Stone of Destiny? King Charles would be as well sitting on the Breeze Block of Jewson's – Vladimir McTavish
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There seems to be an awful lot of attention centring on an ancient lump of lump of rock this week. It started with a laughably archaic ceremony at Edinburgh Castle involving a bunch of guys in fancy dress despatching the Stone of Destiny to London for today’s big ceremony.
Then Scotland Office minister John Lamont, speaking to a half-empty room at the Scottish Tory Party conference last weekend, promised that Alister Jack would be guarding the stone to prevent it being stolen by nationalists. Really? What did he think they’d do with it? Bury it in Nicola Sturgeon’s back garden?
Then things took a yet more surreal turn. A few days later, when interviewed by Andrew Marr on LBC, Alex Salmond appeared to have lost touch with reality, bizarrely claiming that Humza Yousaf should have ordered Police Scotland to surround the stone to prevent its removal from Scotland. I suspect that the current FM has more pressing matters to attend to, while the police are probably more concerned with poking about inside camper vans.
While the former First Minister’s idea is quite clearly deranged, it would have made a very entertaining stunt. However, what would have been an altogether more effective tactic would have been if Salmond had sat on the stone. That would have made it a darn sight more difficult to move.
So what exactly is the Stone of Destiny? According to myth and legend, it is Jacob’s Pillow on which the prophet fell asleep and dreamed of angels ascending into Heaven. It was then brought to Scotland from the Holy Land via Egypt and Ireland. On that last stopover, it was blessed by St Patrick so it could serve as a coronation stone. When the Irish moved to Scotland to establish the Kingdom of Dalriada, the stone was moved around the country until it found its final resting place in Scone.
Assuming for one minute that you believe any of this mumbo jumbo, it is important to ask one question. Is it even the original Stone of Destiny? Probably not, is the answer. Before it was robbed by Edward I in 1296, it is thought that some local monks, hearing of the impending English theft swapped it for some random piece of rock.
More recently, on Christmas morning in 1950, the late Ian Hamilton KC and three other students from Glasgow University carried out a daring night-time raid on Westminster Abbey to recapture the stone. It was carried back to Scotland in two sections in two separate cars, in the boot of one and on the back seat of the other covered by Hamilton’s coat. When it was left for the police to discover four months later, had it been switched again? Sadly, we will never know.
So what Charles will be sitting on today has about as much mystical significance as any lump of concrete. Rather than spend loads of time and money transporting said rock on a 400-mile journey from Edinburgh Castle to Westminster Abbey, the British taxpayer would have been better off spending a couple of quid on a breeze block from a local builders’ merchant. There’s a branch of Jewson’s just across the river in Lambeth. They are open until midday on Saturday, and they deliver.