The Duke of Cambridge’s invitation to become the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been rescinded due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince William, or the Earl of Strathearn as he is known in Scotland, was supposed to be the Lord High Commissioner of the Church this year.
However, due to COVID-19, the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has been cancelled meaning the Earl will no longer need to take up the role.
Principal Clerk, Rev Dr George Whyte said: “We did not take this decision lightly but in the current circumstances it was the only choice we could make. Our Assembly would have brought almost a thousand people to a week-long meeting in Edinburgh including visitors from overseas and from other churches… Health must come first.”
He continued: “We were also looking forward to welcoming the Duke of Cambridge as the Queen’s representative but we are assured that Prince William will understand our unavoidable decision. We hope that he may be Lord High Commissioner on another occasion.”
The Queen appoints a new Lord High Commissioner each year at the General Assembly. Her decision on who to appoint comes on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The Lord High Commissioner is The Queen’s representative who works “to maintain the relationship between the State and the Church, and a long-standing tradition of appointing a Lord High Commissioner originated in the latter part of the 16th Century.”
Other members of the Royal Family who have been appointed to the position include the Princess Royal, the Earl of Wessex, Duke of York and Duke of Rothesay. The Princess Royal has held the role twice.
Buckingham Palace explains: “The Lord High Commissioner makes opening and closing addresses to the General Assembly and reports to Her Majesty on its proceedings. For the duration of the General Assembly, the Sovereign grants the Lord High Commissioner permission to reside at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and, during this time, His or Her Grace receives a Guard of Honour, a 21-Gun Salute and the keys to the City of Edinburgh. It is also customary for the Lord High Commissioner to invite distinguished guests to stay at the Palace, and to offer hospitality to Commissioners to the Assembly and those who have contributed to public life in Scotland.
“During the week of the Assembly, the Lord High Commissioner attends the Assembly to observe the debates. He or she also carries out a programme of engagements to reflect the work of charities and the Church. For instance, Sir George Reid, Scottish politician and former Presiding Officer, who was appointed in 2010 and 2011, used his programme to celebrate the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent. In 2012 and 2013, Lord Hope of Craighead, formerly Scotland’s most senior Supreme Court judge, undertook a programme of visits that highlighted themes of justice and inclusion.”