Ian Hamilton KC, Liberator of the Stone of Destiny

This week saw the death of Ian Hamilton KC. Ian was one of the four students who, seventy years ago, ‘stole’ the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and brought it back to Scotland. 

The Stone of Destiny is an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy. And for centuries it was used at Scone Abbey in the inauguration of our kings. Then in 1296, King Edward I of England seized the stone and took it down to London. From then on, it became part of the coronation ceremony of the monarchs of England and then Great Britain. It was built into the throne at Westminster Abbey. 

On Christmas Day 1950, four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey in London. Three months later it turned up 500 miles away – at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey. There is a very good piece by Gerry Hassan about 1950s Scotland and the recovery of the Stone.

Did they give back the real stone?

Five years ago Ian gave an interview about that long-standing question “Is it the real stone?”

Will The Stone leave Scotland again? 

In 1996, the Stone returned to Scotland. Officially this time. It is in Edinburgh Castle on display with the Honours of Scotland. And it will only leave Scotland again for a coronation in Westminster Abbey. 

But next year will be the coronation of Charles III. And we know that plans are being made to take it down to Westminster. Presumably to be placed in its traditional place under the seat of the throne of Edward. 

Are we bothered?

Should it go south? Is it a good thing that the Stone takes its ancient ceremonial place in Westminster? Is it an insult to Scotland? Should Charles have a separate ceremony in Scotland? 

Let me know what you think in the comments…

Films : The Taking of the Stone of Destiny

There are two films dealing with the 1950 ‘theft’ of the Stone. I like the Gaelic one best myself (it has english sub-titles). It’s called An Ceasnachadh – The Interrogation – and focuses on Kay Mathieson. She was the getaway driver! 

One day in 1951, a CID man comes up from London to Inverasdale near Loch Ewe to interrogate her about her part in the ‘theft’. She won’t respond to being questioned in English, repeatedly saying “I don’t understand”. You’ve got to be impressed with that!


The other film is done as an adventure story of the four young conspirators. Less depth than An Ceasnachadh perhaps but very entertaining!

Isobel Lindsay has written about Ian Hamilton in this week’s Commonweal Blog.

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