Stone of Destiny - future location: public engagement report
The Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia requested a public engagement took place to assist them in their scrutiny of proposals to relocate the Stone of Destiny to Perth. This report presents analysis of the responses to the public engagement exercise.
Annex 2: Material Submitted By Historic Environment Scotland
The Royal Palace of Edinburgh Castle is the current home and can offer a permanent, secure home for the Stone of Destiny.
Here, the Stone can be accessibly presented in an appropriate Royal setting. Its story, representing the ancient roots of the kingdom of Scotland, as a symbol of Scottish nationhood and as a 'maker of majesty', can be inter-woven with that of the Crown Jewels; the other 'icons of Royal Scotland'. It can continue to be safeguarded by multi-layered security systems and the expertise of Historic Environment Scotland's collections conservators.
The world's oldest artefact still used to make monarchs, the Stone is an icon of national importance with associations across Scotland. Given its continuing use in Coronations, its care and presentation should be addressed in view of its role, and the associated responsibilities, as an active ceremonial object rather than as a passive historical artefact.
The physical protection of the Stone is a major consideration. Edinburgh Castle is a highly secured site with multiple layers of security. The area that would house a new Stone presentation is adjacent to the crown vault in which the Stone is currently displayed. The existing systems – staffing, physical and digital - would be extended and enhanced to ensure the Stone remains as fully protected as the Crown Jewels.
Care and Communications
Edinburgh Castle is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and, as such, draws on the expertise of a wide range of in-house professionals including historians, conservators, interpreters, learning managers, visitor operations teams, and communications experts. All those skills would be available to safeguard and care for the Stone in the long term including managing its transport to, and involvement in, future Coronations.
About 75% of visitors to Edinburgh Castle visit the crown vault where the Stone is currently housed. More than 21 million people have seen the Stone in the last 23 years. Of those, about 42,000 enter free-of-charge and another 10,000 for £2 or less each year.
In 2018-19 the Castle attracted 2.19 million visitors including:
- 74,000 - residents in Scotland
- 412,000 - rest of the UK
- 1.5 million - overseas
- 30% from the Commonwealth (including UK)
- Scottish diaspora number unknown but significant.
- 43,069 learners
Guests of the First Minister or other Ministers at Castle receptions often visit the Crown Room.
Re-presenting the Stone
Work has been progressing since mid-2011 to update understanding of the Stone and Crown Jewels to improve their care and in preparation for re-presenting them.
A Makers of Majesty experience in first-floor apartments of the Royal Palace would address Scots and international visitors alike. The Crown Jewels would be re-presented in the purpose-built James VI vault and the Stone would be displayed in the adjacent chamber:
The Stone Room
The Stone would sit at the heart of a dignified, respectful space encircled by a single statement explaining its role as a sacred object and maker of majesty – the world's oldest artefact still used to make monarchs – presented in multiple languages. Focused atmospheric lighting would enhance the dignity alluding to the Stone's significance and national importance.
The 'Makers of Majesty' exhibition would continue to explore the ceremonies of power in which the objects, including the Stone, played or continue to play a central role. Using multi-sensory engagement it begins with the simple message: the icons of Royal Scotland are still in use - the Stone to enthrone monarchs and the Crown to represent the monarch at the opening of the Scottish Parliament every five years.
Perhaps beginning with a tantalising glimpse of an inauguration ceremony on Iona and progressing through ceremonies at Dunadd, Scone, Holyrood and Stirling. Seven types of ceremony would then be explained, including:
- Inauguration – using the rock-cut Dunadd footstep, the Stone as a step and then as a seat.
- Coronation – in Scotland and at Westminster incorporating the Stone.
- Opening/Closing of Scottish Parliament: the Crown Jewels at these events, historical and current.
In two further display areas – 'Crown, Sword & Sceptre and Deciphering the Stone' - the detail of the objects would be celebrated and explained, from the filigree engraving on the Sceptre to the scars wrought into the Stone. Writ large for visitors, and imbued with meaning, these details would deepen understanding and the sense of significance.
Visitors would be able to forensically interrogate what seems a simple block of sandstone. Possible explanations of its scars, recently 'translated' would include:
800s. Wear at right end at back: due to prolonged footfall on a step. The Stone was originally used as a threshold/step into an ancient, hallowed place in the Palace or church at Scone?
Late 800s/900s. Two metal staples: perhaps inserted either to help fix it together with other slabs in a stone chair, or to prevent its removal when left outside?
About 1300. Filed-down ends of the two metal staples: when the Stone was placed within the new Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey?
1657. Damage to bottom edges: possibly when carried from Westminster Abbey to Hall for the inauguration of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector?
1950. The crack: broken in two when pulled from the Coronation Chair by Scottish nationalists striving to return it to Scotland.
The great time-depth and unique significance of the Stone's primary function in the making of monarchs would be illustrated through the projection of an animated frieze of monarchs, that will envelop visitors, from Kenneth McAlpin to Her Majesty The Queen. This remarkable procession of about 60 kings and queens including Macbeth, Malcolm Canmore, David I, Richard III and Victoria, will emphasise the unrivalled pedigree of the Stone.
The story would continue as the Royal Palace moves centre stage in the Castle as 'The Nation's Treasure-House'.
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