On this day in history : 25th December 1950 – The ‘Stone of Scone’ – also known as the ‘Stone of Destiny’ – is stolen by Scottish Nationalists from Westminster Abbey – where it had been for 650 years….

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Coronation Chair with the Stone of Scone, Westminster Abbey – Cornell University Library via Flickr

The oblong block of red sandstone, weighing 458lb (208kg) is said to have been captured by King Edward I as ‘spoils of war’ in 1296…. He took the stone from Scone, near to Perth…. The stone, a powerful, ancient symbol of the Scottish monarchy had been used in the coronation of Scotland’s kings for centuries…. Edward I had it taken to Westminster Abbey – and incorporated into his own throne…. Most British sovereigns have been crowned upon it ever since….

On Christmas Day 1950 four Scottish students – Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson and Alan Stuart – removed the stone from the Abbey….during the process the stone broke into two pieces…. They buried the larger piece in a field in Kent….but a few days later dug it up again and took it back to Scotland…. A short while later they also brought back the smaller section and the two pieces were given to a senior Scottish politician who had the stone professionally repaired, by stonemason Robert Gray….

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Replica of the Stone of Scone at Scone Palace – Aaron Bradley CC BY-SA 2.0

Meanwhile, the British government had launched a major search for the stone but were unsuccessful in discovering its whereabouts…. On the 11th of April 1951 the Stone of Scone was left for safekeeping by the Church of Scotland on the altar of Arbroath Abbey…. The police in London were informed – and the stone was returned to Westminster Abbey…. At the time it was rumoured that a copy had been made and the one returned was not the original….

In 1996 it was decided that the Stone of Scone should be returned to Scotland…. It now resides alongside Scotland’s Crown Jewels – the ‘Honours of Scotland’…. The only time the stone will ever leave Scotland now is when it is needed for the coronation of future kings and queens of the United Kingdom….

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Illustration of the Stone of Scone in the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey, 1855 – Anonymous engraver – public domain

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