In Edinburgh today, The Duke of Cambridge has opened the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, and spoken of the place Scotland holds in his heart, as the location of great but also sad memories.
As part of a speech to open the assembly, The Earl of Strathearn (as William is known north of the border) recalled how it was at Balmoral in the summer of 1997 that he learnt of the death of his mother.
The Earl, wearing a morning suit and his Order of the Thistle star said: “Scotland is incredibly important to me and will always have a special place in my heart.
“I’ve been coming to Scotland since I was a small boy. As I grew up I saw how my grandmother relishes every minute she spends here and my father is never happier than in walking among the hills.
“My childhood was full of holidays having fun in the fresh air, swimming in lochs, family barbecues with my grandfather in command, and yes the odd midge.”
“Scotland is a source of some of my happiest memories but also my saddest.
“I was in Balmoral when I was told that my mother had died. Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning and in the dark days of grief that followed I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors.”
The speech comes just days after the damning Dyson report into the ‘deceitful way’ Martin Bashir secured the explosive Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales in 1995. The Duke called the findings ‘extremely concerning’ in a video statement, and said that the BBC had ‘let my mother down’ as well as the British public.
However, he spoke of the good things that came out of Scotland for him: William met future wife Catherine whilst at university in St Andrews.
He commented: “Alongside this painful memory is one of great joy because it was here in Scotland 20 years ago this year that I first met Catherine.
“Needless to say the town where you meet your future wife holds a very special place in your heart.
The Duchess of Cambridge will join her husband on Tuesday, where they will undertake engagements in the country, including a return to their university town.
“George, Charlotte and Louis already know how dear Scotland is to both of us and they are starting to build their own happy memories here too,” he added.
Recalling his student years, the future King said: “I spent four very happy and formative years studying in St Andrews, the town and the students left me alone to get on with student life, allowing me to share their freedoms – and their pubs.”
“As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep.”
The General Assembly is the annual meeting of the Church of Scotland to discuss the church’s business and determine its future.
It is my duty today to speak, but equally I am here to listen.
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) May 22, 2021
The Lord High Commissioner is The Queen’s personal representative to the General Assembly, who maintains the relationship between the State and the Church. The Queen is also the head of the Church of Scotland.
The Earl of Strathearn noted this in the opening of his speech: “Her Majesty The Queen has asked me to come here in person to reassure you of her pledge to preserve and uphold the rights and privileges of the Church of Scotland.”
The appointee attends the General Assembly as an observer, makes an address, and reports to Her Majesty on the proceedings. The tradition of appointing a Lord High Commissioner began in the late 16th century. It is a role other senior Royals have served in, including Princess Anne.
The Queen appointed grandson Prince William in the role at the 2020 General Assembly, but this was cancelled due to Covid-19, and so he was chosen again for 2021.