It was Scotland on parade. Bagpipes, kilts, drums and a Shetland pony named Corporal Cruachan IV marched down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on Wednesday to honor King Charles III.
Two months after his lavish coronation at Westminster Abbey in London, Scotland hosted its own event to mark the new monarch’s accession to the throne.
While Charles and Queen Camilla weren’t crowned a second time, the new king was presented with the Honors of Scotland — the crown, scepter and sword of state — items he received with reverence during a service at St. Giles’ Cathedral. The Stone of Destiny, an important symbol of Scottish identity, was also moved to the cathedral for the festivities.
The presence of these icons of Scotland’s nationhood is a mark of respect for a country that is fiercely proud of its history and where the desire of some for independence has never died, even though it has been bound to England and the United Kingdom since 1707. Scotland’s national government is led by the Scottish National Party, which is calling for a second independence referendum.
“It’s not a coronation,” said George Gross, an expert in coronations at King’s College London. “But it’s very symbolic in that Scotland has its own identity.”
Wednesday’s events in Edinburgh were a continuation of Charles’ effort to cement ties with the people of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom as he tries to show that the 1,000-year-old monarchy remains relevant in modern Britain. Soon after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, last September, Charles visited Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales before attending the state funeral in London.
Just as May’s coronation ceremony gave nods to the multicultural nature of Britain today, Wednesday’s church service included a psalm sung in Gaelic. Charles was also presented with a new sword made by Scottish artisans and named after Elizabeth. The sword will be used in place of the current sword of state, which was made in 1507 and is too fragile for use in the ceremony.
But it was the sermon of the Right Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who underscored Charles’ devotion to protecting the environment.
Society will be on the right track when people understand that “the Heavens and Earth” are not commodities or possessions, she told the congregation.
“Blessed are we, on the right track are we, when we understand that our children do not inherit this Earth from us — we have borrowed it from them,” she said. “And it is our duty to return it still singing and surging and bathing, not baking to a crisp.”
Thousands lined Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to watch the parade and cheer the king and queen as they traveled to and from the cathedral under sparkling sunny skies.
But not everyone was celebrating as people throughout the U.K. face a cost-of-living crisis fueled by high food and energy costs.
Our Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state in Scotland, staged a protest outside the Scottish parliament, and shouts of “Not our king” were picked up by microphones as Charles left the cathedral.
“The vast majority of Scotland didn’t care to celebrate the coronation in May, with support for the monarchy at an all-time low in Scotland,” the group said in a statement. “Charles’ perpetual need to celebrate his reign, with all the pomp and pageantry it requires, is a spit in the face to the people struggling with the cost of living.”
The coronation festivities began in the early afternoon with a People’s Procession that traveled down the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle to the cathedral. It included more than 100 people representing charities and public service groups, such as the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Royal Scottish Highland Games Association and the Girls’ Brigade.
At its head was Shetland pony Corporal Cruachan IV, regimental mascot of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The Honors of Scotland, the country’s crown jewels, followed behind escorted by police and military units.
Soon after, Charles and Camilla left the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the king’s official residence in Edinburgh, which sits at the opposite end of the Royal Mile. They traveled to the service behind the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiments and a collection of military bands.
The pageantry gave royal fans a chance to celebrate Charles’ coronation while also paying homage to Scotland’s unique history.
Historically an independent country, Scotland was first linked to England in 1603 after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Because the queen had no children, the crown passed to her cousin James VI who was already king of Scotland, uniting the two countries under a shared sovereign.
But Scotland remained independent until 1707 when lawmakers in both countries approved the Act of Union, which created the United Kingdom.
The public festivities were also deeply personal for Charles, who received the crown of Scotland on roughly the same spot where he stood vigil last year, watching over his mother’s coffin with the same crown resting on its lid.
“I think it would be extraordinary if that didn’t have an impact on him or on any human being,” said Gross, a visiting research fellow in theology at King’s College London.
“It’s very important in bringing the union together, just as after his mother died, after the late queen died, he did various services around the Union, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, so on. So he will be doing the same here. This is bringing things together.”