The Stone of Destiny, often known as the Stone of Scone, was the stone on which early Scottish Kings were crowned at Scone Abbey near Perth. The stone is a block of red sandstone which is used as a seat – it is weighty and has rings at either end for ease of transport.
In the late thirteenth century King Alexander of Scotland died, followed by the death of his child heir Margaret, Maid of Norway. After a contest for succession John Balliol took up leadership of the realm in 1292, the last Scottish king to be crowned on the Stone of Destiny. King Edward I of England, having successfully conquered the Welsh, took this opportunity to battle the Scots for sovereignty of their land. Edward took the Stone of Scone, one of his spoils of war, to England in 1296, where the stone became the seat of new English monarchs during coronations.
The film Stone of Destiny (2008) tells the story of how, in 1950, four Scottish students took the stone from Westminster Abbey, London. They broke the stone as they moved it, and it was later repaired by a Scottish stonemason. The stone was eventually left, covered in a saltaire (the Scottish flag), at Arbroath Abbey in Scotland; the site has strong nationalist connections – the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 was a declaration of Scottish independence.
The stone travelled back to England in 1951, but in 1996 the Queen said that it could be returned to Scotland. It has been suggested that this was a political move by the then Conservative government to get wider support in Scotland at a time of Scottish devolution. The stone now rests in Edinburgh Castle, but could still travel to England for future English coronations.
The Stone of Scone, of Destiny, has had a varied, sometimes shrouded history. Was the real stone hidden by the Scots before Edward? Was the stone the students took in 1950 the same stone that returned to England in 1951? If either case is true the stone currently on show to the public is a replica. Some say that biblical Jacob used to rest his head on the Stone of Destiny at night, and whilst sleeping on the stone dreamt of a ladder peopled by angels reaching from earth to heaven. Others say the stone spent several centuries in Ireland, where the Irish too used it to crown their kings, before moving to Scone where it became a symbol of Scottish culture, pride and nationalism.