The slightly different relationship: how Scotland bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth II.
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The slightly different relationship
This is how the Scottish Queen Elizabeth II says goodbye
09/12/2022, 16:16 hrs
The Queen often spent her summers in Balmoral. The Scots also adored Elizabeth II, but they had a different view of her than the English. This becomes apparent during the Queen’s last trip to Edinburgh.
When John Burleigh was eight, his mother took him to Edinburgh to see the young Queen Elizabeth. “She slid past me in a black sedan and I waved at her. She waved too.” Since then he had felt that there was a special bond between the two of them. So there is no question that he will be back in Edinburgh this Monday, he is now 69 years old. He has traveled away from Glasgow with his wife Heather to pay his last respects to the Queen. In a tartan kilt, he stands in front of St. Giles Cathedral and waits for the procession with the coffin. Thousands of Scots have been waiting in front of the barriers on the Royal Mile since early morning.
This Royal Mile looks very different from The Mall in London, the bombastic boulevard that will be decorated with giant Union Jacks for the Queen’s State Funeral next week. The Royal Mile is relatively narrow and winds through Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town. When the procession with the coffin stamps and rips over the cobblestones, led by King Charles III, you are very close. And that’s important, because the relationship between the Scots and the Queen has always been a bit more intimate.
Elizabeth II was an English queen, born in London, the city from which numerous campaigns of conquest and punitive expeditions against Scotland have been planned since the Middle Ages. At the beginning of Elizabeth’s tenure, Scottish nationalists repeatedly defaced or damaged red post boxes that read “ERII” (Elizabeth Regina II): In Scotland, her name should have been Elizabeth I, as the country was at the time of England’s Tudor queen Elizabeth I still had her own queen in the 16th century – the legendary Mary Stuart. Such incidents are unthinkable today. A large proportion of Scots are known to want to leave the UK, and according to a survey published in May, only a minority of 45 percent want to keep the monarchy – but that’s not against the Queen. She was also loved here in the north.
Another picture of Queen Elizabeth
However, the Scots had a different view of Elizabeth than the English, and it showed again in Edinburgh on Monday. Unlike London, which now has a huge black photo of her on every corner and in almost every shop window, there are few mourning displays in the Scottish capital. Even when the Scots talk about Elizabeth, the tone is different. It lacks the pathetic, also submissive, that is typical of the television programs produced in London.
Scots speak of the Queen as if they were a dear old friend. “Not only queen, but also neighbor” is a commonly used expression here. If the Queen has been a private woman anywhere, it is in Scotland. Elizabeth spent her summer vacations in Balmoral, the castle that Queen Victoria once bought at the behest of her husband Albert because the environment with its deep forests reminded him of his German homeland. Her definition of summer was idiosyncratic: the old lady’s visit usually started in late July and lasted until October. Ten weeks in Scotland. It was as if she was reluctant to return from the solitude of the Highlands to the noisy metropolis of London.
In Scotland, there are countless stories of walkers who over the years have met the Queen in the wild and romantic nature and chatted with her for a long time without recognizing her. She even took a photo of two Americans at their request – so she wasn’t in the photo herself. “She was such a lady, so dignified,” says Glasgow-born Eirlys, who has sat down in a folding chair on the Royal Mile. Her companions Amy, Rebecca and Fiona have snuggled up in thick blankets. Denis Melvin from Wales, dressed in a black tie and Union Jack shoes, is waiting with his two dogs on the ground directly in front of the barrier.
Popular festival instead of national mourning
In general, the mood is more of a folk festival than national mourning. There is a certain melancholy in the air, but at the same time you are glad you are there. And then she just reached a blessed age. There are generally more older than younger people here. Mark Green, 22, is currently studying in Cologne, but is back in Edinburgh on this day – he was in Scotland visiting family anyway. “I’d say the Queen’s death wasn’t as devastating to me as it was to some of our older relatives,” he said. “But I also know what it means that the Queen has just passed away here in Scotland and I am grateful to be able to pay her last respects in my homeland.”
A radio host finds the situation “surreal” and says it’s like being in a movie. It really does seem like a historical drama here. One last time, the Queen passes by the famous landmarks of the Old Town: the golden handprints with which the author JK Rowling immortalized herself on the doorstep – she wrote all seven Harry Potter novels here. At the “Edinburgh Vaults”, a vaulted labyrinth considered “Britain’s Most Haunted Place” (BBC). And also at the souvenir shops, which offer tartan clothing in a “Princess Diana memorial” look – whatever that may be.
The Queen’s last recorded talk, in conversation with a photographer last Tuesday, was about the Scottish weather. It was bad as usual. But now the sky has suddenly opened and all the spiers of Edinburgh sparkle in the golden autumn light. John Burleigh is expected to queue late into the night to walk past the Queen’s casket at the cathedral and bid her farewell. “I’ll lay them out,” he says, staring into the distance at the Firth of Forth, which can be seen from the Royal Mile. “She was a great lady,” he says. “A role model for all of us.”