Alastair Bruce

When Alastair Bruce joined the Army in 1979, it was illegal to be gay and serve his country.

Last month, Major General Bruce became the highest-ranking British Army officer to perform a same-sex wedding.

After years of hiding his relationship, he married his partner of 20 years, Stephen Nott, in full uniform in Edinburgh.

General Bruce hid his sexuality all his professional life, fearing he would be “dishonorably discharged” from the institution for which he had sacrificed much.

He served with the 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards in the Falkland Islands in 1982 and advanced through the ranks hiding this side of him. He is now governor of Edinburgh Castle.

It was not until January 2000 that the British military changed its view of homosexuality.

Until then, gays, lesbians and bisexuals were forbidden to serve in the British Army, the Royal Navy and the RAF.

But even after General Bruce met Stephen in 2001, he continued to keep his relationship a secret.

Alastair Bruce

The royal broadcaster told BBC Radio Scotland’s “Morning with Stephen Jardine” program, “I think I kept it a secret most of my life anyway. The attitudes in society were somewhat different than they are now.

“Some people didn’t change their views, but most people did. As a consequence, almost every professional interest I had at the time would have had a problem.”

“When you join the Army, you have to adapt to be more physically tough-it’s all part of the training. So I think I was well trained to hide the fact that I had a particular sexuality, and I just quietly went on and served.”

He met Stephen when he was lecturing on a cruise ship around the Great Barrier Reef.

“I never thought people under 40 would come to my lectures,” he said. “I was amazed that he would be interested in some of the historical things I was talking about.”

“But he came back, we started communicating, it took a while, and after a few months he left where he lived in Northern Ireland and came to live with me in this country.

“It was such a huge courageous move on his part, and his ability to love helped me realize what’s really important in life. And even though we continued to have a very humble relationship, we knew it was something that would last.”

Alastair Bruce

Gene Bruce said the couple went to great lengths to be discreet.

“I used to tell Stephen that if we were walking down the street and I saw someone in the military, he would walk in front like I didn’t know who he was, and we would meet at the next store.

But as his views changed, so did his views, and when he opened up his personal life to those closest to him, he found nothing but support.

Incredible Journey

The wedding at St. John’s Church on Princes Street, officiated by the Bishop of Edinburgh, began a new, more open chapter in his life.

After the ceremony, the couple had a reception at Edinburgh Castle.

He explained, “It was fantastic. It was raining, but nothing could dampen Steven and I’s feelings.

“It was a long trip, and we were absolutely thrilled and still are.”

And it meant a lot to him that he got married in full Army dress uniform.

“I loved being in the Army. I wanted to wear the uniform to my wedding to say thank you to the armed forces for the incredible way they’ve come and for the fact that now, as it should be, all we care about is whether people are able to use, as I put it, ‘calculated precision and lawful violence against the enemies of the queen,’ when the nation demands it.

“What people do in their spare time is irrelevant to this question.”

He does not consider the former years a life of lies and has found peace with the past. Indeed, many friends told him they knew but respected him enough to leave him alone.

Alastair Bruce

He said: “It was difficult, and you had to understand that there was a certain danger if you let it become a more publicly known problem.

“I’m still a little tactless, but it has nothing to do with how people actually react, because everyone is thrilled.

“Truth be told, my anxiety only persists because I lived through a youth where I was careful and a profession where I had to be very careful, and that shapes you.”

Now the major general looks forward to his job at Edinburgh Castle, with Stephen at his side instead of walking ahead of him.

“Because I love history anyway and because I’m Bruce, it means a lot to me to be here, and having Stephen by my side makes everything more exciting – he adds an ease and is great with people.”

“I hope that we become a testament to the fact that this castle continues to welcome people all over the world who come here to find the best of Scotland.”

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