King Charles III’s popularity in Scotland is lower than that of the late Queen
A new relationship may need to be struck between King Charles and the Scots, says TERRY MURDEN
An end of one royal era and the start of another could herald a shake-up in the monarchy and the royal estate, not least in Scotland as a new relationship is established between the new king and his subjects. King Charles III, as Prince of Wales, has long favoured a slimmed down institution, with a focus more on contribution to public life and less on ceremony.
That may see the number of hand-shaking engagements reduced and more attention given to hands-on duties. It will see a change of role for the nuclear group, and probably for some of the royal palaces with talk some time ago that the Queen’s beloved Balmoral, where she died on Thursday, could become a museum to her memory.
Royal watchers say the new king must strike a balance that meets a demand for the monarchy to be seen providing value for money, while not eroding its special qualities as a cherished institution. While critics complain that it is an irrelevant and no longer affordable luxury, supporters point to the actual cost to the taxpayer – just 77p per year per person – and the vast income that it earns the country through tourism and business investment.
There are tensions over its relevance in parts of the Commonwealth and even in Scotland where the Queen spent many happy times. Despite her love of Scotland and Aberdeenshire in particular, the royal family has had an uneasy relationship with the Scots, especially some in the nationalist camp who regard it as representative of the broader values of the United Kingdom and of an elitism which they reject.
Though non-political by virtue of her position, the Queen had pointedly declared that she was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and privately she resented proposals to break-up the union. She is said to have expressed a subtle satisfaction when the nationalists lost the independence referendum in 2014.
The distinctions between Scotland and the rest of the UK extends beyond sentiment. She was not technically Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, as Queen Elizabeth I was an English queen only. There are reminders of this on Royal Mail post boxes across Scotland which do not bear the roman numerals.
The new King and his sister, the Princess Royal, shared their mother’s love of Scotland, but opinion polls reveal that this loyalty has not been reciprocated at the same level as in other parts of the UK. For Charles in particular, his rating in Scotland hovers at little more than half of his late mother’s.
Unlike her, time is also not on his side. She came to the throne symbolising a young generation eager for a fresh start from the ravages of war. He, to a degree, already represents a bygone age, having been born before his mother was crowned. This simple but unalterable timeline adds to the pressure on Charles to be seen as a modern King.
Over these next few months, as the country ponders another independence referendum in October 2023, Scotland will choose whether the new royal era should been seen as an opportunity to unite the kingdom or a moment to seek a fresh start as a republican nation with an elected head of state.
There was no hint of the latter in the tributes paid to the Queen by either the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, or her predecessor Alex Salmond, but some nationalists are already agitating for change and it was notable that Ms Sturgeon avoided making any reference to uniting the kingdom. Chris McEleny, general secretary of the Alba Party, said that having Charles as constitutional Head of State in Scotland “is patently absurd.”
Meanwhile, there will be a change of royal titles which may symbolise more than an act of ceremony, rather a clear determination to reaffirm the family’s relevance.
The first change will be that the King’s eldest son William will become heir apparent. He will also become the Duke of Cornwall and the Duke of Rothesay, his father’s former title in Scotland. Kate will become the Duchess of Cornwall and Rothesay.
Prince Edward may be given the Duke of Edinburgh title, previously held by his father.
What will become of the Queen’s favourite son Andrew, is unclear, but there have been few indications that he will make a return to royal duties any time soon.
The Duke of Sussex may attempt to rekindle relations with his father and brothers, but the Duchess – Meghan Markle – appears to see herself as a long-term outsider, a view that is said to have contributed to her not joining her husband at Balmoral.
These divisions may sadden the family but, ironically, they also help to sustain it as an institution. The media and public alike thrive on the splits and disputes. It is, after all, a real life soap opera and even the most cynical Scots – in their private moments – can’t seem to get enough of it.