How Queen Elizabeth 'Brilliantly' Cared for Royal Piper's Children During His Wife's Terminal Cancer Battle
As the official Sovereign's Piper, Scott Methven worked side-by-side with Queen Elizabeth for the better part of four years. Following his wife's tragic diagnosis with terminal cancer in 2017, he also witnessed a side of the 95-year-old monarch that very few people outside of the royal family have ever seen.
"For me, it was just her humility as a person," Methven, 47, tells PEOPLE about the Queen's caring reaction to his devastating personal news. "Of course, she's Her Majesty the Queen, but to me she was the person who probably got me through this all the way along."
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Methven first landed the role of the Sovereign's Piper — "Pipes" for short — in 2015, shortly after returning from his second tour of Afghanistan with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.
The historic role was founded in 1843 by Queen Victoria and requires the Piper to play a 15-minute tune under the Monarch's balcony every morning before changing uniform and ushering dignitaries, celebrities and foreign heads of state through the protocol of meeting the British monarch.
It also means being at the Queen's side wherever she goes and living in all of the Queen's homes — something Methven says nobody "would have believed" when he was growing up in Stirling, central Scotland.
Scott Methven Scott Methven with his wife Morven and daughter Lilly-Grace
"The first day I started at Buckingham Palace, I was standing there, and I was very nervous," reveals Methven. "Her Majesty came up to me and said 'How are you? Are you settling in?'"
"I said, 'I think so, but I keep getting lost.' And she said, 'That's the best way to find your way around because you always have to find your way back. Me and [Princess] Margaret used to get lost all the time.'"
Then in a nod to how their relationship would include a large dose of humor — what Methven calls "one-liners" and "banter" — the Queen left him with a tongue-in-cheek quip about his 5'6" height.
"She said, 'Do you know that you're the first piper to hold the post that I haven't had to look up to?' And then she just walked away!" reveals Methven. "That was the first thing she said to me. So, I was like, 'Right, is that how it's going to be?! One-liners?! Right, here we go....'"
Scott Methven Scott Methven and his family at Buckingham Palace
Methven continued to "always try to get one-liners out and have a good bit of banter with Her Majesty." Yet he was ultimately forced to speak to the royal great-grandmother about something vastly far more serious during the Queen's 2017 summer vacation in Balmoral.
"My wife wasn't feeling too great for the previous couple of months, and I persuaded her to speak to the Queen's doctor," says Methven. "He got a blood test and the next day phoned an ambulance and she went into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary."
Two days later a hospital consultant delivered the devastating news that his wife, Morven, had Stage 4 terminal cancer and only had months to live.
"I just couldn't believe it. I went back to the castle and the Queen's equerry said 'How's Morven? Is everything OK?' And I just said 'No. She's going to die,'" says Methven.
Scott Methven Scott Methven and his family
In shock, he decided that he would carry on as normal and play the pipes for the Queen that night at the Castle.
"Her Majesty says to me 'No. You're not playing. You're going to go to the hospital right now and sit with your wife," says Methven.
"I suddenly thought 'How can I go? My kids are here. My family is here. How am I going to juggle all of this?' And her equerry just said, 'Leave them. That's what we're here for. That's what we're here to do. We'll look after the children. Don't worry about it.'"
Methven immediately jumped in a car and raced back to Morven's hospital bedside, leaving his 5-year-old son Fearghas and 12-year-old daughter Lily-Grace in the care of the royal family.
"Everybody looked after them," he says. "The chefs had them in the kitchen making sausage rolls.... They were brilliant. They had them doing everything. My son Fearghas, he's the same age as Prince George, so they would always be kind of jousting with each other because they both wanted to play with the toy tractors, so they would all tank about and have a great crack."
Scott Methven Morven undergoing treatment alongside Lilly-Grace
As Morven underwent chemotherapy, Methven naturally had to take more and more time away from his job as Royal Piper. This led the British Army to want to fill the historic and prestigious position with another soldier who had more time to perform the duties. Queen Elizabeth, however, had other plans.
"The Queen refused," says Methven. "She said 'I've got one Queen's Piper. And the reason he isn't here is that he's away caring for his wife. So, you are not replacing him under any circumstances. He is not getting removed from his post because his wife is dying of cancer. That's not happening.'
"To have someone of that position do that … she was just brilliant," he adds.
With his job secured by the Queen, Methven could focus all his attention on his wife's needs. Tragically, however, it was to no avail and Morven passed away in October 2018 having courageously fought cancer through two courses of chemotherapy.
"She just died in my arms," says Methven. "That was it."
Afterward, the Queen sent her equerry to Morven's funeral and asked him to provide a full report on the memorial to both her and the Duke of Edinburgh as soon as he returned to Windsor Castle.
Methven himself remained as Pipe Major until February 2019, but understandably decided to put his children first and stepped away from the demanding 24/7 job of serving the Queen. He now teaches bagpipes from his house on the outskirts of Stirling and walks Fearghas to school every morning. Morven is buried in a church graveyard next door to the family home.
"They were really, really caring. They were brilliant," Methven says about the royal family's role during Morven's illness.
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"When I went back down to Windsor, on my first day back [after the funeral] the Queen said, 'I want to see you.' So, I [jokingly] said, 'Does this count as my return-to-work interview, Your Majesty?'"
He continues, "She just said she was really, really sorry and it was then all about 'How are the children now? Do they need anything?' All that sort of stuff. Just really caring again. A typical sort of granny."
"I still get a wee message every now and then just to make sure that I'm okay," he adds. "So even now they're still checking up on me and making sure I'm okay. It's very endearing really. I got a message last Sunday and it is really nice. All the way through this the Queen was absolutely fantastic."