The Queen has pleaded with voters in Scotland to “think carefully” before breaking apart the 300-year-old union with England.
In a dramatic intervention just days before the independence vote, Her Majesty spoke to crowds outside Crathie Kirk near Balmoral.
She told one well-wisher who had joked about the referendum: “I hope everybody thinks very carefully about the future.”
The intervention is significant as the Queen has refused to make any formal statement about Thursday’s historic vote, despite reports she is deeply worried.
A new poll of polls suggests the pro-union No camp remains ahead with a tiny lead of 51% to 49%.
But with up to half a million voters yet to decide, both sides accept the outcome is too close to call.
A royal source said yesterday: “The Queen respects the will of the Scottish people and she will work with them whatever the result.
“But she wants to make sure people have thought about the long-term repercussions of breaking up the union.”
The source added: “The Queen remains constitutionally impartial and she’s not coming down on either side of the argument.”
But Labour MPs said it was clear the Queen did not want her country ripped apart.
“This shows her preference is for us to stay together,” said Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk.
And one royal expert said: “I’m sure that privately the Queen is horrified at the prospect of the union breaking up.
"In the most subtle way possible she has put her view across and she’s clearly very worried about the thought of independence.”
Prince Harry was also caught up in the debate when he said he hoped the Invictus Games could be held in the UK next year – possibly in Glasgow.
“I personally would love to keep it in the UK,” he said.
The royal interventions came as former England football captain David Beckham gave his backing to the No campaign.
In an open letter to voters in Scotland, Beckham wrote of his “pride and passion” at representing the UK on the London Olympics bid.
“I took as much satisfaction in seeing Sir Chris Hoy or Andy Murray win gold as I did watching Jess Ennis and Mo Farah do the same in the Olympic Stadium,” he wrote.
As the campaign enters its final days, both sides are now focusing on the 500,000 voters who have yet to make up their minds.
But former Labour Home Secretary John Reid dropped a clanger when he said those who have not yet made up their minds should not vote.
“If you don’t know, genuinely, don’t vote,” he said.
“There are a thousand ways to make a protest vote. Gambling with the future of your country and future generations is not the most sensible one of those to choose.”
Better Together sources later said that Lord Reid meant to say “if you don’t know, vote No”.
Meanwhile, new polling by Survation for the Daily Mirror shows most voters in Scotland are not swayed by politicians’ arguments around issues such as the currency, security or the NHS.
The majority of those asked – 53% – gave non-specific reasons for their choice, such as “I just think we’re better together” or “I just think we should go it alone”.
Scottish separatist leader Alex Salmond confirmed he would break Britain apart even if he wins Thursday’s poll by just a single vote.
But he would not push for a second referendum if Scotland votes to stay in the UK.
There were also warnings that Mr Salmond hopes to asset-strip Britain’s armed forces if he wins.
The separatists say they are due a share of the UK’s aircraft carriers, tanks and frigates as Scotland is one-twelfth of the UK population.