Stone of Scone – Symbol of Destiny
The Coronation Chair
Thousands of visitors come to Casa Loma each year not only to view the world famous castle, but also to see the various treasures and historical artifacts. One of the more unusual sights within the Castle is the replica of the Coronation Chair which sits in the Great Hall.
The chair is a replica of the Coronation Chair from Westminster Abbey. In 1902, Dr. Oronhyatekha of the International Order of Foresters was fascinated by the attention placed on the chair because of the British Coronation. They took painstaking care in this task and the chair is in every aspect a facsimile – right from the tint of the paint to the initials and names carved by Westminster boys in early days. The Coronation Chair was donated to the City of Toronto in the 1950s. It found a fitting home in Casa Loma; a majestic home which itself had been inspired by old Scottish castles.
The legend behind the stone
The real point of interest in the chair arises out of the stone in the seat. The stone is a replica of what is known as the Stone of Scone or the Stone of Destiny. The original – an ordinary-looking 336 lb. lump of yellow sandstone – has been used in the coronation of every British Monarch for the past 700 years. Until its return last year to Scotland, it rested in the Westminster Abbey beneath the chair used to crown new Monarchs.
Legend has it that the stone was used by Jacob as a pillow when he rested his head in Bethel as told in Genesis: “And Jacob rose up early in the morning and took the stone that he put for his pillow and set up a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.”
It was then carried to Egypt by the prophet Jeremiah. After that the stone was taken to Spain and Ireland where it obtained the name “fatal stone”. The stone was used as a coronation throne by the kings of Tara. The Irish believed that if a true royal sat upon the rock to be crowned, the stone groaned. If the sitter were merely a royal pretender, it sat silent. When the Irish invaded the land of Picts in the 9th century, the stone was taken to Scotland.
It was placed in Dunstaffnage Castle in Argyllshire for safekeeping and there it was used as a coronation seat for Scottish kings. In 850, the stone was removed to the Abbey of Scone near Perth by King Kenneth and enclosed in a wooden chair. This prophetic couplet was engraved upon it:
Unless the fates be faithless grown.
And prophet’s voice by vain.
Where’er is found this sand stone
The Scottish race shall reign.
From that point it was known as the Stone of Scone or the Stone of Destiny. The Stone served at the coronation of Scottish kings until the time of John Balliol in 1292. In 1296, when the English marched north to subdue the now-famous William Wallace or “Braveheart”, they took the stone back with them. Some believe that the Scots were a step ahead of them and substituted a replica for the stone.
The Stone of Destiny (or a possible fake) remained in the English Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey until Christmas morning 1950 when it was stolen by four Scottish nationalists and returned to Scotland.
A stone which was believed to be the Stone of Destiny was later found in the Abbey of Arbroath and taken to Westminster Abbey in 1952. From 1952 until 1996, the stone remained under a specially made chair in Westminster. For years, it was a political issue for those who felt it represented British domination of Scotland.
Returned to its rightful home
As the most ancient symbol of Scottish kingship, the Stone of Destiny was the subject of numerous campaigns by those demanding its return to its rightful home. In 1996, then Prime Minister, John Major announced that England would return the stone to Scotland. Its return in November 1996, is considered to be an acknowledgement that Scottish sovereignty lives.
Whatever the real story behind the Stone of Destiny, it offers one more reason to visit Casa Loma and escape to the mythic world of castles and kings and days of old. The stone is more than just an ordinary chunk of sandstone – just like Casa Loma, it has a magical tradition all of its own.
Lou Seiler, Director of Marketing
(416)923-1171 ext. 212