#IndyRef: whom to blame?

Kilted Eddy

Not a pretty sight, but here’s where it all may have kicked off:

Whitehall: 23rd January, 1901:

On Tuesday afternoon, the twenty-second of January instant, at half-past six o’clock, our late most gracious Sovereign Queen Victoria expired at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, in the eighty-second year of Her age, and the sixty-fourth year of Her reign… Upon the intimation of this distressing event,  the Lords of the Privy Council assembled this day at St. James’s Palace, and gave orders for proclaiming His present Majesty, who made a most gracious declaration to them, and caused all the Lords and others of the late Queen’s Privy Council, who were then present, to be sworn of His Majesty’s Privy Council.

The problem was Eddie was proclaimed, north and south of the Border, as Edward VII.

It comes down to this:

By choosing to be known as Edward “the Seventh ” the late King gave, unwittingly no doubt, deep offence to his Scottish subjects. Repeated protests were made during the whole of his reign, and on many ceremonial occasions Scottish authorities omitted the offensive numeral altogether. King Edward was the first of his name to rule over Great Britain and the United Kingdom, and the previous six English Edwards were not kings of Scotland at all.

$_1For the record, there, the Article I of the Act of Union is:

THAT the two Kingdoms of Scotland and England shall upon the first day of May next ensuing [i.e. 1st May, 1707] the date hereof, and for ever after, be united into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN; And that the Ensigns Armorial of the said United Kingdom be such as Her Majesty shall appoint,, and the Crosses of St Andrew and St George be conjoined, in such manner as Her Majesty shall think fit, and used in all Flags, Banners, Standards and Ensigns, both at Sea and Land.

One consequence of Edward VII [and I — see, it’s that easy]’s numeration was the formation of the Scottish Patriotic Association.

A great achievement was to muster Over 1500 people at the Glasgow memorial to William Wallace, on the 600th anniversary of his betrayal, in 1905.

Then, after some years wining and dining themselves, we find the Scottish Patriotic Association taking matters seriously. Rather than urging a specifically-Scottish interest to be represented at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference (where the Irish were loud in their own promotion), the Scottish Patriotic Association were protesting that Scottish history was not being properly taught in Scottish schools.

Alternatively, the Association’s moment of glory was to bring down on its lairdly heads the scorn of Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

The follow-up was the “Pillar Box War” of 1953

Following her great-grand-dad’s precedent (and everything in these matters is bound by precedent, until force changes them) the present monarch was proclaimed as “Elizabeth II”.

Iain Dòmhnallach MacCormaig, a.k.a. John MacCormick, was a punctilious Scottish lawyer, and pro to-nationalist. In 1953 he launched an action against the Crown in the Scottish courts that she was, in Scotland, only the first Elizabeth. The Scottish judiciary were less than definitive, and it is not entirely a dead issue. Winston Churchill got away with a utterance that any future monarch should take the higher enumerator, either English or Scottish, so it would be an “Elizabeth II”, a “Henry IX” (that’s a difficult one — see footnote 1 below) or a “David III”. I’d welcome a “Malcolm IV”.

In the midst of this small spat, some Jobsworth started to import into Scotland English-made post-boxes with the royal monogram, “EIIR”. One in particular, in Inch (conveniently adjacent to true campus of Edinburgh University), was repeatedly daubed and tarred. It required a constant police guard, until it was even blown up. We even got a couple of protest songs out of this nonsense. It has been claimed that “Sky High Joe” (the hero of the lesser ballad, posting his football pools coupon, and did for the hated object), was the great Hamish Henderson.

The story is better told in The Ballad of the Inch:

Ye read it i’ the papers,
Ye saw it i’ the news:
How he stuck his “Coupon” in,
Wi’ a yaird-lang, fizzin fuse.

As he harped [footnote 2] back across the road,

Tae the Cops he bade “Good Night!
Ah wadna stand sae near the box,
For yon wis gelagnite.”

A minute later aff it went,
Wi’ a flashing an’ a thump,
An noo they’ve taen awa’ the bits
Tae the Corporation Dump.

After that, the Post Office in Scotland settled for a simple royal arms, and no monogram.

I’ve always lusted to to this for a blog-post, so here goes:

Footnote 1:

Henry IX

Henry Benedict Thomas Edward Maria Clement Francis Xavier Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York, the last of the direct Stuart line. The wannabe Pretender to the British throne (though he never claimed it for himself, in part because the Hanoverians paid him a pension not to) 1788-1807.

Footnote 2 (from the OED):


Chiefly Sc. and north. dial.

intr. To move with a gait between walking and crawling; to walk lamely, to drag a limb, to hobble. In early use said of the hare.


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