When I get bored, or if I’m a little sad, I like watching documentaries on my laptop about old, historical things— like English castles, Russian tsars and evil Nazis dickheads. It’s calming and therapeutic… yet, cheaper than Xanax.
Today, I stumbled upon a documentary about Westminster Abbey on Netflix. You know that big, old Gothic church that Prince William and his wife, Kate, got married a few years ago? Yeah, that building. It’s been around for nearly a thousand years… and it’s THE place to get buried if you are super cool and accomplished. There are kings, queens, princes, dukes and even scientists— like Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. There are scads of writers, too, including Aphra Behn— who, in the mid-1600s was the first woman to make a living as a novelist, playwright and poet. #oldtimeygirlpower
Westminster Abbey is also the place where the kings and queens of England are crowned. During the ceremony, the monarch sits on this really old wooden chair that was built in 1296. The chair still exists today. It’s survived generations of termites, vandals, and the really fat ass of King George IV, who in the mid-1800s spent most of his time eating large amounts of food and shagging women— all while being addicted to opium. He was a real winner. #momoneymoproblems
The chair was designed to house a special slab of stone beneath the seat. This slab is called the Stone of Scone. It’s important to note that the name has nothing to do with actual breakfast scones, much to George IV’s utter disappointment. Rather, the stone was the seat upon which hundreds of years of Scottish kings were crowned a really long time ago. In 1296, though, King Edward I of England took the stone from the Scots so that it could become the coronation seat for his many future, royal, and sometimes tubby, descendants.
As you may guess, this did not sit well with the Scottish. It didn’t take much to inflame their ire during this time, but stealing their favorite old rock was an easy way to do it. In between eating haggis, playing bagpipes, and drinking whiskey, the Scots stewed about this horrendous act for hundreds of years— even after the two nations joined together under one monarch. The English refused their many requests to have the stone returned— unwilling to compromise with the plaid-wearin’, brogue-talkin’ heathens to the north.
Fast forward 700 years. (I didn’t promise this would be a short story.) On Christmas Day in 1950, four Scottish students broke into Westminster Abbey with a crowbar and snatched the Stone of Scone from beneath the seat of the coronation chair. Okay, snatched might not be the best word for something that weighs 336 pounds. Rather, they dragged the stone out of the Abbey on an old winter coat and managed to secret the slab of rock across the border to an eager, and joyous Scotland.
British police vigorously searched for the stone for three months before the Scots finally relinquished the stone in time for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation months later. The boys that took the stone were pardoned and details of the investigation were plastered all over the newspapers. Yet, each side still claimed ownership of the Stone of Scone and its history. Eventually a deal was reached so that Scotland could keep the stone for most of the time, except during coronations… every other Christmas, and the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Like a divorced couple’s joint custody arrangement of their 336 pound baby. It was all very complicated.
Strike that. No… no, it wasn’t complicated. It’s actually very simple. England and Scotland, two very advanced nations and pioneers in the development of representative democracy, were fighting over a FUCKING ROCK. A piece of goddamn stone that you can find in any riverbed, on any hillside… hell, even in someone’s weedy backyard.
See, this is why history is so awesome. And this is why I watch historical documentaries to make myself feel better. Because even if I’m having a bad day, a sad day, or I’m depressed about what’s on the 5 o’clock news, I know that we humans have done stupid stuff all throughout our history. The dates and years on the calendar may change, but our stupidity does not.
And there is definitely something comforting in that.
Don’t you think?