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The Stone of Destiny

The Return of the Stone of Scone to Scotland

Nov 30

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

Around 10,000 people lined the Royal Mile to catch a glimpse of the Stone of Destiny as it made its way to Edinburgh Castle from the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the 30th of November, 1996.

The Stone of Destiny was the traditional Coronation Stone of the Kings of Scotland and, before that, the Kings of Dalriada. This stone was removed by Edward I in 1296 and moved to Westmister where it was kept until its return to Scotland on this day, 1996. However, according to the Westminster Stone conspiracy theory, the stone Edward removed was not the real Stone of Destiny, but a substitute. The English army was at the Scottish border in mid-March, 1296, and did not reach Scone until June. With three months to anticipate Edward's arrival, there was ample time and incentive for a switch to be made, in order to protect the original relic!

The Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone ("Stane o Scone" in Scots; “Clach-na-cinneamhain” “Stone of Descent” in Gàidhlig), is a symbol of Scottish sovereignty and independence.

The stone has a long history beginning with the first crowned King of the Scots, Fergus, who sat upon it for his coronation early in the 6th century.  Historical accounts from the 15th century show that Fergus brought the stone from Ireland to Argyll, the Scottish domain of the Irish Dál Riata Gaels.  It is believed that the Stone was originally part of the Lia Fáil (“Stone of Ireland”), the coronation stone for the kings of Tara.

In 1296 after subduing the Scots, Edward I of England (“Hammer of the Scots”) wanted to take the Stone back to England with him, most likely to prevent any future Scottish Kings from being crowned upon it.  But as Edward I approached the Abbey where the stone was housed, reports say the Abbott hid the true Stone and replaced it with another.  Edward’s intention to take the stone back to London was not realized as he took it only as far as Edinburgh. Two years later, he returned to Scotland and ransacked the Abbey, ostensibly looking for the rumoured real Stone, though it was never found.  

When Edward I died, his son, Edward II had the Stone removed from Edinburgh and brought to London where he had a Coronation Chair built to hold it and used at his own coronation in 1301.  It has been used at every coronation since.

In July of 1996, the House of Commons announced that the Stone would be returned to Scotland.  It arrived at Edinburgh Castle on St Andrew’s Day and is displayed along with the Honours of Scotland.

The Stone has made a few unexpeted short trips as well. In 1950, Ian Hamilton and a few friends stole the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day and drove it back to Scotland in a symbolic gesture meant to bolster the Scottish nationalist movement.  As the stone weighs over 300 pounds, this was no easy feat. This exploit was made into the 2008 film titled, "The Stone of Destiny."

For more about the daring heist, click the still from the film.

The Stone of Destiny
The Stone of Destiny

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