Tens of thousands of mourners lined the route of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral cortege on Sunday as it left the Scottish retreat where she died, to bid farewell to their longest serving monarch.
The hearse carrying the 96-year-old’s oak coffin, draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland, was driven from the Balmoral estate through Aberdeen and Dundee to the capital Edinburgh, where the streets were packed with well-wishers.
Some applauded, some cried, and then they fell silent as the coffin reached the Palace of Holyroodhouse, met by senior royals including the queen’s daughter Anne, who curtseyed as it was carried inside.
“It was a very big sense of loss, but a sense of closure as well when you saw the coffin go past,” said onlooker Lucy Hampshire, who came from the northern English city of York.
The queen died on Thursday after a record-breaking seven decades on the throne, her son Charles immediately taking over as king of the UK and 14 other realms.
Her coffin will be held overnight at Holyroodhouse — the monarch’s official residence in Scotland — and on Monday, Charles III will lead it in procession to the nearby St Giles’ Cathedral.
It will be flown to London on Tuesday for four days of lying-in-state before the funeral on September 19, an event expected to be attended by heads of state and watched by millions of viewers worldwide.
“It is history, history in the making. We lived so long with the queen — 70 years,” said former soldier Stuart Mackay as he watched the cortege arrive.
“It’s the only monarch we’ve known and I think it’s my duty to be here to wave her goodbye.”
– ‘Poignant moment’ –
The symbolism of the queen’s last journey will be heavy for Scotland — a nation with deep royal links, but where there is also a strong independence movement intent on severing the centuries-old union with the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was a “sad and poignant moment” to see the queen leave her cherished Balmoral refuge for the final time.
Charles — formally proclaimed monarch at a pomp-filled ceremony on Saturday in London — will take part in a family vigil on Monday evening over the coffin at St Giles’.
He will also have his first audience with Sturgeon, before flying with his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, on Tuesday to Belfast.
A trip to Wales will follow later in the week, completing his tour of all four nations of the United Kingdom.
The new monarch will be joined at memorial services by British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was only appointed by the late queen on Tuesday.
– William and Harry together –
Charles has seen his popularity recover since the scandalous split with his much-loved first wife Diana, Princess of Wales, and her death in a 1997 Paris car crash.
But he takes the throne at a moment of deep anxiety in Britain over the spiralling cost of living and international instability caused by the war in Ukraine.
While Charles’ accession has brought on what newspapers have called the new “Carolean” era, Britain and the royal family are still coming to terms with the end of the Elizabethan age.
Prince William broke his silence on Saturday with an emotional tribute to his beloved “Grannie”.
“She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life,” said William, who has now become the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne.
But the queen’s death also brought a surprise show of unity from William, 40, and his younger brother Harry, 37, when they emerged with their wives to speak to well-wishers outside Windsor Castle.
The sight of the two couples, who have barely seen each other since 2020, together — even if they separated to speak and shake hands with different sides of the cheering crowds — will likely spark rumours of a reconciliation.
Pictures of the four were splashed on the front pages of Sunday’s newspapers.
“Reunited for granny,” read the Sunday Mirror’s headline, while the Telegraph ran with “Reunited in sorrow” and the Sun with “All 4 One”.
The Sunday Times focussed on the apparent frostiness, with the headline: “Warring Windsors’ awkward truce to honour the Queen”.
– ‘Inspiring example’ –
Charles vowed at the formal Accession Council at St James’s Palace on Saturday that he would “strive to follow the inspiring example I have been set” by his mother during her “lifetime of service”.
Thousands of people have gathered outside Buckingham Palace and other royal residences in recent days to lay flowers and messages of condolence, or simply to experience history in the making.
But officials expect far more people to pay their respects while the queen lies in state at parliament’s Westminster Hall, before the televised funeral service at Westminster Abbey opposite.
The funeral for the queen — who came to the throne aged just 25 in 1952 — will be attended by world leaders including US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and possibly Japanese Emperor Naruhito.
China’s President Xi Jinping, who is not expected to attend, said he was willing to “expand friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation” as he congratulated Charles on ascending to the throne.
Charles was formally named king in Australia and New Zealand — former British colonies that have been independent for decades but retain the monarchy — in tandem ceremonies on Sunday.
He hosted his first reception Sunday for representatives of the Commonwealth realms, the 14 former colonies over which he reigns in addition to Britain.
With republican movements gaining ground from Australia to Antigua, one of his biggest challenges will be how to keep together the worldwide family that mother so loved.
The queen’s record 70 years on the throne were a constant during a turbulent time for Britain, from a world of post-war deprivation and the loss of its empire, to more recent upheavals like Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
Charles’s coronation, an elaborate ritual steeped in tradition and history, will take place in the same historic surroundings of Westminster Abbey, as it has for centuries, on a date to be fixed.