King Charles to receive new sword named after late queen during Scotland visit

Design of The Elizabeth takes inspiration from thistles and the Scottish landscape

Sword designer Mark Dennis examines the Elizabeth sword which will form part of the Honours of Scotland – Scotland's crown jewels – as it is unveiled at Powderhall Bronze Foundry in Edinburgh. PA
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The UK's King Charles will receive a specially crafted ceremonial sword next week, when he travels to Edinburgh.

Craftsmen unveiled the new sword, named The Elizabeth after the late queen on Thursday.

The king will be presented with the Honours of Scotland – Scotland's crown jewels – at a service of thanksgiving at St Giles’ Cathedral in Scotland's capital on July 5, but will be given the sword beforehand on Monday.

The Elizabeth is to fill the gap left by the Sword of State, otherwise known as the Papal sword, which has not been used at public events in recent years due to its deteriorating condition.

It was word was designed by Mark Dennis, a retired advocate at the Scottish Bar, from the east coast town of St Andrews.

The sword’s design takes inspiration from Scotland's national flower the thistle and the Scottish landscape.

“There’s never been anything like it before,” said Mr Dennis.

“It was a concept and the concept was simply this: it had to work.

“It had to work as a ceremonial sword, so its overall dimensions are about the same as the Papal sword, but it also had to be entirely different.

Mr Dennis said he wanted to create something that truly represents Scotland, “not with Scottie dogs and whisky bottles and things, but really integrally the land, the symbols and the sense of Scotland”.

Engraved on one side of the blade is “In my defens God me defend” – motto of both the royal coat of arms of the kingdom of Scotland and royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom used in Scotland.

On the other side is the Latin motto “Nemo me impune lacessit” – no one attacks me with impunity.

This was the motto of Scotland's Royal Stuart dynasty and was adopted by the Scottish order of chivalry the Order of the Thistle.

It is a reference to the prickly thistle itself.

Mr Dennis is certain the king will be happy with the specially crafted blade.

Alan Beattie Herriot, the sculptor who was commissioned to create the sword’s hilt, was originally asked to fashion two swords around eight years ago, but says the idea was shelved as the project was deemed “too political”. That was around the time of a referendum on Scottish independence.

It was not until the late queen died last year when the Scottish government approved the creation of a new sword in her honour.

Mr Herriot said: “I personally think that the people of Scotland should be really proud that they still have the ability, the craftspeople to produce something as lovely as this.

“This is a beautiful object – and it’s very Scottish. As Mark has said, it’s not about Scottie dogs, it’s not about tartan or whatever. But it is symbolically, it’s of Scotland. That’s what I think about it.”

Paul MacDonald, a swordsmith of 25 years, was one of the key team members involved in creating The Elizabeth.

Asked about how he felt after being asked to create the sword, he said: “I could say a little intimidating, because I realised the significance of it was one thing, but also working as a collaborative with different craftsmen was another level.

“We had to keep various wheels turning and moving at the same time, but challenges aside, it was such a special honour all the way through from start to finish.”

Updated: June 30, 2023, 7:21 PM