Emotional Edinburgh crowds queue from dawn to say goodbye to Queen Elizabeth

King Charles walks behind hearse up the Royal Mile, lined with people who waited for hours to pay their last respects

Queen Elizabeth II's coffin was on Monday taken to St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh to lie in state before being flown to London. Getty Images
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Thousands of people lined Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on Monday afternoon as Britain's royal family walked sombrely up its historic cobbles behind the hearse carrying Queen Elizabeth II.

Crowds fell silent and people bowed their heads as a mark of respect to the monarch as the cortege passed.

The only sounds to be heard were the echoes of the gun salutes from Edinburgh Castle reverberating down the hill, until one elderly woman shouted “God bless the queen”.

Draped in the royal standard flag, the coffin was carried to St Giles’ Cathedral before it is flown to London in preparation for the queen's funeral at Westminster Abbey.

The crown of Scotland was placed on the oak coffin along with a wreath of flowers, which included white heather from Balmoral, before a service of prayer and reflection on the life and 70-year reign of the monarch.

King Charles III walked two metres behind the hearse, which was flanked by kilted soldiers, with Princess Anne by his side. Dressed in a ceremonial Field Marshal’s frock coat with Star and Riband of the Order of the Thistle and the Baton of a Field Marshal, the 73-year-old king slowly climbed the steep hill to the cathedral.

Prince Andrew walked next to the Princess Royal with his brother Edward at his side. Unlike his siblings, Prince Andrew was not wearing military uniform, after stepping back from public life following a scandal over his links to US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But his presence at least represented a show of unity among the British royals.

The queen's coffin will lie at the cathedral for 24 hours, giving members of the public a chance to visit pay their respects.

As a church service began in her honour, the queues to see the coffin stretched all the way down the hill and are expected to continue long into the night.

“I began queuing at 5am,” Sandra Brown told The National.

“She meant a lot to all of us. It was a moment of history to see her. I don’t care how long it takes, I want to visit her coffin in the cathedral.”

Cheryl Howley, from Hull, said the mood among the crowd was "reflective".

"It made me feel part of a moment of history," she said.

"It was really poignant, everyone was quiet and we stood in silence as she was driven past us. It was a very reflective moment."

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla, Princess Anne and her husband Sir Tim Laurence, and the Duke of York follow the coffin into St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, for a service of reflection and prayer on Monday. PA

Terry and Judy Finn travelled from Northumberland for the event.

“It was something we felt we needed to do,” Mr Finn said.

“I couldn’t believe the amount of people here. When the coffin went past us, it sent shivers down my spine. It feels real now.”

On Tuesday, the coffin will be flown to London where the queen will lie in state at the Houses of Parliament until the morning of her funeral on September 19.

King Charles, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew walk behind the hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth in Edinburgh on Monday. Reuters

Reverend Calum MacLeod described the queen’s love of Scotland as “legendary” as he opened a service to commemorate her life.

The queen, who died on Thursday aged 96, had arrived at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on Sunday after leaving Balmoral.

A sea of flowers covered the grounds as thousands braved the rain to pay tribute to the monarch they loved.

“She was our queen,” John Moyes, 48, from Edinburgh, told The National.

“We loved her. She loved us.”

There was little talk of independence, as Scotland joined England in united grief at the loss of the monarch.

Teddy bears, children’s drawings and poems and marmalade sandwiches — a nod to the queen’s recent platinum jubilee appearance with Paddington Bear — littered the palace grounds as some shed tears and others shared their memories of the nation’s grandmother.

“She was like our grandmother,” Mr Moyes said.

“I felt I needed to come and say goodbye to the lady, the legend, that was our queen.”

The procession of Queen Elizabeth II's coffin, from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to St Giles’ Cathedral, on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on Monday. AFP

Matt Walters, 48, was formerly in the Scottish infantry.

“I have met her a few times through my service,” he said. “We have the utmost respect for her. I have travelled to Edinburgh to thank her for her service to us.

“She was an amazing woman. I think King Charles will have big shoes to fill. Seeing the thousands of people filling the streets of Edinburgh just shows how much we all thought of her.”

Amid the respectful crowds, police were forced to arrest a 22-year-old woman outside St Giles’ Cathedral before the queen’s arrival for breach of the peace.

She is due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court at a later date.

Earlier on Monday, King Charles III addressed the British Parliament, paying tribute to his mother.

“I cannot but help feel the weight of history which surrounds us,” he said.

He told members of the House of Commons and House of Lords that he would follow his mother in upholding “the precious principles of constitutional governance” that underpin the UK’s political system.

The king travelled from London to Edinburgh for the service of remembrance.

Her grandson Prince Harry called her a “guiding compass” and praised her “unwavering grace and dignity”.

After visiting Scotland, the king will embark on a tour of the other nations that make up the United Kingdom — he visits the Northern Irish capital, Belfast, on Tuesday and Wales on Friday.

The coffin will depart St Giles’ Cathedral for Buckingham Palace on Tuesday from Edinburgh Airport, arriving at RAF Northolt.

As the aircraft leaves, a Guard of Honour will give a final royal salute and a band will play one verse of the national anthem.

The Princess Royal, accompanied by her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, will then travel with the coffin on its journey to Buckingham Palace where it will rest in the Bow Room.

Updated: September 13, 2022, 8:45 AM
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