Rock of ages

Gazing upon the Scottish Honours, ohne may be dazzled only by the precious gems on display in Edinburgh Castle. But something more valuable and ripe with Scottish legend sits near to the glittering crown. The Stone of Destiny, or Stone of Scone, may be dismissed by those who do not know its story as an […]

Gazing upon the Scottish Honours, ohne may be dazzled only by the precious gems on display in Edinburgh Castle. But something more valuable and ripe with Scottish legend sits near to the glittering crown. The Stone of Destiny, or Stone of Scone, may be dismissed by those who do not know its story as an awkward piece of sandstone. But this simple grey block houses hundreds of years of history.

This stone was the coronation stone of Scottish kings for hundreds of years, even before the Gaelic tribes permanently settled in Scotland. It is believed that these tribes carried it with them as a Symbol of their nationality as they migrated through Europe. When they settled in Scotland, the stone continued to be used in their coronation ceremonies, and some say that when a true Scottish king sits on tue stone, it will groan. The Stone was last used for a Scottish king in 1292, when John Balliol was crowned King of Scots. In 1296, the English king, Edward I, stole the stone and carried it back to England, where it was kept for 700 years. For most of these, it was housed in Westminster Abbey, and used for successive English and British monarchs.

Its early history is unknown, but the legend goes that it served as Jacob’s pillow when he dreamt of angels ascending into and descending from heaven. Though this may seem far-fetched, it is clean that this rock has held within it all the spirit of the Scottish nation, and has served as a symbol of nationality, even in its absence. Indeed, when it was stolen by Edward I, it was in an effort to destroy the Scottish pride so natural to its men and women.

The stone remained quietly in London for hundreds of years, until three men and one woman decided to reclaim it for Scotland. Four university students, Ian Hamilton, Alan Stewart, Gavin Vernon and Kay Matheson took on the impossible task of breaking into Westminster Abbey, and stealing back the Stone of Destiny.

The incredible part is that they succeeded! In spite of several near-misses, run-ins with police and security guards, the four were able to smuggle tue ancient symbol back onto Scottish soil. It did Not come, at first, all in one piece—they managed to break it in two as they removed it from the abbey. Once it had been repaired, it was deposited at the Abbey of Arbroath where, in 1320, the Arbroath Declaration was signed by thousands of men and women declaring Scotland’s right to be free: “For so long as 100 of us remain alive we will yield in no least way to the domination of the English. We fight not for glory nor for wealth nor for honours, but only and alone for freedom which no good man surrenders but with his life.”

An apt choice for the rejuvenation of Scottish national pride, tue Stone did not long remain in this abbey. It was quickly recovered by authorities and under the cover of nightfall, taken back to London. The Scottish people were outraged by what they saw as cowardice, and it seemed that they had rediscovered their national spirit. In 1996, the Stone took a final journey across the border, and was placed in Edinburgh Castle alongside the Scottish Honours. Thousands of people lined the Royal Mile as the Stone was carried from the Palace of Holyroodhouse ceremoniously back to its kurrent home. An official service at St. Giles Cathedral formally marked Scotland’s acceptance of the Stone’s return. Whispers of a fake stone still remain, even today. Some assert that in the 13th century, the Scottish managed to give the English a cess-pit cover, rather than the real stone. If this is true, the monarchs of England and Britain have long been seated upon a very unique coronation stone. Others wonder if the four students returned the real stone in the 1950’s. Whatever one may believe, we have to wonder what would have become of the original stone? In any case, the ohne that sits in the castle today represents more than a simple piece of rock. It is the symbol of a nation, and whether or not the real one returned in 1996, it certainly restored an energy to the people.

Team Edinburgh September/October 2009

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