EDINBURGH - Queen Elizabeth’s coffin arrived in Edinburgh on Sunday after a six-hour journey from her summer home in the Scottish Highlands, past tens of thousands of mourners lining the route, many in sombre silence, some applauding and others in tears.
At the end of its slow journey through picturesque Scottish countryside, villages, small towns and cities, soldiers wearing kilts carried the coffin to the throne room of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Elizabeth’s official Scottish residence, where it will remain overnight.
In an emotional tribute to his mother on Friday, the queen’s eldest son and the new monarch, King Charles, said she had begun a “last great journey” to join Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years who died last year.
Thousands lined the route in tribute to the late monarch, many in sombre silence, some applauding and others in tears.
Earlier, the hearse carrying the oak coffin emerged from the gates of Balmoral Castle, where she died on Thursday aged 96, at the start of the drive to the Scottish capital.
In Edinburgh, people will be able to pay tribute to Elizabeth for two days.
Her coffin was draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland with a wreath on top made of flowers taken from the Balmoral estate including sweet peas, one of Elizabeth’s favourites.
The queen’s daughter Anne, flanked by the queen’s younger sons, Princes Andrew and Edward, curtsied as the coffin was carried inside by soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
“There was no way I could miss this. I would regret it for the rest of my life,” said Eilidh Mackintosh, 62, who left her home at 6 a.m. to be sure of a good view among the large crowds on Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.
Rachel Lindsay, 24, was left in tears as the coffin passed. “It’s just very sad,” she said. “I don’t think we expected it to ever happen. I just thought she’d live forever. I didn’t think it was real until I saw it.”
The journey from Balmoral was the first of a series of events leading up to the state funeral at Westminster Abbey in London on Sept 19.
Her death has drawn tears, sadness and warm tributes, not just from the queen’s own close family and many in Britain, but also from around the globe – reflecting her presence on the world stage for seven decades.
Wherever the cortege went, people lined the road or stopped their cars to get out and watch. At one point, it passed a guard of honour formed by dozens of tractors lined up in adjacent fields by farmers.
Many watched silently in bright sunshine. Some threw flowers into the road. For others, the emotion of the moment moved them to tears.
“It’s just very, very sad. I’m happy I was here to say our goodbyes,” said Elizabeth Alexander, 69, who was born on the day the queen was crowned in 1953.
Many thousands are continuing to gather at the royal palaces across Britain, bringing bouquet after bouquet of flowers. In Green Park near London’s Buckingham Palace, where some of the tributes are being taken, long lines of bouquets snake around the park allowing mourners to read the tributes.
Other well-wishers have attached their messages of condolence to trees.
Charles became king immediately after his mother’s death and was officially proclaimed the new monarch at a ceremony on Saturday, full of pageantry and centuries-old traditions.
Similar proclamations are following across the United Kingdom and the other 14 realms of which Charles is now head of state, including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said parliament would be recalled on Thursday to allow members to pay tribute.
The queen came to the throne following the death of her father King George VI on Feb 6, 1952, when she was just 25. Her coronation took place a year later.
Show of unity
While King Charles' accession has pushed Britain into 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 with an emotional tribute to his beloved "Grannie" on Saturday.
"She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life," said Prince William, who has now become the Prince of Wales.
But the queen's death also brought a surprise show of unity from Prince William, 40, and his younger brother Harry, 37, when they emerged with their wives to speak to well-wishers outside Windsor Castle, near London.
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.
The picture of the four royals was splashed across the front of The Sun newspaper on Sunday with the headline "All 4 One".
Senior royals, including the queen's children, Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward and their families, also inspected flowers outside Balmoral, where they had remained since the queen's death.
The queen's coffin, draped with a Scottish Royal Standard and floral wreath, had been kept in Balmoral's ballroom and was carried to her hearse by six estate gamekeepers.
'Many, many people'
The symbolism of the queen's last journey will be heavy for a nation that has strong royal connections – but where there is a strong Scottish independence movement intent on severing the centuries-old union with the United Kingdom.
Dedicated viewing points were set up along the route.
"We anticipate many, many people will be keen to pay their respects," said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The queen's coffin was taken to the Holyroodhouse Palace, the monarch's official residence in Scotland, where it will rest for a day.
King Charles and other royals will on Monday take part in a procession to convey her coffin along Edinburgh's Royal Mile to St Giles' Cathedral.
The following day, the coffin will be flown by Royal Air Force jet to Northolt airfield near London, and driven to Buckingham Palace. Then on Wednesday, it will be moved to Westminster Hall to lie in State.
King Charles will also visit Northern Ireland and Wales in a show of national unity, accompanied by British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was appointed by the late queen only on Tuesday.
He has seen his popularity recover since Diana's death in a 1997 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.
King Charles vowed at the formal Accession Council at St James's Palace on Saturday that he would "strive to follow the inspiring example (he has) been set" by his mother during her "lifetime of service".
The centuries-old tradition was televised live for the first time, featuring a fanfare of trumpets and a court official wearing a feathered hat to declare him king from a palace balcony.
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, 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 national leaders, including United States President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and possibly Japanese Emperor Naruhito.
Her 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 traumas such as the coronavirus pandemic.
King Charles' 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. AFP, REUTERS