On St Andrew's Day 1996, the Stone of Destiny, was installed in Edinburgh Castle. The Stone of Scone, traditional coronation stone of Scottish kings and queens had been stolen by King Edward I 700 years earlier, but throughout that time and still today it remains a powerful symbol of Scottish nationhood.

In a series of ceremonies which saw the stone piped back over the border at Coldstream it was finally placed on display in the castle's crown room. Part of the agreement covering its return is that it should be available for any future coronations.

The stone originates allegedly from the Middle East and was subsequently brought to Scotland, arriving here around 850 AD. Its history is shrouded in myth and stretches back to biblical times when Jacob is said to have used the stone as

a pillow.

The stone was used at Iona, Dunadd, Dunstaffnage, and Scone for enthroning Dalriadic monarchs. In 1292, John Balliol became the last king to use the stone in Scotland.

An unprepossessing block of sandstone - 26in long, 16in wide, 11in high, and weighing 336lb - it sat for centuries in London virtually unguarded.

On Christmas day 1950 the stone was taken from Westminster Abbey by a group of Scottish Nationalist students and subsequently went ''missing''. It was ''found'' about four months later, after being placed in Arbroath Abbey, and was returned to Westminster.

But rumours persist that the stone was never ''missing''. The students who took the stone from Westminster had a replica made, some say more than one. But is the stone now returned to Scotland the real Stone? Did the students of 1951 return only a copy of the stone? Intriguing questions such as these only add to the stone's attraction.

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