The Queen took care of my children when cancer struck my wife, reveals royal piper

·4-min read
Pipe Major Scott Methven held the role of Queen's Piper for four years after returning from service in Afghanistan - Stuart Nicol
Pipe Major Scott Methven held the role of Queen's Piper for four years after returning from service in Afghanistan - Stuart Nicol

The Queen’s personal piper has told how the Royal family stepped in to help when his wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer, giving his children a home at Balmoral and sending care packages to the hospital.

Pipe Major Scott Methven, who held the role of Piper to the Sovereign from 2015 to 2019, said the Queen told him he must put his family first after receiving news of his wife’s illness, with the royal nannies and equerry entertaining his own two children so he could care for her.

Arranging for a basket of strawberries and muffins to be sent for the nurses, the Queen assured him he must leave his duties whenever he needed to, Mr Methven said, instructing him to tell anyone who queried him that “I told you so”.

His children, then five and 12 years old, stayed in a cottage at Balmoral and later at Windsor Castle, playing tractors with Prince George and chatting to the Duke of Edinburgh as they fed the red squirrels.

His wife, Morven, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer on their wedding anniversary in 2017, after the Queen’s doctor took a blood test and, upon seeing the results, booked an ambulance to take her to hospital. She lived for another year.

Scott Methven with his family - Scott Methven
Scott Methven with his family - Scott Methven

Mr Methven, who grew up in a council house in Stirling, Scotland, and served in the Army for 25 years, played the bagpipes outside the Queen’s window for 15 minutes each morning at 9am, travelling with her from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle and Balmoral and performing on special occasions.

He also escorted the Queen daily, saying they would “always have a wee chat” in which the Queen would ask after his family.

Watch: Who is The Queen?

Mrs Methven was diagnosed with cancer during a stay with their two children, Fearghas, now eight, and Lilly-Grace, now 15, at Balmoral.

After being told she urgently needed to travel to hospital, a distressed Mr Methven asked an equerry “who will look after the kids?” before being told: “Just go. I will talk to the Queen. That’s what we’re here for.”

“It just so happened that the [royal] nannies were there,” he said. “They all mucked in and helped out. They [the children] stayed up at Balmoral Castle while I was away.”

Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, in the snow - Jane Barlow/PA
Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, in the snow - Jane Barlow/PA

His son, he said, was able to “run about” with young Prince George, joking: “Kids are kids. They would maybe have a wee argument over a toy tractor, which was quite funny.”

“It was nice,” he added of his treatment. “One morning when I went to the hospital, the Queen had arranged for strawberries and muffins to be made up in a basket for the nurses. She said ‘make sure they get that’.

“That’s what it’s about, isn’t it?

“People on the military side were conscious about me getting back to work but the Queen said ‘absolutely not, it’s family first, you have as much time as you need to look after your wife’.”

Mr Methven said the Queen later allowed the children to stay at Windsor Castle, with family trips to Buckingham Palace.

“My son would bump into the Duke of Edinburgh at the back of the cottage in Balmoral,” he said. “I remember coming round the back and seeing Fearghas standing with his head bowed, like I’d taught him, and the Duke standing with his stick saying ‘Who’s this? Who does he belong to?’

“I told him he was my son and he said: ‘You’ve got him bloody well trained.’ We were there laughing.”

Fearghas, then five, made a point of searching out the Duke whenever he visited, sharing his love of red squirrels.

Scott Methven's family - Scott Methven
Scott Methven's family - Scott Methven

Mr Methvan served with the Army in Northern Ireland and on two tours of Afghanistan before finishing in 2019 as a Sergeant Major (WO1) with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He now teaches bagpipes.

“I was the Queen’s escort and we would always have a wee chat. She was so understanding.

“She’d say ‘If you get a phone call in the middle of the night, you don’t need to ask anybody, just go. If anybody says anything, tell them I told you so’. And if I don’t hear you in the morning, I’ll know why’.”

He told BBC Scotland: “People genuinely think what you will about the Royal family or the Queen, but they pulled it out of the bag for me.”

Watch: The Queen's Biography

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