The Coronation Stone – A Unique Attraction

If you have not heard the story of the Stone of Scone and its history you may well now, as in the first time since 1953, it will play a part in the coronation of King Charles III. The Stone of Scone aka the “Stone of Destiny” or “Coronation Stone” will leave its place amongst the Crown Jewels of Scotland to make the journey south to Westminster Abbey to be present at the crowning ceremony in May of 2023 as has been tradition for hundreds of years. Chances are you will not see it if you are present in London at that historic time, but do not despair, as it is a great tourist attraction you can see most times in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Coronation Stone: Scone Castle

Scone Castle near Perth. Scone Abbey is located on its grounds. (Image: Bigstock)

The Stone’s Origins

The Stone of Scone is a block of sandstone that weighs approximately 152 kg (336 pounds). It is a large, rectangular in shape, and measures just over 4 feet in length and 26 inches in width.  According to legend, the stone was brought to Scotland from Ireland by Saint Columba in the sixth century. Other legends suggest a more ancient origin: that the stone was Jacob’s Pillow, the one he slept upon to dream of the ladder to Heaven, brought from the Holy Land, via Spain, Ireland and the West of Scotland, to arrive at Scone in the 9th century. Sill others believe it may have been a royal stone belonging to the Scots from Antrim, or the Picts from the north-east having been brought to Scone from Iona in 841 AD . Either way, the Stone was originally kept at Scone Abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland where, incidentally, a replica is now on display adjacent to the abbey ruins. The Stone was used for centuries in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish monarchs beginning, some believe, with Kenneth I.

Coronation Stone: Scone Abbey

Scone Abbey with replica stone (Image: Adobe Stock)

Coronation Stone: Replica of Stine of Scone

Replica stone (Image: Bigstock)

Tug of War

Following his victory at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296, England’s King Edward I (Longshanks) seized the Stone of Scone and had it fitted into the base of a specially crafted wooden Coronation Chair on which English (now British) monarchs have been crowned inside London’s Westminster Abbey for the last thousand years.

In a bid to reclaim what was considered lost heritage and as a rallying point for Scottish nationalism, the stone was stolen from Westminster Abbey by four students in December 1950. It was a scene not far removed from your average British comedy if it were not so serious. The robbery went awry and the stone, which was extremely heavy, broke in two during the hijacking. Discovery of its theft occasioned the first border closing between the two countries in 400 years.

To make a long tale short when the Stone eventually reached Scotland, it was repaired in secret by a Glasgow stone mason by inserting a brass rod to hold the two pieces together along with a mysterious note that has yet to see the light of day. The stone was eventually recovered from a police tip in 1952, draped in a Scottish flag, in the Arbroath Abbey where Scotland’s nationhood was declared in 1320. The students, though identified, were never charged.

Prince Andrew, Duke of York, representing the late Queen Elizabeth II, formally transferred the stone into the safekeeping of the Commissioners for the Regalia in 1996. With this act, it became official: the Stone of Scone’s home is in Scotland. The tug of war was over.

Coronation Stone: Westminster Abbey

A Tourist’s View of Westminster Abbey (left) (Image: Bigstock)

The Stone of Scone is usually located (except when needed at a coronation) at the heart of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh in Edinburgh Castle, a popular tourist destination for those interested in learning about Scotland’s past. The stone is on display in the Crown Room which also houses the Honours of Scotland, which includes the crown made for James V, the Sword of State, the scepter of Scotland, and other crown jewels .

When you enter the Crown Room, you’ll see the Stone of Scone displayed prominently in the center of the room. The Stone of Scone is a popular attraction so be prepared for crowds. It’s best to arrive early in the day to avoid the busiest times. You’ll also want to give yourself plenty of time to explore the rest of the castle, which is full of fascinating history and architecture. If you are an animal lover, be sure to ask where to look for the pet cemetery as it is rather hidden,

If you are there past noon, be sure to linger and listen for the One O’Clock Gun. This tradition dates back to the 19th century, when a time ball was dropped from the Nelson Monument in Edinburgh at precisely 1:00 p.m. each day to help ships in the harbor set their clocks. Today, a gun is fired from the castle at 1:00 p.m. each day.

Coronation Stone: Sign to the Honours of Scotland

Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland are full of rich history. Enjoy your stay there post-coronation and be sure to see the Stone of Scone. Hopefully it won’t be making the long trip to London again for many years.

Feature image of Edinburgh Castle courtesy of Bigstock. Article frist appeared on Real Travel Experts.