Pictured above: A replica of the stone
At first, the Stone of Destiny appears to be little more than a simple stone, but no other stone could carry so much history and tradition than this one. Despite its simplicity, it has quite a colourful and surprising history.
The Stone of Destiny goes by many names, sometimes called the Stone of Scone, The Coronation Stone or Jacob’s Pillow. It is a simple block of red sandstone that measures no more than 26 inches by 17 inches.
Both Scottish, English and British monarchs have been crowned on this stone since the ninth century. Most recently, it was used in 1953 for the coronation of Elizabeth II
Legend dates back to biblical times; the stone is said to have been the pillow Jacob used, where he dreamed of Jacob’s Ladder. It was seen as a sacred object and first went to Ireland and then to Scotland.
No one can pinpoint exactly where the stone came from, with origin stories mentioning biblical stories or the stone being quarried in Scotland. However, geologists proved that the stone was quarried somewhere around Scone, the historical site of the Scottish Kingdom.
The last Scottish King to receive his coronation on the stone is John Balliol, who is said to have lost the stone to Edward I “Hammer of the Scots” when he invaded Scotland in 1286 The stone was taken as spoils of war where Edward fitted it to his chair in order to try and secure his role as Lord Paramount of Scotland.
In 1328 England promised to return the stone to Scotland. However, angry English crowds stopped it from actually leaving Westminster Abbey. It remained in England for another six centuries.
The stone was stolen by four nationalist students in 1950, during the theft, they broke the stone into two pieces. Despite this, they managed to bring it back into Scotland when they passed both halves to a senior Glasgow politician; the stone was then repaired by a stonemason.
The government ordered a search for the stone, and the search was unsuccessful. The custodians left the stone in Arbroath Abbey in April 1951. When it was discovered, it was returned to Westminster.
In 1996, the government returned the stone to Scotland. A handover ceremony took place in November 1996 between the Home Office and the Scottish Office. It arrived at Edinburgh Castle to a crowd of around 10,000 people. To this day it sits alongside the crown jewels of Scotland when not used in coronations.
Real or Fake
Doubt surrounds the stone all throughout its history, and it is said there are many points in which the stone could have been swapped or lost.
The monks at Scone Palace allegedly hid the real stone in the River Tay or buried it to hide it from Edward I’s encroaching army. There is no way to prove if this actually happened, however, the theory has some support.
Another belief is that the stonemason who repaired the stone after its damage made several copies and the one returned was, in fact, the original repaired one.
The true history of the stone and whether or not the one in Edinburgh Castle is the correct stone will never fully be known.