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19 September 2014
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Did Edward I Steal the Real Stone of Destiny?

Stone of DestinyThere are many stories surrounding the origins of the ancient seat of Scotland’s kings - the Stone of Destiny.
According to legend, the stone came from the Holy Land, where Jacob used it as a pillow when he had his vision of the angels. Another theory from a 15th century source suggests that the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh brought the stone to Ireland, after eloping with a Celtic prince. Furthermore, whilst it lay on the Emerald Isle, St Patrick himself blessed the stone for use in the coronation of kings.

Prior to 1296, there is no written evidence of the Stone, so there are many theories as to its origins. Historical sources suggest that the Scots may have used it as a coronation symbol for the Kings of Dal Riata at Dunadd until about AD 850.

After John Balliol was crowned, it remained housed in Scone Palace until 1296, when Edward I decided to take the stone as a souvenir of his victories over the Scots. One myth states that the Abbott of Perth actually handed over a drainage cover to the English, while monks from Scone Abbey took the real stone and hid it on Dunsinnan Hill.

The stone (or the drainage cover) sat under the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey until it was safely returned to Scotland on St Andrew’s Day in 1996. Thankfully, extensive scientific tests and research has concluded that the stone which now sits in Edinburgh Castle is in fact the genuine article - finally putting to rest the glut of conspiracy theories as to its whereabouts.

Englishmen with Tails?

One of the oddest phenomenon of the medieval period was the belief that the enemy had tails. The Scots said it of the English, the English said it of the French, and it seemed to be a common insult to hurl at one's opponents.

In his chronicle, 'The Scotichronicon' (c. 1440), Walter Bower relates the story of how some of the English acquired their tails. Apparently, in 597, when St Augustine came to preach the word of God to the West Saxons in Dorset, he came to the village of Muglington where the people distorted and contradicted what he said, or simply wouldn’t listen to him. They even had the audacity to hang fish tails from his clothing.

The story goes that God decided to punish these Saxons, along with their descendants and the rest of their country, for this insult to one of his anointed messengers. As Bower relates: ‘For God smote them in their hinder parts, giving them everlasting shame so that in the private parts both of themselves and their descendants all a like were born with a tail.’

Whether this story was widely known by the Scots, or whether having a tail was simply one of the fashionable insults of the day is not known. We can only assume from the level of violence between the two nations at the time that worse slurs were traded.

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