The Stone of Destiny is an ancient symbol of the monarchy of Scotland and has been used for countless centuries in the inaugurations of its kings. It’s a sacred object. Though its earliest origins are unknown, according to legend, the Stone of Destiny was used as a pillow by Jacob in biblical times and was carried out of Jerusalem by refugees fleeing from persecution in the city. One of those was a princess known as Scota.
The Exiles fled through Egypt, Sicily and Spain finally arriving in Ireland where the stone became known as the Stone of Destiny, also called Stone of Scone, Scottish Gaelic Lia Fáil. The sacred stone was used as the coronation stone of Ireland’s High Kings and was believed to cry out in joy when the rightful king of Ireland sat on it.
Lia Fáil – The Stone of Destiny
Some researchers now believe that these two ancient stones are in fact the same. What is the truth about the mysterious Stone of Destiny. The Lia Fáil appears in the ancient work of Lebor Gabála Érenn (literally “The Book of the Taking of Ireland”). Compiled in the 11th century, this book is a collection of poems and prose narratives dealing with the mythical history of Ireland.
The book describes the semi-divine Tuath Dé Danann, people of goddess Danu (Celtic goddess of wisdom) bringing the Lia Fáil from Scotland to the Tara in Ireland. The stone was one of four magical items that gave the Tuawat victory in battle and was able to state whether the king about to be crowned on it was the rightful ruler of Ireland.
In the processes of Scottish lawyer, Baldred Bisset, written in 1301, the daughter of Pharaoh king of Egypt arrives in Ireland joining forces with the Irish. She sails to Scotland taking her royal seat with her. According to this legend, the name of the pharaoh’s daughter was Scotta who supposedly gave her name to the country of Scotland.
The Lia Fáil stone standing on the Hill of Tara is an one metre tall granular limestone megalith half of which is buried below the surface. Tara is located Northwest of Dublin, Niche Gráinne, in County Meath constitutes one of the most important ancient sacred sites in Europe.
And it’s from here that 142 High Kings of Ireland are said to have ruled the land. The Hill of Tara comprises 25 visible ancient monuments including a neolithic passage grave known as the Mound Of The Hostages. Which dates back to around 3,350 BC.
The stone has been moved several times over the years. In 1798, it was relocated to its present position to mark the mass grave of the 400 United Irish rebels who fell in the battle of Tara. The Lia Fáil was used as a magical coronation stone for all the kings of Ireland and when the rightful king of the country stood upon it, it would roar three times in approval.
According to some accounts, this stone was taken from Tara to Scone in Perthshire Scotland by an Irish prince named Fergus. Who later became king of Scotland in the 5th or 6th century A.D. The stone remained there until the end of the 13th century. When King Edward I of England took it to be set up in Westminster Abbey.
However, most archaeologists believe that the Lia Fáil originally stood in front of the Mound Of The Hostages and was probably contemporary with the tomb. If the stone is part of this 5,300 years old monument then presumably, it would have never had left the Hill of Tara. So at some point in the distant past traditions may have become muddled and confused the Lia Fáil with the Scottish coronation stone and associated both with the Stone Of Destiny.
The Westminster Abbey Stone
The coronation stone now contained in a space under the seat of the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey is a rectangular block of coarse-grained reddish-grey sandstone decorated with a single Latin cross. It measures 26 inches long by 16 inches wide and is 10 and a half inches deep and weighs 336 pounds (152 Kg).
There’s an iron ring attached to each end of the stone presumably intended to make transport easier. The coronation stone is believed to be one of the same as the Stone Of Scone originally kept at Scone Abbey, in late 12th century. Geological examination of the stone has revealed that it was quarried in the area of Scone in Perthshire.
The origins of this royal stone are obscure but it may have been brought in the 9th century from Antrim in present-day Northern Ireland by Kenneth Mcalpin. The 36th king of Dalrieda a Gaelic kingdom which goes back at least to the 5th century and encompassed the western seaboard of Scotland and County Antrim on the Northern Irish coast.
The stone was used for centuries in the Coronation of Scottish Monarchs. However in 1296, when English king Edward I conquered Scotland and having already stolen the Scottish regalia from Edinburgh, he also removed the coronation stone from Scone Abbey. Edward took the stone to Westminster Abbey where it was fitted into a specially constructed oak chair known as Eedwards Chair. On which most subsequent English monarchs have been crowned.
Thomas Pennant in his 1776 work tour in Scotland and voice to the Hebrides recounts a popular myth that the Stone Of Scone had originally been used by the biblical Jacob in his pillow when he was at bethel and the famous dream of the ladder to heaven. According to this legend, the stone was later taken to Spain where it was used as a seat of justice by Gelthelas contemporary with Moses before it finally ended up in Scone.
Theft and confusion
On Christmas day 1950 four Scottish students (Ian Hamilton, Alan Stuart, Gavin Vernon, and Kay Matheson) broke into Westminster Abbey and stole the Coronation Stone. These students were members of the Scottish Covenant Association, an organization whose main goal was to gain public support for Scottish independence from England.
Unfortunately in the process of removing the stone from the Abbey, it was broken into two uneven pieces. The students eventually got the stone to Scotland, where it had been repaired by a stonemason.
In April 1951, it was left on the altar of the Abbey of Abroth. The London police were informed and it was returned to Westminster Abbey. On the 15th of November 1996, amid march public ceremony, the stone was returned to Scotland. Where it is now kept at Edinburgh Castle. Until it is needed again for future coronation ceremonies at Westminster Abbey.
A further curious incident involving the Stone Of Scone occurred in 1999. When a group of modern knights templar offered the new Scottish Parliament what they claimed was the original stone.
Apparently, it was the last wish of Dr. John Mccain Nimmo (a chevalier with the knights templar of Scotland) that after his death, the stone to be given to the Scottish Parliament. In 1999, when he died his widow Gene contacted the templars and they made the request to the Scottish Parliament.
If this was the real coronation stone, then where did Nimmo get it? The knights templar claimed that they had acquired the stone from the four Scottish students in 1950. Allegedly copies of the stone were made by Robert Gray a Glasgow stonemason who had repaired it. So what was returned to Westminster Abbey was in fact a replica made by Gray?
If that wasn’t enough, in 2008, the first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, spoke out about the stone. Salmon believes that the monks at Scone Abby fooled the English into thinking that they had stolen the coronation stone, when in fact they had taken a replica. The minister claims that the sandstone block formerly at Westminster Abbey and now in Edinburgh is almost certainly not the original coronation stone.
Salmon thinks that the original stone could have been a fragment of a meteorite and cites one medieval chronicler who describes it as a shiny black circular object with carved symbols. Certainly not the same as an oblong piece of Persia sandstone. Copies of the Stone of Scone do exist, there is one on Moot Hill at Scone Palace. For example, there is even one theory that this supposed replica is, in fact, the original Stone of Scone and it has been hiding in plain sight for over 70 years.
Without scientific testing, however, the controversies to the whereabouts of the real coronation stone will always continue. Despite the opinion of most historians that the original is now firmly ensconced in Edinburgh Castle. But is this the Stone of Destiny? Perhaps, we will never know.
At the moment, no connection has been proven between the probably prehistoric Lia Fáil Tara and the symbol of medieval Scottish kingship the Stone of Scone. But who knows what future research may turn up in this curious tale of two sacred stones.