EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — In a somber and regal procession, Queen Elizabeth II’s flag-draped coffin was driven slowly through the Scottish countryside on Sunday from her beloved Balmoral Castle to Scotland’s capital of Edinburgh. Mourners filled city streets and highway bridges or rural roads lined with cars and tractors to take part in a historic farewell to the monarch who had reigned for 70 years.
The hearse passed piles of bouquets and other tributes as it drove a seven-car motorcade from Balmoral, where the the queen died on Thursday at 96, for a six-hour journey through Scottish cities to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The late Queen’s coffin was draped in the Royal Standard for Scotland and topped with a wreath made from the estate’s flowers, 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 oldest monarch, the only one most Britons have ever known. People showed up hours early to grab space near police barricades in Edinburgh. In the afternoon, the crowd numbered 10 people.
“I think she’s always been a constant in my life. She was the queen I was born under and she’s always been there,” said Angus Ruthven, a 54-year-old civil servant from Edinburgh. ‘it’s going to take a lot of getting used to for her not to be there.”
Silence fell over Edinburgh’s crowded Royal Mile as the hearse carrying the Queen arrived. But as the convoy disappeared, the crowd spontaneously burst into applause.
“A very historic moment. I’m pretty speechless actually,” said Fiona Moffat, a 57-year-old office manager from Glasgow. “She was a lovely woman. Great mother, grandmother. She did well. I’m very proud of her.
When the hearse reached Holyroodhouse, members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, dressed in green tartan kilts, carried the coffin past the Queen’s three youngest children – Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – into the hall of the throne, where he was to remain until Monday. afternoon so that the staff can pay their last respects.
King Charles III and his Queen consort Camilla will travel to Edinburgh on Monday to join another solemn procession which will take the Queen’s coffin to St. Giles Cathedral on the city’s Royal Mile. The coffin will remain there for 24 hours so the Scottish public can pay their respects before it is flown to London on Tuesday.
The first village the procession passed through was Ballater, where locals consider the royal family to be neighbours. Hundreds of people watched in silence. Some threw flowers in front of the hearse.
“She meant so much to the people of that area. People were crying, it was amazing to see,” said Victoria Pacheco, a guesthouse manager.
In every Scottish town and village, the entourage was greeted with respect. The people stood mostly in silence; some cheered politely, others pointed their phone cameras at passing cars. In Aberdeenshire, farmers lined the road with an honor guard of tractors.
Along the route, the procession passed through places steeped in the history of the House of Windsor. These included Dyce, where in 1975 the Queen officially opened Britain’s first North Sea pipeline, and Fife, near the University of St. Andrews, where her grandson Prince William, today Prince of Wales, studied and met his future wife, Catherine.
Sunday’s solemn walk came as the Queen’s eldest son was officially 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 ceremonial accession to great fanfare in England.
“I am deeply aware of this great heritage and the heavy duties and responsibilities of sovereignty, which have now been passed on to me,” Charles said on Saturday.
Just before the reading of the proclamation on Sunday in Edinburgh, a protester appeared with a placard condemning imperialism and urging leaders to “abolish the monarchy”. She was taken away by the police. The reaction was mixed. A man shouted, “Let her go! Speak!” while others shouted, “Have some respect!”
Still, there were boos in Edinburgh when Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms, ended his proclamation with “God save the king!”
This upset Ann Hamilton, 48.
“There are tens of thousands of people here today to show their respect. For them to be here, heckling through things, I think was terrible. If they were so against it, they shouldn’t have come,” she said.
Still, it was a sign of how some, including residents of Britain’s former colonies, are struggling with the legacy of the monarchy – and its future.
Earlier in the day, proclamations were read out in other parts of the Commonwealth, including Australia and New Zealand.
Charles, even as he mourned his late mother, set to work at Buckingham Palace, meeting the Secretary General and other Commonwealth envoys. Many in these nations struggle with both affection for the queen and persistence bitterness in the face of their colonial heritagewhich ranged from slavery and corporal punishment in African schools to looted artefacts held in British cultural institutions.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is in favor of an Australian republic, said on Sunday that now was not the time for change but to pay tribute to the late queen. India, a former British colony, observed a day of national mourning, with flags flown at half-mast.
Amid the grief shrouding the Windsor home, there were hints of a possible family reconciliation. Prince William and his brother Harryalong with their respective wives, Catherine, Princess of Wales, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, delighted mourners near Windsor Castle with a surprise joint appearance on Saturday.
The queen’s coffin was making a circuitous journey to the capital. After being airlifted to London on Tuesday, the coffin will be moved from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to the Houses of Parliament to remain undisturbed until the state funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 19.
In Ballater, the Reverend David Barr said locals regard the royal family as neighbours.
“When she gets here and walks through these doors, I think the royal part of her mostly stays on the outside,” he said of the Queen. “And coming in, she was able to be a wife, a loving wife, a loving mom, a loving grandmother, and then later a loving great-grandmother — and an aunt — and be normal.”
Elizabeth Taylor, from Aberdeen, had tears in her eyes after the hearse passed through Ballater.
“It was very moving. It was respectful and showed what they thought of the Queen,” she said. “She certainly did this country a service, even up to a few days before her death.”
Corder reported from London.
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David Keyton and Mike Corder, Associated Press