The Stone of Destiny

When the Tua-de-Danans came to Ireland they brought with them, according to our ancient annalists, a remarkable stone called “Lia Fail,” signifying the Stone of Fate or of Destiny: and from this circumstance Ireland obtained the name Inis Fail or the Island of Destiny. This Lia Fail was held in the highest veneration; and sitting on it the ancient monarchs of Ireland, both in the Pagan and Christian times, were inaugurated at Tara; and it is stated that whenever a legitimate king of the Milesian race was inaugurated, the stone emitted a peculiar sound: an effect produced, it is supposed, by some contrivance of the Druids. In the beginning of the sixth century Fergus MacEarca, who was brother to the then reigning monarch of Ireland, Murtogh MacEarca, having become king of Dalriada in Albany, afterwards called Scotland, requested the Irish monarch to send to him the Lia Fail to be used at his inauguration, in order to give security to his throne in accordance with an ancient prophecy—that the Scotic Race would continue to rule as long as it was in their possession; but O’Flaherty is of opinion, that the Stone of Destiny was not brought to Scotland, until the ninth century, when Aldus Finliath, monarch of Ireland, sent it for that purpose to his father-in-law, Kenneth Mac Alpin, King of all Scotland and conqueror of the Picts. The Lia Fail was preserved with great care and veneration for many centuries in Scotland; first, in the monastery of St. Columbkille, at Iona, in the Hebrides; afterwards at Dunstaffnage in Argyleshire, the first royal seat of the Scottish kings of Irish race; and thence it was removed in the ninth century by Kenneth Mac Alpin, who placed it at Scone, near Perth, where it was preserved in the ancient abbey until A.D. 1296, when Edward the First, King of England, having overrun Scotland, took away the Stone of Destiny from the cathedral of Scone, carried it off as a trophy of victory, and placed it under the coronation chair at Westminster Abbey, where it still remains. This Stone of Destiny has been Latinized “Saxum Fatale,” and by English writers is called “Jacob’s Stone,” from a tradition that it is part of the stone called “Jacob’s Pillow,” at Bethel, mentioned in the Book of Genesis; hence, some have considered that it was first brought to Ireland by the Tua-de-Danans from the land of Canaan. It has been asserted in some modern publications on Irish antiquities, that the large stone standing upright on one of the mounds at Tara is the Stone of Destiny; but this assertion is opposed to the statements of Keating, O’Flaherty, Ware, Dr. O’Connor, Charles O’Conor, and other learned Irish antiquarians, together with the accounts of the Scottish historians; and it is probable that the huge stone standing on the mound at Tara (which is six feet above the ground, as well as many feet under it, and of immense weight) is the stone mentioned by many of the old Irish writers under the name of “Lia-na-bhFian” or the Stone of the Fians, as connected with the accounts of some of the Fenian warriors. The “Stone of Destiny” is mentioned by Hector Bœtius, and other Scottish historians; and the following Irish verse respecting it is quoted by Keating and Charles O’Conor:—

“Cineadh Scuit, saor an fhine,

Mun budh breag an fhaisdine,

Mar a ffuighid an Liagh Fail

Dlighid flaitheas do ghabhail.”

Thus Latinized:

“Ni fallat fatum, Scoti, quocunqne locatum

Invenient lapidem hunc, regnare tenentur ibidem.”

And may be Anglicised:

“If fate’s decrees be not announced in vain,

Where’er this stone is found the Scots shall reign.”