EDINBURGH, Scotland—In a sombre, regal procession, Queen Elizabeth II’s flag-draped coffin was driven slowly through the Scottish countryside yesterday from her beloved Balmoral Castle to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
Mourners packed city streets and highway bridges or lined rural roads with cars and tractors to take part in a historic goodbye to the monarch who had reigned for 70 years.
The hearse drove past piles of bouquets and other tributes as it led a seven-car cortège from Balmoral, where the queen died Thursday at 96, for a six-hour trip through Scottish towns to Holyroodhouse palace in Edinburgh. The late queen’s coffin was draped in the Royal Standard for Scotland and topped with a wreath made of flowers from the estate, including sweet peas, one of the queen’s favourites.
The procession was a huge event for Scotland as the UK takes days to mourn its longest-reigning monarch, the only one most Britons have ever known. People turned out hours early to grab a space by the police barricades in Edinburgh. By afternoon, the crowds were 10 people deep.
“I think she has been an ever-constant in my life. She was the queen I was born under, and she has always been there,” said Angus Ruthven, a 54-year-old civil servant from Edinburgh. “I think it is going to take a lot of adjusting that she is not here.”
A girl holds flowers at Green Park memorial, next to Buckingham Palace in London, yesterday, in memory of Queen Elizabeth II.
Silence fell on the packed Royal Mile in Edinburgh as the hearse carrying the queen arrived. But as the convoy vanished from view, the crowd spontaneously started clapping.
“A very historic moment. I am quite speechless actually,” said Fiona Moffat, a 57-year-old office manager from Glasgow. “She was a lovely lady. Great mother, grandmother. She did well. I am very proud of her.”
When the hearse reached Holyroodhouse, members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, wearing green tartan kilts, carried the coffin past the queen’s youngest three children—Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward—into the throne room, where it was to remain until today so staff can pay their last respects.
King Charles III and his Queen Consort Camilla will travel today to Edinburgh to join another solemn procession that takes the queen’s coffin to St Giles Cathedral on the city’s Royal Mile. There, the coffin will remain for 24 hours so the Scottish public can pay their respects before it is flown to London tomorrow.
The first village the cortège passed through was Ballater, where residents regard the royal family as neighbours. Hundreds of people watched in silence. Some threw flowers in front of the hearse.
“She meant such a lot to people in this area. People were crying, it was amazing to see,” said Victoria Pacheco, a guest house manager.
In each Scottish town and village, the entourage was met with respect. People stood mostly in silence; some clapped politely, others pointed their phone cameras at the passing cars. In Aberdeenshire, farmers lined the route with an honour guard of tractors.
Along the route, the cortege passed through locations laden with House of Windsor history. Those included Dyce, where in 1975 the queen formally opened the UK’s first North Sea oil pipeline, and Fife, near S. Andrews University, where her grandson Prince William, now the Prince of Wales, studied and met his future wife, Catherine.
Crowds watch as the hearse carrying the coffin bearing Queen Elizabeth II, draped with the Royal Standard of Scotland, passes Mercat Cross in Edinburgh, yesterday, as it continued its journey to the Palace of Holyroodhouse from Balmoral.
Yesterday’s solemn drive came as the queen’s eldest son was formally proclaimed the new monarch—King Charles III—in the rest of the United Kingdom: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It came a day after a pomp-filled accession ceremony in England.
“I am deeply aware of this great inheritance and of the duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty, which have now passed to me,” Charles said Saturday.
Just before the proclamation was read yesterday in Edinburgh, a protester appeared with a sign condemning imperialism and urging leaders to “abolish the monarchy.” She was taken away by police. Reaction was mixed. One man shouted, “Let her go! It’s free speech!” while others shouted: “Have some respect!”
Still, there was some booing in Edinburgh when Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms, finished his proclamation with “God save the king!”
That upset Ann Hamilton, 48.
“There’s tens of thousands of people here today to show their respect. For them to be here, heckling through things, I think it was terrible. If they were so against it, they shouldn’t have come,” she said.
Still, it was a sign of how some, including people in Britain’s former colonies, are struggling with the legacy of the monarchy—and its future. (AP)