Forfar celebrated its first visit from an eponymous Earl in more than 300 years on a historic day for the Angus town.
Prince Edward received the ancient title of the Earl of Forfar as a 55th birthday present from the Queen in March and locals turned out in force to welcome their royal guest when he and his wife Sophie came to call on Monday.
The couple sampled the famous Forfar bridie and received gifts, including a fiddle tune composed in their honour and a specially-designed tartan, on what the Earl said had been a “splendid” welcome to the town.
“This notion of being given a title is a great honour and privilege, but it comes with a certain level of trepidation,” he told guests at a lunch in the Canmore Room of Forfar’s municipal buildings following a short walkabout in the packed town centre.
The royal couple were welcomed by Angus Lord Lieutenant Georgiana Osborne, before being treated to music by Forfar Instrumental Band and the town’s pipe band, as well as a display by dancers from four town Highland Dancing schools.
They also enjoyed the first performance of An Angus Welcome to the Earl and Countess of Forfar, composed by well-known local fiddler Sandy Ingram and played by the man himself and fellow musicians.
The Earl told the company: “I can’t guarantee we will necessary visit Forfar or Angus every year, but we will do our best to keep in touch and take an extra special interest in all the activities that go on here.”
The Earl of Forfar tartan has been created by town firm the Strathmore Woollen Company and is a weave based on the existing Forfar tartan, which the company designed in 2004 around the colours on the Forfar coat of arms.
The geometry remains virtually the same, but the colours have been strengthened, with Azure blue replaced by the St Andrew’s blue of the Scottish flag, and white yarns replaced by a brown to reflect the rich agriculture of the surrounding area.
It is in the process of being officially registered with the Scottish National Register of Tartans.
The afternoon town walkabout began with visits to Forfar’s two most famous bridie makers – McLaren’s and Saddler’s, renowned worldwide for their versions of the shortcrust-covered horseshoe-shaped meat product.
At McLaren’s, the Earl and Countess met the fourth, fifth and sixth generations of the long-established firm, before moving on to the nearby premises of Saddler’s, established in 1897 and currently run by the great grandson of its founder.
Morna Saddler said: “They were absolutely fantastic visitors, asked about the origins of the bridie and were very happy to try it.”
Among the locals who met the Earl and Countess were Forfar Dramatic Society members, young people from the Pitstop Youth centre and participants in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, of which the Earl is a trustee.
As a keen cyclist, the Countess of Forfar was keen to chat to members of the thriving Angus Ladies Leisurely cycle group, praising them for tackling some of the hilly terrain between Angus and the royal retreat at Balmoral.
The couple also signed the visitors’ book at St John’s Episcopal Church in Forfar, where they were shown the confirmation record of the late Queen Mother, who spent her childhood at nearby Glamis Castle.
They rounded off the busy schedule with visits to the Strathmore Rugby Club Community Trust to see young players and hear about pioneering work to encourage less able-bodied players and autistic youngsters into the game, and a tour of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association training centre on the edge of the town.
The Earl of Forfar title was created in 1661 and was first held by Scots peer Archibald Douglas, the youngest child of the Earl of Angus and 1st Earl of Ormond.
The second Earl of Forfar, also Archibald Douglas and the only son of the first Earl, died on December 8 1715 at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, aged 23, at which point the title became extinct.
The couple’s two-day Scottish tour will continue in the north east on Tuesday and will include a tour of the Glenfiddich whisky distillery.