For the first time since it was completed in 1911, the Thistle Chapel at St Giles’ Cathedral has been locked.Items which have been stolen include an ornately decorated hanging curtain – which was commissioned by the Queen’s father, George VI – a ceremonial Knight of the Thistle seat cover, a 19th-century Dutch alms plate, an altar cloth and a tassel from the Queens’s throne cushion.
A notice was put up at the entrance last week saying: “We regret that due to continuous theft we have to keep the Thistle Chapel locked.”
Security at St Giles’ has also been stepped up to prevent any other items being stolen.
One of the Queen’s chaplains spoke of his dismay at the thefts and closure.
The Very Reverend Professor Iain Torrance, who was appointed Dean of the Order of the Thistle last year, said: “I am very saddened indeed that someone would stoop so low as to steal from this holy place.
“It would be a great pity if, for security reasons, access to this historic and beautiful chapel had to be permanently restricted. Temporarily, at least, it has been closed while we assess the situation.”
The Thistle Chapel has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors, including the past four British monarchs, since it was completed in the heart of St Giles’ Cathedral more than a century ago
The desecration began with thieves stealing a tassel from the throne cushion in the Sovereign’s Stall, where the Queen sits while overseeing official ceremonies.
The last straw came last week when a thief entered the Royal Mile landmark and unscrewed and pocketed a plaque which commemorated Alexander Bruce, the 6th Lord Balfour of Burleigh – who was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1901.
Veronika Kallus, the cathedral’s visitor services manager, said: “Locking the Thistle Chapel was a difficult decision, but it was felt that we did not have any other option.”
A Police Scotland spokesman urged anyone with information to come forward.