That slight underplaying of ritual and pomposity is what Scotland does so well, and nowhere better than in Edinburgh. Indeed what better than that The Pope was guarded by the Royal Company of Archers and the High Constables at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and had his lunch in refined Morningside.
This was the State Visit of Benedict XVI - the first state visit by a Pope to the UK - and it began in Edinburgh. His plane arrived on time at the airport to be met by The Duke and Edinburgh. The sun was shining, as it did all day - but not without Edinburgh’s breeze.
The Queen was waiting to greet him at the Palace, to exchange gifts and then with the Duke to have private conversation. Meanwhile 400 guests, the great and the good of the United Kingdom, had assembled in a marquee. The Queen formally welcomed His Holiness and he responded. He might be head of a church with over a billion members but he pointed out that she was head of the Commonwealth of two billion. He was keen that the United Kingdom, a multicultural country, does not fail to underscore its Christian values. He worried about "aggressive atheism".
There were handshakes for The Pope with all manner of guests, all carefully marshalled into place, with the Queen and Duke following. Before long they were saying farewell to His Holiness and he climbed the steps at the rear of his white Mercedes Popemobile. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, sitting facing along with the Pope’s Secretary, placed a tartan scarf around the Pope’s shoulders and started to wave his in enthusiastic excitement.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh returned to Balmoral and The Pope was driven slowly along Regent Road and the whole length of Princes Street. Over one hundred thousand well-wishers lined the streets. Half way along the pipes and drums that had paraded the same route some time earlier, with the castle as their backdrop, gave of their very best. The school children, some from schools named after St Ninian, whose day it was, waved their Saltires.
The motorcade of about a dozen vehicles drove up Lothian Road past a few protesters who caused no trouble, through the Tollcross to Holy Corner. There they turned into Chamberlain Road and round to the Cardinal’s house. The Pope was out in the street for a few minutes to greet the children from nearby St Peter’s Roman Catholic primary school. A few minutes were spent in the Cardinal’s chapel at St Bennet’s. We were told there were fourteen round the lunch table and it seemed that the Cardinal’s cook had haggis, neeps and tatties to offer.
Time for a snooze and then a fourteen vehicle cavalcade left along Church Hill, past Morningside’s shops heading for the city bypass and on to Glasgow for a Mass later in the afternoon.