Queen Elizabeth II “planned to die in Scotland to save the union” with England, a friend of the late monarch has told The Daily Beast.
Although the queen’s death arrived with unexpected speed, the friend said the queen was well aware she was “frail” and decided not to go back to Windsor Castle for the “kissing of hands” ceremony with incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss, as planned, because she wished to die in Scotland.
“She was frail and there was an argument that she should be back in Windsor where it is significantly easier to get hospital treatment,” the friend said. “Of course she had access to medics at Balmoral, but nothing like at Windsor. Balmoral is very isolated, but that is where she wanted to be, precisely because she thought the end might be near. She planned to die in Scotland to save the union.”
The claim comes after it was revealed yesterday that the queen had died on Sept. 8 at 3:10 p.m. local time, just over three hours before the public announcement of her death at 6:30 p.m., and with only King (then Prince) Charles and Princess Anne at Balmoral; the rest of the royals were en route at the time. Her death certificate lists the cause of her death as “old age.”
The queen was the first British monarch to die in Scotland for almost 500 years, and her death there led to a series of ceremonial rituals in Scotland, which precipitated an outpouring of affection for the queen in the generally republican country north of the border. The gathering of well-wishers paying their respects along the 170 miles of road that the queen’s funeral cortege covered is, by some reckoning, Scotland’s largest ever public event.
One person who knew the queen well is the former Scottish first minister (equivalent of prime minister) Alex Salmond. Salmond, who held the post from 2007-14, met with the late queen on many occasions, was a regular guest at Balmoral. Despite being an ardent nationalist, whose life’s work has been centered around a desire for Scotland to leave the union with England, he struck up a close relationship with her based on a mutual love of horse racing and Scotland.
Salmond, who was accused of sexual assault after leaving office but acquitted of the charges in a jury trial, told The Daily Beast he had no doubt the queen chose to die in Scotland—but disputed it was a political statement.
“I believe that the Queen effectively chose to die at Balmoral not as some sort of political statement, but for the very human reason that this was the place where she was most comfortable and happy.”
— Alex Salmond
He told The Daily Beast: “You cannot choose the time of your passing but you can choose the place. I believe that the Queen effectively chose to die at Balmoral not as some sort of political statement, but for the very human reason that this was the place where she was most comfortable and happy. In turn the great majority of the people of Scotland held Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, in the highest regard, as indeed did I.
“She would have personally scrutinized every iota of ‘Operation Unicorn’ which governed her passing in Scotland including the provision that her coffin would be draped with the Scottish Royal Standard, a fact that completely bemused the BBC commentary team who failed to even recognize it.”
“Do I think she’d be pleased that the union was strengthened by her dying there? Absolutely.”
— Christopher Andersen
The royal author Christopher Andersen, who for many years claimed that the queen intended to retreat to Balmoral before her death, expressed a similar point of view, saying: “I predicted years ago that once Philip died the queen would relocate to Balmoral and end her days there. I think it has less to do with keeping the United Kingdom whole and more to do with her deep love for Balmoral and the memories it holds for her, as well as her abiding love for Scotland. She was at her core a country girl, after all.
“But do I think she’d be pleased that the union was strengthened by her dying there? Absolutely.”
The turnout for the queen in Scotland has prompted unionists and monarchists to hope that some of the goodwill towards the late monarch will transfer to King Charles.
Whatever, the public expressions of respect that were displayed contrast sharply with the perception of widespread republican sentiment in Scotland: a poll conducted by British Futures in May, for example, found just 45 percent of Scottish voters, as opposed to 60 percent nationwide, supported the monarchy.
While publicly apolitical, the queen was, privately, a passionate advocate for Scotland remaining in the union and is widely thought to have helped nudged Scotland to vote “no” to independence in 2014.
A few days before that referendum, she told wellwishers outside the Balmoral church Crathie Kirk: “I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”
The pre-referendum polls had predicted a 51-49 Yes vote, but No won by a clear 55-45 margin.
Professor Sir Tom Devine of Edinburgh University, widely regarded as Scotland’s pre-eminent contemporary historian, told The Daily Beast: “I’ve thought about this long and hard. I do believe it was consciously done. It wasn’t just a slip. I’m fairly confident that she was advised or influenced to do it by the Cameron government. It was getting to the point where the polls were beginning to look pretty ominous.”
Devine, who is the author of the de facto set text on Scottish history, The Scottish Nation: A Modern History added: “I wouldn’t agree that she planned to die in Scotland, but in the event the queen’s final parting gift to Old Scotia, to Scotland, was to die in Scotland because that ensured, massive global coverage for the nation. I understand the Scottish Tourist Board is currently planning for a huge increase in tourist migration to Scotland in the spring and summer of next year, because of that global concentration, and the very dignified way the Scots demonstrated their mourning.”
Travel agents agree. John Colclough, the director of high-end bespoke travel and concierge agency Ireland and Britain Observed, told The Daily Beast: “The Cairngorms have been deluged with requests since the queen’s death. Her funeral cortege was the most remarkable advert for Scotland to the world. Many people in Scotland believe she chose to die there.”
Devine points out that the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) has committed to keeping the monarch as head of state, saying: “The SNP has to some extent shot the unionist fox when it comes to the monarchy. If there’s an independent Scotland, they wish the union of crowns to continue. In my view, this is largely about the nationalists doing everything they can to placate unionist Scotland by reducing disruptive change in the event of independence.”
“I believe if the referendum of 2014 had gone the other way, then she would have happily spent the last years of her reign as queen of 16 Commonwealth realms, rather than 15. The 16th would have been Scotland.”
— Alex Salmond
Pro-monarchy Scottish Nationalists may seem like a contradiction in terms, but that is still the official position of the SNP and its current leader, Nicola Sturgeon, who draw a distinction between the union of crowns and the union of Parliaments.
Salmond told The Daily Beast: “My view is that although the queen in her early years was an instinctive unionist, by the time I knew her her views had evolved. Indeed her supreme ability to adapt to massive changes in the U.K. and the world was one of the most significant features of her long reign. The union she was interested in over the last few years was far more the union of the crowns which, as she was very well aware, pre-dated the union of the Parliaments by more than a century.
“I have no doubt that if the referendum of 2014 had gone the other way then she would have happily spent the last years of her reign as queen of 16 Commonwealth realms, rather than 15. The 16th would have been Scotland. With her passing then I suspect everything changes in terms of that debate.”
Buckingham Palace declined to comment for this article, as did a spokesperson for the British government’s Scotland Office.
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