Above is a sketch by the historical novelist, Nigel Tranter, of his impression of the true Stone of Destiny, and how it may have looked, with its Celtic symbols.
There is three symbols that portray nationhood in Scotland that enshrines a long and ancient history to be proud of that is second to non. The Stone of Destiny, the Saltire Scotlands national flag, and the Honours of Scotland. I will tel the story of all three with the Stone of Destiny first, then the Saltire followed by the Honours of Scotland.
The first symbol is the Stone of Destiny or the An Lia Fàil, the Scottish Gaelic name for the Stone, has many legends and mythical intrigue. A Pharaoh’s daughter who had eloped with a Celtic warrior prince to Spain allegedly brought the Stone; her name was Scota, who it is claimed gave her name to the Scots. A work published about 1686 says, “whereof history relates that it is the stone whereon Jacob is said to have lain his head in the Plain of Luga; and that it was brought to Brigantia (Corunna) in the Kingdom of Spain, in which place Gathol, King of Scots, sat on it as his throne. Thence it was brought into Ireland by Simon Brec, first King of Scots, about 700 years before Christ’s time, and from thence into Scotland about 300 years before Christ, and in A.D. 850 was placed in the Abby Scone.” Will. Rishanger mentions Milo, King of the Spanish Scots, giving it to his son Simon Brek. The connecting the Stone with Jacob was most likely a monkish invention in latter year to give it a more biblical enhancement to the story.
Some historian’s claim that the Stone was carried by Fergus MacErc when he came to Dalriada and the Western sea board of Scotland around 495 – 500 AD, from Ireland. That he had taken the Lia Fàil used at Tara for the High King of Ireland. Other traditions contend the Lia Fàil remains at Tara, (Inis Fàil, The Island of Destiny, is one of the traditional names of Ireland.) In 574 AD, St. Columba ordained Aidan as King of Dalriada at Iona, almost certainly on the Stone of Destiny, in a symbolic statement, that would be repeated for many centuries after in atoning Kings of Scots. How came Columba to have this Stone of Destiny is not very clear, it was certainly kept in Iona at the monastery, before being transferred to the monastery of Dunstaffnage. Kenneth MacAlpin was crowned King of Scots in 843 AD, of the united kingdoms of Dalriada and Alba, on the Stone of Destiny, at the monastery of Scone where the Stone would remain until 1296.
Early chroniclers write of the Stone of Destiny and describe it as a black marble or metallic stone, shaped like a backless hollowed out chair, and with ornate carved designs around it. There are gold coins and the great seals of various Kings of Scots that show them seated on the Stone of Destiny, the Stone appears to be of seat height, also one can clearly see that there is some form of relief design or inscriptions carved on the Stone, and all the Kings are bearing a crown and sceptre. At the coronation of Alexander the third (1249) the boy King was brought to Scone and enthroned out of doors, beside a cross in the churchyard, on the scared Stone of the Scots. At the inauguration was the chronicler Walter of Guisborough who described the Stone as large, concaved, black in colour and shaped like a round chair.
Some historians would have us believe that King Edward of England had taken the sacred Stone of the Scots in 1296, to symbolize the extinction of the Kingdom of Scots, back to Westminster with him. However, Edward was outwitted by the Scone Monks, after all they had time to hide the true Stone and replace it with the unremarkable block of sand stone from a local quarry, which was the stone that Edward had taken. Geologists proved that the stone taken by Edward I of England, is of “lower Old Red Sandstone”, which was quarried in the vicinity of Scone. Doubts over the authenticity of the stone have existed for a long time and there is more evidence regarding the doubts. The fact that the historical descriptions of the stone do not match the present stone that was held in Westminster and now Edinburgh Castle, are totally different. The Treaty of Edinburgh – Northampton in 1328 when Edward III recognised Scotland’s independence. Side letters accompanying the Treaty saw the Bruce being promised the return of the Stone, and a written order from Edward III to the Abbot of Westminster confirmed that arrangement, though its removal was opposed by a London mob and it remained at Westminster. That King Robert the Bruce never pressed too hard for its return suggests he was possibly not too bothered about getting back a counterfeit.
In the book “Nigel Tranter’s Scotland”, by the historical novelist Nigel Tranter, the author gives a sketch of how he thinks the true Stone may have looked, with its Celtic carvings. He was never convinced that the Coronation Stone in Westminster Abby, now in Edinburgh Castle, was the true Stone of Destiny and the one purloined by Edward I is a 722 – year-old fake. The author also believed that King Robert of the Scots was almost certainly crowned seated on the true Stone of Destiny. Bruce was most concerned that all should be done in fullest traditional fashion to up hold his Kingship. Tranter believed that King Edward of England had been duped over the Stone, so the real one was still in Scotland, very different, as described by the ancient chroniclers, from the lump of hewn sandstone that was under the Coronation Chair in London. It is also a know fact that Edward I must have realised he had been tricked by the Scone Monks, for the year after he had taken the fake Stone, his army was back at Scone where they completely tore down the Abby brick by brick as if they were trying to find something, and its believed that a number of the Monks were tortured to death.
IN 1818, a certain Mr Nairne of Dunsinane House, near Scone, followed up on a story he had heard from two local men. Some years before, when just young boys working on a local farm, they said that they went exploring a recent landslip on Dunsinane Hill, around the site of the ancient hill fort, know as Macbeth’s Castle. They found a fissure – a hidden cave. Inside it was a black stone, mysteriously carved.
Nairne was interested, assembled a team of diggers and investigated. Their diggings eventually revealed this location once again. They found not just the stone as described by the farm lads but also two round tablets with insignia – similar perhaps to the plaque-like objects seen illustrated in the Great Seals of Kings Malcolm V, Alexander I and David I.
According to newspaper accounts of the time ‘the curious stone has been shipped to London for inspection of the scientific amateur, in order to discover its real qualities.’ Well, you’d expect that wouldn’t you? The Scots couldn’t be trusted to draw the right conclusions, especially as they are a backward northern province of Britian. Oddly enough, that stone has never been seen since, and therefore we will never know its true origin and use. Apparently it was not only black but also semi-metallic in appearance, as if it was of meteoric in origin. It is known that this type of ‘heaven sent’ rock has significance for ancient peoples all over the world. I do believe that the true Stone of Destiny was most likely meteoric in origin and was brought from Spain by the Scots as their most sacred talisman that their high Kings were enthroned on for many hundreds of years.
King Robert the Bruce on his dying bed had entrusted the Stone of Destiny to Angus Og MacDonald – Lord of the Isles. He was ordered by Bruce to take the Stone to his outer Isles to save it from the English. Tradition says it lies in a cave behind a water fall on the Isle of Skye and is location is known today only to a family of MacDonald’s, descendants of Angus Og, who are its hereditary custodians. Some years ago I was fortunate to have seen a letter that was addressed to Nigel Tranter regarding the True Stone of Destiny, in the letter it was claimed by one of the MacDonald’s sons, that he was sitting on the true Stone of Destiny near his ancestral home on Skye.
The legend and mythical intrigue lives on and one day the truth will be revelled!
Alba gu bràth