Happy Saint Andrew's Day
Today is Scotland’s national day, and to celebrate I’ll be sharing images from a recent visit to Scone Palace (Perthshire), as well as telling you a bit about the legendary Stone of Destiny.
Scone Palace, 2020
The town of Scone is the ancient crowning-place of Scottish Kings and its abbey was home to the Stone of Destiny, before its theft in the 13th century.
Replica Stone in the grounds of Scone Palace, 2020
About the Stone of Destiny
As you will probably be aware, Scotland is currently part of the United Kingdom but we have a devolved government and a healthy number of the population wishing for Scotland to be an independent country - an increasing number since the UK’s 2016 BREXIT vote determined that Scotland will leave the EU in one month’s time - despite nationally voting to remain.
No matter what your opinion of an independent Scotland in the future, the past history of Scotland included terrible repression, persecution and displacement of its people by English monarchs and governments (and indeed by certain Scottish nobility and landowners: medieval feudal systems were cruel). Throughout, the importance of the Stone of Destiny as the symbol of Scottish sovereignty cannot be overstated.
In 1296 it was seized by England’s King Edward I and fitted into the base of specially made coronation chair, which was used in the coronation of subsequent English and British monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth II.
It was believed that no king had the right to reign as King of Scots unless he had been crowned at Scone (pronounced ‘Scoon’) upon the Stone of Scone. By seating himself upon the stone, Edward I sought to claim his status as the "Lord Paramount" of Scotland, with the right to oversee its King.
On Christmas Day 1950, a group of four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey for return to Scotland. During the removal process, the stone broke into two pieces. The greater part of the stone was buried in a field in Kent, and over a period of months, this part and the smaller part were brought to Scotland. The stone was repaired and finally left on the alter stone of the alter of Arboroath Abbey, under a Scottish flag.
In just over 4 months, the stone was once more returned to Westminster. In 1996, in response to campaigns, Prime Minister John Major announced the stone should return to Scotland when not in use for coronations. It currently resides in the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle, although there is a national debate over whether it should be returned to Perthshire, within a purpose build museum in Perth's town Centre.
Is this all true?
If you are Scottish and reading this, you may well have said to yourself 'no they didnae,' and 'no it wisnae,' (Scots for no they didn't and no it wasn't). You may even be chuckling to yourself with some insider knowledge about where the actual artefact lies (many people claim to have an idea).
Rumours and legends abound abound around this official story of the stone.
In the first place, people argue that it was highly unlikely that the original stone was seized by Edward I. Due to the hostility of the times, it was likely secreted away for safekeeping well before the theft.
Secondly, the 'broken' stone handed over by the students could have been an excuse to keep the stone hidden for a few months while an exact copy was made. Is it really likely that 4 students with a car would have broken a 153kg solid bit of stone, while a pillaging medieval army did not?
Finally, the stone has been sitting around in staterooms and abbeys for hundreds of years, the opportunities to swap one stone for another has been huge and considering its importance to Scottish people, it could have happened several times over. I have even heard a story of it being swapped after its return to Scotland in 1996.
The questions seem to be, does any living person know of where the original stone is? Or does any book or map tell this? And how would we know if we ever find the original stone.
A visit around the Palace Grounds
Scone Palace and grounds.
Fifteen hundred years ago this land was the capital of the Picts.
In the intervening centuries, it has been the seat of parliaments and the crowning place of the Kings of Scots - including Macbeth and Robert The Bruce.
Also know as the Stone of Destiny and (in England) the Coronation Stone and Jacob's Pillow Stone (in the Book of Genesis the Isrealite patriarch Jacob had a vision in his sleep and consecrated the stone he was using as a pillow to God).
Today the Palace grounds are an interesting family & tourist visit, with and ancient graveyard and Pictish monument, Highland cows and Kitchen Garden.
You can book for a guided tour of the stately interior (ground floor) too, and see great staterooms, a four poster bed (where the gardener's cats liked to sleep) and a fine collection of paintings, sculpture and objets d'art. (No photography allowed).
Don't miss out on the Murray Star Maze, with beautiful bronze fountain of the water nymph Arethusa. Its planted up with a mixture of copper and green beech, designed to resemble the Earl of Mansfield’s family tartan (but not in Winter!), and is in the shape of a five-pointed star which is part the Family’s emblem.
Find out more here
Live language learning! And happy Saint Andrew's Day to the world!
Did you know this feast day is also celebrated as a national holiday in Romania (hello Romania!) and that Saint Andrew is also the Patron Saint of Cyprus, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, San Andres Island (Columbia) and Tenerife. Enjoy your celebrations!