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King Charles in Scotland, while Queen Elizabeth’s coffin lies in rest at St. Giles’ Cathedral



EDINBURGH, Scotland — Long before one saw the Mercedes hearse, and through its glass windows, saw the coffin made of English oak, bedecked with Scottish thistle and heather, you heard clop of horse hoofs on the cobblestone streets of the Royal Mile.

The old town of Edinburgh is not usually a quiet place — it is boisterous, alive, touristy, often a little unsteady on its feet. But it was still this afternoon, under blue skies, with sun. The crowds heard the horses and leaned forward.

They saw, in stately procession, the hearse escorted by the King’s Body Guard for Scotland, followed by the lead mourners: Queen Elizabeth II’s four children. Three were in their military finery, including King Charles III in admiral’s uniform. Prince Andrew was dressed in a morning coat — no longer a working royal, mostly banished by scandal, but still present.

The people were mostly silent, holding aloft their smartphones. A lone heckler, who directed his insults at Andrew, was yanked backward and arrested for disturbing the peace. Some in the crowd shouted “God bless the queen!” and “God save the king!”

In this moment, Scotland embraced its “Scottish queen.”

But the question with her passing is what comes next?

There’s no question that the British royal family has the closest of ties to Scotland, and the vast majority of people here deeply respected the queen.

And yet. Scots hold complicated feelings about the monarchy and whether Scotland should be independent — or even a republic free of hereditary royals. These feelings could be felt as undercurrents here on Monday, as the late queen’s coffin traveled from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to St. Giles’ Cathedral, and the new King Charles addressed the Scottish Parliament.

Inside St. Giles, the Rev. Iain Greenshields paid tribute to the queen’s love of Balmoral Castle, where she was “was valued as a neighbor and friend, and there she drew strength and refreshment during the summer months.”

The queen savored her royal estate in the Scottish Highlands, all 50,000 acres of it, where she spent her summers, on the vast moors and glens, shooting grouse and red deer stag. Her family called it “her happy place.” It was there she performed her last ceremonial act — appointing her 15th prime minister, Liz Truss, last week. And it was there she died on Thursday, at the age of 96.

“She loved Scotland. Loved it,” said Haley Wilson, 34, a civil tax official waiting in an hours-long line to view the queen’s coffin in St. Giles’. “Balmoral, and she loved the bagpipes. She loved being outdoors and the landscapes. She loved Scotland. That means so much.”

Wilson was 18 months old when she first met the queen. Her mother loved to tell how Elizabeth, in church for Easter service, had “waved” to baby Haley. Wilson described Elizabeth II as a “Scottish queen.”

The new king also has deep connections to the Scotland. He attended boarding school at Gordonstoun, with its cold showers and bullying, which he credits with teaching him about hard work. He established a hub for his Prince’s Foundation, and its sustainability advocacy, at Dumfries House in Scotland.

King Charles III addresses Parliament for the first time as monarch

This royal line is descended from James VI of Scotland, who followed the first Elizabeth in the sixteenth century, in the time of William Shakespeare.

Before his ascension, Charles held a string of titles in Scotland: Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

He even looks comfortable in a kilt.

But among the thousands who lined the roads in Edinburgh to watch the procession of the queen’s coffin, there were many who expressed dual loyalties.

Sophie Campbell, 63, a retired shop clerk, said she would welcome Scotland becoming an independent nation while also keeping the king. “It would be the best of both worlds,” she said. “Old and new.”

Campbell said many Scots have no problem with the monarchy. “They’re part of our history.” But she explained, “people in Scotland have problems with the English,” with Boris Johnson and the ruling elites in London.

Daniel Wincott, professor of law and society at Cardiff University, noted that the leaders of the pro-independence Scottish National Party have been “fulsome” in their respectful comments and “praise for the queen” in her death.

But, he said, he could still envision that, after a short period of “coming together” upon the queen’s death, the ties that bind the United Kingdom together could “loosen.”

During the 2014 independence referendum, which saw Scotland reject leaving the union, SNP leaders made clear that any newly formed nation would retain the monarch as head of state.

Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney, a leader of the SNP, repeated the promise to BBC radio on Monday, that “His Majesty the King should be the head of state of an independent Scotland.”

He said, “and it’s what we will continue to argue.”

Not all agree. The leaders of Green and Alba parties in Scotland say they want to part with the monarchy after independence.

A major survey in May, for the think tank British Future, found 45 percent in Scotland wanted to retain the monarchy — with 36 percent saying the end of the queen’s reign would be the right moment to move to a republic.

On the question of Scottish independence, the queen was mostly mute. But not quite.

At Crathie Kirk, the small Church of Scotland parish, where the royals attend Sunday service when at Balmoral, Elizabeth paused to speak to someone in the crowd before the 2014 referendum. She was overheard to say, “well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future,” widely interpreted as a nudge to vote against independence.

Tim Shipman, political editor at the Sunday Times of London, said this was no slip of the tongue. Reporters had been alerted to keep an ear out for her remark.

David Cameron, prime minister at the time, was caught on a hot mic saying the queen “purred down the phone” when he reported that his campaign against Scottish independence had succeeded. He later apologized for revealing a private conversation with the monarch.

While Charles is less popular than his mother was in Scotland, and the institution of monarchy itself is less popular in Scotland than in England, these are differences “of degree rather than kind,” said Alex Massie, the Scotland editor of the Spectator magazine.

“I don’t detect any great enthusiasm in Scotland for a republic,” said Massie. “Yes, republicanism is probably stronger in Scotland than in England, but that doesn’t mean it’s strong enough to carry the day.”

He also cautioned about reading too much into opinion polling taken while Charles was Prince of Wales. “Becoming king is transformational,” he said.

“The institution is greater than any individual, as hard as that is to recall after a 70-year reign,” Massie said. “There is considerable goodwill for Charles that may surprise a lot of people; a lot of people are surprised by the extent of goodwill they feel towards the king.”

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