Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Thistle Chapel

Two posts ago I finished with the royal coat of arms on a window from the Thistle Chapel in St Giles in Edinburgh. That's the window you can see at the top of the first photo here. My visit here was a little more fleeting than I would have liked as it was closing time but I will share with you what reasonable pictures I have (and the odd slightly blurry one). I've been here before and there are a few more pictures in this blog.

The Order of the Thistle, for whom this chapel was built, is the Highest honour available in Scotland and the second highest in the country after The Order of the Garter. The origins of the order have disappeared in to the murk of the middle ages but it was established in it's current form by James VII (James II of England) in 1687. There are 16 Knights of the Thistle (and since 1987 Ladies of the Thistle) and extra knights can be created, these, as far as I can see, tend to be members of royalty. The position is for life and the current members can be seen on this page.

The chapel here dates only from 1911 and was designed by Robert Lorimer. It contains a stall for each of the 16 knights (and Lady) as well as 2 royal stalls and one particularly fancy one for the Queen - that's the one you see in the middle of this picture.

There is a service for the order held in the chapel once a year around June or July when the Queen is staying at Holyrood Palace. This picture was taken last year and shows the Queen in the regalia of the order along with The Duke of Edinburgh, The Princes Royal and The Earl of Strathearn The Earl of Strathearn is Prince William's official title when he's in Scotland - he was installed in the order last year.

Each knight has a helm, topped with their crest and a sword above their stall.

Lord Hope of Craighead has this particularly cheery crest. I thought that this one would have been a modern invention but a quick rake about the net to say what was said about it, suggests that it dates back to at least 1628. (reference here)

Each knight has his coat of arms on an enamelled plate at the back of his stall which remains after he dies.

Here's a couple more crests - I didn't have the time to examine the plates so I can't say who these belong to.

There's a good array of animals carved on the arm rests of the stalls.

This cross is fitted with enamels which look very much like the work of Pheobe Anna Traquair, though I haven't been able to confirm that. She was responsible for other work in the chapel, having made the first of the enamelled stall plates.

My camera seems to be having a little trouble with them

I don't think turning the flash on helps either.

Here's the plate of the Queen. Only one plate here as the monarch's arms have been pretty much the same throughout the last century.

Note how the Queens coat of arms is different in Scotland from the rest of the UK. Clearest seen on her standard, in Scotland she has two lion rampants in opposite corners and the three lions passant in only one corner.

Down South it's the other way round.

Lastly, the plates from the two royal stalls. Here's the Duke of Edinburgh's seat. His plate is right next to that of the Earl of Strathearn. Since from the picture above, Prince Philip and Prince William were there at the same time, I'm not sure who would get to sit in the seat. I  should like to think that Prince William would let his Grandpa sit in it.

Similarly, Prince Charles (The Duke of Rothesay up here) shares a seat with Princess Anne.


Shundo said...

Finally catching up with you...
I did say I was looking forward to this one, and there is something I find fascinating about all this old heraldry stuff, though these days I tend to see shades of Harry Potter in just about anything along these lines... those cloaks look pretty sumptuous, don't they?

Sandy's witterings said...

Shundo, I had to hold back on the heraldry a bit - I had my book on heraldry out (hurray for charity book shops) and a great pile of internet pages open, when it struck me that Prince William having his shield defaced by a three pointed argent while his brother and cousins have five was probably getting carried away a bit - it certainly is interesting though and learned a few things writing the blog myself. What more could I ask - it's an advantage of doing this is I often get a better idea of what I've seen because of looking it up when I get back.
The cloaks certainly are sumptuous - perhaps just right for your average Scottish summer but, if we do get a good one, a couple of dozen folk in a small chapel all dressed in heavy velvet - could get warm.

The Glebe Blog said...

That St Giles is some place Sandy, I must pay another visit some time, my last longish look was over 40 years ago.
The cloaks do look heavy, but when you look back at all the regalia the royals had to wear a couple of hundred years ago, they're getting off lightly. At least they don't have to go into battle all kitted up these days.

Sandy's witterings said...

Jim, I doubt that anything (except the Robert Burns window) has changed in 40 years - that's no reason not to go back somewhere good.
Heavy cloaks for a church service is quite a light task compeared with armour for a battle. In fact the life of a king (or indeed queen) was quite risky. I've never counted but there appears to have been a fairly high percentage came to an unnatural and often pointy end (especially if you don't count the last few hundred years)