AFTER triggering another plundering heist of Scottish treasures and documents in 1296, including material that would help us piece together a more detailed and more authentic biography of the Stone of Destiny, King Edward I had carpenters build a new English throne around the ancient Scottish Stone. It was a dubious honour. For 700 years, the Stone of Scone was the oldest part of England’s throne.

The new Stone Throne of Scone was built from Oak by “Master Walter” in 1300-01 and embellished with gold gilded birds and foliage, classical architecture, and other animals. A finely painted image of a king resting on his throne (with his feet on a lion) appears on the rear of the chair.

The Stone was originally concealed behind wooden panels and completely invisible to the public. When explosives were detonated (in 1914) near the still enthroned Stone, the wooden chair sustained significant damage, while the Stone survived intact.

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My own commentary on the Stone’s distinctly Scottish geology was reported in The Scotsman more than a decade ago, but I couldn’t give a compelling account of its ancient functions before the 13th century. Contemporary chroniclers of the reigns of Edward I, II & III describe the “lapis pergrandis” (literally “very large stone”) used to crown Scottish kings at the Monastery of Scone.

Any mythology or origin story attached to the Stone at this point has been lost, but Edward I certainly understood its symbolic value when he stole it.

Centuries later, even Oliver Cromwell saw the unique propaganda value of a Scottish throne embedded inside an English chair and had the (almost 7ft tall) wooden structure shifted to Westminster Hall. It was on the ancient throne of Scotland and the not-so-ancient throne of England that Cromwell, in 1657, was re-installed as Lord Protector.

During WWII the Stone was removed from the Coronation Chair and placed behind a cluster of heavy lead coffins deep inside one of Gloucester Cathedral’s crypts or burial vaults to make sure it didn’t fall into the hands of the Third Reich’s weird acquisitions department, and (notably) the hands of the Scots, who had “since the time of Edward I been attempting by fair means or foul, to get possession of the Stone”. Quite.

Three helpful treasure maps were created, all accurately pinpointing the location of the Stone of Destiny. These were made in case the Stone’s guardians died before revealing their secret.

When the Stone finally returned to Scotland almost exactly 700 years after it was stolen, the exchange wasn’t unconditional; the Conservative government agreed that the Stone was effectively on extended loan and would be routinely transported to London before every coronation.

In principle, it was an objectionable condition. Treasure transport is prohibitively expensive, and presents a significant risk to the integrity of an artefact. Priceless artefacts are frequently lost or damaged (or stolen), so it’s always preferable to leave them alone as much as possible.

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It’s right that precious objects are available for study and research, and it’s appropriate to use them to explore or explain written tradition, but permitting valuable artefacts to be transported to other countries strictly for ritual use is much harder to defend or explain.

A decade ago I decided to treat the next coronation as another unmissable opportunity to draw a wee line in the sand around this particular lump of rock. But how? I couldn’t steal it for Scotland, because it’s already here, and physically preventing groups of armed officers from leaving the country with the Stone would be fairly hazardous in the current climate.

In 1999 a peaceful mission to protect the Stone of Destiny was easily worth a night in a cell. In 2023 I’d probably get shot.

The (considerably safer) petition “To Keep the Stone of Destiny in Scotland” attracted hundreds of signatures in the first 48 hours and will continue gathering support until the new King is crowned on the Stone in 2023. The over-the-top ceremony will be exuberant, exorbitant, and excruciating for people already impacted by the UK Government’s manufactured austerity legislation.

The Stone of Destiny belongs in a museum. It deserves appreciation and climate control. It doesn’t deserve to be abused by an unqualified third party.