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FeaturesState & Ceremonial

The Stone of Scone, the ancient symbol of royal power in Scotland

The Stone of Scone is one of the most famous symbols of Coronations in the United Kingdom and it has a long and controversial history.

It is a block of red sandstone that has been associated with the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland, and later England and the United Kingdom, for hundreds of years.

Also known as the Stone of Destiny, the 336-pound Stone was taken from Scone Abbey in Scotland by King Edward I of England in 1296 after his victory at the Battle of Dunbar. Edward I initiated a military campaign to invade Scotland to punish King John Balliol, who signed a treaty with France, Edward’s main enemy.

The origin of the Stone is unknown, and many legends have tried to explain where it came from. One legend alleges the Stone was used by Jacob, the Biblical figure, as a pillow as he was dreaming of a ladder reaching heaven.

In ancient Celtic mythology, the Stone was associated with a gathering of gods known as the Tuatha de Danaan. The Stone made noise when the rightful king of the Tuatha stepped on it.

King Edward sent the Stone of Destiny to Westminster Abbey, where it was placed under the Coronation Chair, which has been used since the 14th century by all of Britain’s monarchs with the exception of Queen Mary II of England. Elizabeth II sat above the Stone at her Coronation in 1953.

The Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland 700 years later, and currently resides in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle. The Crown Room also contain the Crown Jewels of Scotland. Both the Stone and the Scottish Crown Jewels are maintained by Historic Environment Scotland (HES). HES looks after hundreds of other historic properties and monuments throughout Scotland.

On November 30, 1996 (St. Andrews Day) Prince Andrew, representing Queen Elizabeth II, presented a Royal Warrant to the Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia at Edinburgh Castle. The Commissioners are officially responsible for the safeguarding of the Scottish Crown Jewels. The Royal Warrant formally transferred the Stone into the Commissioners’ care, with the stipulation that the Stone be present at all future coronations of Britain’s monarchs at Westminster Abbey.

HES issued a statement in September 2022 in which they confirmed the Stone of Scone will be used in the Coronation of King Charles III, which is to take place on May 6, 2023, reiterating that “the stone will only leave Scotland again for a coronation in Westminster Abbey.”

On Christmas Day 1950, four Scottish students, Alan Stuart, Kay Matheson, Ian Hamilton, and Gavin Vernon, stole the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey. The students were part of the Scottish Covenant Association, a now-defunct political association that sought greater political independence from Westminster.

It was found several months later and hundreds of miles away at Arbroath Abbey in Angus, Scotland.

In September 2020, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to move the Stone to the new museum being constructed at Perth City Hall, which is set to open in 2024, saying that:

“following due consideration, the commissioners were satisfied that the proposals for Perth City Hall gave full and proper regard to the need to ensure the security and conservation of the Stone, its accessibility to the general public and that it would be displayed in a manner in keeping with such an important cultural artefact.”

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