Queen Elizabeth II funeral: How will King Charles III maintain the royal family's links with Scotland?

For the new King, the relationship between Scotland and the monarchy is something that will need to be nurtured in a way that was unnecessary during the reign of his mother.

For the late Queen Elizabeth II, Scotland was both a “haven and home”, the King Charles III told the Scottish Parliament last week, and those links will need to be cultivated further.

It is no secret that support for the monarchy in Scotland is not as strong as it is in other parts of the United Kingdom.

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Polling from YouGov following the death of Queen showed fewer than half of Scots support Britain having a monarchy, lower than any other UK region.

However, the polling sample was just over 150 people and should be treated with caution.

Despite this, it is a warning sign for Charles and the wider royal family that, while the Queen was generally a unifying figure, there are challenges ahead for the new King north of the border.

Charles, during his period as heir apparent, was known as the Duke of Rothesay, a title now passed on to Prince William.

King Charles III during an audience with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh. Picture date: Monday September 12, 2022.

For him, Scotland was also a place of retreat, respite and escape and it will likely continue to act as such while he is King.

People can expect the tradition – begun by Queen Victoria – of the royal family visiting Scotland during the ‘Royal Week’ in the summer to continue.

This includes the annual Ceremony of the Keys at Holyroodhouse where the Lord Provost of Edinburgh presents the keys of the city to the monarch.

Royal Week is a key part of the calendar in Scotland for the royals, and marks the beginning of their traditional summer break in Scotland.

Retaining and even building on this tradition and opening up the monarchy more to the public could help restore support for the royal family in Scotland.

There are reports of plans for the King to turn parts of Balmoral into a museum of the Queen.

This could see vast areas of the private castle opened up to the public, with exhibitions potentially dedicated to the Queen’s lifetime of service, containing displays of royal jewellery and outfits worn by his moth.

It would also honour the connection between the Queen and the estate, with reports suggesting it could open as early as next summer.

Charles has his own personal connection to Royal Deeside in the form of the Birkhall estate, which he inherited from his grandmother in 2002.

That estate was where he proposed to Camilla, the Queen Consort, and where he spent the first Covid lockdown in 2020.

There have been suggestions in the past that Balmoral could be gifted to the ‘people’ by the monarchy, with Birkhall becoming the official residence of the King when he is in Scotland.

His other connection is the Castle of Mey, near John O’Groats, which is open to the public throughout the year unless the King and the Queen Consort are staying.

If the wider royal family continues to visit Scotland and, in particular, Balmoral during his reign, it is highly likely there will repeats of the pictures of Charles in a kilt on the moors with his two young sons.

However, in his place – or alongside – will be William and his children, further building on the links between the royal family and Scotland.

William and Kate’s visit to Scotland last year was billed as the beginning of a shift towards attempting to save the Union.

The Sunday Times reported the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be spending more time at Balmoral and at their university town of St Andrews to build on their own personal links to Scotland and boost the case for the Union.

This is part of a push back to politicians ‘losing Scotland’, royal sources told the paper, with the long-term plan for the now Prince and Princess of Wales to appear as “residents” rather than visitors.

During that tour of Scotland, William described the country as "vibrant, friendly, innovative and determined".

He said: "I'm shaped by this place.

"The abiding affection I feel for it is rooted in my experience of its everyday life in people, relationships, and its ethic of neighbourliness."

If the political disagreements over the constitutional future of Scotland continue, it is likely the royal family may feel more inclined to build and reinforce its links with Scotland.

However, as senior figures of the SNP have repeatedly said, the plan for an independent Scotland would be to retain the monarchy as the head of state and for the country to join the broader Commonwealth group of countries.

At the time this potential intervention was mooted in the press, Sir Tom Devine, of Edinburgh University, warned such a “cack-handed” approach could cause serious problems for the royals.

He said: “If this ill-framed plan goes ahead, the royals will be seen to have become politicised on one of the great issues of our time.

"The House of Windsor will not be regarded as coming out in support of the Union of Crowns, but rather, rightly or wrongly, of being used by unionist politicians to shore up a controversial political union, the future of which currently divides the Scottish nation down the middle."

Sir Tom added: "Ironically, this cack-handed approach may only give comfort to the substantial number of nationalists who wish for an elected head of state in the event of independence. That way lies real danger for the Crown in Scotland."

All episodes of the brand new limited series podcast, How to be an independent country: Scotland’s Choices, are out now.

It is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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