Prince William: Scotland is source of my happiest and saddest memories

22 May 2021, 17:34 | Updated: 22 May 2021, 18:21

The Duke of Cambridge delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The Duke of Cambridge delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The Duke of Cambridge has told how Scotland is the source of his saddest but also his happiest memories.

Prince William gave an emotional opening address at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, of which he is Lord High Commissioner, on Saturday.

He said he was at the Queen's Balmoral home when he was told that his mother Diana had died, and he shared how he found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors in the "dark days of grief" that followed.

However, Scotland is also the place where he met his future wife 20 years ago this year, which he described as a memory of "great joy".

The duke began a week-long visit to Scotland on Friday, with the Duchess of Cambridge joining him on Monday for the rest of the tour.

Later on Saturday, he joined football fans from across Scotland's emergency services to watch the Scottish Cup final.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their charity, the Royal Foundation, have worked throughout the pandemic to support those on the frontline of the UK’s Covid-19 response.

During William's speech at the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, only a small number of people were present due to the pandemic with others watching online.

He said: "Scotland is a source of some of my happiest memories but also my saddest.

"I was in 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.

"Alongside this painful memory is one of great joy because it was here in Scotland 20 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.

"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."

The duke reminisced about his time at the University of St Andrews in Fife where both he and Kate studied.

He said: "I spent four very happy and formative years studying in St Andrews, the town and the students left me alone to get on with student life, allowing me to share their freedoms - and their pubs.

"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.

"As I grew up I saw how my grandmother relishes every minute she spends here and my father is never happier than in walking among the hills.

"My childhood was full of holidays having fun in the fresh air, swimming in lochs, family barbecues with my grandfather in command, and yes the odd midge."

William, wearing a morning suit with the Order of the Thistle and diamond and golden jubilee medals, was greeted by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as he arrived at the venue on Saturday. He held a private audience with her after the opening.

During proceedings, the Rev George Whyte, chaplain-in-ordinary and principal clerk of the Church of Scotland, read out a letter from the Queen.

William, pictured next to Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, arrives for the opening ceremony
William, pictured next to Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, arrives for the opening ceremony. Picture: PA

Marking the assembly's opening in her letter, the Queen spoke of "new bonds" that have been "forged in times of emergency" that "will serve us all well in the future as the United Kingdom seeks to rebuild and reshape community life."

The assembly began on Saturday with the installation of Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC as the next Moderator of the General Assembly, succeeding Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair.

Lord Wallace, a former deputy first minister of Scotland and Liberal Democrat MSP, is a member of St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney.

The assembly closes on Thursday afternoon and over the next few days will consider issues including proposals to reduce the number of presbyteries and the number of full-time ministry posts.