King Charles’ Restless Stone of Destiny awaits at the top of the Royal Mile
A wooden chair was set up there, and nearly every English – and then British – sovereign has since been crowned there.
The last was Charles’s mother, Elizabeth II, on June 2, 1953. And now it’s Charles’s turn.
However, the move as spoils of war from Scotland to England 726 years ago was not to be the last of the stone’s forced journeys.
Its symbolic value was invested with such importance that during the Second World War it was removed from Westminster Cathedral and hidden in Gloucester Cathedral lest it otherwise be damaged or destroyed by German bombs.
Only a small number of people were informed of the location of the stone.
Lest he be lost forever, two maps from his hiding place were sent to Canada. The Prime Minister of Canada put a card in a safe at the Bank of Canada and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario locked his in the safe at the Bank of Montreal in Toronto.
After the war, with the stone back in Westminster Abbey, four Scottish nationalist students slipped in on Christmas night 1950 and removed the block, which weighs around 300 pounds.
Practical, it has two metal rings fixed in its ends for transport purposes.
The stone broke in two and the students buried it in a field in Kent. The larger part was shipped to Scotland within days, followed by the smaller broken part.
A Glasgow politician has secretly arranged for a stonemason to join the broken ends.
Eventually the stone was left on the altar at Arbroath Abbey, between Dundee and Aberdeen. It was highly symbolic: in 1320 a letter known as the Declaration of Arbroath was written by Scottish barons, affirming the independence of the Kingdom of Scotland and denouncing English attempts to subjugate it.
English police, who were frantically searching for the stone, were notified of its whereabouts four months after it disappeared.
It was returned to Westminster Cathedral, where two years later Elizabeth II was crowned in the wooden chair set in stone 657 years previously.
But Scottish nationalists remained outraged that the Stone of Scone was in English hands.
In 1996, with calls for Scotland to separate from the British union, which destabilized Prime Minister John Major’s Conservative Party, the British government made a significant gesture of peace.
The stone was returned to Scotland, precisely 700 years after Edward I stole it.
He has since sat in Edinburgh Castle with the Scottish Crown Jewels.
However, with the coronation of a new king likely to occur in the British spring or summer of next year, the Stone faces another journey.
He will be taken to the south of Westminster Abbey, Edward’s old chair will be affixed there and Charles, seated at the top, will be crowned, like his mother, with St Edward’s crown, in solid gold and studded with 400 precious stones including sapphires, garnets and rubies.
And then the ancient Stone of Scone, Stone of Destiny, Coronation Stone and Jacob’s Pillow will be carefully returned to Edinburgh Castle.
There he will sit, on the Royal Mile above King Charles’ official Scottish seat, the Palace of Holyrood House, where this week his mother’s body will lie in her coffin, arrested on her journey from Balmoral Castle in London, Charles watched over.
But his journey may not be over yet.
Two years ago Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a plan to return the stone by 2024 to Perth, which has been described as his “spiritual home”.
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