I fundamentally dinnae want a monarchy in Scotland.
I think every bairn born into intense privilege among the heads of state adds another layer of cement to the already solid fortifications of our class structure.
Equality at birth should be our aim.
Yet the other day I accepted an invitation to perform for the bonnie prince himsel, Prince Charles.
I have spent the time subsequent wrestling with my conscience.
But first, some context.
The House of Dun, a stately home in the fields by Montrose Basin once home to writer Violet Jacob, received a chunky bequeathment recently.
The National Trust for Scotland invested it well in rejuvenating the visitor experience, and have turned the House into one of the best attractions in Angus and Dundee.
It’s a place I like.
I took comedian and presenter Susan Calman there for her Channel 5 series Secret Scotland during lockdown.
I was commissioned during the renovations to help with a few bits and bobs about the place.
There was to be a big late-summer relaunch, which I was excited about.
The House of Dun being overhauled, and expanded to include artefacts from the Angus Folk Museum, is a place for us to confront ourselves, our shared pasts and our culture, and perhaps even positively reappraise ourselves and this place we’re from.
A big billboard went up outside my flat on the Cleppy Road, reintroducing the place to Dundonians driving past, and showing the new guides in their cool gear.
My buzz built.
An invite – and a dilemma
An invitation eventually arrived for the official reopening.
A wee morning reception for National Trust folk and contributors.
I was also invited to recite the Violet Jacob poem The Wild Geese for a VVIP.
Great. Delighted. Reciting a Scots poem by an author I love is right up my street.
I think we have a lot to shout about and a lot of richness to explore in our inherited culture.
But the VVIP would be a royal. The queen’s good son, Charles.
This is a Scotland of foodbanks, heroin and incredibly low morale.
At least, that is one fragment of our current story.
Could I really stick on a decent outfit, polish a poetic performance, and prance for a prince under the loose guise of “representing Angus”?
The legacy highheidyins of this country, I’m convinced, live in a sort of La La Land where all is well and all is nice, and real material and spiritual want is confined to a few outposts.
By dressing up nice and being cheery to Charlie, I would surely help reinforce his opinion that all is well, and that nothing, fundamentally, needs to change?
A fine day to be meeting with monarchy
The event was extremely nice.
A hubbub of middle aged middle classes mingled loosely in the courtyard in front of the house, in the full glare of the sunshine.
I bumped into a few pals, chatted to some very nice posh people who had this or that to do with the National Trust for Scotland.
We ate salmon sandwiches in the Angus sunshine, and chattered about how lucky we were with the weather.
The prince arrived, did his wee tour of the House.
Hench looking security guys sweated slightly in tasteful tweed suits, scoping us out.
I got taken aside early and made to wait in a wee side display room, where I’d deliver the poem, stood next to a big black historic hearse.
I nervously tried to get the crack with one of the stern security guys, but he was very much all business. So I rocked on the balls of my feet and fretted.
All of a sudden, the future King of England was ambling affably into the room.
“Hiya,” I said.
“Hello,” he returned, in that voice he does.
I introduced the poem, recited it for him.
He listened patiently and politely.
Then out of nowhere he asked me “do you know William McGonagall?”
“The rubbish Dundee poet? Aye sure!” and we were having a wee chat about the merits or otherwise of McGonagall, and he recommended I go and listen to an episode of the Goons where they send him up.
Then he was politely away.
He made a quick speech, de-robed a plaque certifying his princely visit, and off he popped.
Mixed feelings about role of monarchy
I was pleased, I hate to admit it.
I was also impressed.
His presence made those that put hard work into Dun feel like they’d really achieved something.
It will have brought some positive press.
Charles also brought a flock of the well-heeled to the House. And it is these people that have the means to keep it going until such time as we ourselves recognise the value of our own culture and heritage, and patronise the hell out of it to such an extent that wealthy benefactors are no longer required.
But until the time of that great self-realisation, we rely on fat stacks of bequeathed cash to hold up the walls of our heritage, and on the well-meaning and accidentally entitled to go about promoting the place.
I mean, if he hadn’t visited, I wouldn’t have written this, and you wouldn’t have read it and learned about the great new overhaul at the House of Dun.
The prince has done his job, and this article is just a ripple in his wake.
I still think we should call time on the monarchy once we’re independent. But I’ll struggle now to completely deny their utility at times.
Once again, my principles have been compromised by getting mired in nuance.