December 25, 1950: A special rock is stolen by nationalist patriots. The rock weighs 336 pounds and is made of red sandstone. It is an oblong block measuring 26 x 16 x 10.5 inches with chisel marks on the top and iron rings on each end for easier transport. The rock has a variety of names. It is called the Stone of Scone, the Stone of Destiny, the Coronation Stone, Jacob’s Pillow Stone, or the Tanist Stone or clach-na-cinneamhain, clach Sgàin, and Lia(th) Fàil in Scottish Gaelic. The stone’s legend says it dates from the Biblical tome of Jacob.
Regardless of names or date of origin, it has been used for centuries during coronation ceremonies. Since the first King of Scots was crowned around 847, the ruler’s ceremony was performed while he (or she) sat atop the stone. In 1296, the stone was captured by Edward I and taken to Westminster Abbey. It was fitted into a special wooden chair called St. Edward’s Chair. Every subsequent sovereign of England (except Queen Mary II) has been crowned while seated there.
The Stone may or may not be the original Scottish stone. There is a legend stating a fake was taken by Edward and the original buried somewhere near Scone Palace, the monks there having successfully hidden it. If so, they did a great job because no other similar stone has ever been found. In 1328 negotiations for the return of the Stone stalled. However, the Scottish King James VI sat upon it as he became King James I of England. The stone remained in London.
Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Mathison, and Alan Stuart were Scottish students. They took the stone from Westminster Abbey to return it to Scotland. While liberating the treasure, they broke it into two pieces. They smuggled them out in the trunks of cars, first the larger piece and then the smaller, past roadblocks set up to find and return the artifact. The stone was professionally repaired. It was eventually left on the altar of Arbroath Abbey. On April 11, 1951 the stone was returned to Westminster Abbey – unless it is not the original stone, but a duplicate.
“In 1996, Her Majesty The Queen allowed the stone to be returned to Scotland, after 700 years. Its royal role will continue: the ancient stone will be taken to London for all future coronations.” – from Edinburgh Castle website
“If the real stone was substituted with a copy in 1950, then this would make the stone in Edinburgh Castle… a fake. But even if that were the case, there are those who doubt that the stone taken by Edward I in 1296 was the real one.” – Philip Coppens
“The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high-road that leads him to England.” – Samuel Johnson
“In all my travels I never met with any one Scotchman but what was a man of sense. I believe everybody of that country that has any, leaves it as fast as they can.” – Francis Lockier
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: The Stone of Scone was first stored at Scone Abbey, hence the name. The Abbey was founded some time between 1114 and 1122 but the date is uncertain. It was originally a Priory but in 1163/4, King Mael Coluim IV increased the status of the religious community which became an abbey and was used to house the precious coronation stone. The first to lead the order was Prior Robert who would later become bishop of St. Andrew. There was a fire there in 1163 which destroyed some of the early documents and more were lost during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Back in the 12th century, they were the proud owner of several relics which made the abbey a popular pilgrimage destination. In 1559 it was victim of a mob from Dundee and during the Reformation it was largely destroyed. In 1580 the lands were given to Lord Ruthven who became the Earl of Gowrie. In 1600 King James VI charged the family with treason and their lands were given to Sir David Murray of Gospetrie.
Also on this day: Mastodons – In 1801 the first complete mastodon skeleton was discovered.
It Is Finished – In 1991, the dissolution of the USSR was completed.
Arrival – In 1941, Admiral Nimitz arrived at Pearl Harbor.