Speeches are funny things and it is easy to get things wrong – just as I am not sure how to address you. I will be honest. I am a bit of a soft republican. So for me you are not the most important issue. I hope that provides some little assurance, rather than offence of which none intended. Monarchy just seems out of place in the modern world, but then Scotland has been a monarchy in full and in part for 1000 years. That sort of track record is good for tourism so probably explains a wee bit of my ambivalence on the subject.
Many of a pure bred republican persuasion would use ‘Mrs Windsor’ as the preferred form of address. I am less sure. Simply adopting the name of a place, or in your case a handy castle, seems like reverse title acquisition. It’s a bit like a dinner lady in Castlemilk deciding she not longer wants to be Mrs Gray and henceforth will be known as Mrs Castlemilk. The Castle part has a nice upwardly-mobile ring to it.
Then there is the issue of the number, while we are on the subject of upward mobility. Should the next generation be Mrs Castlemilk Jnr, or Mrs Castlemilk II. If there was a Mrs Castlemilk I, then the next would clearly be entitled become Mrs Castlemilk II.
I am sure you are aware, as Scotland did not have an Elizabeth I, there has always been an issue about you being known as Elizabeth II. Something classy about using Roman numerals in titles, but that brings about a little difficulty in some suggestions I have, since you raised the issue of reconciliation in your recent wee speech. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am all in favour of reconciliation. But it needs a context and you did not go into any detail.
So on the vexed question of your titular number, allow me to make some suggestions in the spirit of compromise and reconciliation – Elizabeth 1.5 or Elizabeth Wan and a wee Hauf. If you are keen on retaining the Roman form perhaps Elizabeth I+. Fractions might be the best solution, even if fractions sound less conciliatory, Elizabeth 3/2 would really be breaking new ground.
In the event we become a republic, and sticking with the present unitary situation, you could be Mrs Windsor in England and Mrs Balmoral in Scotland. Tough that, though, for the Welsh and Northern Irish, but sure you could come up with something suitable.
You mentioned three events that we need to move on from and where reconciliation is important.
Cunard’s Queen Victoria leaving Funchal, Madeira on 21st December
WW1 was, as you have noted, a long time ago and nobody involved is still alive. So there are none to be reconciled with including the extended members of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty. Kaiser Wilhelm II, eldest and favourite grandson of Queen Vicky, and all the other members of interlinked royal families of Europe found themselves on different sides of a right royal slaughterhouse. Best to leave the Saxe-Coburg-Goths (not a typo) to the pages of history. Europe has moved on even if England has continuing issues with the continent that have never quite dissipated with your dynasty’s name change in 1917.
Second on the list were the troubles in Northern Ireland on which progress continues to be made in a process that also requires the steady hand and careful diplomacy of an Independent Ireland as a friendly neighbour, anxious for stability on the shared emerald isle.
Thirdly you mentioned the Independence Referendum in Scotland as if it somehow had the divisive and turbulent nature of the aforementioned events that you chose to link it with. It was an agreed, peaceful and consented process and we all have reason to be proud of that.
There is no other way of putting this. I was deeply offended as others have been. It was incautious, undiplomatic, ill-advised, and unproductive – ladling divisiveness in shovelfuls on a nation moving on from the prospect of Independence to one with greater autonomy within the UK as offered by your government and opposition leaders in Westminster in the final days of the campaign.
There is another aspect to this and that is, if belatedly, to also thank you for your remarks in associating WW1 and the Irish Question with Scottish independence. Despite, what may be regarded as critical elements of this letter you have helped provide a focus giving clarity in our present status.
As we seek a means of securing delivery on The Vow, a Royal Oath to the people of Scotland might add additional resolution to the mere Vows of commoners. Whilst the immediate focus is to achieve ‘something close to ‘federalism’ it is also clear that the debate in England on EVEL consequentiality suggests Dominion status would be a more stable interim solution.
I doubt if any monarch in history has your experience in being a party to the processes by which former colonies and dependencies have gradually moved to independence. You have been actively involved in the formation of these new and lasting relationships with yourself. Relationships that sometimes even extended to your governments – past and present.
Your comments are indeed helpful in promoting support for maximising powers to Scotland in the shorter term and Independence in a nearer future.
May I suggest there was something missing from your speech when you spoke of reconciliation. Truth and reconciliation now go together. There was a distinct absence of truth that is not remedied by a convenient amnesia in the wake of the referendum result.
We were told we would not get into the EU, but that was quietly dropped when Jean Claude Junkers made it clear that when he spoke of a halt to expansion that did not include internal member reconfiguration.
We would not be able to use the pound. Yet no sooner was the result announced than Bank of England plans to stabilise sterling and accommodate a vote for Scottish Independence were suddenly made public.
We wouldn’t get the BBC. One of the big downsides to the No vote is we are stuck with it for a bit longer and a reconfiguration lies somewhere beyond that body’s processing through the wringer of a Truth Commission.
The oil was running out we were informed with new discoveries kept under raps till days after the result. Such glee at the drop in the price of oil since and therefore of revenues, forgetting that hits the UK Treasury now. There are of course some advantages in the drop in the cost of oil in a diversified and nimble economy that can respond to changes in commodity prices, but that is a subject for a longer discourse.
Truth was absent from the No campaign and in the feverish workings of your government’s departments and minsters. We are quite capable of coming together in Scotland and moving on from the referendum result. It seems it is England that has continuing problems with coming to terms with the result.
I wish you and your people well in finding a solution to your problems. We in Scotland will continue to work for the best result for the people of Scotland as decided by the people at elections and referenda.
I am sure that we will be in agreement that harmonious relations between the nations of these islands are in all our interests.
Whatever the outcome in the longer term you will always be welcome to come and visit us. Scotland welcomes people from other lands.
And that gives rise to another suggestion, if I might be so bold. Perhaps in 2017, the year of the proposed EU referendum, and also the centenary of your family name change, could be the time to revert back to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in the spirit of reconciliation – consigning family and inter-nation warfare to the past and reconnecting with your European heritage in a positive future.
You and I, dear lady, are the descendants of immigrants, as are most of the people in these islands from the time the Celts arrived from the east to more recent arrivals.
P.S. I don’t think Gordon Brown does reconciliation.
Photographs of Cunard’s Queen Victoria © Russell Bruce. Photographed in Madeira, 21st December 2014. Somewhere in the files I have photographs of the QE2 when she returned to Greenock for the first and last time, but have not yet located them.