Three years on from the amazing spectacle of William and Catherine’s royal wedding, the couple are now firmly established as part of the working Royal Family – an institution many Brits are fond and proud of. As they continue their tour of New Zealand and Australia with young Prince George, we have a look back at their lives together and, of course, some of the ways in which Scotland is special to the happy young couple!
Kate and Wills first met in St Andrews, a beautiful town on the Fife coast with a strong history of golfing and Scotland’s oldest university, founded in 1413! It was at St Andrews University that the couple were first introduced, and within a year moved into a shared flat with two other friends. It was about a year after this that the British media first suspected that their relationship had progressed from friendship to romance, but during the entirety of their university careers, William and Kate were able to maintain an excellent level of privacy thanks to their close friends and the support of the Royal Family and the University.
This changed upon their shared graduation in 2005, and marked the beginning of a turbulent period in their relationship, as they struggled with a huge amount of media attention. After a brief split in 2007, they reconciled and became stronger than ever. In late 2010 their engagement was officially announced and just five months later, they married.
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The wedding – as I’m sure everyone remembers – was spectacular. Taking place in Westminster Abbey, the ceremony was watched by nearly 2, 000 people in person, and millions more around the globe – and Kate and William of course took part in some of the traditions of the British Isles. Unusually for a member of the Royal Family, William named his brother Harry as his Best Man, instead of the usual term “supporter”, used by Royal males for this role. Kate likewise chose her sister, Pippa, as maid of honour, another traditional role, and these two were responsible for planning their siblings’ stag and hen parties respectively. On the day all of the bridal party looked picture perfect; Harry in his full Blues and Royal dress uniform complemented Prince William, who also wore one of his military uniforms, his choice was that of the mounted officer of the Irish Guard rank which he holds. The bride wore an already iconic satin and lace creation from the British designer Sarah Burton, working for the Alexander McQueen label, and Pippa also wore a beautiful gown from the same designer.
Kate also observed the tradition of “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” – the “something blue”, a piece of blue ribbon stitched into her bodice, might be a classic choice; but the antique lace, new Royal crest diamond earrings, and borrowed tiara – from the Queen no less – might be beyond the reach of most brides! After the ceremony the newly-weds were whisked off in a luxurious and stately horse-drawn carriage to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen hosted a luncheon reception for a number of guests who represented William and Kate’s private and public lives – including many heads of state, religious leaders, and celebrities. After this, the happy couple and their attendants, including four bridesmaids and two pageboys, appeared on the Palace balconies with their parents, to greet the crowds of well-wishers who had gathered outside, then moved on to have a completely private dinner and evening reception for only their friends and loved ones which went on, like many weddings, ‘til the early hours of the next morning!
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In keeping with their relaxed approach to public life, William drove himself and new wife to their official residence, at the time Clarence House, after the luncheon reception to change outfits and get some time alone. In keeping with his fun approach to public life, Prince Harry made sure it was decorated in full “Just Married” fashion, including ribbons, balloons and novelty license-plate! This added a great touch of fun to what was, publically at least, a very sombre and grand occasion, in keeping with the status of the Royal Family and the seriousness with which the couple took their vows of marriage.
Immediately after the wedding, William and Kate were given new titles. They are mainly known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but when in Ireland are known as Baron and Lady Carrickfergus, and when in Scotland they are the Earl and Countess of Strathearn. Strathearn is valley leading between the rivers Earn and Tay, very close to St Andrews where they met, so the Queen’s decision to take this previously defunct title out of retirement and confer it upon her grandson and his new bride truly shows how understanding she is of the emotional significance St Andrews and Scotland has to the couple.
Since their marriage, the young royals have represented the British Monarchy abroad on three tours now; firstly to the US and Canada just a few months after their marriage, then Singapore, Malaysia, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands the following year as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. As Kate was soon expecting a child, they took a break from travelling for a time, but soon after the birth of their son, Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, Prince William withdrew from active military service and the Cambridge family now work as full time royals. This is their first major tour since the birth of little George, and in another sign of the modernity of their approach to life, he is accompanying his parents on their tour Down Under – and even attending events rather than being left with a nanny! Overall, it can’t be denied that Prince William and the Duchess Catherine continue to breathe new life into the British monarchy, and as they continue to take on public roles in speaking out for issues as diverse as children’s hospitals, conservation, the arts and many other charitable endeavours, their popularity continues to grow.
As we approach the Easter season, we thought we would take a different approach and tell you a little about the Isle of Eigg (pronounced “egg”), part of the Inner Hebrides and a great place to visit – perhaps especially at this time of year!
Eigg is famed for its outstanding natural beauty, and is one of the largest of the Small Isles which pepper the Scottish west coast. With remnants from Pictish and Viking cultures, and protected wildlife including otters, whales and a plethora of rare and beautiful seabirds, Eigg has a range of amazing experiences and opportunities to offer its visitors. Not to mention of course, the 83 permanent residents of Eigg themselves; who, through the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, help to guide and shape the future of their community in a sustainable and ecological fashion, winning many awards for their approach to life and from whom we can learn a great deal!
The isle is a natural haven for visitors, with its famous Singing Sands beach – a beach where the sand is made of quartz shards which make tuneful noises when walked on, and An Sgurr, the largest section of exposed pitchstone in the UK giving a great opportunity for an easy-going hill climb and rewarding views of many surrounding islands, and even the Lochaber mountains back on the mainland! There are also many beautiful caves, some with their own legends and history attached, such as Massacre Cave where, it is rumoured, almost the entire population of the island was wiped out due to clan wars between the MacDonalds and MacLeods – and not forgetting Kildonan Graveyard, where you can see ancient Celtic carvings and learn more about the resting places of all the different types of people who have inhabited this special place.
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Bird watching can be a reason in and of itself to visit Eigg; with over 130 species of birds regularly recorded in the islands each year there are more species of bird than total number of humans! From the breeding populations of raptors such as owls, kestrels, falcons, and the Scottish national bird, the Golden Eagle, to migratory species such as JacK Snipes and Whinchats, to even rarer visitors such as the Glossy Ibis spotted there just over a year ago, assumed to be from Spain or France! But on the other hand, naturalists who are more concerned with flora than fauna will also find much to interest them. One of Eigg’s nicknames is the isle of flowers, so called because of its dazzling array of wild plants. For such a small island, it has a great cross-section of terrains, and from woodland scrub, to marshy plains to the sea-cliffs a huge variety of plants spring forth – from beautiful orchids to fragrant bluebells to rare alpine sandworts. The sea life too is amazing to watch; dolphin and minke whales frolic with seals and can be regularly viewed from one of the boat tours available from the port at Galmisdale, but if you’re very lucky you may even witness a visit from an orca, basking shark or the unusual sun fish!
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Much of life on Eigg focusses on maintaining this wonderful wealth of natural beauty, visitor cars are generally not permitted on the island and most people encourage walking and cycling – though an island minibus is also available for longer journeys, sharing the journey with others of course gives you a chance to cut down on fuel consumption and meet new people! In addition to the switchover to their electricity coming from entirely renewable resources, such as the sun, wind and water, Eigg residents are also leading the way in switching to solar water heating, programs of excellent insulation for all buildings, recycling, consuming local and organic foods wherever possible, and many other green initiatives! Their work as a collective has been recognised with several official awards and now visitors can choose to have a residential holiday at the Earth Connections Eco Centre, and learn more about how to live in an ecologically sustainable way, though of course there are campsites, bed and breakfasts and self-catering options as well. And for the more adventurous of you…don’t forget that wild camping is legal in Scotland and independent campers are welcome on Eigg, so long as proper respect and care is shown to the surrounding area and residents.
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We hope that this description of one of Scotland’s most beautiful island gems has inspired some of you this Easter, and you will consider visiting this gorgeous location some time – or one of its cousin islands; Rhum, Mull and Canna. As always we welcome your comments, and hopefully we will hear from some of you who have been lucky enough to spend some time in the charming Inner Hebrides.