‘Roman numerals’ found on Stone of Destiny ahead of King’s coronation

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New research has revealed the Stone of Destiny, used for centuries in the coronation of monarchs, has previously unrecorded markings that appear to be Roman numerals.

The details were discovered when a 3D-printed replica of the stone, created as part of preparations for the King’s enthronement next month, was examined by experts.

It allowed the ancient object to be viewed from different perspectives in higher detail than before by researchers from Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which cares for the stone on behalf of the Commissioners for the Safeguarding of the Regalia.

King Charles III Coronation
Conservation and digital documentation teams working on the 3D scan (Historic Environment Scotland/Santiago Arribas Pena/PA)

“The discovery of previously unrecorded markings is also significant, and while at this point we’re unable to say for certain what their purpose or meaning might be, they offer the exciting opportunity for further areas of study.”

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, is normally displayed at Edinburgh Castle and plays an important role in Scotland’s history.

Its origins are lost in time but it is rumoured to have biblical connections and it may have played a role in the enthronement of Scottish kings for over a century before its first recorded use in 1057, when Macbeth’s stepson Lulach was proclaimed king at Scone in Scotland.

The Stone of Destiny in the Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle
The Stone of Destiny in the Great Hall in Edinburgh Castle (PA)

It was placed in a specially constructed coronation chair which has since remained at Westminster Abbey and will be used for Charles’s enthronement.

The stone made headlines on Christmas Day 1950 when four Scottish students removed it from the abbey, and it was found three months later at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey. It was officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

X-ray fluorescence analysis was used to examine the composition of the stone and discovered traces of copper alloy on its surface, coinciding with a dark stain near its centre, suggesting the Stone had at some point been in contact with a bronze or brass object.

King Charles III Coronation
The 3D-printed replica was created as part of preparations for the King’s enthronement (Historic Environment Scotland/Santiago Arribas Pena/PA)

A study in 1998 by the British Geological Survey concluded the artefact was indistinguishable from sandstones of “Scone Sandstone Formation” from the area around Scone Palace near Perth.

The coronation chair has been undergoing restoration work before the crowning of Charles and conservators have found previously unrecorded decorations on the object.

It was made around 1300 for Edward I to house the stone and was constructed from oak, decorated with coloured glass, gilded with gold leaf and painted by Master Walter, the King’s Master Painter.

Monarchs may have sat on the stone itself, with a cushion for comfort, but at some point a seat was constructed within the chair and the 3D model of the stone is being used to help the fitting of the original.

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