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It Happened Today in History – The Stone of Destiny

  03 Jul '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

On 3 July 1996, twenty-five years ago today, John Major stood up in the The House of Commons and announced that the Stone of Scone (the Stone of Destiny), used in the coronation of Scottish and subsequently English and British monarchs, would be returned to Scotland after 700 years in Westminster Abbey. You can read his full speech here.

On Christmas Day 1950, four students from Glasgow, removed the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and transported it back to Scotland. One of them, Ian Hamilton, later wrote about his involvement in the raid in his book The Stone of Destiny. Ian was a law student at the University of Glasgow at the time. On Christmas night, 1950 he – along with Alan Stewart, Gavin Vernon and Kay Matheson –removed the the Stone from beneath the Coronation Chair. In Scotland he became a national hero, in London the band of students were seen as vandals. A man-hunt ensued and eventually the students gave the location of the stone up – it had been hidden for months but was now in Arbroath Abbey – and it was returned to London were it remained until the speech from John Major almost 50 years later. Ian Hamilton’s book is the story of how a nation’s conscience was stirred by a symbolic act that changed lives of many.

The stone was returned to Scotland in 1996 and is now displayed in Edinburgh Castle in the Crown Room. It is visited there by millions every year. However the Queen has now approved its move to a new home, in the renovated Perth City Hall which is due to open to the public in 2024.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP said: ‘Following due consideration, the commissioners were satisfied that the proposals for Perth City Hall gave full and proper regard to the need to ensure the security and conservation of the Stone, its accessibility to the general public and that it would be displayed in a manner in keeping with such an important cultural artefact.’

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