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Royal dilemma: will the Stone of Scone stay home?

11 Mar 2023 5 minute read
The Stone of Destiny in the Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle. Photo PA

Hayden Williams

Controversy over Scotland’s Stone of Scone heated up this week when the story went global.

Scottish kings and queens from the ninth-century on were crowned whilst seated upon the Stone of Scone, but Edward I of England seized the stone in 1296, and had it carted to Westminster Abbey.

The heavy-weight historic artifact was returned to Scotland in 1996 — but now the royals need it back again.

Seeing this rock of many rituals returned for the coronation of Charles III will for many Scots be hard to swallow.

But if the royals back down on 700 years of tradition, they’ll effectively be admitting the wrongness of their assumed entitlement to the stone. And If the King can’t retrieve the stone without protest, it’ll put another serious dent in the crown’s already mangled reputation.


The royals probably assumed recalling the stone to London for Charles’ coronation wouldn’t cause any bother — especially given Scotland’s outpouring of love for the Queen at the time of her death.

However, it’s hard to miss how the landscape of UK politics has changed since then.

Despite wanting to maintain British unity, former Prime Minister Liz Truss’ ridiculous lack of diplomacy stoked much greater division. Then there was the UK Supreme Court’s decision against the Scottish parliament’s right to call a referendum on independence without Westminster’s permission.

Former First Minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond has asked the Scottish Parliament to turn down any request by the royals to send the stone back to London again.

Salmond said: “In a context where the legitimate desire of the people of Scotland to at least have a referendum is being denied by the Westminster government, I don’t really see why any Scottish Government should just meekly say we’ll give you back the property which you stole 700 years ago.”

Likewise, the UK government’s trumping of the Scottish Parliament’s controversial decision to reform the gender recognition process must have added salt to the wound back in January.


In the context of the looming coronation, the stone, arguably the strongest symbol of Scottish sovereignty in existence, has become politically supercharged.

Alba Party — Scottish National Party (SNP) rivals, who also want independence — brought the Stone of Scone back into play for the nationalists’ cause after the Queen’s death.

Alba Party’s General Secretary Chris McEleny told of his fears that loaning the stone back to England might lead to it being stolen again.

McEleny suggested 100 Scottish guardians should be appointed to accompany the stone on its journey.

He also said that as part of the 1328 treaty of Northampton, the stone was supposed to be repatriated to Scotland, but its removal from Westminster Abbey was deliberately blocked by a protesting mob — and he hoped this would inspire Scots to do the same when the stone is due to be removed from Edinburgh Castle.

A strong police and perhaps military presence on the day would likely make any blockade by Scottish nationalists improbable — but this kind of sentiment is nonetheless problematic for the supposedly apolitical royals.

For this reason, Salmond, when asked if he would urge the winner of the SNP leadership race to keep the stone in Scotland, said: “The authorities will probably whip it away before the contest is finalised, that’s the kind of underhand trick where it was stolen in the first place.”

Following Salmond’s comments, SNP leadership contender Ash Regan took the opportunity to say she’d refuse to return the stone for the coronation if she became First Minister.

Ian Hamilton

It’s almost as if destiny’s conspired to make the Stone of Scone yet another PR dilemma for the Windsors.

Ian Hamilton, the leader of those Scottish nationalists who famously retook the stone in 1950, died soon after Elizabeth II.

His death also coincided with the end of last year’s Conservative Party conference, where Liz Truss made shocking rants against both Nicola Sturgeon and Scotland.

Animosity for Truss and the Tories grew in Scotland, while Hamilton was roundly celebrated as a national hero.

Truss likely turned many indi-curious Scots into indi-serious ones.


The royals have only three apparent choices.

1. They can retake the stone with usual pomp and ceremony; but the whole world will be watching, and while there’d probably be plenty of Scots ready to make up a royal-friendly crowd for the stone’s departure from Edinburgh, it would be difficult to control and suppress any protesters.

2. They can back down, leaving the stone where it is; but this would make Charles III the first English/British monarch to break with a coronation tradition many centuries old — and the world would ask why.

3. They can do what Salmond and many others suspect they’ll do, getting the stone out under cover of darkness without alerting any media; this last option is the most likely scenario (it’s how they got the stone back to Scotland in 1996), but it’ll make them look gutless and sneaky.

Whatever they decide, any ceremony surrounding the stone, and the coronation itself, will be a golden opportunity for nationalists and anti-monarchists to draw international attention to the injustice of continued Anglo-imperialism within the United Kingdom.

Hayden Williams is a New Zealand based journalist, a member of Plaid Cymru, and a member of the New Zealand Labour Party.

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Doctor Trousers
1 year ago

that’s no the real one anyway….

Iago Prydderch
Iago Prydderch
1 year ago

Or they could get another stone. After all, it’s only a stone! Nothing really to do with Wales anyway.

1 year ago

You have got to watch the thieving gits. They would steal the skin of your 💩 given the opportunity.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Will the next King of Cymru be crowned sitting on a ‘Welsh Cake’?

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 year ago

This might be an issue to watch. Perhaps we need Cymru to reach out to the Scottish Parliament and offer support for the decision to hold onto the stone and refuse its removal to England. It may just be a bit of stone, but it is a Symbolic bit of stone. Making sure it stays put then becomes very symbolic. How about agreeing a 24/7 monitoring group made up of SNP folk and volunteers from Cymru? That would help to associate the independence of Scotland and the desired independence of Cymru.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Private Meirion reporting for duty…

Sunak’s grip on the Marbles tightens, the Koh i Noor diamond has slipped down the back of his sofa never to be seen again until it turns up around the neck of Mrs Modi. No where is safe, keep watch over the head of Llywelyn. We come to the aid of the skirted ones, the sacred Rock Cake of King Jock must be kept hidden inside Mynydd Manod safe from the long fingers of the Evil Emperor Rishi. Goodnight Vienna, Irene and Suella’s Cruel World

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

Nesrine Malik should be made a Dame and Aditya Chakrabortty a Sir…

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