The Duke of Cambridge is the Lord High Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

By Simon Perry
May 22, 2021 09:50 AM
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Prince William
Prince William
| Credit: JANE BARLOW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Prince William is taking on a new role.

On Saturday, he stepped out as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. It is the first time he has carried out the role — appointed by his grandmother Queen Elizabeth.

The ceremonial opening kicked off several days of meetings and discussions and William, titled the Earl of Strathearn in Scotland, will also be at the closing ceremony.

"Her Majesty The Queen has asked me to come here in person to reassure you of Her pledge to preserve and uphold the rights and privileges of the Church of Scotland," he said at the start of a lengthy speech, noting that "one day, it will be my responsibility to swear my own oath to maintain and preserve the security and independence of the Church of Scotland."

"My appointment is therefore both a great honour, and a humbling opportunity. It is my duty today to speak, but equally I am here to listen. In Scotland this week I will have my eyes and ears permanently open. There's so much to see and to hear about," he added.

During the speech, William, 38, also spoke about his personal connection to Scotland, sharing stories about his wife Kate Middleton as well as his late mother Princess Diana

"Along with listening this week, there is something I do want to tell you. Scotland is incredibly important to me and will always have a special place in my heart. I've been coming to Scotland since I was a small boy," he said. "Scotland is the source of some of my happiest memories. But also, my saddest."

Prince William
Prince William
| Credit: JANE BARLOW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Prince William
Prince William
| Credit: JANE BARLOW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

As his speech continued, William shared that he was at the Balmoral "when I was told that my mother had died."

"Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning. And in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors. As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep," he said.

"And yet alongside this painful memory, is one of great joy. Because it was here in Scotland – twenty years ago this year – that I first met Catherine. Needless to say, the town where you meet your future wife holds a very special place in your heart," he added. "George, Charlotte and Louis already know how dear Scotland is to both of us, and they are starting to build their own happy memories here too. We have no doubt they will grow up sharing our love and connection to Scotland from the Highlands to the Central Belt, from the Islands to the Borders."

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Later on Saturday, William will also be joining some emergency responders to watch the Scottish Cup Final at a rooftop bar in Edinburgh.

The time in Scotland will be a welcome respite from the trauma and sadness he felt when he heard that the inquiry into his late mother's interview with the BBC's Panorama 25 years ago had been secured by deception. He strongly criticized the "deceitful way the interview was obtained" and said "lurid and false claims" fueled his late mother's "paranoia" in the last years of her life.

William begun his visit to Edinburgh on Friday afternoon when he joined soccer players, both professional and amateur, at Spartan's FC at an event to highlight mental health.

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He then was formally welcomed as Lord High Commissioner in the Ceremony of the Keys at Holyroodhouse – the royals' home in the capital city of Scotland.

On Monday, Kate Middleton, 39, will join her husband as they set off on a series of visits over several days. Their trips include a visit to St. Andrews University where they first met and fell in love almost 20 years ago. They will also travel to Orkney, marking the first time they will be there in an official capacity.

When the visits were announced earlier this week, a spokesperson for Kensington Palace said, "The Duke is honoured to be fulfilling the role of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this year."

"Both he and The Duchess are very much looking forward to spending time in Scotland, hearing from a wide range of people on the issues they care about, and celebrating individuals who have gone above and beyond to support their communities over the past year."