Historical events that reveal authors as encountering the world in ways other than through their pens add a dimension of intrigue to their personal stories. In Walter Scott’s case, a particular treasure hunt in Scotland blurred the lines between the thematic content of his fiction and his personal love for Scottish folklore.
This story starts around the time when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protectorate of England. During his reign, Cromwell sold some of the English crown jewels in order to raise money for his new government. Scotland—which had yet to be unified with England (that happened in 1707)—feared that Cromwell and his armies would invade them and steal the Honours of Scotland, their royal regalia. The Honours consisted of three pieces: the Sword of State, a gold crown that predates the 1540s, and a silver scepter, thought to be a papal gift and topped with a large crystal stone. According to local legend, Cromwell wanted to melt the pieces down; for him, they stood as a symbol of the monarchical system he opposed. The story goes that the treasures were smuggled away before he could find them. They remained missing for a century. Over time, people began to believe the Honours were simply mythical objects.