Jonathan van Bilsen
A Stone’s Throw
Like millions of people around the world, and probably a number of you as well, I tuned in to watch the abridged version of the coronation of King Charles III, last Saturday. I am not going to debate the merits of having a royal attachment, but instead, focus on one element of the history behind the event, specifically, the big stone slab beneath the coronation chair. It is known as the Stone of Destiny.
Also known as the Stone of Scone, the Stone of Destiny symbolizes Scottish royalty with a rich and fascinating history. The stone is believed to have been used during the coronation of Scottish kings and queens for centuries, and it continues to hold a significant place in the hearts and minds of Scots today.
The Stone of Destiny is a sandstone block, weighing around 336 pounds. It was originally quarried in Scotland and was used as a royal seat at the inauguration of Scottish monarchs. However, during the 13th century, the stone was taken to England and was placed in Westminster Abbey, where it remained for over 700 years.
The loss of the Stone of Destiny was a cause of great sadness and anger among the Scottish people, who saw it as a symbol of their independence and sovereignty. It is said, many Scottish nationalists and patriots, attempted to recover the stone from Westminster Abbey over the centuries, but all of their efforts proved to be in vain.
It was not until Christmas Day, in 1950, when four students from the University of Glasgow, successfully stole the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. The students were part of a group called the Scottish National Liberation Army, and they believed the stone should be returned to Scotland.
The stone was heavier than the students thought, and moving it presented a larger challenge than anticipated. In fact, during the theft, the stone broke in half. Rather than dragging it back to Scotland, the students went south and left it in plain sight, in a field.
Finally, they dragged it north, had it re-attached by a stone mason, and three months later it turned up, back in Scotland, at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey. The authorities eventually recovered it, but fear of a Scottish rebellion prevented the police from prosecuting any of the students. They got off ‘Scot Free.’
The stone went back to England, but Scottish uproar convinced the authorities to return it to Scotland in 1996; a momentous occasion for the Scottish people. It was installed in Edinburgh Castle, where it remains to this day. The installation ceremony was attended by Queen Elizabeth II, who expressed her understanding of the importance of the stone to the Scottish people.
The symbolism of the Stone of Destiny has been celebrated in Scottish folklore and popular culture for many years. It is often associated with myths and legends about Scottish kings and queens, and it is said to have the power to bring good fortune and prosperity to those who possess it.
The one condition of the return was the stone had to be shipped to England for every coronation. When you see King Charles sitting on the old throne, the crown on his head, orb in one hand, sceptre in another, check out the Stone of Destiny underneath the seat of the throne.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.