The Ring: Historical Information

The ring of the Reverend James Guthrie (1612-1661)
The Ring

The Reverend James Guthrie passed on this exquisite ring as he ascended the scaffold on 1 June 1661. An outspoken Covenanter, his passionate radical conviction that Christ was head of the church, led to his execution for high treason and his severed head was set on the Nether Bow gate in Edinburgh. When General John Middleton, the trial commissioner whom Guthrie had proclaimed an enemy of the Covenant, rode through the gate, indelible blood spatters fell onto his coach. The red garnets of this elegant ring sit within their gold setting like the drops of blood on Middleton’s coach. Red gemstones have come to symbolise suffering and martyrdom; the rich hues of the ring resonate with Guthrie’s unyielding faith and the blood that defined the violent end to his life. As it passed down through six generations of daughters of Church of Scotland ministers, the ring has kept alive a significant emotional connection to Guthrie’s strong religious beliefs.

Card written by Lesley Silvester and Susan Broomhall for “Stories of Emotions and Scottish Objects”, a research partnership between the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

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