After a six-hour journey from her summer home in the Scottish Highlands, Queen Elizabeth’s coffin arrived in Edinburgh on Sunday, past tens of thousands of mourners lining the route, many in solemn silence, some applauding, and others in tears.
Soldiers in kilts carried the coffin to the throne room of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Elizabeth’s official Scottish residence, at the end of its slow journey through picturesque Scottish countryside, villages, small towns, and cities.
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.
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.
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 favorites.
Crowds, fifteen deep in places, massed in the centre of Edinburgh to greet the cortege as it made its way to Holyroodhouse, where it was met by a military guard of honor.
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.
While Elizabeth’s death was not totally unexpected given her age and deteriorating health, there was still a sense of shock at the news.
“We all thought she was invincible,” her grandson Prince William, now the heir to the throne, told a well-wisher on Saturday as he met crowds at Windsor castle.
The highly-choreographed mourning plans will continue on Monday. Charles will join the other senior royals in Edinburgh when the coffin will be taken in a procession from Holyroodhouse to the city’s St Giles Cathedral for a service.
There it will remain for 24 hours to allow people to pay their last respects and the new king and members of the royal family will also hold a vigil.
The day of the queen’s funeral will be a public holiday in Britain, officials have announced. U.S. President Joe Biden said he would be there, although full details of the event and the attendees have not yet been released.
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 to 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 United Kingdom in the next few days.
Charles, 73, is now the 41st monarch in a line that traces its origins to the Norman King William the Conqueror who captured the English throne in 1066.
Elizabeth’s death has capped a difficult couple of years for the royal family.
The most high-profile issue has involved her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who stepped down from royal life in 2020 to move to California from where they both have heavily criticized the institution.
That has left them alienated from the rest of the family, with Harry and his older brother William said to be barely on speaking terms. But the death of their grandmother has seen differences put aside, as they appeared together with their wives outside Windsor Castle to meet the crowds on Saturday.
A royal source described it as an important show of unity at an incredibly difficult time for the family.