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Stanley Cursiter (1887-1976)

The Honours of Scotland, 24 June 1953 : second sketch c.1953

Oil on canvas board | 14.9 x 17.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 401061

Page of Back Stairs Room, Palace of Holyroodhouse

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  • A view of the service of the Honours of Scotland in St. Giles Cathedral, with a stained glass window at upper left and figures in the centre; HM Queen Elizabeth II in a blue dress coat and HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in military uniform, surrounded by further officials and clergy in red and ermine robes.

    At the end of her Coronation month, Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, travelled to Edinburgh to attend the National Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication at St Giles’ Cathedral on 24 June 1953. The climax of the service was the presentation to The Queen of the Honours of Scotland: the Sceptre of Scotland, the Sword of State and the Crown of Scotland. Each Honour was received by The Queen from the Dean of the Thistle and Chapel Royal. The artist records the moment when The Queen passes the Crown on its cushion to the kneeling Duke of Hamilton, the Premier Peer of Scotland. On the right, the Earl of Home holds the Sword, while on the left, the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, bears the Sceptre.

    The Honours of Scotland, or the Scottish Crown Jewels, date from the fifteenth century. The Sceptre was believed to have been presented by Pope Alexander VI and the Sword by Pope Julius II, to James IV. The Crown in its present form dates from the reign of James V, but may contain elements of an earlier crown.

    Set in the interior of St Giles’ Cathedral, with a view of the nave, the artist successfully heightens the sense of occasion by showing the light filtered through the vibrant colours of the stained glass, which with the brightly coloured robes creates a jewel-like effect. The depiction of a church interior of this size, combined with the luminous atmosphere, is reminiscent of seventeenth-century Dutch painting.

    Stanley Cursiter was born in Orkney in 1887. From 1930 to 1948 he was Director of the National Gallery of Scotland and from 1948 to 1976 he was first The King’s and later The Queen’s Painter and Limner in Scotland. This painting is typical of the academic portrait style that was one of Cursiter’s particular strengths, and his use of vibrant colours reveals a distant kinship with the Scottish Colourists of the early twentieth century.

    Painted during the service; the background in advance and the figures added during the ceremony; presented to HM Queen Elizabeth II by the artist, 1954. The finished work is also in the Royal Collection (RCIN 401999)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas board


    14.9 x 17.5 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    23.0 x 25.6 x 2.9 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    The Honours of Scotland, St Giles Cathedral, 24th June 1953 : second sketch

  • Place of Production

    Edinburgh [Scotland]