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The Stone of Destiny

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The earliest Scottish monarchs were crowned with their feet on the original Stone of Destiny, a block of sandstone with mythical origins that is now nearly 1,000 years old. The stone was stolen from Scotland by Edward I in 1296 and became part of the English Coronation Chair in London's Westminster Abbey where it stayed until 1950.

On Christmas Eve of that year, a band of intrepid Scottish students drove from Glasgow, jimmied the door of the Abbey and took back the Stone. English officials were outraged and put up the first roadblocks on border roads for 400 years. English police searched London as the stone was smuggled back to Scotland. King George VI was "sorely troubled about the loss," but the students issued a petition affirming their loyalty to him and stating they would give back the Stone if it could remain on Scottish soil.

The authorities refused to negotiate, and three months later the Stone turned up on the altar of the ruined Abbey of Arbroath. It was there in 1320 that the Arbroath Declaration had been signed, reaffirming the right of Scots to self-rule and independence from England. All this was done without public knowledge, and the Stone was taken back to London. No charges were filed against the students, led by Ian Hamilton who wrote a book about the incident, "The Taking of the Stone of Destiny."

Finally, Scottish Secretary and Conservative MP, Michael Forsyth, arranged for the return of the Stone to Edinburgh Castle, with much ceremony, in 1996. It can be seen there today in the Palace with the Scottish Crown Jewels.

— From Lonely Planet's Guide to Edinburgh