LONDON (AP) — The flag-draped coffin of Queen Elizabeth II makes its way through the rugged Scottish countryside on Sunday on a final journey from her beloved summer estate of London’s Balmoral Castle, with mourners quietly lining roads and flowers to honor the deceased monarch after 70 years on the throne.
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, 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.
“A sad and poignant moment as Her Majesty The Queen leaves her beloved Balmoral for the last time,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted. “Today, as she travels to Edinburgh, Scotland will pay tribute to an extraordinary woman.”
Crowds lined parts of the road as the nation cries its oldest monarch, the only one most Britons have ever known. In the Scottish village of Ballater, where locals consider the royal family neighbors, hundreds of people watched in silence and some threw flowers in front of the hearse as it passed.
“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 town and village the cars passed through, they were greeted with similar scenes of muted respect. The people stood mostly in silence; some cheered politely, others pointed their phone cameras at passing cars.
Before reaching Scotland’s capital, the procession travels what is effectively a royal memorial route – passing places steeped in history from the House of Windsor, including Dyce, where in 1975 the Queen officially opened the first North Sea pipeline in the UK, and Fife near St Andrews University, where his grandson William, now Prince of Wales, studied and met his future wife, Catherine.
Sunday’s solemn walk through Scotland comes a day after the Queen’s eldest son was officially proclaimed the new monarch – King Charles III – in a lavish accession ceremony steeped in ancient tradition and political symbolism .
“I am keenly aware of this great heritage and of the heavy duties and responsibilities of sovereignty, which have now been handed down to me,” Charles said on assuming the duties of monarch.
He will be proclaimed king in other nations of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and in towns across the country on Sunday. Previously, proclamations had taken place in other parts of the Commonwealth – the group of former colonies of the British Empire – including Australia and New Zealand.
In New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, the representative of the British monarch, Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro, said: “On behalf of all New Zealanders, I offer King Charles our loyalty, our support and our best wishes for a long and happy reign.
Even as he mourned his late mother, Charles got to work. He was meeting at Buckingham Palace with the Secretary-General and other representatives of the Commonwealth, a group of nations who wrestle with affection for the Queen and linger bitterness over their own colonial heritageranging from slavery to corporal punishment in African schools to looted artefacts held in British institutions.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who began laying the groundwork for an Australian republic after May’s election, 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 on all government buildings across the country.
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 will make a circuitous journey to the capital. On Monday he will be flown from Holyroodhouse to nearby St. Giles Cathedral, where he will remain until Tuesday when he will be flown to London. 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 consider members of the royal family “neighbors” and try to treat them like locals when they summer in the Scottish Highlands.
“When she gets here and walks through these doors, I think the royal part of her mostly stays on the outside,” he said. “And as she comes 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, of Aberdeen, had tears in her eyes after the hearse carrying the Queen’s coffin 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 up until a few days before her death.”
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