Tue. Feb 7th, 2023

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Long before one saw the hearse — and the coffin made of English oak, bedecked with Scottish thistle and heather — you heard the clop of horse hoofs on the cobblestone streets of the Royal Mile.

The old town of Edinburgh is not usually a quiet place — it is boisterous, touristy, often a little unsteady on its feet. But it was hushed Monday afternoon, under blue skies, with sun. The crowds heard the horses and leaned forward.

They saw, in stately procession, the Mercedes-Benz hearse being escorted by the King’s Bodyguard for Scotland, followed by the lead mourners: Queen Elizabeth II’s four children. Three were in their military finery, including King Charles III in admiral’s uniform. Prince Andrew was dressed in a morning coat — no longer a working royal, damaged by scandal, but still present.

Live Updates: Scots pay respects as queen’s coffin lies in rest in Edinburgh

The people were mostly silent, holding aloft their smartphones. A lone heckler, who directed his insults at Andrew, was yanked backward and arrested for disturbing the peace. Some in the crowd shouted “God bless the queen!” and “God save the king!”

In this moment, Scotland embraced its “Queen of Scots.”

But the question with her death is what comes next?

There’s no doubt that the British royal family has the closest of ties to Scotland, and the vast majority of people here deeply respected the queen.

And yet. Scots hold complicated feelings about the monarchy and whether Scotland should be independent — or even a republic free of hereditary royals. Those feelings were undercurrents here on Monday, as the queen’s coffin traveled from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to St. Giles’ Cathedral, and the new king addressed the Scottish Parliament.

Inside St. Giles, the Rev. Iain Greenshields paid tribute to the queen’s love of Balmoral, where she was “valued as a neighbor and friend, and there she drew strength and refreshment during the summer months.”

The queen savored the royal Balmoral estate in the Scottish Highlands, all 50,000 acres of it, where she spent holidays, on the vast moors and glens, shooting grouse and red deer stag. The queen’s family called it her “happy place.” It was there that she performed her last ceremonial act — appointing her 15th prime minister, Liz Truss, last week. And it was there that she died on Thursday, at the age of 96.

“She loved Scotland. Loved it,” said Haley Wilson, 34, a civil tax official waiting in an hours-long line to view the queen’s coffin at the cathedral. “Balmoral, and she loved the bagpipes. She loved being outdoors and the landscapes. She loved Scotland. That means so much.”

Wilson was 18 months old when she first met the sovereign. Her mother loved to tell of how the queen, in church for Easter, had “waved” to baby Haley. Wilson described Elizabeth II as a “Scottish queen.”

Paul Anderson, 52, a local fiddler, played for the queen many times over the years at Crathie Kirk, a small church just outside the gates of Balmoral.

When he played upbeat music, she’d “tap her feet, smile and nod at me at the end,” he said. And he recalled that at a Balmoral ball with “vigorous” Scottish country dancing, the queen — then 93 — was “the first person up on the dance floor.”

“Folks felt like she was part of the community,” he said, noting that at the same time, “they were well aware she was the queen” and locals would “just let them be.”

The new king, too, has deep connections to Scotland. He attended boarding school at Gordonstoun, with its cold showers and bullying and serious study, which he credits with teaching him about hard work. He established a hub for his Prince’s Foundation, and its sustainability advocacy, at Dumfries House in Scotland.

Before his accession, Charles held a string of titles in Scotland: Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

He even looks comfortable in a kilt.

King Charles III addresses Parliament for the first time as monarch

Charles wore tartan, and bright red socks, when he appeared before the Scottish Parliament on Monday, as part of a whirlwind tour of the four nations of the United Kingdom.

King Charles III spoke to Scotland’s parliament on Sept. 12 after his mother Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin procession to St. Giles’s Cathedral. (Video: Reuters)

“The queen, like so many generations of our family before her, found in the hills of this land, and in the hearts of its people, a haven and a home,” he said.

This royal line is descended from James VI of Scotland, who followed the first Elizabeth in the 16th century, in the time of William Shakespeare.

Charles quoted from Shakespeare when speaking earlier in the day to both houses of the British Parliament at Westminster. But in Scotland he borrowed from poet Robert Burns, saying that his mother the queen was: “The friend of man, the friend of truth; The friend of age, and guide of youth.”

The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, told the king that she remembered well the royal family barbecues at Balmoral Castle, with his late father, Prince Philip, in charge of the grill. She recalled a time that one of the queen’s corgis chewed through a lamp wire at the castle — though the lights stayed on, and no dog was harmed.

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke to Scotland’s parliament and King Charles III about her memories of the queen, including the first time she saw her. (Video: Reuters)

Sturgeon called the queen “a true and steadfast friend” to her nation and “intrinsic to the story of Scotland.” Sturgeon pledged her government’s loyalty to the king.

The speeches of condolence were warm, even from Scottish leaders of parties with republican leanings, such as the Greens.

But among the thousands who lined the roads in Edinburgh to see the queen’s coffin, there were many who expressed dual loyalties.

Sophie Campbell, 63, a retired shop clerk, said she would welcome Scotland becoming an independent nation while also keeping the king. “It would be the best of both worlds,” she said. “Old and new.”

Campbell said many Scots have no problem with the monarchy. “They’re part of our history.” But, she explained: “People in Scotland have problems with the English,” with Boris Johnson and the ruling elites in London.

Daniel Wincott, professor of law and society at Cardiff University, noted that although leaders of the pro-independence Scottish National Party have offered respectful comments and “praise for the queen” this past week, he could still envision that, after a short period of “coming together” upon the queen’s death, the ties that bind the United Kingdom could “loosen.”

During the 2014 independence referendum, which saw Scotland reject leaving the union, SNP leaders made clear that any newly formed nation would retain the monarch as head of state.

Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney, a leader of the SNP, repeated the promise to BBC radio on Monday, that “His Majesty the King should be the head of state of an independent Scotland.”

He said, “it’s what we will continue to argue.”

Not all agree. The leaders of Green and Alba parties in Scotland say they want to part with the monarchy after independence.

A major survey in May, for the think tank British Future, found 45 percent in Scotland wanted to retain the monarchy — with 36 percent saying the end of the queen’s reign would be the right moment to move to a republic.

On the question of Scottish independence, the queen was mostly mute. But not entirely.

At Crathie Kirk, Elizabeth paused to speak to someone in the crowd before the 2014 referendum. She was overheard to say, “well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future,” widely interpreted as a nudge to vote against independence.

Tim Shipman, political editor at the Sunday Times of London, said it was no slip of the tongue. Reporters had been alerted to keep an ear out for her remark.

David Cameron, prime minister at the time, was caught on a live microphone saying the queen “purred down the phone” when he reported that his campaign against Scottish independence had succeeded. He later apologized for revealing a private conversation with the monarch.

While Charles is less popular than his mother was in Scotland, and the institution of monarchy itself is less popular in Scotland than in England, these are differences “of degree rather than kind,” said Alex Massie, the Scotland editor of the Spectator magazine.

“I don’t detect any great enthusiasm in Scotland for a republic,” Massie said. “Yes, republicanism is probably stronger in Scotland than in England, but that doesn’t mean it’s strong enough to carry the day.”

He also cautioned about reading too much into opinion polling taken while Charles was Prince of Wales. “Becoming king is transformational,” he said.

“The institution is greater than any individual, as hard as that is to recall after a 70-year reign,” Massie said. “There is considerable goodwill for Charles that may surprise a lot of people; a lot of people are surprised by the extent of goodwill they feel toward the king.”

After dark, outside a pub on High Street, health-care worker Keith Fraser opined that people who want independence might push harder for it now. A lot of people are worried about the economy, he said. The monarch? He shrugged.

“Everyone loves their mother, right? Everybody in Scotland — it’s about the queen today,” he said. “Ask them about Charles later, not today. See what happens.”

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