Philip was ‘one of us’, says minister at Crathie Kirk

Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland
·3-min read

The minister of the church used by the royal family when at Balmoral Castle has laid claim to the Duke of Edinburgh being “one of us” in the north east of Scotland.

Reverend Kenneth MacKenzie is the minister of the Parish of Braemar and Crathie and domestic chaplain to the Queen, who visits the church for Sunday services with members of her family, including Prince Philip, when staying at the castle.

Ahead of the duke’s funeral on Saturday, Rev MacKenzie paid tribute to him and highlighted just how many communities across the country, and the world, had an affinity with the 99-year-old.

He said: “Over the last few days, many different tribes and nations have, with some justification, laid claim to the duke, and while I seek no argument with those who claim that he was ‘thoroughly European’, ‘archetypically British’, ‘adopted by the Commonwealth’, ‘Baptised Orthodox’, ‘Confirmed Anglican’ or whatever – let me try to set the record straight.

“I think HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was one of us.

“I make this claim on behalf of those who live in the north east of Scotland, where early on, the duke famously received a formal education, and where, by his own acknowledgment, he would later learn even more by walking in the footsteps of those who loved and cared for the land and forests of Upper Deeside.

“At the risk of sounding even more ‘parochial’, I make my ‘one of us’ assertion as a person who serves in a local church.

“A man of faith with an active and enquiring mind, the duke was always interested in the church at the national and institutional level – keeping up to date with the decisions and discussions of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – but his interest did not stop there.

“He was never slow to question how this ‘so-called faith’ was being lived out in any given parish and community – and speaking for myself, I loved him for it.”

Duke and Queen at Balmoral
The Duke of Edinburgh with the Queen at Balmoral as they celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1972 (PA)

Rev MacKenzie, minister of the parish since 2005, previously told the PA news agency how highly regarded Philip’s work and interest in the community was.

This included the duke knowing people around the Balmoral estate and “not just their parents but grandparents” too.

The Crathie Kirk minister added: “Like many in this community, I have fond memories of personal encounters with the duke.

“But perhaps the most treasured memory of all will be of watching him take his place in church Sunday by Sunday, intentionally finding a spot from where he could best scan the assembled congregation.

“He did this partly to check up on who was there – I am told there were many interesting conversations with those from the estate on Monday mornings – and partly to keep a close eye on the preacher.

“He considered it important, I know, that we preacher types said the right thing – but being the duke, he also rather enjoyed it when we got it wrong.”

Meanwhile, students at the school the Duke of Edinburgh attended, Gordonstoun in Moray, took part in an early morning run on Friday in tribute to him.

Pupils running
Gordonstoun pupils on the tribute run (Gordonstoun School/PA)

Morning runs were compulsory at the school until the 1990s and more than 100 students and staff, in household groups, ran a 3.5km route from Gordonstoun House to the nearby coastguard watchtower which Philip reopened in 1955.

The watchtower replaced a wooden hut which the duke, a member of the “Watchers” – a precursor to the Coastguard – helped build in 1935.

The school’s young sailors will pay their own tribute to him on Saturday ahead of his funeral, laying a wreath at sea off Hopeman Harbour in Moray from the school yacht, while a lone student piper plays.