Secret x-ray reveals the real Stone of Scone

Click to follow
The Independent Online
It's official. The people were not fooled. The Stone of Destiny, the mystical symbol of monarchical power that John Major has kindly offered to send back to its rightful owners the Scots, is the real McCoy.

Or is it? Government papers, released for the first time since the precious stone was spirited north from beneath the Coronation Chair by zealous Scottish Nationalist students in 1950, reveal the strength of concern over whether the returned rock might be a fake. That John Major could confidently announce he was handing over the real rock, stolen 700 years ago from Scone in Perthshire, was down to a secret series of X-rays taken one evening in July 1973.

Home Office officials and Westminster Abbey staff entered the Abbey after closing time and moved the Stone of Destiny, perhaps real, perhaps a classic con, to Poets Corner where they X-rayed it with a portable machine borrowed from the Ministry of Defence.

But why did it take 22 years after the theft of the stone, to do the test? No answer was given yesterday.

What was on offer was an explanation, of sorts. During the stone's brief absence from Westminster it was rumoured that it had broken, and that a Glasgow stonemason, Robert Gray, had repaired it with three rods. The X-ray pictures taken in the abbey in 1973 showed that there were three metal rods holding the rock together. The sleuthing also included reinterviewing the Abbey's clerk of works, who had travelled to Arbroath in 1951 to confirm that the stone being returned back to London was the one on which Scotland's ancient kings had been crowned.

A Home Office memo from the newly released files concludes that, given the result of the X-ray, "there could be no doubt that the stone in the Abbey is the genuine Coronation Stone." The files also include the letters sent to the Government over the past decades asking for the Stone of Scone to be sent home.

Precisely where that home will be, is to be left to the Scots themselves. In a model demonstration of home rule, the Scottish Secretary of State, Michael Forsyth, said: "The Prime Minister's announcement to Parliament on July 3 has generated an enormous amount of interest ... I am eager that we should focus now on the various criteria to be satisfied by the possible sites."