By: Joseph Jacobs
The so-called "Stone of Destiny," forming part of the coronation chair of the kings of England in Westminster Abbey, is said by tradition to be the identical stone on which Jacob rested his head when he saw the vision of the angels going up to heaven (Gen. xxviii. 11-12). According to some, the stone was that on which Abraham had intended sacrificing Isaac (see Rye, "Visits of Foreigners," p. 10, and compare Pirḳe R. El. 35, where the two stones of the Biblical stories are identified). According to a legend first found in the "Chronicles" of John of Fordun, the stone was transferred from Palestine to Egypt; from there Gathelus, son of Cecrops, King of Athens, who had married Scota, daughter of Pharaoh, transferred it to Spain, whence it was carried by Simon Brech, son of Milo the Scot, to Ireland. There it was used on the sacred Hill of Tara as the "Lia Fail," or "Stone of Destiny," on which the kings of Ireland were anointed. Fergus More, the founder of the Scotch monarchy, is said to have borne it from Ireland to Dunstaffnagge about 500, and it was ultimately taken by Kenneth II., about 840, to Scone. All the kings of Scotland were crowned upon it, until it was removed by Edward I. to Westminster Abbey; and upon it every king of England from Edward III. to Edward VII. has been crowned. An attempt to get it back was made by the Scotch in the reign of Edward III., and that king even wrote to the Abbot of Westminster ordering him to return it (Legg, "London Coronation Records," Westminster, 1901, p. 77); but the people of London would not allow it to be taken (Holinshed, "Historie of Scotland," p. 132). It has always been one of the chief attractions of Westminster Abbey, and is referred to as such by Addison ("Spectator," No. 329) and by Goldsmith ("Citizen of the World," letter xiii.).
The veneration with which the stone is regarded is undoubtedly due to the legend connecting it with Jacob; but Dean Stanley suggests that it was originally connected with St. Columba, and geologists are inclined to trace its origin to the island of Iona, the scene of St. Columba's last days.
The Anglo-Israelites make much of this connection of Jacob's stone with the coronation chair, and largely base upon it their claim to the identification of the English people with the Lost Ten Tribes (see Anglo-Israelism).
- A. P. Stanley, Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey, 2d ed., London, 1866, pp. 60-67, 557-562, (illustration on title-page);
- E. Hine, Forty-seven Identifications, pp. 32-33;
- W. F. Skene, The Coronation Stone, Edinburgh, 1869.