake on the esplanade including one woman who was accused of attempting to assassinate King James V in 1536. The path narrows off near the entrance only allows a row of five people to pas through at a time. Being built on an incline and in the middle of a nonstop drizzle, it was very slippery as we hastily made our way up the steep paths in the castle. The castle itself is sort of the Scotland's equivalent to The Tower of London in England. 


Though the fortress has stood on castle rock since the reign of David I in the 12th century, human habitation has dated as far back as the 9th century B.C.E. The castle has stood not only as a fortress but also as a royal residence and for a time parts of it were used as a prison.The castle has also been home to several Scottish Monarchs who were born, lived, our died within the castle. Queen Margaret, later St. Margaret, died in the castle in 1098 while in the 16th century Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI who later became James I of England.

Edinburgh Castle is now the current location of the Scottish Royal Regalia. Deep inside the castle walls in a vault like room the United Kingdom has the Honours on public display in dimly lit room. The Regalia includes the Scottish Crown, the Sword of State, and the Sceptre of Scotland.

Scottish Regalia as displayed in Edinburgh Castle
The Sceptre of Scotland and the Sword of State were both papal gifts in 1494 and 1507. The sceptre, a gift from Pope Alexander VI to James IV is made of silver gilt and topped with a finely polished stone with a Scottish Pearl. The Sword of State, also a gift to James IV but from pope Julius II is a long etched blade measuring at about 4.5 feet in length. The etchings on the blade depict figures of St. Peter and St. Paul while the handle is made of silver gilt with images of oak leaves and acorns. The sword includes a wooden scabbard which is decorated in velvet and silver and hung from a silver and gold belt.

 The present crown was made in the 1540s century when James V ordered it be refashioned. Weighing nearly 4 lbs. the new golden crown was encrusted with 42 rare and precious stones as well as freshwater pearls from the rivers of Scotland. James also had a velvet and ermine bonnet added to complete its current state. The top is made it what seems to a French style with red oak leaves. At the top of the crown rests a pearl riddled cross with a square black amethyst. However, the Scottish Honours were threatened by the rise of Oliver Cromwell in the next century.

The newly crowned Charles II
Following the execution of Charles I and the dissolution of the British Parliament in 1649 the new Lord Protector of the United Kingdom of England, Ireland, and Scotland ordered all royal regalia be destroyed.  The the Scottish Honours were hastily hidden; first at Dunnotarr Castle and then under the floor of the Kinneff Parish Church until its recovery and restoration. The Sword of State had to be broken in half so it could be properly hidden from Cromwell's troops. However, a period of political turbulence broke out after the death of Cromwell in 1658 Charles II was crowned king. In fact, historical documents of the time were altered to make it seem as if Charles II succeeded his father in 1649 directly following his death.

The Treaty of Union in 1707 rendered the Scottish Regalia useless so  it was put into a chest inside of Edinburgh castle not to be opened until 1818 by Sir Walter Scott. Since the discovery made by Scott, the Honours of Scotland have been on public display except for during World War II when it was hidden out of fear of Nazis falling out of the sky (that is something to be afraid of).

When travelling around a town like Tyler you never look around and think that most of what is here wasn't a hundred years ago. You make your way around the antique stores and flea markets and something from the Reagan years (Thatcher for my British readers) passes as vintage and unique. Castles like the one at Edinburgh have been around for centuries; seeing countless eras and full of history which still effects us today.

Edinburgh had so much I decided to split my visit up into TWO blogs (so exciting). So stay tuned for my next installment on my visit to Edinburgh castle.

I see you shaking in your shoes.

1 comment:

Stephen Collins said...

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student flats London

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