Tears and solemn silence as thousands say final farewell to queen in Scotland

More than 26,000 queued for hours to see late monarch, with mourners telling 'The National' she was 'like a mother to the nation'

King Charles III, Prince Edward, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew hold a vigil at St Giles' Cathedral as members of the public walk past. Getty Images
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Thousands of people queued throughout the night to say a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland.

Tears were shed by well-wishers as they entered Edinburgh’s historic St Giles' Cathedral where the monarch has been lying in state.

Filing past ancient flags in silence, the crowd snaked up to the queen’s coffin, which has been draped in the Royal Standard and topped with the ancient Crown of Scotland and a wreath of heather from Balmoral — the remote royal retreat where the queen died aged 96 last Thursday.

Four members of the monarch's Scottish bodyguard, the Royal Company of Archers, stood with their heads bowed at each corner of the oak coffin.

On Monday, King Charles III and his siblings had followed her hearse through the cobbled streets before standing vigil around the coffin.

Former West Yorkshire police inspector Anthony Walker drove 200 miles and queued for six hours alongside a nurse to pay his respects.

“I called her ma'am in my career and, to me, she was like a mother to the nation,” the 65-year-old told The National.

“She was driven by duty and responsibility and that is how I have viewed my career. I began queuing after 8pm on Monday and I finally got to see her at about 2.30am. It was very calm and very peaceful. I spent nine minutes in the cathedral reflecting on her life.

“It was about commemoration and showing her what she meant to us.”

On Tuesday, the queues to see the monarch stretched for miles around the city before her coffin is flown to RAF Northolt where it will make its final journey to London.

“It's part of history,” Lynn Templeton, who had travelled from the north-west of England.

“We are pensioners, we'll never see this again.”

As the hour of her departure drew near, there were scenes of pensioners running to desperately join the long queues. But by 12.30pm the Scottish government was forced to close them to ensure that those left in would get the chance to view the monarch before the lying at rest ended at 3pm.

Lord Ian Duncan, the Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords, said: “The streets around (the Royal Mile) were crammed and, as people waited to walk past the coffin itself, the expectation of the numbers and the sheer quantity of humanity in Edinburgh today was extraordinary.”

Marie Claire Cross was one of the 26,000 people in time to view the coffin.

“I was awed by the fact that I was in the cathedral with Queen Elizabeth, who I have looked up to all my life,” said the 55-year-old.

“It was awesome in the true sense of the word and it was so sad.”

Wege Singh, Hardial Singh and Kanak Singh met the queen four years ago at Buckingham Palace.

They queued to visit her while taking turns to carry a huge floral tribute from Scotland’s Sikh community.

“She respected all faiths and was such a lovely lady,” Wege Singh said.

“We wanted to show our respects to her and have waited for hours to see the coffin. It was quite a beautiful moment in the cathedral. We are now going to lay our flowers at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and read the other tributes.

“She has previously invited us to garden parties at [Buckingham] palace and always greeted us with a smile. Seeing her today was the least we could do.”

For professor of Neuroscience at Edinburgh University Seth Grant, losing the queen was like losing a loved one.

“My mother and people of her generation somehow were very similar to her,” he said.

“So it's a very personal thing, when the queen dies. It's like your mother dying.”

On Tuesday afternoon the queen's only daughter, Princess Anne, accompanied her mother's body on the next leg of its journey by Royal Air Force jet to an airfield near London.

A bagpiper played as the flag-draped coffin was carried out of the cathedral and crowds again lined the Royal Mile through the historic heart of Edinburgh to watch as the coffin was driven away.

On leaving Edinburgh Airport, the military will form a guard of honour and give the monarch a final royal salute. A band will play one verse of the British national anthem.

The queen will first be driven to Buckingham Palace, where her coffin will stay overnight in the Bow Room.

Her coffin will then be transferred to Westminster Hall on Wednesday, where she will lie in state for four days.

In London, people have already begun camping out. Scenes in the capital are expected to mirror those in Edinburgh with a large outpouring of grief expected.

The UK mourns Queen Elizabeth II — in pictures

Updated: September 13, 2022, 3:36 PM