The stone traditionally used in royal coronations, the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny, will be returning to Perth after some 700 years.
The announcement was made in Scottish Parliament yesterday, meaning it will return to its original home town from Edinburgh Castle, where it has lived for 14 years.
The oblong block of sandstone has been used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland, and – following the military successes of Edward I in the late 13th century – the Monarchs of England, and later those of the UK.
It came from Scone Abbey (pronounced ‘scoon’), near Perth, hence its name, but currently resides at Edinburgh Castle, where it has been since 1996. The British Government decided that the stone should be kept in Scotland when not in use at coronations. The Duke of York was present at the ceremony in November 1996, and handed over the royal warrant for the safe-keeping of the historic artefact.
The stone came into English possession during a period of tense relations between the kingdom and its northern neighbour; Edward I invaded in 1296, taking the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The Battle of Dunbar saw the King confiscate the Stone of Destiny and brought it to Westminster Abbey, placing it in a chair used for coronations: King Edward’s Chair.
A treaty between the kingdoms in 1328 saw the English agree to return the captured stone to Scotland, but crowds prevented it from being removed from the Abbey. In 1950, the Stone of Scone was stolen from the Abbey by a group of young Scottish nationalists, which broke the relic in two; it was eventually recovered when the group left the stone on the altar of Arbroath Abbey four months later.
A replica sits in the original’s place at the ruin of Scone Abbey.
The decision was made after a consultation, where the public were asked their opinion on continuing to house the stone at Edinburgh Castle, in a redeveloped display with the Honours of Scotland, or as the centrepiece of a proposed new museum in the former Perth City Hall.
The news of the Stone of Destiny’s return was welcomed by Charles Kinnoull, Chair of the Board at Culture Perth and Kinross. “What wonderful Christmas news for Perth,” he said. “The new museum located at Perth City Hall will be an outstanding home for this precious piece of the fibre of the history of our area and the nation. The effort required to get here has been immense, led by the Council, uniting many with a common aim, and I thank and congratulate all involved.”
Helen Smout, Chief Executive at Culture Perth and Kinross also expressed delight: “This is excellent news and the result of a lot of work by many people over a considerable time. To bring this iconic object to Perth and tell its story in the context of a brand-new museum is so exciting for everyone involved. In what has been a challenging year, this news provides further hope for a bright, successful future for our region.”