Best viewed in
The Stone of Destiny
Stone of Scone (pronounced 'skoon'), also commonly
known as the Stone of Destiny or the Coronation
Stone (though "Stone of Destiny" sometimes refers to Lia
Fáil) is an oblong block of red sandstone, about 26 inches
by 16 inches by 10.5 inches in size and weighing
approximately 336 pounds. The top bears chisel-marks. At
each end of the stone is an iron ring, apparently intended
to make transport easier. Historically, the artifact was
kept at the now-ruined abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland.
It was used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs
of Scotland, the monarchs of England, and, more recently,
British monarchs. Other names by which it has sometimes been
known include Jacob's Pillow Stone and the Tanist
Stone, and in Scottish Gaelic, "clach-na-cinneamhain",
"clach Sgàin" and also "Lia(th) Fàil".
legend of the Stone of Destiny goes back to the foundation
myth of Scotland. In about 1400BC, an Egyptian Pharaoh had a
daughter called Scota, who married Goídel Glas. They were
exiled from Egypt and eventually settled in northwest Spain.
Their descendents later conquered Ireland and became the
Scotii, who also in time came to rule Scotland.
descendents of Scota arrived in Scotland, the story continues, they
brought with them a block of sandstone weighing 152kg. This had been
used as a pillow by Jacob when he had the dream reported in Genesis
about Jacob's Ladder. The Stone of Destiny, as it became known, was
first located at Dunadd during the time of Dalriada, before being
moved to Scone by King Kenneth I.
In 1296 the Stone was captured by Edward I as spoils
of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a
wooden chair, known as St. Edward's Chair (above), on which all
subsequent English sovereigns except Queen Mary II have been
crowned. Doubtless by this he intended to symbolize his claim to be
"Lord Paramount" of Scotland with right to oversee its King.
However, there is some doubt whether Edward I captured the real
stone — it has been suggested that monks at Scone Palace hid the
real Stone in the River Tay or buried it on Dunsinane Hill. If so,
it is possible that the English troops were fooled into taking the
wrong stone; some have claimed that historic descriptions do not
appear to fit the present stone. If the monks did hide the real
stone, they hid it well, as no other stone fitting its description
has ever been found.
in the peace talks between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom
of England, Edward III is said to have agreed to return the captured
Stone to Scotland. However, this did not form part of the Treaty of
Northampton. The Stone was to remain in England for another six
centuries. In course of time James VI of Scotland came to the
English throne as James I of England but the stone remained in
London; for the next century, the Stuart Kings and Queens of
Scotland once again sat on the stone — but at their coronation as
Kings and Queens of England. Since the Act of Union 1707, the
coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey has applied to the whole of
Great Britain, and since the Act of Union 1801 to the United
Kingdom, so the stone may be said to have returned, once again, to
its ancient use.
Day 1950, a group of four Scottish students (Ian
Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson and Alan Stuart)
took the Stone from Westminster Abbey for return to
Scotland. In the process of removing it from the Abbey,
they broke it into two pieces. After hiding the greater
part of the stone in Kent for a few weeks, they risked
the road blocks on the border and returned to Scotland
with this piece, which they had hidden in the back of a
borrowed car, along with a new accomplice Johnny
Josselyn. The smaller piece was similarly brought north
a little while later. This journey involved a break in
Leeds, where a group of sympathetic students and
graduates took the fragment to Ilkley Moor for an
overnight stay, accompanied by renditions of "On Ilkley
Moor baht 'tat".
The Stone was then passed to a senior Glasgow politician
who arranged for it to be professionally repaired by
Glasgow stonemason Robert Gray. A major search for the
stone had been ordered by the British Government, but
this proved unsuccessful. Perhaps assuming that the
Church would not return it to England, the stone's
custodians left it on the altar of Arbroath Abbey, on 11
April 1951, in the safekeeping of the Church of
Scotland. Once the London police were informed of its
whereabouts, the Stone was returned to Westminster.
Afterwards, rumors circulated that copies had been made
of the Stone, and that the returned Stone was not in
fact the original.
the British Government decided that the Stone should be kept in
Scotland when not in use at coronations, and on 15 November
1996, after a handover ceremony at the border between
representatives of the Home Office and of the Scottish Office,
it was returned to Scotland and transported to Edinburgh Castle
where it remains. Provision has been made to transport the stone
to Westminster Abbey when it is required there for future