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It is probably no coincidence that the Queen spent her final months at Balmoral in the north east of Scotland, near Aberdeen.

Scotland, especially the eastern half of the country, is romantic in all senses of the word.

The Queen had many fond memories of her summers there.

Therefore, she and the Princess Royal — Princess Anne — devised Operation Unicorn, to be activated in case she should die in Scotland. It was a great success not only for her Scottish subjects but for all of us watching in the United Kingdom and around the world.

A brief history

The last monarch to die in Scotland was James V in 1542.

He and his family were Catholic. His infant daughter Mary Queen of Scots succeeded him. Regents governed Scotland while she was young. She was forced to abdicate in 1567 and was beheaded in England in 1587.

Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, succeeded her in 1567. He, too, had regents until he reached majority age. Elizabeth I of England died in 1603 and, unmarried, had no successors. As James was the great-great-grandson of Henry VII, he had a rightful claim not only to the Scottish throne but also those in England and Ireland.

In the Union of England and Scotland Act 1603, the three kingdoms came under James’s rule. In England and Ireland, he was known as James I. His 22-year reign is known as the Jacobean era.

Interestingly, he returned to Scotland only once during that time, in 1617. He styled himself King of Great Britain and Ireland, only modified in the past century to replace Ireland with Northern Ireland.

Having the same monarch but the ability to maintain respective laws and customs allowed Scotland and England the flexibility to trade with each other without a complete union. Successive monarchs discussed union, but the two governments and the clergy vehemently disagreed on how to implement one.

By the 1690s, the whole of Europe was in a severe economic slump. In 1698, the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies received permission to raise capital through public subscription. The Company decided to invest in the Darién Scheme. This far-sighted investment involved establishing a trading post at Darién Bay on the Isthmus of Panama — where the Panama Canal is today — to engage in commerce with the Far East. The colony was to be called New Caledonia, or New Scotland.

Unfortunately, the Darién Scheme proved to be a disaster. The wealthy Scots who invested in it lost their money and Scotland’s economy collapsed.

The Act of Settlement 1701 decreed that the monarch of England and Ireland would be a Protestant member of the House of Hanover. This meant that no more descendants of Charles I could accede to the throne. Anne acceded to the throne in 1702, reigning over not only those two countries but also Scotland. In a speech to the English parliament, she said that a union was absolutely necessary.

England and Scotland continued to be divided on political union, which affected trade and the status of Scots living in England once the English parliament passed the Alien Act 1705, which made them ‘foreign nationals’.

That year, with Queen Anne pressing for a resolution, negotiations between the two countries’ respective parliaments and commissioners began anew. The Act of Union passed the Scottish parliament first on January 16, 1707. The Scottish peer Lord Queensberry was instrumental in its passage by 110 votes to 69. The English parliament passed the Acts shortly thereafter. This resulted in the Acts of Union 1707. Most of these 25 acts are economic in nature. One provided for the establishment of the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian. It is called the kirk. Another act guaranteed the continued practice of Scottish law north of the border.

While the English were happy about the new legislation, Scottish residents were somewhat angry with Lord Queensberry. This dissatisfaction carries on today with the independence movement, led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), the third largest party in the UK parliament in Westminster. Tony Blair wanted Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be devolved in order for his Labour Party to dominate politics in the first two of those nations. Little did he realise that the SNP would eclipse Labour in Scotland under the leadership of Alex Salmond and, afterwards, Nicola Sturgeon, the current First Minister.

Returning to 1707, however, Scotland began to flourish. Visitors to Edinburgh can clearly see that in New Town, where Princes Street is. Behind Princes Street are streets full of stately Georgian houses. Scotland began to contribute greatly to the good of the United Kingdom in medicine, architecture, philosophy and the arts.

During the Victorian era, between the Queen and Prince Albert and the romantic novels of Walter Scott, a mythological aura began to rest over the country, creating the romantic atmosphere we know today, whether in the capital city of Edinburgh or in the countryside.

This was the Scotland that Elizabeth II became acquainted with, thanks to her mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, whose father, Lord Glamis (pron. ‘Glahms’) and the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, was Scottish.

Therefore, it is no wonder that she would want to spend her last months and hours at her beloved Balmoral knowing that Operation Unicorn would proceed in all its glory.

And what a beautifully poignant few days they were this week.

September 9

On Friday, September 9, the day after the Queen’s death was announced, Scotland closed its courts and lowered its flags for their esteemed monarch.

The Times reported that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the Queen, saying:

“Millions around the world will share their grief but only they will feel the loss of a mother and grandmother,” she said.

“The Queen was unflinching in her dedication to duty, unwavering in her commitment to public service and unmatched in her devotion to the people of this country and the wider Commonwealth.

“We are all saddened by today’s news and will come together in the days ahead to mourn.

“But it is right and proper that we celebrate the unparalleled contribution she made in her 70 years as sovereign.”

The first minister added that Scotland “was special to her and she was special to Scotland” as she spoke of the Queen’s love of Balmoral, where she spent her final days.

The article goes on to say:

The Queen maintained a deep affection for Scotland throughout her life, having spent much time as a young princess with her parents at Balmoral or her maternal grandparents at Glamis Castle, Angus.

She gave her first public speech in Aberdeen in 1944, when she opened a home for the British Sailors’ Society while still a teenager.

After acceding to the throne in 1952, she maintained the royal family’s tradition of holidaying at Balmoral every summer.

Although most Scots support the monarchy, those who oppose it are hardly thin on the ground. As last weekend unfolded, I hoped that Operation Unicorn would help them understand more about the significance of the monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II in particular.

September 10

On Saturday, the Royals at Balmoral were dressed semi-formally in black. The Mail reported that they viewed the tributes at the estate and at nearby Crathie Kirk. Their photo captions read:

Lady Louise Windsor, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Anne, Princess Royal wave to the public outside Balmoral Castle on Saturday

The teary-eyed Countess of Wessex, Sophie studies the floral tributes and loving messages left to her mother-in-law, the Queen, at Crathie Kirk church near Balmoral on Saturday

However, one Scottish businesswoman in the Highlands was happy when the Queen died. The Mail reported that the locals dealt with her before police arrived:

A fish and chip shop owner who celebrated the Queen‘s death with a bottle of champagne, shouting ‘Lizard Liz is dead’ has had her restaurant windows smashed in.

A photo of the vandalism was shared to Twitter on Saturday night showing the front of the shop with a shattered window and a hole in the middle. 

Angry locals also vandalised the property on Thursday evening when they pelted the store front with eggs and ketchup.

Jaki Pickett, who runs Jaki’s Fish and Chip Shop in Muir of Ord, Highlands in Scotland held up a chalkboard that read ‘London Bridge has fallen’ with a smiley face.

She posted the now-deleted clip of her happily celebrating the Queen’s death on Facebook, but it caused huge outrage with locals who blasted Ms Pickett for disrespecting the late monarch …

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Officers received a report of damage to a property in the Seaforth Road area of Muir of Ord, which is thought to have happened between 7.30pm on Friday, 9 September, and 10.30am on Saturday, 10 September, 2022.

‘Enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances.’

Police Scotland were also called to the shop on Thursday evening after it was targeted by angry residents in Muir of Ord who egged the windows.

Pictures showed broken eggshells on the ground and egg mess over the shop windows, while ketchup was splattered on a bench.

Videos circulating on social media show residents surrounding the restaurant on Thursday evening, where owner Ms Pickett was seen driving away from the area with a police escort while locals booed her for her shameless Facebook post.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Shortly after 8.30pm on Thursday, 8 September officers attended at a business in the Seaforth Road area of Muir of Ord following a report of a large crowd gathered in the area.

‘Officers remained at the scene to ensure the safety of all present and the group subsequently dispersed peacefully.

‘No further police action has been required.’

Earlier, in London, at the special session of the House of Commons, an SNP MP, Joanna Cherry KC, spoke of the Queen’s Scottish lineage (emphases mine):

It is very humbling to follow so many great speeches. On my own behalf and on behalf of my Edinburgh South West constituents, I too rise to honour the memory of our late Queen. Much has been said of her dedication and her service, but I want to concentrate on her love of Scotland and the love of many Scots for her.

As the Queen died at Balmoral, and is to be taken first to the palace of Holyroodhouse and then to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland will be the centre of the world’s attention over the next few days. That is breaking with tradition, but those were the Queen’s wishes, and Scotland is honoured by them. The last monarch to die in Scotland was James V, who died at Falkland in 1542. He was, of course, the father of Mary, Queen of Scots, and it was her son James VI who presided over the union of the Crowns. Mary, Queen of Scots is the ancestor of all the Stuarts and, indeed, all the Hanoverians who followed. Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James VI, married one of the German electors, and with the demise of the last Stuart monarch in 1714, Elizabeth’s grandson succeeded to the British throne. That is the Hanoverian line, and it can be traced directly back to Scotland’s Stuarts. Our late Queen was keenly aware of that—perhaps that is why she chose Stuart names for her first two children, Charles and Anne. And, of course, her mother was a Scot.

In 1953, after her coronation, the first place our late Queen visited was Edinburgh, and throughout her reign, she returned to Scotland for important events and, indeed, chose my country to be centre stage during state visits. In 1962, she chose Scotland for the state visit of the King of Norway; in 2010—very memorably for many people of my faith—she chose Holyrood for the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI; and, of course, she officially opened Scotland’s Parliament when it was reconvened in 1999.

Our late Queen embodied the union of the English and Scottish Crowns, which of course is quite different from the Union of the Parliaments and predates it by over 100 years. At a time of change, there are many in my country—particularly younger people—who might prefer a republic to a constitutional monarchy, but that did not in any way prevent the affection our late Queen held for Scotland from being returned in equal measure. Sadly, I never had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Scots, but earlier this year I did have the privilege of meeting our new King. We spoke of Scotland, and I was left in no doubt that he shared his mother’s abiding love of my country.

As such, before I resume my seat, in honour of his late mother, I want to recite just a few words of Burns’ poetry that I believe may be a favourite of the King:

“Farewell to the mountains, high-cover’d with snow,

Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,

Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;

Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,

My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.”

May she rest in peace.

Sunday, September 11

Princess Anne had the solemn duty of escorting her mother’s casket from Balmoral, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire, to Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official Royal residence in Scotland.

The cortege passed slowly through Ballater, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth. Many Scots lined the roads in silence to bow in respect.

The Queen’s casket was covered in her standard with a wreath of white flowers, her favourites. Among them were delicate sweet peas. It was a beautiful last memory for her subjects.

Watching her on television, I do not know how the Princess Royal managed to stay so stoic. The journey began mid-morning and lasted well into the afternoon.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh’s Old Town, where the magnificent castle is, the proclamation of Charles III was declared.

Metro reported that a young green-haired woman held up an anti-monarchy sign with an obscenity on it and was arrested:

A woman was arrested holding an anti-monarchy sign in Edinburgh today, before the Queen’s cortege arrived in the city.

She was detained outside St Giles’ Cathedral, where the monarch’s coffin is due to be held from tomorrow after spending the night at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Moments before the proclamation of Charles III as new king this afternoon, a demonstrator appeared in the crowd opposite the Mercat Cross …

Officers appeared behind her and took her away, prompting the crowd to applaud.

One man shouted: ‘Let her go, it’s free speech,’ while others yelled: ‘Have some respect.’

A police spokesman said a 22-year-old woman was arrested ‘in connection with a breach of the peace’.

This started an online debate about whether protest of the monarchy is freedom of speech. Surely, it is, although others say it depends on how far it goes:

That narrow thoroughfare going down the Royal Mile from the castle was teeming with people and continued to be until the late afternoon of Monday, September 12.

Metro‘s article on the protest continues but with a focus on the proclamation and all who wanted to pay their respects:

It came on the day thousands lined the streets to watch the Queen’s coffin arrive in Edinburgh, where she will stay before continuing the journey to her final resting place.

Countless tearful well-wishers turned out to pay their respects to the late monarch as her hearse made the 175-mile journey from Balmoral.

But some hecklers were heard booing among the crowds gathered in Scotland’s capital to hear the proclamation of Charles.

The Lord Lyon King of Arms gave a speech before declaring ‘God save the King’, which the crowd repeated.

A Sunday Times article discusses the complex feelings Scots have about the monarchy: ‘She adored Scotland but the Union will wobble without her’.

Reading it made me appreciate why the Queen wanted Operation Unicorn to proceed.

Excerpts follow:

“She came here to die in the Highlands,” said Elizabeth Strachan, 69, who grew up near the Balmoral Estate. “This is her homeland. It is the place she knows.”

Over the long years of the Queen’s reign, the United Kingdom’s collective identity has changed markedly. Scottish independence went from a fringe cause to the centre of the political debate.

Some believed she gave people a feeling of Britishness, which hampered the vote for separation, that her soft power pushed together a fragmenting nation. Others believed she was viewed as being above the debate and the nationalist cause moved forward regardless.

A poll this May by British Future, a think tank, found that more than 36 per cent of Scots thought the end of the Queen’s reign would be the right time to abolish the monarchy.

How will the accession of King Charles III change things? Is the political union separate, in voters’ minds, to the monarchical one? And if it is, can it remain that way?

Alex Salmond, the former first minister and leader of the SNP during the 2014 referendum, thinks the impact of her death on politics will be “on the margins”. He said: “Her presence did not stop the rise of Scottish nationalism over the last 70 years of her great reign so her passing will not change its direction either.” Salmond, who is a privy counsellor and attended yesterday’s accession council, shared the Queen’s love of horseracing and has spoken warmly of her.

Still, the smallest remarks she made about the Union generated big headlines. In 1977, before a vote on the establishment of an assembly in Edinburgh, she made a speech emphasising how she was crowned Queen of all four nations. Ahead of the 2014 referendum vote, she said to a wellwisher: “I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”

[Then-Prime Minister] David Cameron later told Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, that the Queen “purred down the line” when she found out about the “no” result. Salmond was invited for breakfast at Balmoral the next morning.

“The Queen was absolutely furious, the angriest I’d ever seen her,” said Salmond. “I don’t think she was trying to stop the rise of Scottish nationalism. She wasn’t dyed in the wool for the political union but I think she was dyed in the wool for the union of the Crown. She understood well the difference.”

Cameron has admitted his comments were “a terrible mistake” …

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, has been firm in her support of the Queen and the monarchy. In May of this year she reiterated that the royal family would continue to rule regardless of a “yes” or a “no” vote.

Scottish nationalists do not all agree. Chris McEleny, general secretary of the Alba Party, which Salmond now leads, said in a statement: “If the people of the rest of the UK wish to have King Charles as their head of state then good luck to them, but there should be zero countenance of that absurdity in an independent Scotland” …

Sandra Fagan, 66, drove to Balmoral from Perth with her mother, daughter, and grandson — four generations spanning four monarchs.

Sandra’s father was a “red-hot” SNP supporter, shouting at the television that it was “all about England”. “But when it came to royalty and the Queen it was different. He wanted different laws for Scotland but never a different head of state. Believing in the monarchy is spiritual, it has nothing to do with separatism, which you argue about over the dinner table”

Graham and Susan Cameron, their son, Callum, 27, and dog, “Her Royal Highness” Tia Cameron, drove 85 miles from Buckie to lay flowers at the Balmoral gates on Friday morning.

“I’m not a monarchist,” said Susan, 58, “but she was like a mother to all of us. She’s been a constant through a relentless period of change, tying us all together. It is a relief to have Charles — it means the monarchy goes on”

It was in Scotland that Prince Philip mooted the idea of their marriage, where the couple spent their honeymoon and later, where the family found out about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The royal property portfolio is sprawling, worth £261.5 million and including Charles’s Birkhall, the Queen’s beloved Craigowan Lodge, both on Balmoral, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Dumfries House in Cumnock and the Castle of Mey in Caithness.

Balmoral was said to be the Queen’s favourite. She was a “neighbour”, said David Cobban, 56, the owner of a gift shop in the nearby town of Ballater, who grew up on the Balmoral Estate. The Queen spoke with residents in Doric, the northeast Scots dialect, and wore country clothes much like their own.

“Up here the relationship with the royal family is more intimate,” said Cobban. “They come here so they can be as normal as they can be.”

I will continue with another post about Scotland tomorrow. The television coverage was compelling.

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