The Stone of Destiny has returned to England for the first time in more than a quarter of a century to feature in the King’s coronation ceremony.
The ancient relic was transported under tight security in its first outing south of the border since it was officially returned to Scotland after 700 years by then-prime minister John Major in 1996.
Also known as the Stone of Scone, it is a 125kg slab of pinkish sandstone but, despite its plain, battered look, it carries with it an enormous amount of symbolism, history and legend.
The stone was used to inaugurate Scottish royalty for centuries, before being removed from Scone Abbey and taken to London by King Edward I in 1296.
With the exception of a few months, when it was brought back to Scotland by a group of nationalists in Christmas 1950, this symbol of Scottish nationhood remained in London for many centuries.
The monarch will be crowned sitting on a throne containing the sacred sandstone in line with tradition on Saturday, May 6 at Westminster Abbey.
The Stone of Destiny – its 700-year journey
The Stone of Destiny forms an important part of Scotland’s past.
It was seized from Scone Abbey in 1296 by Edward I during the Wars of Independence and built into a throne.
On Christmas Day 1950, a group of Glasgow University students famously broke into Westminster Abbey and smuggled it back to Scotland, sparking a nationwide manhunt.
While it was described as a “vulgar act of vandalism”, ministers decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute them.
The stone was later found at the high altar at Arbroath Abbey – where the assertion of Scottish nationhood was made in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.
It was returned to London in 1952 ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.
It would remain in Westminster for the next 46 years until 1996 when, towards the end of John Major’s time in Number 10, he said it would be returned.
On July 3 that year, the Conservative politician told the House of Commons: “The Stone of Destiny holds a special place in the hearts of Scots. On this, the 700th anniversary of its removal from Scotland, it is appropriate to return it to its historic homeland.”
On St Andrew’s Day in 1996 the centuries-old stone returned, and was brought to Edinburgh where it was put on display in Edinburgh Castle.
In November 2020, Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to relocate the stone to Perth in 2024.