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What is the Stone of Destiny? Historical Scottish artefact in new Perth exhibition

The Stone of Destiny, which was returned to Scotland in 1996, was taken to London for the coronation of King Charles III  (PA)
The Stone of Destiny, which was returned to Scotland in 1996, was taken to London for the coronation of King Charles III (PA)

The Stone of Destiny is due to be displayed at the new Perth Museum as part of a new exhibition.

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, is a key cultural artefact that is deeply rooted in Scottish history, and was previously located at Edinburgh Castle.

Following a £27 million redevelopment project at the museum, guests will now get a chance to view the stone alongside several other important artefacts at the new location in Perth City Hall, now its permanent home.

Reflecting on the new exhibition, JP Reid, exhibitions manager at Culture Perth and Kinross, said: “It’s immensely significant the stone is back for the first time in 700 years, it’s absolutely intrinsic to this place, to Perth and the area around Perth and Scone.

“Scone was a major royal centre and the use of the stone there is bound up with the story of how Scotland emerges from the kingdom of the Picts and the kingdom of the Scots, and the foundation of the early medieval nation effectively, the kingdom of Alba, which becomes the kingdom of Scotland, and Scone and Perth are at the heart of that story.

The new exhibition comes a little under a year after the Stone of Destiny made headlines for being transported to London as part of King Charles’s coronation.

What is the Stone of Destiny?

The Stone of Destiny is an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy, used for centuries in the inauguration of its kings. Considered to be a sacred object, its origins are unknown.

According to the Perth Museum website, the legend behind the stone is tied to “bible heroes, Ancient Egyptian royalty, and Irish High Kings” before the Scottish monarchy.

The stone was used to inaugurate Scottish royalty for centuries before being removed from the country by King Edward I in 1296. It was returned 700 years later.

The throne of Elizabeth II sat atop the stone during her coronation in 1953 but it was returned to Scotland more than a quarter of a century ago.

When was the Stone of Destiny stolen?

In 1296, King Edward I of England seized the stone from the Scots and had it built into a new throne at Westminster. From then on, it was used in the coronation ceremonies of the monarchs of England and then, when the nations came together, the United Kingdom.

On Christmas Day 1950, four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey in London to make a statement about Scottish nationalism.

Three months later, it turned up 500 miles away – at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey.

It was taken back to Westminster Abbey on April 11, 1951 and was replaced in the Coronation Chair in time for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.

In 1996, the stone was officially returned to Scotland.

Where is the Stone of Destiny today?

The Perth Museum will open to the public on March 30. The Stone was previously displayed alongside the Crown Jewels in the Royal Palace, Edinburgh on the east side of Crown Square before it was removed for King Charles’s coronation.

What happened to the students who stole the Stone of Destiny?

The students who stole the Stone of Destiny were Ian Hamilton, Kay Matheson, Gavin Vernon and Alan Stuart, as reported by the BBC.

They were never prosecuted for stealing the stone. Hamilton told the BBC: “The home secretary made a statement to the House of Commons: ‘It was known who had done it but it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the vulgar vandals.’

“That’s been a phrase that I have always enjoyed all my life. To do something for your country that spills not a drop of blood is, I think, something to be proud of.”

Hamilton went on to work in criminal law and died in 2022, aged 97. Kay Matheson became a primary school teacher. She died in 2013.

Gavin Vernon moved to Canada in the 1960s and died in 2004. Alan Stuart had a business career in Glasgow, and died in 2019.