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The Stone of Destiny

For a thousand years, this ancient coronation stone of Scottish kings has kindled legends and enflamed passions... and, remarkably, it still does.

BY KEITH AITKEN

Our niece makes up in decibels what she lacks in inches. So, when I lifted her up to see into the glass case, her disbelieving question was lost on none of the people crammed that wet summer afternoon into the fortified Crown Room at the top of Edinburgh Castle. "Is that," she enquired doubtfully "it?"

As it happens, this is a very good question. There are many people who will tell you that the rough-hewn slab of sandstone that lies beside Scotland's Royal Regalia is very far from being "it"; although it is only right to note that the Stone of Destiny, like the Loch Ness Monster, attracts tall tales in the way a candyfloss wheel attracts sugar.

Authenticity, however, was not what Ishbel meant. She had been told all about the legend of the stone from Scone. She knew of its supposedly Biblical origins. She knew that ancient Kings of Scotland have sat upon it for their coronations. She knew that an English King had confiscated it, and that for 700 long years Scotland had plotted its forcible repatriation. She knew that, once, men had broken into an abbey in the night and spirited it away. She knew that, even as we gazed upon it, work was under way to turn that distant prank into a full-blown cinema movie.

What did not compute for her was that all this tower of wonder could feasibly be balanced upon the distinctly unimpressive artefact behind the glass. It looked to her, and to anyone else honest enough to admit the emperoršs nakedness, like a lump of very ordinary rock, such as might make a decent foundation for a gatepost or a lintel, but not for a thousand years of impassioned history.

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2007 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on The Island Of The Seals by Bruce MacGregor Sandison.

Photos: Top Right: copy; Scottish Viewpoint. Photo above: copy; 2007 Historic Scotland Images; Archival news clip copy; The Scotsman, Edinburgh.

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