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The Coronation Stone of Destiny

NewsThe Coronation Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Destiny adds a bit of uncertainty to the date of Charles’ coronation as King of the United Kingdom

There is still no date for the coronation of Charles III. One reason is the mourning for Elizabeth II. Another, the uncertainty about the presence of the talisman that for centuries has given legitimacy to royal coronations in Westminster Abbey. For the first time since 1239, the legendary Stone of Destiny is no longer in London, but in Edinburgh Castle, where it has become since 1996 a symbol of Scottish sovereignty.

A section of the Scottish Nationalist Party that governs the region is opposed to the stone’s return to London. And these days there has been a remembrance in Edinburgh pubs of the 1950 feat (in a nod to the unique itinerary of the young nationalists, who marked their return with the trophy with numerous toasts in old Scottish taverns on the sacred stone).

Founding legends of Ireland and Scotland

According to the ancient founding legends of Ireland and Scotland recorded in the Leabar Ghabala or Celtic Book of Invasions, the Stone of Destiny, which for two thousand years crowned Irish, Scottish and English kings, was brought to the British Isles from Magnus Portus Artabrorum in Spain around 900 BC. Irish and Scottish epics relate that Ith, son of the warlord Breagh, embarked with his tribe from the Spanish coast northward. At his feet, on the captain’s ship, he carried the Stone of Destiny on which his ancestors had sat when they proclaimed themselves chiefs. Ith dies in the attempt to conquer Eire, but the sacred talisman settles with the survivors in the Irish village of Tara and centuries later is transferred to Scotland.

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the ‘Stone of Scone‘, would become the symbol of sovereignty and unity of the Scottish tribes until 1239 when they were conquered by the English monarch Edward I, “Hammer of the Scots”, who took the sacred Celtic talisman as spoils of war to Westminster Abbey in London, where he had a specially designed throne built to contain the stone in its lower part. He believed that whoever was in possession of the stone would be the rightful ruler of Scotland and England. Since then, the Scots never gave up their efforts to recover it.

Stone of Destiny
Stone of Destiny

The theft of the Stone of Destiny

They succeeded fleetingly at a time of great uncertainty, in full decomposition of the colonial empire and on the verge of the coronation of a rookie queen and without the least popular charisma, Elizabeth, after the unexpected death of King George VI in 1952, who had been deputizing for him in many tasks since 1951 because of cancer suffered by his father -the stuttering monarch who popularized the film The King’s Speech-. In 1950, four young Scottish and Irish university students, for whom the stone also has the status of a national symbol (in Ireland they call it Lia-Fail), stole it from Westminster. The police searched in vain for the historic talisman and even a fortune teller was called in to find its whereabouts. George VI’s health was deteriorating rapidly and the fear of not having the stone was a harbinger that the Windsor era was coming to an end. After arduous negotiations, the stone was recovered months later at Arbroath Abbey, where it had been hidden by Scottish Nationalists.

On June 2, 1953, Elizabeth II of England and I of Scotland was crowned sovereign of Great Britain at Westminster. Among the symbols of the sovereignty of which she was being imbued were the orb, the royal scepter, the rod of clemency, the royal ring of sapphires and rubies and, most especially, the Stone of Destiny under the throne on which she sat.

In the end, sanity will prevail

The Stone of Destiny would be returned in 1996 to Edinburgh, where it was cheered by a crowd, after almost a millennium of retention in London, in a political gesture that sought to placate the emerging Scottish independence movement, with the condition that it would return to Westminster for future coronations. Buckingham released a statement last week saying that Historical Environment Scotland, which manages Edinburgh Castle, where the Stone of Destiny is usually displayed, confirmed to him that the talisman will leave for the coronation, but will return immediately afterwards to Scotland.


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