Definitions

Treachery of Scone

Stone of Scone

[skoon, skohn]
The Stone of Scone also commonly known as the Stone of Destiny or the Coronation Stone is an oblong block of red sandstone, about by by in size and weighing approximately . The top bears chisel-marks. At each end of the stone is an iron ring, apparently intended to make transport easier. Historically, the artifact was 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, and in Scottish Gaelic, clach-na-cinneamhain, clach Sgàin, and Lia(th) Fàil

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.

Another tradition holds that, in gratitude for Irish support at the battle of Bannockburn (1314), Robert the Bruce gave a portion of the stone to Cormac McCarthy, king of Munster. Installed at McCarthy's stronghold, Blarney Castle, it became the Blarney Stone.

A contemporary account by a Walter Hemingford, a canon of Guisborough Priory in Yorkshire says:

Apud Monasterium de Scone positus eat lapis pergrandis in ecclesia Dei, juxta manum altare, concavus quidam ad modum rotundae catherdeaie confectus, in quo future reges loco quasi coronatis.

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

Westminster Abbey

In 1296 the Stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a wooden chair, known as St. Edward's Chair, on which all subsequent English sovereigns except Queen Mary II have been crowned. Doubtless by this he intended to symbolize his claim to be "Lord Paramount" of Scotland with right to oversee its King. Underlining this symbolism, he once referred to the Stone contemptuously as a 'turd'.

Some doubt exists over the stone captured by Edward I. The Westminster Stone theory posits that the monks at Scone Palace hid the real stone in the River Tay or buried it on Dunsinane Hill, and that the English troops were fooled into taking a substitute. Some proponents of the theory claim that historic descriptions of the stone do not match the present stone. If the monks did hide the stone, they hid it well; no other stone fitting its description has ever been found.

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 the 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 1707, the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey has applied to the whole of Great Britain, and since the Act of Union 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, the student broke it into two pieces. After hiding the greater part of the stone with gypsies in Kent for a few days, 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, along with a new accomplice John Josselyn. The smaller piece was similarly brought north a little while later. This journey involved a break in Leeds, where a group of sympathetic students and graduates took the fragment to Ilkley Moor for an overnight stay, accompanied by renditions of "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at."

The Stone was then passed to a senior Glasgow politician who arranged for it to be professionally repaired by Glasgow stonemason Robert Gray.

In October 2008, a feature film, 'The Stone of Destiny', fancifully based on the Scots students' hijacking of the Stone, was released by Infinity Entertainment of Vancouver. It was written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, and produced by Rob Neville and the late William Vince. The role of the nationalist Scots politician was played by Robert Carlyle.

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 11 April 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, in a symbolic response to growing dissatisfaction among Scots at the prevailing constitutional settlement, the British Conservative Government decided that the Stone should be kept in Scotland when not in use at coronations, and on 3 July 1996 the Stone was returned to Scotland, and on 15 November 1996, after a handover ceremony at the border between representatives of the Home Office and of the Scottish Office, it was 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. There was much comment of course that the stone being transferred was not the real stone at all, but a replica which had taken its place either in ancient times or in the 1950s (see above).

See also

References

  • 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, )
  • Martin-Gil F.J., Martin-Ramos P. and Martin-Gil J. "Is Scotland's Coronation Stone a Measurement Standard from the Middle Bronze Age?". Anistoriton, issue P024 of 14 December 2002.

Notes

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