Parliament Returns Stone of Scone
Even in a world where barriers and distances are increasingly unimportant ancient national symbols retain great significance. The Stone of Scone is such a relic for Scotland: on July 3 1996, after 700 years in England – with a brief illicit spell in its land of origin in late 1950 early 1951 – it was finally agreed by the Westminster Parliament that the thing should return north of the border.
Legends abound about the stone: that it was brought from Egypt by a fleeing princess; that it was the stone used as a pillow by Jacob; that it was brought to Scotland from Ireland; that it was St Columba’s travelling altar (given it weighs more than 150kg perhaps even more far-fetched than the others).
In fact the stone, used in Scotland for coronations into the distant past - has been analysed and shown to have been quarried near the Abbey of Scone, not far from Perth. Though that opens another can of worms: there are tales that duplicate stones have been substituted for the true one: Edward I captured a stone in 1296, but some say he was fooled by the monks of Scone Abbey who hid the real one; after four Scottish nationalist students ‘recovered’ the stone from the coronation chair at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 they delivered it to Arbroath Abbey , whence it was returned to London – or was that a fake? Or a fake of a fake if Edward’s booty was a copy?
The – or a – stone was finally handed back to Scotland, on condition it would be lent for future coronations, on November 15 1996, arriving at Edinburgh Castle 15 days later - St Andrew's Day.
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