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Queen Elizabeth II's body begins its journey to London on Sunday

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start tonight in the U.K., where preparations for Queen Elizabeth II's funeral are underway. Her remains begin the long journey back to London tomorrow in preparation for her funeral the following week. A hearse will carry her coffin from Balmoral Castle down to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, which is where we find NPR's Frank Langfitt, who has been talking to people about the queen, the new king and the monarchy. He's with us now. Frank, thanks so much for joining us.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So where did you go today, and what did you hear?

(CROSSTALK)

LANGFITT: I headed north along the - basically in the rolling green mountains of the highlands, which is a beautiful area - rivers, distilleries. And I went to this town called Pitlochry. And because there was a festival going on, I ended up meeting a variety of people from around Scotland. What I heard was definitely respect for the queen, which is I think widespread throughout the U.K., but some skepticism about the monarchy. I was in a park, talked to a woman named Heather McGrath. She works as a chef in Glasgow, and I asked her what she thought about the monarchy. This is what she said.

HEATHER MCGRATH: I think they're redundant, to be fair, in the country. We don't really need them, and it's just like it's a tourist attraction more than anything, and they don't actually get involved as much. You know, OK, they have their charities and everything like that, but personally, I don't think we need them anymore.

LANGFITT: And part of the reason, Michel, I think that you get some of this particular skepticism about the monarchy up here in Scotland is this is literally another nation. There are four nations, of course, in the United Kingdom - England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. And there's been a push over the years, which we've covered, for Scotland to become independent of the U.K. Heather's one of those people who wants independence and wants the country to break away from the United Kingdom. So I asked her this question.

When you look at the royal family, do you see them as representing Scotland?

MCGRATH: No, no, no.

LANGFITT: What do you think they represent?

MCGRATH: England. That's it. Yeah. Yeah. It's just an English thing. You know God save the queen? I don't care.

MARTIN: I don't care. That is pretty blunt. Have you heard...

LANGFITT: It is.

MARTIN: Have you heard more of that in Scotland, Frank?

LANGFITT: Well, I did. I mean, it was interesting. She was blunter than some. I talked to another couple that was on a bench nearby, and they felt that this story that we're covering is getting too much attention, but they didn't want to say this publicly because they were afraid of criticism. And this is a departure for Scots. Most Scots, they're known for speaking their mind, just as Heather McGrath spoke to me earlier today.

MARTIN: So you heard skepticism in Scotland for the monarchy, probably more so than in other parts of the realm, as it were. So did - were there people that you spoke with who thought the monarchy would last?

LANGFITT: Actually, everybody did, Michel. Even the critics. And partly it's you know, it's deep rooted in this society. This is a very tradition-bound society. It's hard to change things here. But there were also people I talked to who feels - you know, who feel the monarchy plays an important role. There was a guy I met named Alberto Massimo. He was eating ice cream by the side of the road, and he hosts a classical music radio station up here. And he says the monarchy helps unite this country of these very different nations. And it's really important now because you have here in Scotland, the government wants to hold another referendum for independence. The - this would be the second since 2014. They want to hold it next year. And there's been a widespread concern that Northern Ireland will eventually reunite with Ireland down the road. And this is what Alberto said.

ALBERTO MASSIMO: The monarchy is an institution which should represent the whole of these islands. They are, in some way, the glue. The queen, because of her great age and also her experience, managed to ride that through, whereas now with a new king, this is going to be a very, very difficult thing. And he has to always remind himself that he needs to be seen a lot more in Scotland.

LANGFITT: And I should add that Massimo did have good things to say about King Charles III. He thought that particularly with the U.K. and Europe facing soaring energy prices that Charles' longtime support of the environment and renewable energy would actually help him with people.

MARTIN: So briefly, Frank, signs of support in Scotland beyond the queen herself - what do you think?

LANGFITT: I think more for the monarchy but definitely a lot for the queen, and we'll be out tomorrow along the roads to see people coming out to see the queen's remains, as you say, head south through these little towns in Scotland towards Edinburgh.

MARTIN: NPR's Frank Langfitt in Edinburgh, Scotland. Frank, thank you.

LANGFITT: Good to talk, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.
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