Scots speakers typically grow up being told some variation of the phrase, ‘You should be speaking the Good Queen’s English!’

It, therefore, came as a surprise to many when the BBC reported that the late Queen Elizabeth II spoke Doric – a North Eastern dialect of the Scots language.

The recent revelation came from the local minister at the Queen’s church in Balmoral when discussing her strong links to the area, which she has visited since she was a child in the 1920s.

He said the late Queen spoke ‘in Doric, which is the local dialect, to a lady who was at the annual church fête.’ But not everyone was surprised, as one Twitter user revealed: ‘I ken an auld couple who lived and worked in the grounds of Balmoral, and they were as broad Doric spoken as anyone, so I’m sure the Queen picked up plenty ooer the years.’

According to the Director of the Scots Language Centre and linguist Michael Dempster, the rumours that the Queen spoke Scots – mistakenly described as having a ‘braw Scottish accent’ – have persisted for years.

They make sense too, given the Queen’s love of Balmoral, where she passed away on September 8, and it got me thinking.

READ MORE: How Operation Unicorn unfolded at Holyrood when the Queen died

If the Queen, whose name has become synonymous with English, could speak – and appreciate Scots – this is the ultimate break from the stigma that naysayers often impose on the legitimacy of the language.

It also represents a real break from the misconception that Scots is only spoken by working-class people because it is falsely regarded as bad English.

After all, few people have been exposed from the outset to ‘good English’ more than English Royalty, proving that – if the recognition of multiple international bodies wasn’t already enough – that Scots is a language.

Scots folk singer and Doric speaker Iona Fyfe told me: ‘The Queen speaking the Doric dialect of the Scots language gives a big boost to the credibility of the language, especially within a community of practice who tend to disregard and deny the language exists.’

After the BBC announced that the Queen spoke Scots while reporting her ailing health and eventual death from the stone gates of Balmoral, many Scots speakers and writers were asked the same question: Is there any truth to it?

When I was asked by a baffled Twitter user, I didn’t know the answer, even if logic told me that all that time the Queen spent in Scotland may well have taught her a wurd or twa.

I went on to do some digging and what I found was astonishing, to say the least.

While Dr Dempster wishes that there was a recording of the Queen speaking Scots, he told me that the language’s prevalence among Royals is a well-established fact.

The National: Michael DempsterMichael Dempster (Image: -)

He said: ‘Fae the 11t Century arrival o St Magret, Queen tae Malcolm III, throu tae the deith o James VI we haed Scots spikkin monarchy in Scotland, monie o them bein creative writers tae.’

Dempster explained that it is documented that court life, parliament and public record were all carried out in written and spoken Scots.

He said of the late Queen: ‘There nae doot thit she kent that.

‘The cringin craws tae ‘speak the Queen’s English’ come fae thaim thit’s ignorant o this aspect o wir culture, an us marginalised Scots spikkers are the livin cairriers o sic a prood linguistic culture.’

He added he was ‘heartened’ that more and more people in Scotland are waking up to the language’s rich history and ‘drappin the classism, an stertin tae value the voices o Scots spikkers.’

As Queen Elizabeth II’s body made the long journey down from Balmoral, eventually resting in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh for a day, her connections to Scotland were a topic of much discussion, with many TV reporters noting that the Queen Mother grew up in Glamis, which is also in the North-East, further cementing her daughter’s connection to the mither tongue.

But Queen Elizabeth II is not the only British Queen to be reported to be a Scots speaker, with Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) also being reported to speak ‘Scottish’ – as noted by her Italian tutor.

Despite Elizabeth I’s reign being so long ago, there are multiple sources that confirm her Scots fluency, as well as literacy, and she received a letter in 1571 from the Scottish wife of the head of Ulster’s most powerful family, Lord Turlough O’Neill, in the language.

Elizabeth I’s cousin, Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587), unsurprisingly, was also a Scots speaker, and she spoke the language so strongly that she was said to be illiterate in English until she was imprisoned.

The National: Queen Elizabeth II walks past a model of Mary Queen of Scots at the Britain and London Visitor Centre in central London, 10 June 2003.Queen Elizabeth II walks past a model of Mary Queen of Scots at the Britain and London Visitor Centre in central London, 10 June 2003. (Image: -)

It was perhaps for this reason that Elizabeth I only wrote to her cousin in French, although, as we know now, the two women would have been able to communicate, had they met, in Scots.

They could have also communicated in Scots had Mary written to Elizabeth I in the language, something her son, James VI (1566-1625), went on to do.

While she replied in English, her comprehension of the language is undeniable from this record.

Scots language expert Billy Kay told me that the Queen’s fluency in Scots ‘may have been exaggerated’, but he asserted that the Queen would have had ‘a good passive knowledge of Scots, being surrounded by people in Tayside and Aberdeenshire.’

He explained that from her servants and those who worked on the estate, as well as possibly from the Queen Mother, ‘She would have heard quite a bit of Doric around her, and she might well have used some expressions back to them.’

In terms of her own usage, Kay imagined she would ‘play with’ Scots words, adding: ‘I don’t think [she] would speak them fluently or regularly.’

But while the Queen might not have been a fluent or regular Scots speaker, Kay said there are historical examples of the aristocracy who ‘definitely spoke and used Scots’, which adds weight to the profile this seemingly new revelation has given to the language.

READ MORE: Scots language needs mair promotion, Rab Wilson and Michael Dempster say

One of those from – near enough – the Queen’s generation is the founder of the Labour Party in Scotland, Robert Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936), who, despite being an educated aristocrat, confidently wrote in Lowland Scots.

Another notable Scots writer Kay mentioned from the upper class was Violet Kennedy-Erskine (1863-1946), who was a celebrated Scots writer and poet.

She too had Royal links and was a descendent of King William IV’s illegitimate daughter, Augusta FitzClarence.

‘They definitely spoke [Scots],’ Kay asserted, ‘or they wouldn’t have been able to write it so perfectly.’

When asked if Doric has any features that might make it more appealing to Royalty than other Scots dialects, Dr Dempster said: ‘A think Scots spikkers generally hae a lot tae lairn fae the strang an prood staunnin thit North East Scots haes throu aw levels o society.

‘Ye’ll hear the Doric spoke in aw sorts o social contexts thit ither Scots speakers wad mibbie code switch tae Scottish Staunnart English.

‘Scots, yer ain language as ye spikk it, is appropriate tae communicate wi thaim thit unnerstaun ye in aw social contexts.

‘The rest o us shuidnae be sae feart o oor voices, clearly the braw Doric spikkers hae been bletherin awa juist fine an naitural tae the Queen hersel.’

The Queen speaking Doric also has political implications that go beyond what it tells us about the language and class, as many Scots language deniers, particularly online, are unionists.

The National: -- (Image: -)

As Iona Fyfe said to me: ‘Many of the people who deny the language is a legitimate language tend to be Monarchists, or the Jack wielding anonymous Twitter accounts that lambast Scottish culture, whilst having the British flag as their profile picture.’

Tellingly, these accounts have largely been silent in the face of the new revelation about the Queen’s language.

These extremist unionists argue that the Scots language does not exist and is a fictitious tool designed by nationalists to sow the seeds of division within the UK, despite its rich history which predates the existence of the SNP – who some have claimed invented the language – by hundreds of years.

But there is no greater symbol of the union than a Queen descended from the Stuarts, who united Scotland and England in blood.

While we will likely never hear a recording of the late Queen speaking Scots, it’s safe to say that by all accounts she had more than a passing knowledge – and likely usage – of the tongue.

It’s also worth noting that while there is no recording of the Queen speaking Scots, there is a recording of her surprising everyone during her 2011 historic visit to the Republic of Ireland, where she spoke in Irish Gaelic – proof that she understood the importance of native languages.

Scots and Royalty ultimately have deeper roots than just Queen Elizabeth; she has simply carried on the tradition of the mither tongue in Scotland.

She even passed it on to her son, King Charles III, who was filmed singing along in Scots to a bothy ballad from the North East on When Ant & Dec Met The Prince (2016).

If the British King can gie it laldy, that says a lot about not only the legitimacy of the Scots language but provides the ultimate proof that it is the furthest thing in the world from ‘bad English’ and a tool for ‘division and hatred’ as one unionist recently asserted to me.

But as Iona Fyfe said, while the Queen’s posthumous endorsement has given new credibility to the tongue, ‘Scots was always a credible language.’