11th April 1951

The Stone of Destiny is recovered

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, had been used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs for centuries until, during the First War of Scottish Independence, Edward I, king of England, captured it at Scone Abbey and took it back to London. It was installed at Westminster Abbey, and stayed there, where it was used in the coronation of English, and then British monarchs, for the next 650 years. Then, on Christmas Day 1950, it disappeared.

Stone removed

It had been taken by four students from the University of Glasgow in the hope it would increase support for Scottish devolution. They gained access to the abbey at night, when it was closed, removed the stone from King Edward’s Chair, and dragged it out to their cars, wrapped in a coat. Unfortunately, the Stone being weighty, they dropped it when extracting it from the chair, and it broke into two pieces.

The two pieces of stone were now in two separate vehicles. The largest part, they drove to Kent, and buried in a field; the smaller part, they left in the boot of the second car, which they parked in the Midlands. They then caught trains back to Scotland. By now the Stone’s disappearance had been uncovered, and the border between Scotland and England was closed for the first time in over four centuries so that police could try and intercept it as it was brought back into the country.

Stone repaired

Naturally, the Stone’s removal caused considerable interest in the country at large, and the friends had to wait a fortnight before they could return to England and retrieve the two pieces. They brought them back to Glasgow, where they were repaired.

For a while, that’s where the story ended but, in April 1951, police received a message informing them that they could find the Stone on the High Altar at Arbroath Abbey. This was a significant location, as it was where the Declaration of Arbroath asserting Scotland’s rights as an independent nation had been signed in 1320 before its submission to the pope.

The Stone wasn’t returned to Westminster Abbey until the following year and, although police identified the four students who had taken it, they didn’t prosecute.

The Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland on an official, permanent basis on St Andrew’s Day 1996.



Other events that occured in April

FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.