The Stone of Destiny left Scotland for the first time in a quarter of a century on Friday. This centerpiece of King Charles III's coronation on May 6 is to be transported to Westminster Abbey in London. A ceremony took place Thursday evening at Edinburgh Castle to mark the departure of this block of sandstone symbol of the Scottish monarchy and brought back from Scotland as spoils of war by Edward I in the 14th century.
After a high-security trip, the 152-kilo stone will be lodged under King Edward's chair, an oak throne more than two meters high, which has been at the center of coronations for more than 700 years. Briefly stolen by Scottish students during a daring epic in 1950, the stone was symbolically returned to Scotland in 1996, in the midst of the rise of independence sentiment. The sandstone block remains there, except for the coronations for which it returns to Westminster.
After the ceremony for the departure of the stone, Scottish Prime Minister Humza Yousaf, who aims to lead Scotland to independence and leave the bosom of the British monarchy, hailed a "historic moment" in which he said "nice" to take part.
According to legend, the stone was transported from the Holy Land through Egypt, Sicily, Spain and Ireland before being placed in a monastery in Scone, Scotland, in the 9th century, then to be used for centuries for the coronations of Scottish kings. But it is very likely that it actually comes from the Scottish Pictish kingdom, says David Breeze, professor of history and archeology at the University of Edinburgh. "The origin of the stone has long been steeped in myth," the historian told Times Radio.
"The link with the Middle East is strong, and in the Middle Ages the idea that the stone was Jacob's pillow was used to justify territorial expansion," he explains. "We believe the connection to Scone is strong and it is highly likely that she traces her origins to the ancient Pictish kingdom in Scotland."
According to Historic Environment Scotland, the body keeping the stone, scientific analyzes have confirmed that it was the very one taken from Scone by King Edward I. He had ordered it to be placed in the coronation chair in 1296. “Edward was making a statement about the status of Scotland,” says Ewen Cameron, professor of Scottish history at the University of Edinburgh. "A chronicler had claimed that his transfer to London was the recognition of a conquered kingdom, which surrendered."
The stone remained at Westminster Abbey for the next 650 years, until Christmas Eve 1950, when a group of Scottish students embarked on a daring undertaking: to recover it. After the larceny, a manhunt is conducted, roadblocks on the Anglo-Scottish border are installed. But the criminals have already managed to get the stone to the north. The students said they had to secretly hire a stonemason to repair the damage from a fall.
At the time, the police suspected one of the students: Ian Hamilton. Investigators had discovered that he had borrowed all the books he could on Westminster Abbey from a library in Glasgow. The stone was then found. Hailed as national heroes, the four students will never be prosecuted. Ian Hamilton, who died aged 97 last year, had become one of Scotland's most respected lawyers. He had told the story of his larceny in a book called 'The Taking of the Stone of Destiny', which was brought to the screen in 'Stone of Destiny' with comedian Charlie Cox.
Found at Arbroath Abbey, where the Scottish nation was proclaimed in 1320 under King Robert I of Scotland, the stone was brought back to London in 1951. It resumed its place under the throne for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. The sandstone block returned to Edinburgh in 1996 where it could remain provided it was transported to London for the coronations.