Tributes reveal how the Queen spanned political divides in her beloved Scotland
The Queen’s love of Scotland was no secret.
And, despite the often fractious relationship between governments on either side of the border and the growing clamour for independence in the last years of her reign, Scotland always loved the Queen.
It is no coincidence that her death last week occurred at Balmoral and not Buckingham Palace. The 50,000-acre estate was well known to have been Her Majesty’s favourite place on earth, and it was previously described as a “paradise in the Highlands” by the monarch herself.
In a TV documentary, screened to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday, Princess Eugenie described how the Queen was most happy in the Highlands.
“Walks, picnics, dogs – a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs – and people coming in and out all the time,” Eugenie said. “It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there; where you just have room to breathe and run.”
Room to breathe and run: how many of us, fortunate enough to live in Scotland, would echo that sentiment?
As her one-time nanny Marion Crawford wrote of the Queen and her sister Margaret: “Their annual trip to Balmoral was the highlight of their tightly controlled lives. They looked forward to it all the year round.
“It tended to be the chief landmark in their calendar. Things were apt to date from: ‘Before we went to Scotland’ or ‘When we got back from Scotland’.
“At Balmoral, the princesses enjoyed the simple pleasures of a country childhood. The family would play charades and sing Scottish ditties. There were pony rides and picnics at small cottages on the property, where the Queen Mother would gamely cut up onions to fry.
“At tea, there were shrimps, hot sausage, rolls, scones, and those various sorts of griddle cakes known in Scotland as baps and bannocks. At night, after dinner, seven pipers in their kilts and sporrans would walk playing through the hall and the dining room…Lilibet loved this nightly ceremony and was usually waiting to peep over the stairs at the seven stalwart pipers going by.”
But Balmoral was not the be-all and end-all of Scotland for Her Majesty. She relished every opportunity to visit our region, and not even dreich borders weather could put her off.
Folk still talk of the torrential rain which greeted the Queen as she visited Lauder on her Golden Jubilee tour in 2002. And they recall how heavy downpour prompted a brass band to launch into Singing in the Rain as Her Majesty went on walkabout in the town.
At Melrose Abbey the Queen was shown the stone marking the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s heart, and then attended an event attended by representatives from all of the local common ridings, including Langholm.
Roger Maxwell, president of Langholm Common Riding until this year, was there, and this week recalled the speech the Queen gave at the rugby club.
“She was in good spirits, and had a sprightly demeanour, which was amazing to see considering she was 76 at the time.
“There were plenty of people there in attendance – I’m not sure how many people the grandstand at the rugby club holds but it was packed out, which shows the affection and admiration people had for her.
“It was a very celebratory atmosphere, as you’d expect, with bands parading around. It was an honour to be there and be part of the jubilee celebrations.”
It was a feeling that was mutual. “Scotland has played such a very special part in our lives, and that of my family, over the years and we have greatly enjoyed our frequent visits,” the Queen said.
“And at Balmoral you just hibernate. It is rather nice to hibernate when one leads such a movable life. To be able to sleep in the same bed for six weeks is a nice change. And you can go out for miles and never see anybody. There are endless possibilities.”
Although she was resolutely apolitical, it was clear that she was disturbed at the prospect of Scotland becoming independent of the Union.
Indeed in 2014, prior to the independence referendum, the Queen made headlines when she said voters would “think very carefully about the future.”
Independence would not have seen her ostracised from the country. The then SNP leader Alex Salmond made it clear that: “An independent Scotland will also retain the monarchy. Her Majesty will remain Queen of Scots, just as she is Queen of 16 other independent nations throughout the Commonwealth.”
And last week, it was telling that one of the most emotional tributes to her majesty came from the most fervent of Scottish nationalists.
“She was a monarch who reigned with compassion and integrity and established a deep connection with the public,” said Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in Westminster.
“And the affection which the Queen had for Scotland and Scotland had for the Queen cannot be underestimated.”
His was one of the many tributes paid to Her Majesty from across the political spectrum.
Langholm councillor Denis Male said: “Like everyone across the world I was saddened to hear the sudden sad news of the death of our wonderful Queen Elizabeth ll.
“She has been a tremendous ambassador for the United Kingdom, and a shining example to us all.”
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