The story of Jacob’s Pillow is a legend that extends back to biblical times. The stone is reputed to have originated in the desert with Jacob himself, travelled o Jerusalem, from there to Spain and eventually Ireland at the legendary Tara where kings who were crowned upon it were said to be assured of longer lives.
From Tara it was borrowed (or taken) around the year 600 AD to Scotland where it soon found a place of honour in Scone – and, once there, Scottish Kings were crowned upon it. In 1296, Edward the First conquered Scotland – and his greatest prize was the Stone of Scone – Jacob’s Pillow! A coronation throne was constructed to accommodate the stone (the British Monarch wouldn’t deign to actually sit on a rock itself). Jacob’s Pillow stayed in England for the next six hundred and fifty-plus years.
So – why is this history important? It is important to know the background of this 340 pound stone because it all the more remarkable that four teenage students from Scotland were able to walk into Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day in 1950 and return the stone to Scotland.
The Stone was discovered, nearly four months later, draped in a Scottish Flag on the altar at Arbroath Abbey (the sight of the signing of a Scot declaration of Independence in 1320). The four culprits (or Scots might say, Patriots) were discovered, but never prosecuted. They were set free for political reasons, the government at the time not wanting to glorify their cause any more. The stone was returned – on loan – to Scotland in 1996 and currently resides in Edinburgh Castle with the understanding that it will be available for the next coronation, be it Prince Charles or William.