Five iconic pieces of Scottish history in Edinburgh museums

Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle
Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle
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Edinburgh is a city bursting with history, from the ancient monuments to the packed museums.

In a city with several museums, it would be quite easy to miss some of these must see items. From Jacobites to body snatchers, here are five things you should check out in Edinburgh.

Lewis Chessmen; Two Kings a Queen and the Bishop

Lewis Chessmen; Two Kings a Queen and the Bishop

Lewis Chessmen - National Museum of Scotland

Several sets of chessmen were found on a beach in Uig, Lewis in 1831.

The chess pieces consist of elaborate decorations on walrus ivory and Whales’ teeth, with seated kings and queens, bishops, mounted knights and pawns, standing between six and 10cm high.

Of the 93 pieces found, most likely in a small, drystone chamber, 11 are in position of the National Museum of Scotland, with the other 82 at the British Museum.

Bonnie Prince Charlie's travelling canteen

Bonnie Prince Charlie's travelling canteen

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Burke’s Pocket Book - Surgeons Hall

This pocket book is reputedly made from the skin of William Burke, following his execution and public dissection.

Burke was one of the infamous body snatchers in 1828, who murdered people to sell their bodies to the local Doctor Robert Knox as material for his public dissections.

The interior of the pocketbook holds a pencil and on the back cover the date of Burke’s execution - January 28, 1829 - is inscribed.

Bonnie Prince Charlie’s canteen - National Museum of Scotland

The Jacobite leader, commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, was born Charles Edward Stewart in 1720 in Rome. His grandfather was the deposed Catholic King James VII.

An energetic and charismatic young man, he led the Jacobite rebellion against the government, which ended disastrously at the Battle of Culloden.

In his pack, Charlie carried a silver canteen, which included a knife, fork, teaspoon, nutmeg grater, corkscrew, marrow scoop and a wine-taster.

The canteen was created around 1740 by Ebenezer Oliphant, a member of the Jacobite family, the Oliphant’s of Gask.

Mons Meg - Edinburgh Castle

Situated in Edinburgh Castle as part of the War Museum, the cannon was built in 1449 by of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and James II, King of Scots in 1454 as a gift.

The bombard was used in sieges until the 16th century, when she was downgraded to ceremonial status.

The gun remained in its place at Edinburgh Castle until 1754 when it was taken to the Tower of London. Sir Walter Scott and others campaigned for its return, which was effected in 1829.

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The Maiden - National Museum of Scotland

Edinburgh’s “humane” execution device, over 150 people were killed with her between 1564 and 1710.

Standing at 4m tall, and made of oak, the guillotine could be flat packed and transported around the city as needed. Executions using the Maiden are known to have taken place in Castlehill, Grassmarket and High Cross off the High Street in Edinburgh.

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