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Issue 62 - A Personal Portrait

Scotland Magazine Issue 62
April 2012


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A Personal Portrait

In the year Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, we look at the various Scottish aspects of her life

It might, at the outset, seem a little strange that Scotland Magazine would be celebrating the Queen’s jubilee in quite such an overt manner; but let’s not forget she is of course the British Queen, not just the English Queen.

To mark this special year in the monarch’s reign we look at three aspects of royalty in Scotland.

To open the section, we bring you one of the most personal views. Journalist and distinguished royal author Robert Hardman had near unlimited access to the royal family while writing his book Our Queen. He gives us a glimpse into the Queen’s daily and yearly life at her various estates, including Balmoral.

To follow this Roddy Martine looks at the various trappings and associations of the Royal Court in Scotland; taking us back to the beginnings of the Union of Crowns in 1603.

Finally historian Dr Ruth A. Symes looks at how our ancestors celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, looking at celebrations in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other towns.

So to the inside story. The Queen is unlike any other ruling monarch in British history; she has travelled further than her predecessors and lived longer than them too. She has also seen more British Prime Ministers and world leaders come and go. In his book Our Queen , Hardman shows us the side of the Queen the politicians see: Every summer, the Prime Minister is invited to stay at Balmoral, attend the Braemar Highland Games (optional) and enjoy a Royal Family barbecue cooked by Prince Philip (not optional).

Sir John Major has fond memories of walks down to the Balmoral cricket ground and of trips to tea at Birkhall. ‘The Queen usually drove me there and we would have tea and cakes with the Queen Mother and I would admire her collection of Spy cartoons and look with awe at the stack of Dad’s Army videos.’ Later on, there might be a black-tie dinner or, more often than not, that barbecue cooked by Prince Philip and another member of the Royal Family. ‘At the end of those very informal – and hugely enjoyable – evenings, the Queen and other members of the family would wash up and any guests who offered to do so would be politely repulsed,’ says Major.

But of course there are opportunities for “normal” people to meet the Queen, for example on state visits and if you are lucky enough to receive a command to attend a garden party:
There are four main ones every summer, three at Buckingham Palace and one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. With a few exceptions, guests are never invited more than once, the argument being that it really is a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for as many as possible. Roughly 9,000 people will be asked to each one and around 8,000 people will turn up (the numbers are slightly higher for Edinburgh). For reasons which are not entirely clear, the Scottish guests also devour nearly twice as much – fourteen items per head.

You cannot have a garden party without food:
The Queen checks it all herself beforehand and makes a few subtle regional variations when in Scotland – shortbread instead of strawberry tart, smoked salmon on oatcakes rather than bagels.

Finally the Queen has firm thoughts on her life at the beloved Highland retreat of Balmoral.

When asked about her time there she replies: “It’s rather nice to hibernate.”

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