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Issue 62 - Elizabeth, Queen of Scots

Scotland Magazine Issue 62
April 2012


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Elizabeth, Queen of Scots

Roddy Martine looks at the trappings and associations of the Royal Court in Scotland

In a BBC Scotland documentary shown on New Year’s Day, it was interesting to hear Alec Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen, and emphasise that should the Scottish people decide to vote for independence in his forthcoming referendum, Queen Elizabeth will retain the monarchy of Scotland.

This is a remarkable and rather recent side-step by the Scottish National Party which he heads up, but suggests that those within its ranks who have hitherto relentlessly pursued a republican agenda have begun to realise that it would be electoral suicide to suggest otherwise. And thus, whatever the outcome of that significant ballot, which looks as if it will take place in two years time, Elizabeth will remain Queen of Scots.

With all the pomp and ceremony surrounding the British royal family’s presence at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor, the Queen’s visits to Scotland are, by intention, more low key.

Throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, she is known as Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her Other Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. In Scotland, she is Queen of Scots, the difference lying in an ancient tradition that as opposed to any one person ruling the land, the monarch is the figurehead of the people, the Ard Righ, the Chief of Chiefs.

The Scottish Crown is an Imperial Crown, established long before William the Conqueror’s Norman invaders grabbed the wealth and landmass of England in 1066. More importantly, six centuries on, it was a Scottish monarch who took over the Throne of England. The Royal House of Windsor, which the Queen personifies, largely occupies the British throne through its Scottish antecedents.

It began in 1603 when James VI of Scotland was served heir to his cousin Elizabeth I of England, bringing about the Union of the Crowns of both countries. Thereafter, religion intervened with a vengeance, dividing the forces of Roman Catholicism and the rising Protestant persuasions of Europe. In order to divorce his first wife, Elizabeth I’s father, Henry VIII of England, had renounced the Catholic Faith and appointed himself Head of the Church of England.

Henceforth, it was unacceptable for an English monarch to be subject to the Pope in Rome.

In the centuries that followed, this was to lead to the downfall of the last of the Stuart kings, James VIII, and the succession of his daughter Mary and her Protestant husband William of Orange. There followed the Jacobite risings of the 18th century, with the Protestant succession eventually passing to the Royal houses of Hanover, then Windsor, both directly descended through the female line from the ruling dynasties of Scotland.

Further to that, of course, is the immense influence exercised by the Queen’s own mother, who before she married George VII, was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore & Kinghorn, whose Scottish bloodline descended from Princess Joanna, daughter of Robert II of Scotland. Nobody can underestimate the intense regard that both she and her husband had for her homeland; nor the great affection in which they were held by the people of Scotland.

It was the Queen Mother who influenced the placement of the Scottish Lyon Rampant on the back of her husband’s coinage, and who insisted that her second child, Princess Margaret Rose, be born at her family’s home Glamis Castle in Angus.

There can be no doubt that she encouraged her husband to reinstate the Insignia of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, a Scottish counterpart to the ancient English Order of the Garter. There are currently 16 Knights of the Thistle, personally chosen by the Queen from among Scots who have made a major contribution to national life.

The Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Bodyguard in Scotland, founded more than three hundred years ago, is another unique collection of individuals who take part in Scottish ceremonial occasions. The Royal Company comprises “an influential body of noblemen and country gentlemen, for the purpose of encouraging the noble and useful recreation of archery.” This might sound mildly anachronistic in the 21st century, but the 400 members actually shoot their arrows for a series of annual prizes, and take great pride in their sport. More importantly, they turn out in their tailored green uniforms and eagle feathered Balmoral bonnets to serve as Her Majesty’s official bodyguard on all major Royal events.

The British are renowned for the pageantry that surrounds their national life, and although perhaps a little less “Hollywood spectacle” than the Horse Guards and Buckingham Palace banquets for visiting heads of state, Scotland very much has its share of traditional ritual, its hereditary offices symbolising the dramatic passage of its history.

There is the 16th Duke of Hamilton who descends from a half-brother of Mary, Queen of Scots. As Hereditary Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official Scottish Residence, he is called upon to carry the Crown of Scotland on all official occasions. The thirteenth Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell, is Hereditary Master of the Royal Household in Scotland, an office held by his family since 1464.

The twenty fourth Earl of Erroll, whose ancestor was rewarded with the honour by Robert the Bruce after the Scots victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, is Hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland, and at all times responsible for the safety of the sovereign’s person within Scotland.

Purely symbolic, these great historic offices of state resonate through the centuries and add enormous colour to our national life.

In her Diamond Jubilee year, Holyrood Week in Scotland runs from 30 June to 6 July 2012 and begins with the Ceremony of the Keys, in which The Queen is received into the Scottish Capital of Scotland by the City Chamberlain. There follows an investiture held in the Palace of Holyroodhouse to enable Scottish residents whose achievements have been recognised to collect their honours from Her Majesty in their home country.

This year, the Queen will make a return visit the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood to mark the start of the fourth session. Thereafter, she and the Duke of Edinburgh will entertain around 8,000 guests from all walks of Scottish life at a Garden party held in the spectacular grounds of the Palace.

Another aspect of the monarchy’s interaction with Scotland, however, is rather more private.

Ever since the Queen’s great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria in 1852 purchased the private estate of Balmoral on Deeside in Aberdeenshire, this castelated castle has served as a holiday refuge from the relentless affairs of state.

Even holiday time has its obligations if you are born to be Queen, and there is no escape from the weekly flow of Red Boxes and Government papers which she is obliged to scrutinise, nor the political house guests. In addition, the traditional attendance of the royal family at the Braemar Gathering and Highland Games on Sunday 1st September is again guaranteed to bring in the crowds in record numbers, everyone hoping to catch a glimpse of this remarkable lady who has meant so much to us for all of our lives.

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