Stone of Scone

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The Stone of Scone (Gaelic: Liath Fáil - Boring Rock) is a large rock almost twice the weight of a regular person or six-eighths of one American. The stone goes by several different names: The Stone of Destiny, The Tanist Stone and also Jacob's Uncomfortable Stone Pillow. The rock is highly significant as it has never sung and as such has proved the worthiness of many kings and queens, from the ancient High Kings of Ireland right up to Queen Elizabeth II.

edit History

edit Beginnings in Ireland

Around 500 BC some Irish peaceniks came up with a good idea to bring about eternal world peace in Ireland for a while. The idea was to have a High King whose job would be to hold court every few years at a new all-Ireland fair which all of the kingdoms would attend. If a dispute arose between two kings instead of having a war the aggrieved party would file a suit before the High King, who would decide the case at the next fair. To ensure the High King wouldn't be able to coerce the not-so-high kings and take away their power the High King wasn't allowed an army and was allowed only enough money to hold a decent court and hire a few top-notch Brehon lawyers. Of course without an army the High King would be powerless to enforce his rulings which posed a slight problem for the otherwise brilliant plan. The solution was the High King would also be High Priest above all other priests, and thereby able to call down the wrath of the gods on anybody impious enough to dare disobey.

So everybody thought this was a great idea, but especially a tribe called the Scotti, because they lived on and around the Hill of Tara, which as everybody knows is the Navel of the Universe, and hence the only reasonable choice for the site of the Fair. The potential profits for the Scotti were enormous[1], and they were bright enough to come up with a solution to the only remaining hitch in the plan: how was everybody to know for sure that a particular High King/High Priest was really the choice of the gods?

Well, said the Scotti, it just so happens that on the Hill of Tara lay since the Beginning of the World the miraculous Stone of Destiny (the Bellybutton Lint of the Universe?). The miraculous nature of the Stone of Destiny was as follows: If anyone was sitting on it while being crowned king or priest or whatever, and he was not endorsed by the gods, the stone would scream bloody murder and denounce him as unworthy. If on the other had he did have the backing of the gods the stone would miraculously keep silent. Now you may be thinking that in those benighted old days people were pretty gullible. Back in the old days? The present Queen, Elizabeth II, had to sit on the Stone while she was being crowned; and if she hadn't, there would have been hell to pay in Scotland!

(Later on the Roman Cultural Imperialists came and changed the origin of the Stone, just as they changed the Goddess Brigid into Saint Brigid, Abbess of Kildare. It seems that the Stone of Destiny was actually Jacob's Pillow (Gen. 28:10-22, Scene IV) transported to Tara by either an angel (boy, were his/her wings tired) or by the Prophet Jerimiah using public transportation.)

edit Relocation to Scotland


Some guy carrying a coracle because he can't afford a powerboat

So the solution worked out fine for about 900 years, with no one daring to risk the curse of a High King whose spiritual power they had seen miraculously confirmed with their own ears. (Besides, in years when a new High King was to be crowned, the tourist trade was enormous since everybody wanted to see the miracle.)

The Scotti became so rich from all this they formed their own kingdom, the Dal Riada Kingdom. They decided to invest their riches in the colonization of Scotland, which up to then had been Pictland. Thus they became the first and last Irish Imperialists. (They had to overcome a technical problem, the Irish Sea, but on a clear day you can see Scotland from the coast of Antrim, and while the Vikings had not yet brought in that modern invention for crossing bodies of water, the "boat", the Scotti did have for the purpose large leather washing-baskets called "coracles".)

Of course all the tribes plotted and maneuvered to get in their candidates as High King, except the Scotti who cared only about profiting from the practice. Eventually the O'Neills came out on top.

The Dal Riadans didn't mind having the O'Neills supply the High Kings so long as they had the concessions at the Fair. When the O'Neills got too powerful in the fifth century, though, the Dal Riadans decamped to Scotland, taking (perhaps) the Stone of Destiny with them. They set up their new capital at Dunadd in Kintyre.

(The Irish argue that the Dal Riadans hid the original Stone and took a fake. Firstly, you wouldn't want to risk something as valuable as the Stone in an Irish Sea crossing in a coracle. Second, you don't know whether it will still work once it's off the Navel of the Universe. (You can't test it by trying to crown an obviously unworthy person on it - if it didn't work you'd have to make the jerk King!) Anyhow, as far as is known nobody in Meath claims to have the True Stone in his basement; the Irish think it's still on the Hill. )

By the ninth century the Picts had taken over the Dal Riada dynasty (by intermarriage - make love not war) but were content to leave the Stone (or Fake Stone) with the Scotti in Dunadd so long as they could be crowned on it. However at the end of the century the Vikings came and killed King Owen Mac Angus, and his successor King Kenneth Mac Alpin (not to be confused with King Kenneth the Lefthanded, who was seventh century and lasted only three months) thought he and the Stone would be safer in the Pictish capital, Scone.

But no-one in Kintyre accepts that their Stone got to Scone. Their story is that the Scotti (who didn't like Picts very much anyway) hid the True Stone (or the real Fake Stone) and gave King Kenneth a fake True Stone (or fake Fake Stone - you can see where this is going can't you?). To this day a local laird of some sort in Kintyre claims to have the real True Stone (or Fake Stone) in his basement.

The Stone, whether True Stone of Destiny, True Fake Stone, or Fake Fake Stone, sat in Scone Castle enough centuries to become the Stone of Scone, setting up a horrendous pun about hard bread.

edit Theft by the English

Then in 1296 the wicked English king Edward I took over and stole the Stone (perhaps). The English needed it to sit on while they were crowned King of England and Scotland, King of Great Britain, King of Great Britain and Ireland, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or King of Whatever You're Having.

Except of course that no-one in Scotland believes that it's the real Stone of Scone - the Scots gave the English a fake. They even remember which fake stone - it was the one that was being used as the manhole cover for the cesspool of Scone Castle. At least two local lairds each say they have the real Stone of Scone in their basement.

So the True Stone of Destiny/True Fake Stone of Destiny/True Fake Fake Stone of Destiny/Fake Fake Fake Stone of Destiny sat under the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey (not quite the Navel of the Universe, but still) until 1951 when it was stolen by the next conquering army: a bunch of drunken Scottish University students. They showed it off in secret to their friends and friends' friends, did the usual disgusting things frat boys do with sacred objects, got bored, and told the authorities where to find it.

Trouble was: the rumour flew around the country that the students had kept the true (etc.) Stone and returned a fake. The British Government, ill-advisedly, called in expert petrologists to quench the rumour. Never bring in scientists in a case like this; they're a bunch of spoilsports. Look what happened when they got hold of the Shroud of Turin.

OK, they found scientific evidence that the returned Stone is the same one the present Queen sat on when she was crowned. Unfortunately they went further. It seems that the present Stone is of a sort that is rare worldwide, but all over the place near Scone Castle. Nothing like it anywhere near Dunadd or the Hill of Tara. So it looks as though neither Kenneth Mac Alpin, Kenneth the Lefthanded, nor the High Kings of Tara sat on it. In short it seems it was only the True Fake Stone of Destiny, True Fake Fake Stone of Destiny, or the True Fake Fake Fake Stone of Destiny.

edit Return to Scotland

Later HM Government decided to return the Stone to Scotland. (They might as well have, having established that it was probably a fake the Scots had passed off on them.) So in 1996 it was sent with due pomp to Edinburgh Castle (Both Scone Castle and Glasgow wanted it, but the Tourist Board felt Edinburgh would be more profitable) .

Of course the response to the return by the Scottish Nationalists was:

"How can we be certain that this Stone is indeed the one stolen in 1297? We have been the victims of Westminster trickery on so many occasions that one more would not be out of character !! "[2]

So it may be that the Stone in Edinburgh is the Fake Fake Fake Fake Stone of Destiny.

In 1999 came Devolution. The Scottish Parliament rose again. HM attended its inaugural meeting, at which the Speaker addressed her as, in addition to her other titles, Queen of Scotland. Afterwards her Personal Private Secretary let the press know that it was her gracious wish and pleasure to accept the title.

So now the question is: should Prince Charles ever be crowned, will he have to go to Edinburgh to be separately crowned King of Scotland? Or will the Stone be schlepped back to Westminister Abbey so he can sit on it during the main Coronation? If the latter, how will we know that the Scots haven't pulled the English leg yet again, sending (possibly) a Fake Fake Fake Fake Fake Stone of Destiny?

Or will there never again be a True King?

edit Notes

  1. the next big innovation of commerce in Ireland was the town. Towns weren't imported into Ireland for another thousand years and then they were imported by the Vikings, Normans and English.
  2. [1]Free Scotland website on the stone
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