Stone of Scone
Learn more about Stone of Scone
The Stone of Scone, (pronounced 'skoon') also commonly known as the Stone of Destiny or the Coronation Stone (though the former name sometimes refers to Lia Fáil) is a block of sandstone historically 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.
 Tradition and history
Traditionally, it is supposed to be the pillow stone said to have been used by the Biblical Jacob. According to one legend, it was the Coronation Stone of the early Dál Riata Gaels when they lived in Ireland, which they brought with them when settling Caledonia. Another legend holds that the stone was actually the travelling altar used by St Columba in his missionary activities throughout what is now Scotland. Certainly, since the time of Kenneth Mac Alpin, the first King of Scots, at around 847, Scottish monarchs were seated upon the stone during their coronation ceremony. At this time the stone was situated at Scone, a few miles north of Perth.
 Westminster Abbey
In 1297 the Stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into the old wooden chair, known as St. Edward's Chair, on which English sovereigns were 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 (although rumors are occasionally heard of Knights Templar claiming to have the original stone in their possession).
In 1328, 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 of 1707, the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey has applied to the whole of Great Britain, and since the Act of Union of 1801 to the United Kingdom, so the stone may be said to have returned, once again, to its ancient use.
 Removal and damage
On Christmas 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. The smaller piece was similarly brought north a little while later. 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 April 11, 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, rumours circulated that copies had been made of the Stone, and that the returned Stone was not in fact the original.
 Returned to Scotland
In 1996 the British Government decided that the Stone should be kept in Scotland when not in use at coronations, and on November 15 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 coronation ceremonies.
 References in Popular Culture
In the Discworld novel The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett, a pivotal plot point is the theft of a dwarven artifact called the Scone of Stone, a very well preserved bit of dwarven battle bread that is used in their coronations.
The Highlander TV series featured a humorous episode called "The Stone of Scone" where Macleod was responsible for the 1950 theft. The end of the episode implies that the authentic stone was left on a golf course in Scotland.
 See also
- No Stone Unturned: The Story of the Stone of Destiny, Ian R. Hamilton, Victor Gollancz and also Funk and Wagnalls, 1952, 1953, hardcover, 191 pages, An account of the return of the stone to Scotland in 1950 (older, but more available, look on ABE)
- Taking of the Stone of Destiny, Ian R. Hamilton, Seven Hills Book Distributors, 1992, hardcover, ISBN 0-948403-24-1 (modern reprint, but expensive)