On the last weekend before the Coronation, Westminster Abbey hosted a special service to mark the arrival of the Stone of Destiny, a crucial piece of the ceremony.
On Saturday, 29th April, on the day that also marked the 12th wedding anniversary of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Dean of Westminster conducted a service to mark the arrival of the Stone of Destiny from Scotland.
The piece’s origins, as well as its true purpose, are unknown, lost to the centuries of history that have seen it being used as a sacred symbol during the coronations of Scottish Kings.
In 1296, King Edward I brought the Stone to England, and, in 1300-1301, decided to place it in a space within the Coronation Chair, which has been used in Coronations ever since.
In 1996, the UK Government decided to officially return the Stone of Destiny to Scotland, and to only return it to London for Coronations. Since then, it has been sitting in a prime position in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle, where it constitutes one of the major pieces in a collection that receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
However, with just days to go until the Coronation, the Stone was taken from the Castle for the journey to London.
Its arrival at Westminster Abbey was marked by a special church service, officiated by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, and attended, among others, by the Very Reverend Professor David Fergusson, the Dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland, and the Right Honourable The Lord Lyon King of Arms.
The service was graced by music offered by the Robin Chapel Choir, accompanied by organist Peter Holder. There was also the reading of Ephesians, 2, 13-22, offered by the sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey, and prayers offered by Minor Canon and Precentor Reverend Mark Birch.
The service was not open to the public: Westminster Abbey has been closed since Tuesday, 25th April, to allow workers and Church leaders to prepare the space for the Coronation, and will reopen to visitors on Monday, 8th May. Services have been offered to worshippers in St Margaret’s Church, but this will also stop on Tuesday, 2nd May, which will mark the last service performed.