The Duke of Cambridge has delivered a highly personal farewell speech at the end of his Scottish tour, describing how the nation has “shaped” him and praising its people and values.
William said Scotland was “so important” to himself and wife Kate as he recounted their experiences meeting a range of inspirational people from spritely pensioners, selfless NHS workers and committed charity volunteers.
He also described meeting students, when the couple returned to St Andrews University where they first met 20 years ago, and being struck by “…how much younger they looked than us! It was wonderful to be back in St Andrews and walk down memory lane together”.
Speaking in Edinburgh at the closing ceremony of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, he said: “These people make Scotland the vibrant, friendly, innovative and determined place Catherine and I love , and is so important to us.
“I’m shaped by this place. The abiding affection I feel for it is rooted in my experience of its everyday life in people, relationships, and its ethic of neighbourliness.”
William arrived in Scotland a week ago, later joined by his wife, in his role as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, with the aim of listening to people to “learn more about your challenges, but also, to learn of your hopes and aspirations”.
When listing some of the memorable moments from their visit, the duke described how Betty Magee took a shine to him and his wife’s encounter with Mila Sneddon, a five-year-old battling leukaemia whose picture was featured in Kate’s Hold Still lockdown photographic project.
He said: “Betty, the 96-year-old star of the show at Queen’s Bay Lodge, who is full of beans despite the horrid year she’s had. Betty’s certainly got my number.”
“Brave Mila, ninety-one years Betty’s junior and a star of Hold Still, who Catherine was thrilled to meet in person today.”
He added: “And finally the NHS staff who we met at the drive-in cinema last night at Holyroodhouse. Their dedication, commitment and personal sacrifice is truly extraordinary.”
William went on to say that during the past year, communities across the UK had experienced a time of profound loss, challenge and change.
He added: “But they have found support in the values of community life that, perhaps, we may have previously taken for granted.
“These values provide us with the strength and ingenuity to adapt and meet the challenges we face, now and ahead.”
Earlier in the day, the Cambridges showed off their green-fingered skills and tennis prowess at events celebrating the value of parks and sport.
William and Kate helped nursery school children scatter plant seeds that will attract butterflies and bees during a visit to the 125-year-old Starbank Park in Edinburgh.
They also met teenagers working towards their Duke of Edinburgh’s bronze award and helped them as they planted sunflowers and an apple tree.
After the duchess changed into more sporty clothing, they then took part with children in a youth tennis session run by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which Kate supports as patron.
William and Kate’s visit to Scotland ended with a send-off from bagpipers, Highland dancers at the Beating Retreat ceremony staged at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The duchess in a cobalt blue Catherine Walker coat and jewellery loaned by the Queen, sat with William, 38, and five-year-old Mila and her family from her Hold Still project.
Children from two primary schools which work with the charity Place2Be, of which Kate is patron, also got front row seats at the ceremony performed by The Massed Pipes and Drums of the Combined Cadet Force in Scotland.