The Stone of Scone

The Stone of Destiny. Replica, original is now...

Image via Wikipedia

Up the river Perth there is an old abbey, surrounded by trees and partially overtaken by wild nature – it is the Scone Abbey, a historical place where Scottish kings were crowned with the help of the Stone of Scone. Now long gone from it’s original place of power, the Stone still holds a great meaning, even after 700 years.

A 14th century English cleric and historian Walter Hemingford writes:

“In the monastery of Scone, in the church of God, near to the high altar, is kept a large stone, hollowed out as a round chair, on which their kings were placed for their ordination, according to custom.”

The stone has many names. Coronation Stone, Stone of Destiny, as it is said that it was deciding if a person was worth to become a king of the Scots. Jacob’s Pillow Stone, for as the legend says, it had been used by Jacob as a pillow in Haran before it was transported to Syria and later to Spain. In Scottish Gaelic – Lia Fáil. Whatever name it was, the truth is that ever since Kenneth I every monarch of Scotland, England and later Great Britain had to sit on the stone during the coronation.

The stone itself is not very spectacular, it’s size approximately 26 by 17 by 10 inches and, weight of 336 pounds, there are two metal rings attached to it, one on each end, probably for easier transportation. The red sandstone it is made of can be found around the area of Scone but, considering various legends, it is possible that it had been brought to Scotland from the continent. The scientists didn’t yet manage to confirm its origins but most of what can be heard hints at the stone being brought to Scotland from Ireland.

In 1296 the stone has been taken from Scotland as the spoils of war by Edward I. Only in 1328 did The Treaty of Northampton state that the Stone of Scone is to be returned to Scotland after 600 years of residence in London. In 1950 a group of Scottish students had taken the stone from the Abbey it’s been kept in, as a part of carved wooden chair, in the process discovering that the stone was broken in half. They intended to return it to Scotland, where it belonged. In its journey back home the stone had seen Kent, Leeds, Ilkley Moor and Glasgow, where a politician, Robert Grayhad it repaired. Many people helped the students to get the stone safely back in Scotland, where in the end it had been left on the altar of Arbroath Abbey, only to be returned by the police to Westminster. The efforts of the Scottish students were pictured in a movie, The Stone of Destiny, laying stress on the importance of the stone as a symbol of Scotland’s independence.

In 1996 the Stone of Scone was officially returned to Scotland, where it can be seen in the Edinburgh Castle. In the event of a coronation the stone will be ‘borrowed’ by Westminster but for now – it rests where it belongs to, small in comparison to some historical artefacts but great in meaning.