He has two tu de to the Romans. Thus those with medieval world. The stone stayed in following themes: the imperialist guilt complexes feel uncom-
fortable at the idea of imperialists and first is colonisers being so successful. A study
Westminster Abbey, apparently used in almost every coronation, including the 'installation' of Oliver Cromwell, until
Englishness. Whereas in the
19th century it was generally assumed that the w ere
English descended from the
Anglo-Saxons, yet in the early 20th century, as admiration grew for the achievements of Rome, so writers began to suggest that there was at least some inheritance from Roman Britain to the modern day.
The second main them is that of Romanisation and concentrates on the figure of Francis Haverfield, the Camden
Professor of Roman History at Oxford in the early part of the century. Haverfield wrote a pioneering book, The
Romanisation of Britain, and he shows how this was taken up, first by
Collingwood, then by Leo Rivet,then by
Shepherd Frere and down to Martin Millet who wrote a very different book on the same title.
I find this part rather unsatisfactory. Part of the trouble is that he seems to imply that any comparison between the
BritishandtheRomanEmpiresisinvalid and that any interpretation that sees the
Romans bringing civilisation and their departure bringing a return to barbarism is somehow wrong. Yet he never openly argues the reverse. Does he really believe that Roman Britain was a decline from its Iron Age predecessor and that in the fifth century Britain suddenly became civilised again? He never says this openly but simply snipes at the reverse and thus the whole chapter has a somewhat 'snide' feel to it. The early 20th century writers no doubt went too far in their imperialism,
but he goes far too far in the opposite direction.
What he should really do now is to write a history of Britishattitudes to the Romans over the second half of the 20th century, to see how our post-imperial guilt has in its turn permeated our atti-
of the spread of this myth would be far more interesting -and relevant.
The Stone of Scone
Scotland's Stone of Destiny by Nick
Aitchison (Tempus £19.99) is an account of the Stone of Scone, a slab of sand-
stone removed by Edward Ifrom Scone near Perth in 1296, and brought back to
Westminster Abbey where it formed part of the Coronation Throne on which
English kings have been crowned for the past 700
1951 when it was stolen by a group of
Glasgow students who successfully took it to Scotland, and eventually five months later, having fooled the authori-
ties, deposited it in Arbroath Abbey, after which it was taken back to
Westminster Abbey where it remained until its removal in 1996.
Nick Aitchison has produced an excellent account, bringing together history, mythology and archaeology,
and it is a book that even Englishmen may enjoy.
years. However in 1996 a weak
Prime Minister sent it to
a city with which it has no connection, where it is now called the
Stone of Destiny.
Despite legends that the stone had a mythical origin in Egypt, or possibly Ireland, it is in fact a block of old red sandstone of a type that outcrops extensively around Scone. Scone, near
Perth was an ancient Pictish royal centre, indeed it was here that the Scots treacherously defeated the Picts.
However by the time it emerges into history it is a monastery - a stone church was built in 1114. Today it is a private residence - the home of the Earlsof Mansfield
The stone itself has been dressed,
and at either end there is an iron ring by which it can be lifted. The author suggests, surely with some plausibility,
that it could have been the lid of a crypt which was removed on suitable occa-
sions. The upper side is smooth as if it had been walked over, or perhaps prayed over. Edward I removed it to London where it was built into a Coronation Chair which even in its
Rievaulx Abbey was the first, and would be the most glamorous, of the Cistercian abbeys was it not overshad-
owed by its neighbour at Fountains. After it was taken into guardianship in 1917,itwas stripped by the
MinistryofWorks,buttheresultsof their excavations were never properly published. It has now been magnifi-
cently published as Rievaulx Abbey by Peter Ferguson, an American Professor of Art and Stuart Harrison, a Yorkshire archaeologist. with contributions from Glyn Coppack (Yale University Press, £60, for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in BritishArt).
This is a successful marriage of high scholarship with a readable approach. There is one section of colour illustra-
tions and numerous black and white. In particular there is a fascinating account of what happened after the Suppression and later how in the twentieth century it was wrested by the Ministry of Works from a reluctant owner, and what has happened to the abbey since it has curr~nt vandalis~dform r~mainson~ of the finest Coronation Chairs from the been in state ownership.