Hyder, Alaska and Salmon River (left) and Stewart, B.C. and the Bear River ( right).

England's Coronation Chair
and Stone of Destiny


Bonnie Wayne McGuire


I was always curious about Ireland, Scotland and England's mysterious past hidden behind the veil of myths and secrecy, yet bound together by powerful spiritual traditions. I love a good mystery, and this one began to unravel during our trip to the Yukon in 1995. We'd made arrangements to sail up the inside passage from Hyder, Alaska. Since we were early, there was ample time to visit the little museum we noticed on the outskirts of Stewart, British Columbia. Stewart's just a stone's throw from Hyder.

Stewart Museum.

Most of the displays revolved around England's royal family. Ansley F. Rash's booklet "The Queen's Crowning"  caught my attention. Years before, I'd seen a picture of the English Coronation Chair with the biblical Jacob's stone  beneath it. I'd lost the picture when we moved, but always wondered about it. Not only did this book have a picture of the chair, but it's history too. In fact, the book had pictures, and descriptions about all the articles used during the crowning of the royals. I mentioned that my great great grand-mother was Lady-In-Waiting to the Queen of England, and would it be possible to have a copy of the picture history of the chair. The museum's curator very graciously copied the entire booklet for me.

The ancient British ceremonial ritual goes back to 732-66.

The Coronation Chair


At the great climax of the Queen of England's Coronation ceremony, the Queen, having been invested with the emblems and insignia of royal dignity sits upon the Coronation Chair where she receives the Crown.
The Chair was made for King Edward I to enclose the famous Stone of Scone, which he brought from Scotland to the Abbey in 1296, where he placed it in the care of the Abbot of Westminster. The King had a magnificent oaken chair made to contain the Stone in 1300-1, painted by Master Walter and decorated with patterns of birds, foliage and animals on a gilt ground. The figure of a king, either Edward the Confessor or Edward I, his feet resting on a lion, was painted on the back. The four gilt lions below were made in 1727 to replace the originals, which were not added to the Chair until the early 16th century.
The Stone was originally enclosed under the seat but over the centuries the wood decoration has been torn from the front. At coronations the Chair with the Stone stands facing the High Altar. Every monarch has been crowned in this chair since Edward II in 1308, except Edward V and Edward VIII, who were not crowned. At the joint coronation of William III and Mary II in 1689 a special chair was made for Mary, which is now in the Abbey Museum. The Chair was taken out of the Abbey when Oliver Cromwell was installed upon it as Lord Protector in Westminster Hall. It was used by Queen Victoria at the 1887 Golden Jubilee Services in the Abbey. During World War II the Chair was evacuated to Gloucester Cathedral and the Stone was secretly buried in the Abbey.

The Stone of Scone

There are many legends concerning the Stone of Scone and tradition identifies it as the one upon which Jacob rested his head at Bethel..."And Jacob rose upon the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up
for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it"   (Genesis 28:18).
The legend continues that Jacob's sons carried it to Egypt and from there it passed to Spain with King Gathelus, son of Cecrops, the builder of Athens. Around 700 BC it was allegedly in Ireland, where it was placed upon the sacred Hill of Tara, and anointed "Lia-Fail",  the fatal stone...of destiny. So named, because when the Irish kings were seated on it at coronations, the Stone groaned aloud if the claimant was of royal race, but remained silent if he was a pretender. Fergus Mor MacEirc, the founder of the Scottish monarchy, and one of the Blood Royal of Ireland, received it in Scotland, and Kenneth MacAlpin placed it in the monastery of Scone in Perthshire (846).  Putting aside earlier myths, there can be no doubt that the stone was sacred to the Scots. All their kings until John Balliol in 1292, were crowned upon this Stone. Legend says that Kenneth once engraved these words on it:
 "Ni fallat fatum, Scoti, quocunqui locatum nvenient lapidem, regnare tenentur ibidem" (If Fates go right, where 'er this stone is found, the Scots shall monarchs of that realm be crowned)
The fulfillment of this prophecy came about with the accession of James VI of Scotland ( being of Irish descent) who became James I of England in 1603. The oblong block of sandstone weighs 336 pounds, and is twenty-six inches long by 16 inches wide and ten and a half inches deep. On December 25, 1950 it was stolen by Scottish Nationalists, but recovered in April 1951 and kept in the vault where it had been stored during the second World War. It was replaced under the Chair in February 1952, after great precautions for its safety.
On July 3rd 1996 Prime Minister John Major announced that the Stone of Scone would be returned to Scotland by the end of the year...to be returned to the Abbey only for coronations. On the evening of November 13, 1996 the Stone was removed from the Chair by representatives of Historic Scotland and transported by stretcher to stand in the Lantern of the Abbey overnight. The next morning it was escorted by police to make the long journey to Scotland by road. It can now be seen in Edinburgh Castle. After 700 years, the Coronation Chair, the oldest piece of English furniture still used for what it was built... stands empty.

Time to board the M.V. Taku that will take us up the inside passage.