Secret of Scots' crown jewels: Edinburgh Castle's pounds 1.5m exhibition centre celebrates a regal history

THE HONOURS of Scotland, the 15th-century crown jewels that are the oldest royal regalia in the British Isles, have been revealing their secrets.

Researchers have discovered that the Honours, which took centre stage in Edinburgh Castle yesterday in a new pounds 1.5m exhibition centre celebrating their history, were hidden in Edinburgh Castle during the Second World War as fear of a German occupation grew. The jewels, first used in the reigns of James IV and James V, were packed into zinc-lined cases; the crown was buried beneath a latrine closet; the sceptre and sword concealed in a wall.

Four maps were made identifying the location of the treasures. In 1941, sealed envelopes were sent to King George VI, the Scottish Secretary of State, the Royal Remembrancer and the Governor General of Canada. However, Christopher Tabraham, principal inspector of ancient monuments in Scotland, and co-author of a new book on the Honours, claims that the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was kept in the dark.

It has also been discovered that two of the diamonds in the Scottish crown are false - one is of paste, another of quartz.

With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when Scotland lost its resident monarch, the crown jewels took on a new potency. The Honours of Scotland, by Christopher Tabraham and Charles Burnett, claims that: 'they came to embody Scotland' in a unique way.

The sceptre, a gift from the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI, in 1494, used to signify the sovereign's presence. The parchment of every Scottish parliamentary act was touched by the sceptre to signify its passing. The Union of the Parliaments in 1707 ended its role.

Graeme Munro, director of Historic Scotland, the Scottish Office agency responsible for the castle, claims that all the significant Scottish crown 'jewels' are now housed under one roof. However, the Independent has learnt that in the preparation of the book and exhibition, there were 'heated arguments' over whether there should be any mention of the 'Stone of Destiny'. The great stone of Scone, on which the early Scottish kings were enthroned, was looted by Edward I of England in the late 13th century. It now sits beneath the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey.

The Honours of Scotland has only a brief mention of the stone. According to a senior worker on the exhibition centre project: 'This is all a farce unless the Stone of Destiny is brought back to Scotland to join this exhibition. We've gone out of our way to mention it as little as possible. But we'll be reminded.'

The Honours of Scotland, Charles Burnett and Christopher Tabraham; published by Historic Scotland.

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