Police in Perthshire, Scotland are investigating the theft and prompt abandonment of a replica of the Stone of Destiny the battered, iconic, controversial and well-traveled symbol of Scottish royalty from outside Moot Hill Chapel at Scone Palace in Perthshire, by a seemingly ill-informed criminal gang.
The real stone which itself has twice been stolen in the past, once from its original spot at Scone by King Edward I of England in 1296 and once from Westminster by a group of Scottish students in 1950 (they later gave it back) resides at Edinburgh Castle. It is said to be the seat upon which all kings of Scotland were crowned prior to its removal from Scotland in the 13th century.
The incident occurred between closing time Wednesday night at Scone Palace and opening time Thursday morning, and looks to have been well-thought through in most respects. The hapless hoodlums even brought with them a similar-sized look-alike of the stone which weighs around 200 kilos, about as much as a fridge-freezer and placed it on the plinth. They then transported their booty so far as the palace grounds before dumping it. Its believed they may have been tipped-off as the folly of their theft after reading an attached brass plaque, which they also swiped. A replica, it reads, of the stone upon which the Kings of Scots were crowned on Moot Hill until 1296 when Edward I took the stone to Westminster Abbey.
Lord Stormont, whose family owns Scone Palace, commented to the media: The fact that the intruders went to the trouble of chipping off all the surrounding mortar and bringing in a fake stone of similar size, which would have required at least four people to lift, suggests that a high degree of planning went into the escapade.
He added that the stone will be replaced, but that security surrounding it will be stepped up. Whilst we do not wish to compromise public accessibility to the Palace and grounds in any way, we will be taking further steps to secure the Stone when it is back in place, to deter another incident of this nature from happening.
A spokesman for Tayside police described the incident as very unusual, adding: officers are currently making inquiries into the possible motivation for someone swapping the stones. Both of the stones are of considerable weight and would require at least three to four people to carry them. Transport would also have been required.
The real Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland in 1996 by then-Conservative Prime Minister John Major, in a symbolic gesture intended to placate grumbling Scottish nationalists. It arrived accompanied by armed guards and bagpipers on the proviso that it be returned to London for all future coronation ceremonies for British monarchs.
However, its widely believed that the real Stone of Destiny is anything but. One legend has it that, when Edward Is troops came to plunder the symbolic chunk of rock as a spoil of war, monks at Scone Palace hid the real stone in the River Tay or buried it on Dunsinane Hill, and fooled them into taking a substitute. Another popular story is that the group of four Scottish students who took the stone from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 a feat immortalised in a recent movie Stone of Destiny had copies made, one of which they left on the Altar at Arbroath Abbey in April, 1951. This was assumed to be the original, and removed back to London.
The Stone of Destiny featured in our article Top 10 Scottish Arefacts Abroad – check out the full list here.