Stone of Destiny: who was Ian Hamilton who took the stone from Westminster to Scotland, and where is it now?
Ian Hamilton was one of four students who carried out an act which became famous - taking the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey and returning it to Scotland
The last surviving member of a group of students who broke into Westminster Abbey and took the Stone of Destiny back to Scotland has died aged 97.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to Ian Hamilton KC, who had been the last surviving member of the gang of four students who took the famous stone, on which kings and queens of Scotland were traditionally crowned, from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950.
Ms Sturgeon hailed the 97-year-old as being a “lawyer of exceptional quality”, but also described him as a “legend of the independence movement”.
Writing on Twitter, the First Minister said she was “extremely sad” to learn of his death.
But who was Ian Hamilton and what happened to the Stone of Destiny, and was there a film about it? Here’s what you need to know.
Who was Ian Hamilton?
Mr Hamilton, who had been born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, in 1925, was a law student at Glasgow University when he took part in the daring raid.
He became politically active at university and was a member of the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association.
Together with fellow students Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson and Alan Stuart, he travelled to London to take the historic artefact – which had been seized by King Edward I of England in 1296.
The four had all been part of the Scottish Covenant Association which wanted Independence for Scotland.
He later wrote a book called The Taking of the Stone of Destiny, which recounted the famous raid.
After graduating he became a lawyer. He was politically active throughout his life and was an SNP candidate for the 1994 European Parliament election for the Strathclyde East seat.
Mr Hamilton was also a candidate for the party in the 1999 Scottish Parliament election for Greenock and Inverclyde.
Who has paid tribute to him?
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said she was “extremely sad” to learn of his death.
Writing on Twitter she said: “He will long be remembered as one of the Christmas 1950 liberators of the Stone of Destiny.
“During my time as @theSNP leader I have received occasional words of wisdom, encouragement and support from him, which I will always treasure. He is one of the many giants on whose shoulders the modern SNP stands.
“My condolences go to his loved ones.”
While the SNP’s Alex Neil also paid tribute saying: “Ian’s daring recovery of the Stone of Destiny along with Kay Matheson and others will be remembered for a thousand years. He was a man of distinction, a great thinker and a true patriot.”
What is the Stone of Destiny?
Made from red sandstone, the stone is still used to crown British monarchs. It was historically kept at the Scone Abbey in Perth before it was seized by Edward I’s forces in 1296.
It weighs around 335lbs.
There are many legends around the stone’s origins including one which places it in Biblical times as the Stone of Jacob.
However, geologists have shown the sandstone was from the vicinity of Scone.
What happened to the Stone of Destiny?
On Christmas Day 1950 the four students broke the stone out of Westminster Abbey and caused the first border closure in 400 years.
During the removal the stone broke into two - though it was repaired.
The two parts were hidden at first with one in the Midlands and the other in Kent, though they were later taken up to Scotland.
A massive hunt to find it was launched with the border closed and roadblocks set up.
Three months later, the stone – also known as the Stone of Scone – turned up 500 miles away at Arbroath Abbey draped in a Saltire flag.
The students were never prosecuted with the then Home Secretary telling the House of Commons that it wouldn’t be in the public interest to do so.
The stone was returned to Westminster, but in 1996 was installed in Edinburgh Castle, where it is currently on display – although it will be taken south again for the coronation of King Charles.
Was there a film about it?
Yes, and Ian Hamilton even appeared in it. The 2008 film Stone of Destiny and its cast included Charlie Cox - who played Mr Hamilton, Billy Boyd, Robert Carlyle and Kate Mara.
The film was based on Mr Hamilton’s Taking of the Stone of Destiny book.
Mr Hamilton himself had a small role as an English businessman.