A hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped with the Royal Standard of Scotland, passes through Edinburgh towards Holyrood Palace, September 11, 2022 – Copyright WanNaiks Gallery/AFP Handout
Anna MALPAS with Danny Kemp in London
On Monday, mourners will have their first opportunity to pay their respects to the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II as it is in Edinburgh Cathedral, where King Charles III himself will hold a vigil.
Thousands are expected to line up to see the flag-decorated coffin at St Giles’ Cathedral in the Scottish capital a week before her funeral in London.
The new monarch will follow his mother’s coffin in a grim procession from Holyroodhouse Palace, where he arrived on Sunday after a six-hour journey from Balmoral Castle to the church.
The new king will also address British lawmakers in London for the first time since taking the throne, as the festivities continue ahead of the Queen’s state funeral on 19 September.
A long period of mourning is coming as Britain struggles to come to terms with the death of its longest-reigning monarch, who has been part of the backdrop of national life almost since World War II.
“I think what she’s going through in front of us has actually provided some completion,” said Lucy Hampshire, who traveled to Edinburgh with her boyfriend from the English city of York to see the Queen’s coffin.
10 people gathered in Edinburgh as the queen’s hearse drove through the city, some cheering, some throwing flowers, and some shedding tears in respect for the queen.
People also lined the streets of towns and villages along the 180-mile (290 km) route from the Queen’s beloved estate of Balmoral, where she died Thursday at the age of 96 after seven decades on the throne.
– “Last respect” –
The oak coffin of Elizabeth II rested on Sunday in the throne room of Holyrood Palace, and Charles and his queen consort Camilla flew to Edinburgh on Monday after his visit to Parliament.
The King and senior members of the royal family will then follow her hearse, escorted by soldiers, in a procession that will take her up Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile to 12th-century St Giles’ Cathedral.
The coffin will be transferred to the imposing gray stone cathedral, where it will be crowned with the Crown of Scotland, after which the minister will lead a service of “prayer and meditation” for the queen.
Her coffin will remain there for 24 hours “so that the people of Scotland can pay their last respects,” a palace official said. Reports said security would be tightened and long queues expected.
King Charles III and senior members of the royal family will hold a vigil next to the late Queen at 19:20 (18:20 GMT), while soldiers from the Royal Company of Archers will guard the entire time.
The Queen’s body will be flown to London on Tuesday by RAF aircraft to an airfield near London, accompanied by the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne, and taken to Buckingham Palace.
The following day, members of the royal family will follow the casket, carried on a carriage, to Westminster Hall, where it will remain from 1700 (1600 GMT) until the day of the funeral.
It is expected that at least a million people will come to see the coffin in London. Officials warn people should expect “many hours” and possibly even queue overnight.
The funeral itself is watched around the world and will be attended by numerous heads of state, including US President Joe Biden.
– ‘Why stop now?’ –
As Charles III assumes what he called the “heavy duties” of royalty, the new monarch’s traditional visit to Parliament will cement his role as constitutional head of state.
At a ceremony at Westminster Hall, where the Queen will lie, both houses of the British Parliament will express their condolences on the “Queen’s death”.
After that, Charles will give an official answer.
Charles will also make his first visits as king to Northern Ireland and Wales this week as a sign of national unity.
While the emotional scenes in Scotland showed a deep affection for the Queen, her passing also reignited the debate about Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was a “sad and bitter moment” to see the coffin leave Balmoral, but the pro-independence leader is pushing for a new referendum on the divisive issue.
“I am not for independence – we have been together for hundreds of years. Why stop now?” said the mourner Anne Johnston, 68, from Edinburgh.
However, she added that “no offense to Charles, but I don’t think he’ll ever fit the queen.”
Republican kingdoms? –
The British have lost the only monarch most of them have ever known, a figure familiar to them and to millions around the world through banknotes, stamps and the annual Christmas television news.
Charles’s popularity rebounded after the death of his ex-wife Diana in a 1997 car accident, but he took the throne at a time of deep concern in Britain over the skyrocketing cost of living and international instability caused by the war in Ukraine.
Republican movements are gathering momentum from Australia to Antigua, and the new king is tasked with keeping together the worldwide royal family that the Queen loved so much.
On Sunday, Charles hosted his first Commonwealth realm reception, the 14 former colonies he rules other than Britain – at least for now.
Just hours earlier, Australia and New Zealand officially declared Charles king.
But one issue looming over the royal family was resolved on Sunday – when it was revealed that the controversial Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson would be babysitting the queen’s beloved corgi.
The prince, who stepped down from royal duties in 2021 due to his liaison with convicted American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, will take over Muick and Sandy, the dogs he gifted to the Queen that same year.