Queen Elizabeth’s coffin has arrived in Edinburgh 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.
Shortly after 10am on Sunday, a hearse carrying Elizabeth’s oak coffin emerged from the gates of Balmoral Castle, where she died on Thursday aged 96, at the start of a slow drive to the Scottish capital.
The 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.
Crowds, fifteen deep in places, massed in the centre of Edinburgh to greet the cortege, which included the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne as it made its way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse where it was met by a military guard of honour.
Soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland then carried the coffin to the throne room of the palace where it will remain overnight.
“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 6am to be sure of a good view on Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile where large crowds were gathering.
“She never let us down and I didn’t want to let her down either. Now she has gone there is a big hole in the heart of the nation.”
The journey from Balmoral was the first of a series of events leading up to the state funeral at Westminster Abbey in London on September 19.
In an emotional tribute to his mother on Friday, 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.
Her death has drawn tears, sadness and warm tributes, not just from the Queen’s own close family and many in the United Kingdom, but also from around the globe – reflecting her presence on the world stage for seven decades.
Wherever the cortege went as it wound its way through picturesque countryside, villages, small towns and cities, 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 other royal palaces across the UK, and large piles of flowers are massing as people visit to pay their respects.
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 UK 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 February 6, 1952, when she was just 25.
Her coronation took place a year later.
The day of Elizabeth’s funeral will be a public holiday in the UK, officials have announced.
Before that, her coffin will be flown to London and there will be a sombre procession when it is later moved from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall where it will lie in state for four days.
“It goes without saying that we can expect large numbers of people,” a spokesperson for Prime Minister Liz Truss told reporters.
Truss, whose appointment as prime minister on Tuesday was the Queen’s last public act, will join King Charles as both the new head of state and prime minister tour the four nations of the UK in the next few days.