By Kenneth Carr Hawley
Master’s Thesis, Texas Tech University, 1998
Introduction: Nationalistic sentiment looks to the past to legitimate the present and secure the friture; it re-makes history, appropriaring mythic legends as it forges a narional identirs’. Each time an ancient story is told, the myths are reinforced; each time today is reminded of yesterday, the origins are re-traced. Scotrish historiographers have connected their people to a legendary past, invoking the names and telling the stories which set Scotland apart as a disrinct and divinely ordained kingdom. While others have called upon mythic figures such as Romulus and Remus, Aeneas, Brutus, and King Arthur, the Scots have turned to Jacob; when their idenrity as an independent people has been challenged, the Scots have defended their narion by emphasizing Jacob’s role in its founding.
Renamed Israel, this descendant of Abraham and Isaac became the father of twelve sons, the patriarch of the Israelite narion’s twelve tribes. Jacob first received the promise of a country during a dream which he had as he slept on a stone; he saw angels ascending and descending on a stairway which rested on the earth but stretched to the heavens, and Yahweh stood before Jacob and said, “Your descendants will he like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” According to Scotrish folklore, the coronarion stone of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, is that very rock on which Jacob slept as he was given the promise of a land in which his people could dwell.
This mythic block of sandstone is said to have moved from Israel to Egypt, where it remained during Israel’s 400 years of slavery; then it was shipped to Sicily, to Spain, and finally to Ireland, where the first king of Dalriada, Ere (c. 400 AD), held the Stone ot Destiny as the symbol of divine blessing upon the crown. It remained in Ireland until Dalriada’s 36th king, Kenneth I (c. 850 AD), moved the stone to Scone, in Scotland. Scottish kings were inaugurated upon the Stone of Scone from the time of Kenneth I until John Balliol in 1292; after deposing Balliol in 1296, Edward I took it to Westminster, believing that he could “eradicate the memory of Scotrish kingship by removing its most tangible symbol.” However, Edward’s acrions only aroused narional sentiment.
The Stone held ideological significance for Robert Bruce, who in 1306 risked his life to travel to Scone and participate in a traditional coronation ceremony; the actual symbol was miles away in England, but the place it had rested for centuries held such mythical power that the inaugurarion was still considered valued. When Edward I heard that the Scots crowned a new king, he petitioned the pope to have the abbey itself relocated in an attempt to destroy the mythology of place the abbey generated; his request was denied. The Stone of Destiny has been intimately connected with Scotland’s distinct identity as a nation: “The royal seat thus acts as a metonym for the unbroken link to a legitimating moment of origin, the foundarion of the mythical race, the moment when Scota provided her progeny with a proper name.” The Stone of Scone represents everything that is uniquely Scottish.