The queen is dead. Is the monarchy next? – POLITICO

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OBAN, Scotland — In this corner of coastal Scotland, not even the monarchists are true to the cause anymore.

“You called me a royalist,” John, the proprietor of a local whiskey bar, chided as he poured local single malt into a jigger. “It’s very emotional. People around here don’t joke about it.”

I’d just arrived in this harbor town, the gateway to the Hebrides, to gauge what the locals did of the shift in the House of Windsor, and I was already offending the natives.

Rangers, a Glasgow football team famous for its allegiance to the Crown, had suffered a rout at home that night, despite a stirring rendition of “God save the Queen” by fans before the match.

My attempt to make light of the defeat, noting the loss marked “another hit to the royalist cause” — landed flat. I pleaded dumb American.

As he rinsed the empty pint glasses, John muttered that not all Rangers were royalists, but declined to say where he really stood on the matter.

Like many foreigners who grew up with Narnia, the Lord of the Rings and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I’ve always had a soft spot for the British monarchy, especially the intrigue, affairs and tawdry scandal.

For me, The Royals are the longest-running reality show known to man, tolerated by the public, both for the entertainment value and to keep a steady stream of American and other gawking tourists flocking to the British Isles.

So I was perplexed to discover from the reaction of some Brits to the queen’s death that the royal obsession isn’t always just voyeuristic pleasure — but can also be what some have described as a “mystical” link between the British and the monarchy.

“There is a strange power to this that kind of short circuits everything rational,” a BBC analyst told viewers as throngs of onlookers followed the queen’s coffin procession in Edinburgh.

Ben Judah, a British-French writer, cautioned in a trigger warning on Twitter the day the queen died, that “Americans are welcome to shitpost, but they should be warned of intense depths of feelings here.” He described the deceased monarch as “a spiritual grandmother” and the “chief saint of a still felt British religion.”

Deep stuff. But somehow I wasn’t feeling it.

Britain’s King Charles III attends a Vigil at St Giles’ Cathedral, in Edinburghthe wearing the historic “Prince Charles Edward Stewart tartan | Pool photo by Jane Barlow/AFP via Getty Images

Whether it was Oprah’s interview last year with Meghan and Harry or that my 12th-great maternal grandfather left Yorkshire in the 17th century for the New World, the royal hocus-pocus had worn off on me.

But what about the Scots? Were they still under the spell after years of intense debates over independence? Or were they ready to place democracy over bloodlines?

The country had long been a favorite playground of the Windsors, especially the queen (who seemed to underscore that devotion by dying at the Balmoral estate).

Scotland could preserve the monarchy, even if it were to elect independence from the UK, but without it there wouldn’t be much of a kingdom left.

That reality — and the risk of it coming true — probably explains why King Charles III took pains to show his own affection for Scotland in the wake of his mother’s death, attending a vigil in a kilt with the historic “Prince Charles Edward Stewart tartan. “

Were the Scots buying it?

Most locals were reluctant to say.

“It’s a very controversial subject,” James, a local whiskey salesman told me, adding that the charged debate, which opens up Scotland’s sectarian divide, “gives you the chunder.”

I took that to be a bad thing.

“While the queen has done her duty and all that, I don’t support the monarchy,” he said finally.

The queen visited Oban twice during her reign. On her first trip, in 1956, she had to make a difficult exit, clambering over fish crates with the help of the local newspaper editor onto a barge in order to reach the royal yacht Britannia during a furious storm.

The monarchy’s long history and tradition in these parts aside, it is an anachronism, he said. Like many here, James described himself as “pro-European.”

A flag flies at half-mast above Balmoral Castle Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

Notwithstanding the deep respect many Scots profess for the queen, her passing has brought to light the immense privileges the British royals enjoy, especially when it comes to taxation.

Down the road in the onetime royal stronghold of Inveraray at The George, a pub founded in 1776 (aptly named for King George III, who faced his own taxation issues with Americans), I thought I’d finally found Scotland’s true royalists.

I asked the bar staff if they were wearing black out of deference to the queen. “No, this is just our regular uniform,” a bartender replied. “You don’t notice the spots.”

One guest described the local attitude towards the royals as “indifferent indifference.”

“They don’t pay inheritance taxes like the rest of us and then sweep it under the rug,” Dave Graham, who was visiting with his mother, interjected after a game of darts. “We need to get rid of the monarchy.”

His mother objected, saying it should be “scaled down” and kept “for the tourists.”

If Scottish attitudes towards the monarchy in the country were chilly, in Glasgow, the country’s biggest city, they were frigid.

“It’s overkill,” Robin, a Glasgow barber, told me during a beard trim. We’d been discussing the pageantry surrounding the transfer of the queen’s casket from Scotland to Buckingham Palace, the 10-day period of mourning and the planned bank holiday on the day of her funeral.

“At the end of the day, someone’s granny died,” he said with incredulity.

I asked whether the monarchy would survive in Scotland.

“Well, Charles wanted the job, now he’s got it,” he replied with a snicker.

As I was leaving, his colleague leaned towards me, mid-snip, smiled and whispered, “I hate them all.”

Buchanan Street in Glasgow | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The barbers were supporters of Celtic, the predominantly Catholic, republican football yin to Rangers’ yang — in other words, not exactly natural-born supporters of the monarchy.

So I wandered to the center of Glasgow in search of balance. On Buchanan Street, a pedestrian shopping mile, there were few signs of mourning, aside from shop-window commemorations for the queen.

A professional hurdler ran down the center of the street, blindfolded, jumping through rings of fire and spikes as the crowd cheered. He made several appeals for tips, but did not mention Her Majesty.

Most of the people I encountered said they respected the queen, but felt it was time to move beyond the monarchy.

“It’s the older generation that really still supports the royals,” explained Louis, a university student, eating a pizza at Paesano, a popular downtown haunt.

He said he favored independence and moving beyond the monarchy, not right away, but soon, because Scotland had not been treated fairly by the central government. “Younger people don’t like the English, I mean the UK government,” he said.

Although Charles isn’t particularly popular in Scotland, “he’s better than the guy who was hanging out on Epstein’s island,” Louis said, referring to Charles’ brother Prince Andrew and his friendship with deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

I headed for George Square (also named after King George III), the center of public life in Glasgow. On the second floor of the City Chambers, an opulent Beaux Arts building opened by Queen Victoria in 1888, city officials had laid out several books of condolence.

A photograph of the queen stood on an easel flanked by the Union Jack and the Scottish Saltire in a room with carved satinwood panels and a vast alabaster fireplace. There was no line. Many of the signers were foreign tourists. A French visitor who signed “BB” noted how popular the queen had been, “even in France.”

Outside, mourners had left bouquets and notes of gratitude on the sidewalk in front of the chamber gates, but nothing like the sea of ​​flowers at royal sites in London.

Sandra Moore, a retiree in her 60s who was visiting for the day from a nearby town, surveyed the notes and said she was encouraged by the outpouring for the queen, even if it wasn’t as enthusiastic as it had been in other parts of the UK

“She wasn’t just loved in London,” she insisted. “We’re a country that needs a monarchy, I’m convinced of that.”

Queen Elizabeth II visits Glasgow in 2021 | Pool photo by Andrew Milligan/AFP via Getty Images

She suggested that the queen’s passing in Balmoral had reminded Scotland of the royal connection to their country.

But will it survive here, I asked?

She paused, surveying the collection of flowers.

“It’s lucky the queen died in Scotland,” she replied, and then hurried across the square.

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