Roman Numerals Discovered on Stone of Destiny Ahead of King Charles Coronation
A fresh examination of the Stone of Destiny , considered one of Scotland’s most sacred national treasures, has revealed the presence of markings on its surface that appear to be Roman numerals. This is just one of many intriguing findings resulting from a new analysis of this revered object, which has been used during royal coronation ceremonies in Scotland and England since ancient times and is now slated to be used again in the upcoming coronation of the United Kingdom’s new monarch, King Charles III.
The Stone of Destiny, which is also known less dramatically as the Stone of Scone, in acknowledgment of its place of origin, was first used to sanction the crowning of kings in Scotland more than 1,000 years ago. Honoring the traditions of the past, King Charles III has chosen to transport this sacred stone to Westminster Abbey in London for his coronation in May, where it will be placed inside a special coronation chair that was constructed to hold and support the heavy stone approximately 700 years ago.
In preparation for the shipping of the stone from Edinburgh Castle to England, the preservation organization Historic Environment Scotland carried out an extensive digital and scientific analysis of the 335-pound (152kg) rock at a special facility known as the Engine Shed, which belongs to Scotland’s national building conservation center. They used digital scanning technology to create a 3D model of the sacred object, and this procedure has revealed previously hidden or unobserved details on the stone’s rough and uneven surfaces.
- The Imperial State Crown’s Coffin Ride: History Completes a Chapter
- 6 of the Most Magnificent Stone Circles of the British Isles
Roman numerals are found on the Stone of Destiny ahead of the King’s coronation after 3D-printed replica of the sacred royal relic was examined by experts https://t.co/g2cihldG9J
— Science Academy (@Academ18Academy) April 6, 2023
Among the most fascinating discoveries was that of the markings that appear to be Roman numerals . The exact value of the numerals cannot be determined, but their shapes strongly suggest that they are indeed numbers.
The preservationists have also found an abundance of tool marks on the stone, adding new context to what was previously known about how the large rock has been worked and shaped over the centuries. Some of these marks can be linked to the original cutting and removal of the stone from a quarry near the village of Scone in central Scotland. Others have a more recent origin, including some that were created during repair work that was done on the stone in 1951.
“It’s very exciting to discover new information about an object as unique and important to Scotland’s history as the Stone of Destiny,” said HES head researcher Ewan Hyslop in an interview with the Herald of Scotland . “The high level of detail we’ve been able to capture through the digital imaging has enabled us to re-examine the tooling marks on the surface of the Stone, which has helped confirm that the Stone has been roughly worked by more than one stonemason with a number of different tools, as was previously thought.”
As for the Roman numerals, their origin and significance is a complete mystery.
“The discovery of previously unrecorded markings is also significant, and while at this point we’re unable to say for certain what their purpose or meaning might be, they offer an exciting opportunity for further areas of study,” Hyslop stated.
The details were discovered when a 3D-printed replica of the stone, created as part of preparations for the King’s enthronement next month, was examined by experts https://t.co/AiFdQyHhT0
— The Times and The Sunday Times Scotland (@timesscotland) April 6, 2023
From Lulach the Fool to King Charles III: A Stone for the Ages
While the experts suspect it was used in royal ceremonies that took place a century or two earlier, the Stone of Destiny first appears in the historical record in the year 1057. This is when a man named Lulach mac Gille Coemgáin (known to history as Lulach the Fool or Lulach the Unfortunate) was officially crowned as the King of Scotland, in a ceremony that took place in Scone.
The Stone of Destiny was present at this individual’s coronation, and it was reused in subsequent coronation ceremonies in Scotland until 1296, when King Edward I of England suddenly decided that the stone rightfully belonged to him. Following England’s invasion of Scotland in that year, the covetous English king had the stone removed and carried to London. It remained at Westminster Abbey until 1996, when it was finally returned to its rightful home in Scotland.
During the centuries it was the hands of the English, the Stone of Destiny was used in coronation ceremonies in that country, just as it had been used in Scotland. It was housed in a specially constructed chair, which doubled as a storage case for the Stone and as a coronation throne for the newly installed king or queen. Before an extra platform was added to the chair, new monarchs would actually sit on top of the flat stone while they were receiving the crown and the royal regalia.
No one is sure exactly when the Stone of Destiny was quarried. But a 1998 study by the British Geological Society was able to prove that the sandstone used to make the rock was identical with sandstone found in the Scone Sandstone Formation. This natural outcrop is located very near the Scone Palace , a historic castle in the County of Perth that was the first home of the Stone of Destiny.
There were legends that claimed the Stone of Destiny had first appeared in the Holy Land during Biblical times. But the science has proved conclusively that the sacred rock was quarried locally and did not come from ancient Israel.
A Royal Chair and a Sacred Stone, to Bless the New Monarch
When the stone arrives in London, it will be placed inside the same special coronation chair/support platform that was custom-built to hold the object in 1300. This chair was constructed on the order of King Edward I, who believed the sacred stone should be stored and displayed in style.
The sturdy and ancient-looking Coronation Chair is a high-backed armchair made from solid oak and decorated with colored glass and gold leaf. On the back it once featured a painted image of a king, likely either Edward I or the 11 th century king Edward the Confessor , with his feet resting on a lion.
The chair was commissioned exclusively to house the Stone of Destiny. However, in the 14 th century it was repurposed as England’s official Coronation Chair , upon which new kings and queens would sit on the day of their coronation ceremony.
King Edward’s Chair, also known as the Coronation Chair, with the Stone of Scone. (Nathan Hughes Hamilton/ CC BY 2.0 )
England’s most famous furniture piece is currently undergoing renovations, to make sure it looks good during King Charles III’s coronation. The chair will be used for its original purpose, as a vessel to hold the Stone of Destiny, and the new king will be sitting on a wooden platform directly over the top of the magical stone, soaking up its radiating energies of good health and good fortune.
- The Boy King Behind the Mask: Tutankhamun’s Life and Legacy
- Thrones of Gods and Kings: Symbols of Power through History
Given its long association with royal coronations, it isn’t surprising that King Charles III chose to have the stone shipped to London for his upcoming ceremony. But while the Stone was taken by the English without permission in the late 13 th century, this time around the people of Scotland are fully onboard with the use of the Stone for the coronation. This is because Charles III will be crowned king of the entire United Kingdom, including Scotland.
Since the Stone was returned to Scotland in 1996 and placed in its new home in Edinburgh Castle, it has not been moved out of the country for any reason—until now. Once the coronation ceremony is finished the Stone of Destiny will be sent back to Scotland, where it will remain on display presumably until the coronation of the United Kingdom’s next monarch, whenever that might take place.
Top image: This is a replica of the stone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, upon which the kings of Scotland were crowned on Moot Hill. In 1296 it was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey. Source: (CrlNvl/CC BY SA 4.0 )
By Nathan Falde