Why Doesn’t Scotland Love King Charles?
When the Queen died at her country estate in Scotland, crowds lined the streets as her hearse crept its way from Balmoral to Edinburgh. There were no indications that her subjects north of the border mourned her any less than those in the south; indeed when Jacki Pickett, an anti-monarchist in the highland village of Muir of Ord posted a video of herself holding a sign reading “Lizard Liz is dead” a mob descended on her fish and chip shop and she had to be rescued by the police.
After years of drifting apart, the United Kingdom suddenly felt united again. It couldn’t last, of course, and it hasn’t: a new UnHerd Britain poll reveals that while 55% of UK citizens agree that it’s a good thing Britain has a monarchy, in Scotland only 45% do.
Yet while the results are unlikely to put a smile on King Charles’s face, they are not, in the end, all that surprising. If anything, they represent a reversion to historic norms, following the fever dream of grief that broke out upon the Queen’s death. Previous surveys on Scottish attitudes to the monarchy have also shown that the Royal Family is not especially popular: shortly before the Platinum Jubilee, for instance, a poll found that fewer than half of Scots supported keeping the monarchy, while the Royals were similarly unloved four years before that. On a visit home last summer, I found that while Tesco had decked out even the frozen meat aisle with “happy and glorious” banners to mark the Queen’s jubilee, it was a lot harder to find signs of celebration in Scottish shops and institutions. The management of the purportedly “Royal” Botanic Garden in Edinburgh had tucked their jubilee sign away in a corner, while at the celebratory garden party in my hometown of Dunfermline, there were no royal souvenirs, not even a mug — although there was a cut out of John Forbes, a long-dead local worthy who founded the city of Pittsburgh.
It may be tempting to connect increasingly negative attitudes to the monarchy with the rise of nationalist sentiment since devolution. Prominent cultural figures, such as the author Alasdair Gray and the SNP politician Margo MacDonald, espoused republicanism. Nicola Sturgeon’s anointed disciple, Humza Yousaf, has vowed not only to break up the UK using “any means necessary”, but also declared on Mondaythat within five years of independence, he’d expect Scotland to find a new head of state. But republicanism isn’t merely an SNP talking point; Scotland’s bad relationship with monarchy goes back a long way, at least as far back as the Reformation, nearly five centuries ago.
Calvinism, the national philosophy that came to dominate afterwards, is an innately levelling creed, with its cheerful teaching that God has already decided who is saved and who is damned and there is nothing you can do about it. Post-Reformation, the inhabitants of Dunfermline managed to forget where they buried no fewer than seven Scottish kings, including one of the greats, Robert the Bruce, who was only rediscovered by accident in the 19th century. In Scotland, the monarch was not the head of the church; the ministers elected their own leader. John Knox, who spearheaded the Reformation, neither admired nor feared monarchs and reduced Mary Queen of Scots to tears in front of her own court. George Buchanan, the tutor of Mary’s son James, was the author of The Law of Government Among the Scots, wherein he wrote that “the people have the right to confer royal authority upon whomever they wish”, and that they were free to overthrow — and kill — tyrants. Buchanan freely admitted to having “whipped the king’s arse” when the heir to the throne annoyed him…
Read the rest at UnHerd