An ancient stone used in the coronation of British monarchs for almost 1,000 years has arrived in London.
With a long and turbulent history, the Stone of Destiny will be placed under the chair on which King Charles III will sit for Saturday’s ceremony.
A team of six bearers dressed in black carried the 125kg stone into Westminster Abbey after it had arrived from Scotland on Saturday.
After a special service in Edinburgh Castle, the artefact, also known as the Stone of Scone, will be placed under the Coronation Chair for the enthronement.
Joseph Morrow, the Lord Lyon of Scotland, said the stone was an “ancient symbol of sovereignty”.
It has been used to “sanctify the inauguration of monarchs from time immemorial and in our recorded history from as early as the accession of Malcolm III of Scotland in 1058”, he added.
To punish the local population, the stone was seized by Edward I, known as “Hammer of the Scots”, in 1296 and taken from Scone Abbey to Westminster Abbey.
But in an act of unity, the late Queen Elizabeth II had the stone returned to Scotland in 1996.
The oblong block of red sandstone is among Britain’s most important historic artefacts, with the queen being the last monarch to sit on it when she was crowned in 1953.
Legend has it that the stone was brought from the Middle East via Ireland in the ninth century but its true origin is likely to be from a quarry in Scotland.
It will be returned to Edinburgh Castle after the event.
The stone will be part of a ceremony in which the king and Queen Consort Camilla will be crowned in what has been billed as the most diverse coronation in British history.
Reflecting the religious range of Charles’s 15 realms, Aliya Azam will be the Muslim representative joining faith leaders from the Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities.
They will also present the king with pieces of coronation regalia, including bracelets, the robe, the ring and the glove.
The two-hour service will for the first time include other languages spoken in Britain with a prayer in Welsh and the hymn Veni Creator sung in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic.
A “chorus of millions” of people watching the service on TV will be asked to join in by responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “God save the King” with the words: “God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May the King live forever.”
A Lambeth Palace representative said officials hoped there would be “a great cry around the nation and around the world in support for the king”.
Prince Harry is also reported to be flying straight back to the US after the ceremony, as he plans to return in time to celebrate his son Archie’s fourth birthday which falls on the same day as his father's coronation.
A massive security presence will be required for world leaders attending the service.