Queen Elizabeth’s coffin began a six-hour journey from her home in the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh on Sunday as crowds lined the roads in silence, paying tribute to the monarch who reigned for 70 years.
At 10 am (0900 GMT), Elizabeth’s oak coffin, which had been in the ballroom of Balmoral Castle since she died on Thursday aged 96, was placed in a hearse by six gamekeepers.
Shortly afterwards, the hearse emerged from the gates of Balmoral to head towards the Scottish capital. The coffin was draped in the royal standard of Scotland and with a wreath on top made up of flowers from the Balmoral estate, including sweet peas – one of Elizabeth’s favorites.
The slow cortege is the first of a series of events leading up to the state funeral at Westminster Abbey in London on Sept. 19.
Her death has drawn tears, sadness and warm tributes, not just from the queen’s own close family and many in Britain, but also from around the globe – reflecting her presence on the world stage for seven decades.
In the nearby small village of Ballater, hundreds stood beside the road in silence as the hearse passed, some throwing flowers into the road.
“It’s like a family member, it overwhelms – the sadness – that she’s not going to be with us,” said Elizabeth Alexander, 69, who was born on the day the queen was crowned in 1953.
Accompanied by the queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, the cortege will slowly make its way from the remote castle, winding through small towns and villages to Edinburgh where the coffin will be taken to the throne room of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Tens of thousands have gathered at royal palaces in the days since Elizabeth’s death to leave flowers and to pay their respects.
“I know how deeply you, the entire nation – and I think I may say the whole world – sympathise with me in the irreparable loss we have all suffered,” her son King Charles said at a ceremony on Saturday.
The queen came to the throne following the death of her father King George VI on Feb. 6, 1952, when she was just 25. Her coronation her took place a year later.
Charles became king immediately after his mother’s death but was officially proclaimed the new monarch at the ceremony.
While Elizabeth’s death was not totally unexpected given her age, the fact her health had been deteriorating and the passing of her husband of 73 years Prince Philip last year, there was still a sense of shock at the news.
“We all thought she was invincible,” her grandson Prince William, now the heir to the throne, told a well-wisher on Saturday as he met crowds at Windsor castle.
The day of Elizabeth’s funeral will be a public holiday in Britain, officials announced. US President Joe Biden said he would be there, although full details of the event and the attendees have not yet been released.
Before that, her coffin will be flown to London and there will be a sombre procession when it is later moved from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall where it will lie in state for four days.
In 2002 more than 200,000 people queued to pay their respects to Elizabeth’s mother while her coffin lay in state and aids have previously said there is an expectation that millions may want to visit.
“It goes without saying that we can expect large numbers of people,” a spokesperson for Prime Minister Liz Truss told reporters.
Truss, whose appointment as prime minister on Tuesday was the queen’s last public act, will join King Charles as both the new head of state and prime minister tour the four nations of the United Kingdom in the next few days.
Charles, 73, is now the 41st monarch in a line that traces its origins to the Norman King William the Conqueror who captured the English throne in 1066.
He is king and head of state not only of the United Kingdom but of 14 other realms including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Elizabeth’s death has capped a difficult couple of years for the royal family, including the passing last year of Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip.
The most high-profile issue has involved her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who stepped down from royal life in 2020 to move to California from where they both have heavily criticized the institution.
That has left them alienated from the rest of the family, with Harry and his older brother William said to be barely on speaking terms. But the death of their grandmother has seen differences put aside, as they appeared together with their wives outside Windsor Castle to meet the crowds on Saturday.
A royal source described it as an important show of unity at an incredibly difficult time for the family.