Lawyer who stole Scottish 'Stone of Destiny' dies aged 97

By: AFP
Published: 09:39 PM, 4 Oct, 2022
Lawyer who stole Scottish 'Stone of Destiny' dies aged 97
Caption: A lawyer famed for leading an audacious raid on Britain's Westminster Abbey to remove a hefty symbol of Scotland's monarchy, known as the Stone of Destiny, died on Tuesday at the age of 97.
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A lawyer famed for leading an audacious raid on Britain's Westminster Abbey to remove a hefty symbol of Scotland's monarchy, known as the Stone of Destiny, died on Tuesday at the age of 97.

The story of the daring theft by a group of students led by Ian Hamilton was later turned into a film.

The 152-kilogram (335-pound) stone was used for centuries in the inauguration of Scottish kings but was seized by England's King Edward I in an invasion of Scotland in 1296.

Edward I ordered the stone to be placed beneath the coronation throne in Westminster Abbey.

There it stayed for most of the next 650 years until Christmas Eve 1950 when Hamilton and his three accomplices broke into the abbey and "repatriated" it to Scotland.

A manhunt with checkpoints set up at the Scottish border was launched but the students succeeded in smuggling the stone into Scotland.

They did, however, have to secretly employ a stonemason to repair the 335-pound stone after they dropped it and broke it into two as they carried it to their car.

The stone finally reappeared on April 11, 1951, when it was discovered on the altar of Arbroath Abbey leading to its return to Westminster Abbey.

Hamilton came under police suspicion when detectives found he had taken out every book he could on Westminster Abbey from a library in Glasgow, but none of the four was ever charged.

He went on to become one of Scotland's most senior and well-respected lawyers.

"I am extremely sad to hear of Ian Hamilton's death," Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter.

"He was a lawyer of exceptional quality and a legend of the independence movement," she added. "He will long be remembered as one of the Christmas 1950 liberators of the Stone of Destiny."

Hamilton recounted the story in his 2008 book "The Taking of the Stone of Destiny".

The book was turned into a film "Stone of Destiny" starring Charlie Cox with Hamilton appearing in a small cameo role.

In 1996 the stone was relocated to Edinburgh Castle on condition it be returned for the coronation of kings and queens.

It is due to be taken to Westminster Abbey for King Charles III's coronation in 2023.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.