In a slow, sombre and regal procession, Queen Elizabeth II’s flag-draped coffin was driven through the Scottish countryside Sunday 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 reigned for 70 years.
The hearse drove past piles of bouquets and other tributes as it led a seven-car cortege from Balmoral, where the Queen died Thursday at age 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 U.K. takes days to mourn its longest-reigning monarch, the only one most Britons have ever known. Hours before the coffin’s arrival in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, people turned out early to grab a space by police barricades. By afternoon, crowds were 10 people deep in places, eager to be part of the occasion.
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“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 as he awaited the arrival of the coffin.
“I think it is going to take a lot of adjusting that she is not here. It is quite a sudden thing. We knew she was getting frailer, but it will be a good reign for King Charles.”
The first village the cortege passed through was Ballater, where residents regard the royal family as neighbours. Hundreds of people watched in silence and some threw flowers in front of the hearse as it passed.
“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 drove through, they were met with muted scenes of 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 dozens of tractors.
Before reaching the Scottish capital, the cortege travelled down what is effectively a royal memory lane — passing through locations laden with House of Windsor history. Those included Dyce, where in 1975 the Queen formally opened the U.K.’s first North Sea oil pipeline, and Fife, near St. Andrews University, where her grandson Prince William, now the Prince of Wales, studied and met his future wife, Catherine.
U.K. nations read out proclamations
Sunday’s solemn drive came as the Queen’s eldest son was formally proclaimed the new monarch — King Charles III — in the rest of the nations of the United Kingdom: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The proclamations were read out a day after a pomp-filled accession ceremony in London for the King, steeped in ancient tradition and political symbolism.
“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 after he was publicly proclaimed Britain’s new monarch at an event held at St. James’s Palace.
Even as he mourned his late mother, Charles was getting down to work. He was meeting at Buckingham Palace with the secretary general of the Commonwealth, the group of former colonies of the British Empire that grapple with affection for the Queen and lingering bitterness over their own colonial legacies. That ranges from slavery to corporal punishment in African schools to looted artifacts held in British institutions.
Prince William said he was honoured to be made the new Prince of Wales when he spoke with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on Sunday, Kensington Palace said in a statement.
William was given the title, previously held by his father for more than 50 years, following the death of his grandmother.
“The Prince and Princess will spend the months and years ahead deepening their relationship with communities across Wales,” the statement said.
Funeral a week from Monday
On Monday, the Queen’s coffin will be taken from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to nearby St Giles’ Cathedral, where it will remain until Tuesday, when it will be flown to London. The coffin will be moved from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to the Houses of Parliament to lie in state until the funeral at Westminster Abbey on Sept. 19.
In the village of Ballater, near Balmoral, the Rev. David Barr said locals consider the royals as “neighbours” and try to treat them as locals when they spend summers in the Scottish Highlands.
“When she comes up here, and she goes through those gates, I believe the royal part of her stays mostly outside,” he said. “And as she goes in, she was able to be a wife, a loving wife, a loving mum, a loving gran and then later on a loving great-gran — and aunty — and be normal.”
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