The Stone of Destiny
The Stone of Destiny – also known as the Stone of Scone – is an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy. It was used in the inauguration of Scottish kings for centuries. The stone is formed from coarse-grained, pinkish buff sandstone similar to that found in Perthshire and Angus, within a few miles of Scone. Though seen as a sacred object, its earliest origins are unknown.
In 1296 England’s king, Edward I, removed the stone from Scotland and had it built into a new throne at Westminster Abbey in London. As part of the Coronation Chair, it was used in the coronation ceremonies of the monarchs of England and, later, Great Britain.
Four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950. Three months later it turned up back in Scotland, at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey. But it wasn’t until November 1996 that the Stone of Destiny was officially returned to Scotland and put on display in Edinburgh Castle.
Each end of the stone is fitted with an iron staple, held in place by lead, which connects to an iron ring with a figure-of-eight link. The upper half of the stone is much better dressed than the bottom, which is broken away at the corners. The sides have a rough finish. The purpose of the rough ‘rectangle’ cut into the top surface is unknown – it may be unfinished. Two crosses are also cut into the top.
The Stone of Destiny can be seen in the Crown Room of the Royal Palace, along with the Crown Jewels and other priceless treasures. It is on loan from the Commissioners for the Keeping of the Regalia.
Edinburgh Castle has witnessed many of the defining events in Scotland’s history. Sieges were fought over the mighty stronghold. Royalty lived and died within its walls. Just the sight of the Castle Rock has terrified and inspired countless generations.
Fierce Iron Age warriors defended a hill fort here, and the nation’s oldest poetry tells of a war band feasting here for a year before riding to their deaths in battle.
The castle’s royal connections go back 1,000 years, and the city’s oldest building stands on the site. David I built St Margaret’s Chapel around 1130, as a tribute to his devout mother.
Edinburgh has been besieged more than any other castle in Europe, and the Scots and English struggled over its control during the Wars of Independence. In 1314, Thomas Randolph, a relative of Robert the Bruce, led a daring night raid to reclaim it from the English.
Over the last 200 years, Edinburgh Castle has become a national icon. Today it is Scotland’s leading tourist attraction and a chief element of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Home of royalty
Scottish monarchs commissioned grand buildings here – both as secure lodgings and to show off their wealth, power and good taste. The castle’s royal role continues today.
Monarchs who sheltered here include:
- Queen Margaret (later St Margaret), who died here in 1093
- Mary Queen of Scots, who gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace in 1566
Edinburgh was among Scotland’s chief royal residences during the 1400s and 1500s.
Bonnie Prince Charlie – Mary’s great-great-great grandson – captured Edinburgh but failed to take the castle during the 1745–46 Jacobite Rising.
The Stone of Destiny has been kept at the castle since it was returned to Scotland in 1996. Edward I, the English monarch, had removed Scotland’s ancient inauguration stone from Scone in 1296.
Edinburgh Castle became more important as a military base from the late 1500s onwards.
After the ‘Lang Siege’ of 1571–3, the castle’s military strength was repaired, maintained and improved. Additions included:
- the distinctive Half Moon Battery
- a huge garrison
- a secure jail for prisoners of war
The military presence remains unbroken – Edinburgh Castle is still an active base today. It also houses three military museums, the Scottish National War Memorial and the Prisons of War exhibition.
- Date Made
- 13th century
- 670 x 420 x 265mm
- Time Period
- Property Information
- Edinburgh Castle
- Object Number
- Access Status