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December 25th 1950

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The Stone of Destiny

Scone Palace
Scone Palace
The Stone of Destiny as might be expected had a pretty good pedigree. “Quhen Kennith (Kenneth McAlpine) had destroyit the Pichtis and conquest their realm he brocht the fatal chair of merbill out of Argyle to Gowrie, quilk chair was brocht out of Spainye to Ireland by Simon Breck, and out of Ireland by Fergus the first King in Argyle, quhair it remanit ay quhill thir days. And becaus this last victorie of Pichtis happinit nocht far fra Scone, he ordainit the said chair to remane perpetuallie in the said abbay, and all Scottis Kyngis to resave their diademe in the sayme.” 

Legend has it that the stone was originally that which Jacob used as a pillow when dreaming his celebrated dream of heaven on earth (Genesis 28) and that Gathelus fleeing from Egypt to escape the plague carried the stone with him to Spain. As the stone weighs 4cwt all this seems a little unlikely.

Be that as it may, there is no doubt that after Kenneth McAlpine all Scottish kings were crowned upon the Stone of Scone until Edward 1st of England took a fancy to it and removed it to Westminster Abbey in 1296.

On Christmas Day 1950 the Stone of Scone disappeared from Westminster Abbey taken, we know now, by four young Scottish Nationalists. There was immense activity by the police, road blocks were set up on all the main roads to Scotland, The Archbishop of Canterbury fulminated against “this sacrilegious crime” , and most of Scotland enjoyed the joke. Four months later the stone was taken to Arbroath Abbey and left with the Abbey custodian. He was so excited by the event that he warmly shook the conspirators by the hand but forgot to ask them their names.

The men from Scotland Yard then arrived, bundled the Stone into a van and drove it back to London. That seems a long time ago now. In 1996 the Stone came back to Scotland. With much pomp and ceremony it was installed in Edinburgh.

It would have been better if it had returned to its rightful home in Scone.

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