The Dining Room is the heart of the home. This exquisite room is still used by the family on special occasions as a place to gather and reconnect. In September 1842, during the time of the 4th Earl of Mansfield, this table welcomed two very special guests. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who had only been married two years, were embarking on their first ever tour of the Scottish Highlands, a tour which was to become the start of a lifelong love affair with Scotland that still runs in the royal family today. The 4th Earl was given two years notice of the visit, and so set about preparing the palace.
Prior to her visit, the only way into Scone Palace was through the old stone gateway, and so the 4th Earl arranged for a new driveway to be built; the Queen’s Drive. The chairs you see around the table were commissioned for her visit. They are part of a twenty-four-piece set, in the style of George II, all carved in oak from this very estate. The padded seat covers proudly display the three Murray stars from the family coat-of-arms. The chairs were made in 1842 by Ballingal of Perth. The dining room table, which takes centre stage in the room, was carved from American Walnut and is late Georgian.
The dinner service laid out before you was also used during Queen Victoria’s visit. This is the desert part of a seven-course set, which was made by Royal Worcester in the 18th century and is known as the Chamberlain pattern after the artist who hand painted each piece. In addition to the porcelain, the 4th Earl took great care in selecting the glassware for her visit. The decision to use these smaller crystal glasses was a deliberate one on his part because it was well known that Queen Victoria would not tolerate drunks at dinner. And how long did she stay? Just one night. All that expense and preparation for one night.
Queen Victoria is not the only monarch to have visited or stayed at Scone. As the crowning place of Scottish kings, many monarchs have walked or slept within these walls. On January 1st 1651, King Charles II, who was the last king to be crowned at Scone, spent the night before his coronation in this room. Four hundred years ago, the modern palace you see today did not exist. In its place was the Bishop’s Palace, which stood next to Scone Abbey. This room, which overlaps the original abbey building, was known as the King’s Bedchamber. It was from here that King Charles II was led down the Long Gallery and out on to Moot Hill to be crowned.
As you look up and glance around the room, you’ll notice an array of beautiful artefacts. Like many an ancestral home of Scone’s calibre, it has a vast collection of paintings. Please ask your guide if you would like to know more about any of them. The most notable canvas in the room is The Denial of St Peter by Gerard Seghers. This, the largest painting, was painted in 1620 and is the oldest painting in the palace. Seghers was a follower of the Caravaggio tradition, which can be seen in his use of light and dark to create drama and composition.
Hanging left of the door into the Ante-Room is a portrait of Mary of Modena by William Wissing (1656-1687). She was Queen Consort to King James VII and II. She was the mother of James Francis Edward Stuart, perhaps more commonly known as The Old Pretender, and the grandmother of his son, Bonnie Prince Charlie. In 1716, James Edward Stuart briefly stayed at Scone when he came for his coronation but was forced to flee to France before it could take place. Bonnie Prince Charlie visited in 1745 whilst on his way south with his army.
Hanging alongside Mary of Modena, on the other side of the door, is a portrait of John, Lord Finch of Fordwich, painted by a follower of Van Dyke. He was a distant ancestor of the 1st Countess of Mansfield and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal between 1640 and 1641. This was one of the highest offices of state, as he was solely responsible for the physical custody of the Royal Seal, which was used to approve state documents by the king. In fact, the expression to give something ‘the seal of approval’ comes from this historical role in British government.
Around the room you will also see a display of historical ivories. These were mostly collected by the 4th Earl, who like many Victorian gentlemen, loved to curate items of fascination or craftsmanship. This collection dates from the 17th century, and are either Italian, French, Bavarian or Flemish in origin.
Also in this room are two models showing you the modern palace as it is today and the old abbey palace that stood here before. We know that in 1169, the Augustinian priory, which was founded here in 1114, was elevated to the status of Scone Abbey. However, during the Reformation in 1559, a riotous mob marched on Scone Abbey, and whilst John Knox, a Scottish minister, managed to intervene, the mob returned the following night and burned the abbey down. Twenty years later, the lands and ruined abbey were given over to the 3rd Earl of Gowrie, who repaired and rebuilt the old abbey palace. Later, in 1600, the lands and abbey were given to Sir David Murray, ancestor of the present Earl, after he helped to return King James VI to safety during the Gowrie Conspiracy. There are more details about this conspiracy in the next room. Generations of the Murray family lived in the old abbey palace, during which time the building fell into a state of disrepair. It was in 1803 that the 3rd Earl of Mansfield decided to renovate and modernise the old palace. He hired Scottish architect William Atkinson to design his new home. Atkinson was an advocate of the fashionable Gothic revival that was sweeping across Britain at the time. However, by today’s standards, the 3rd Earl would be considered a conservationist, as he had hoped to restore many of the original features of the old palace. But due to a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings, the palace gradually moved further away from the 3rd Earl’s vision. And yet, Scone Palace remains one of the most celebrated Georgian Gothic houses in Britain. The little chapel you see on Moot Hill was also built during this time. It sits on the site of an earlier parish church and is still used by the family today.