[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 26 November 2006, 09:32 GMT
Stone of Destiny's return - 10 years on
Elizabeth Quigley
BBC Scotland

On Saturday 30 November, 1996 I spent most of the day walking up and down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, scribbling in a notebook and watching a little piece of history - oh, and a great big slab of sandstone.

I was a reporter for a Sunday newspaper and I wrote then about seeing the Stone of Destiny making its way slowly up the cobbles inside a Land Rover.

At the time it was all a bit baffling; The Royal Company of Archers parading next to a big lump of stone and hundreds of soldiers on the Royal Mile.

Stone of Destiny
The Stone was returned after 700 years at Westminster Abbey

Why on earth was this happening?

The stone had been taken to London in the 13th Century by Edward I, who had removed it from Scone, the capital of the ancient Pictish kingdom.

It it is believed to have been the coronation seat of Scottish kings.

In 1296 it was placed beneath the Coronation Chair of Westminster Abbey.

Seven hundred years later it was being returned to Scotland.

Another 10 years on and I've been finding out how exactly did the Stone come home?

Well, one man was key. Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.

In 1996, Michael Forsyth was the Conservative MP for Stirling, the secretary of state for Scotland ... and about to take everyone completely by surprise.

He had been approached about the possibility of releasing a series of Government papers from the 1950s which showed that the Cabinet had agreed to return the Stone to Scotland.

But it never happened.

If the papers were released, he calculated there would be an outcry from his political opponents.

John Major
Conservative Prime Minister John Major announced the Stone's return

He says he also believed bringing the stone home would be the right thing to do - in fact faced with these Cabinet papers he told me it was "a no-brainer."

But John Major's announcement to the House of Commons on 3 July, 1996 certainly didn't please everyone. Especially at Westminster Abbey.

They were given just two days' notice and had no time to protest at this historic flitting.

Four months on from John Major's announcement and D-day was fixed for Wednesday 13 November.

This was the last time tourists would ever see the Stone of Scone in the Coronation Chair - and the start of some painstaking work by Historic Scotland.

Stoney faces

Six long hours after this painstaking work began - watched first by the dean of Westminster, then with the canons and chaplain popping in and out - the Stone eventually swung free and four men carried it out onto a motorised trolley where it was left until morning.

And then at 7am, watched by the Dean and Chapter dressed in red cassocks, black gowns and stoney faces, it was wheeled to the west door where a Land Rover and a police escort were waiting to carry the Stone home.

And where exactly was home going to be in 1996?

Edinburgh Castle
The Stone can now be seen at Edinburgh Castle

A consultation exercise at the time came up with a range of possibles - the STUC wanted it to go to the site of any future parliament as did the then shadow Scottish secretary George Robertson.

There were bids for Stirling Castle, Dunfermline Abbey, and Robbie the Pict wanted it to go on tour across Scotland.

Viscount Stormont, son of the Earl of Mansfield, though it should be brought to Scone Palace.

But he was to be disappointed.

The Stone didn't head north to Scone - it ended up at Edinburgh Castle where it can be seen today.

Part of the arrangement, though, for sending the Stone to Scotland is that it will return for all future coronations.

And when it does head south at some point in the future that could open up a whole new chapter in the story of the stone.

You can hear the full story on When the Stone Came Home, on BBC Radio Scotland at 1130 GMT on Thursday 30 November.

Church 'livid' at Stone's return
26 Nov 06 |  Scotland
Roll back the stone plea
23 Jan 01 |  Scotland
Church 'livid' at Stone's return
26 Nov 06 |  Scotland


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific