On Tuesday, King Charles landed in Northern Ireland to the cheers of hundreds of mourners as he led the grieving for Queen Elizabeth around the United Kingdom before her body is taken to London for four days of laying in state.
Following a solemn vigil at St Giles’ Cathedral in the Scottish capital Edinburgh on Monday, attended by Charles, his sister Anne, and brothers Andrew and Edward, people lined overnight to go past the queen’s coffin, some with sleeping infants.
Charles, 73, is travelling to the four parts of the United Kingdom before the queen’s funeral on Sept. 19. In Northern Ireland, people started to line the streets at Hillsborough Castle, the monarch’s official residence, ahead of his visit.
Joy Hutchinson, 34, said she hoped Charles would keep the United Kingdom together after some blamed Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union, and other factors for weakening connections with Northern Ireland.
Charles drove through Hillsborough’s crowd-lined streets before exiting his car to shake hands with well-wishers to cries of “God Save the King.”
He arrived in Northern Ireland via Scotland, where he escorted the queen’s coffin up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile before joining his siblings for a 10-minute vigil at St Giles’ Cathedral. They stood with their heads bent at the four corners of the casket while members of the public passed by.
A potent symbol of the union, the queen in her later years became a major force for reconciliation with its Irish nationalist foes, with her state visit to Ireland in 2011 the first by a monarch in almost a century of independence.
Charles has also spoken about the murder of his great uncle Lord Mountbatten, to whom he was very close, in Ireland by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1979, saying the death had given him a profound understanding of the agonies borne by so many people in the country.
“Don’t forget, the royal family themselves have been deeply impacted by violence in Northern Ireland in terms of their own family and loss,” said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.
“I expect that he will want to see his role being part of protecting and building and strengthening the relationship between Britain and Ireland, given the complexity of our past and given the polarisation of political opinion, particularly in Northern Ireland,” he told BBC radio.