Look, a lot of British traditions are a little strange. Every year, the monarchy holds a hostage until the ceremony is finished at the beginning of Parliament. Then, in case Guy Fawkes had staged a 400-year-old comeback, a search for gunpowder was conducted beneath the Houses of Parliament.
In order to add to this list, we now want to let you know that the “Stone of Destiny” is currently en route from Scotland to Westminster Abbey in London in preparation for the coronation of the future King of the United Kingdom.
Yes, the crowning of new kings and queens in the UK takes place on a piece of granite known as the Stone of Destiny (or, less amusingly, the Stone of Scone). Since it was initially transported to Scotland in or about 841 CE, the large block of red sandstone has been used in the coronation of Scottish kings. King Edward I of England captured the stone in 1296 after invading Scotland, as was his custom and that of England in general (see: contents of the British Museum).
Back in England, the stone was fashioned into a throne at Westminster. Since then, it has stayed at Westminster Abbey, where British monarchs have been crowned while seated above the stone, with cushions between the stone and their butt cheeks. That is, up until 1950 when the stone was momentarily taken on Christmas Day.
Three students and a young teacher joined forces around the end of 1950 to steal the stone in the name of Scottish independence. Two of them were supposed to sneak inside Westminster Abbey after hours and remain there. The stone would then be forced out of its position, and they would take it to the others who were waiting outside in two getaway cars.
On December 23, 1950, the first attempt failed when one of the students who had been hidden was discovered by a guard right away. On Christmas Day, the second effort had a worse outcome. This time, they chose to enter by simply walking in after hours, and as a result, they were able to move the stone and break it in half. A police officer grew suspicious as the car’s engine started and drew closer right after they had loaded the more minor component into the vehicle. The two people in the car played at being in a relationship in order to win over the officer’s trust and allay his concerns.
The group dispersed, sending some of the stones to Oxford and others to Scotland. When the team’s car began to sag beneath the weight of the stone, they decided to unload it and bury it in Rochester, England instead of continuing on to Scotland. After realizing she might have left a trail for the authorities by repeatedly stopping to get instructions to Oxford, the driver of the other item decided to ditch it in Birmingham.
Despite an extensive search, it took four weeks before the stones were discovered. During that time, the four were able to recover both pieces of stone and transport them to Arbroath Abbey in Forfarshire, Scotland, where they were laid on the altar. All four were later arrested, but no charges were brought against them. However, they did receive the Hollywood treatment in the film Stone of Destiny, starring Charlie Cox from Stardust.
The stone was restored to Scotland in 1996 after spending a few more decades back at Westminster Abbey. But it is now briefly returning to Westminster in a special show vehicle, resembling the Pope’s Land Rover if he ever choose to drive one, where Charles III will sit on it to become king.