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Dunnottar Castle and the Honours of Scotland
Dunnottar Castle and the Honours of Scotland

Written by John Jameson

Dunnottar Castle in Scotland, is a famous and imposing fortress built upon a high rocky headland on the northeast coast of Scotland, south of Aberdeen and about two miles from of Stonehaven. It is a medieval castle, now in ruins, with it's origins going back as far perhaps as the 5th century. What has survived and is now a popular tourist attraction, is mostly buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries. Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to at least the 18th century Jacobite uprisings, because of its strategic location and defensive strengths. Although Dunnottar Castle is well known for many important events in Scottish history, it is probably best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, were hidden from Oliver Cromwell's invading army in the 17th century. What is not all that well known about this event, is that some of our Jam?son ancestors played a part in this event. Here is that story.

In January of 1651, Charles II was crowned at Scone, in Perth. It was in a ceremony that included the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish equivalent to the Crown Jewels of England. Back then these Honours were the most powerful symbol of Scotland's monarchy, and consisted of a court crown, a ceremonial sword, and a scepter. The Honours would normally have been returned to storage at Edinburgh Castle, but Oliver Cromwell had seized Edinburgh, so the Honours were sent to Dunnottar Castle for safety. Cromwell was determined to destroy the Honours, as he had destroyed the English crown jewels. The Earl Marischal, keeper of the Royal Regalia of Scotland, had been taken prisoner by Cromwell, so the defense of Dunnottar was entrusted to Sir George Ogilvy of Barras. In September 1651 English troops appeared at Dunnottar and settled into what became a long siege. A garrison of 69 men, mostly locals from the surrounding area, held out through the long winter. Amongst these men were a few Jam?sons. By May 1652 Dunnottar Castle was the only place in Scotland where the royal flag still flew. But the the English soon brought in heavy guns and began to bombard the castle. For ten days the guns roared, and the number of defenders dwindled. Finally, after a siege lasting eight months in total, Ogilvy surrendered Dunnottar to Cromwell's men.

But the Honours of Scotland could not be found. Search as they might, Cromwell's men could not find them. At some point, they had been stealthily removed, right under the noses of the English army.

There are several versions of how the Honours were saved. One version says that the English allowed Mrs Grainger, wife of the minister at Kinneff, a few miles down the coast, to enter the castle on compassionate grounds. Mrs Grainger then carried out the Honours under her skirts. Another version says that the Honours were lowered down the cliffs in a basket, to Mrs Grainger's serving maid, who was pretending to gather seaweed by the shore. The maid then hid the Honours in a creel, covered by dulse, and carried them out under the noses of the English troops. They were hidden at the bottom of the Grainger's bed and then secretly buried in the church at Kinneff, under the floor near the altar. Every few months the minister and his wife dug up the Honours and aired them out before a fire.

The English were predictably enraged and as such, wrecked havoc upon the castle. The chapel was destroyed, and the Ogilvys imprisoned. Mrs Ogilvy died from her ill-treatment, but Sir George survived, but never divulged the whereabouts of the Honours. The Honours were recovered after the restoration, but were no longer of any real significance and were placed in a chest and locked away in Edinburg Castle, where they remained, almost forgotten, until February of 1818 when a group, including Sir Walter Scott and Sir Henry Jardine, set out to recover them. Following their discovery, they were put on public display in 1819 and have remained so ever since.

We know of at least two Jam?sons, Alexander Jamiesoune of Pittfodels and Johne Jamiesoune of Monimusk, who were involved in this siege and battle, because of a plaque which now exists at the castle/museum at Dunnottar. Thanks go to Andrew Stewart Jamieson who saw this plaque during a family visit to the castle, took a photograph of the plaque and sent that to us. Nothing is known about these Jamiesoune's, their families or any descendants, if not for whom we might not even know about the Homours of Scotland, or Dunnottar Castle anymore!

References :
Wikipedia - Dunnottar Castle
In Defence of the Regalia, 1651-2 - Rev. Douglas Gordon Barron, p.85-86
Britian Express - Castles, Dunnottar Castle, David Ross
Scottish History: Strange but True - John and Noreen Hamilton

December 1st, 2017 1:29 pm
I have done an enormous research on the Jamesone, Jameson and Jamieson family. I have done a DNA test and discovered that my branch Jameson is linked to Jamieson.
Interesting revelation about the Jamiesons involved in Dunnottar Castle. ABERDENNSHIRE is the area of origin of the Jameson/Jamieson families
Cindy Jameson
December 1st, 2017 8:38 pm
Thank you!!
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