Solemn final journey for departed Queen

BALLATER, United Kingdom (AFP) — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II embarks on her final journey on Sunday with thousands of her mourning subjects expected to line her coffin’s route from the Scottish retreat where she died.

The solemn departure of the queen’s oak casket from Balmoral Castle for Edinburgh marks the start of an odyssey of national mourning culminating in her state funeral in London on 19 September.

Her journey begins a day after her son Charles III was formally proclaimed king, and after her warring grandsons William and Harry, and their wives Kate and Meghan, briefly reunited for a walkabout.

A hearse carrying the coffin of Britain’s longest-serving monarch will make a six-hour journey through Scottish towns before arriving in Edinburgh, where it will rest for two days so people can pay tribute.

The king himself will then travel to Edinburgh on Monday for a prayer service, before the body of the queen, who died at Balmoral on Thursday aged 96, is flown to the capital on Tuesday.

She will then lie in state for four days in an event expected to draw at least a million people, ahead of a funeral set to be watched worldwide and draw numerous heads of state.

“We are living in history right now,” said Laura Burns, 49, who was planning to try to see the queen’s coffin passing in Edinburgh after coming to the city because her son is starting at university.
“It’s a very respectful atmosphere,” she told AFP.

Show of unity

While Charles’ accession has pushed Britain into what newspapers have called the new “Carolean” era, Britain and the royal family are still coming to terms with the end of the Elizabethan age.

Prince William broke his silence with an emotional tribute to his beloved “Grannie” on Saturday.

“She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life,” said William, who has now become the Prince of Wales.

But the queen’s death also brought a surprise show of unity from William, 40, and his younger brother Harry, 37, when they emerged with their wives to speak to well-wishers outside Windsor Castle, near London.

The sight of the two couples who have barely seen each other since 2020, together — even if they separated to speak and shake hands with different sides of the cheering crowds — will likely spark rumors of a reconciliation.

Pictures of the four were splashed on the covers of Sunday’s newspapers.

“Reunited for granny,” read the Sunday Mirror’s headline, while the Telegraph ran with “Reunited in sorrow” and the Sun with “All 4 One.”

The Sunday Times focused on the apparent frostiness, with the headline: “Warring Windsors’ awkward truce to honor the Queen.”

Senior royals including the queen’s children, Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward and their families also inspected flowers outside Balmoral, where they have remained since the queen’s death.

The queen’s coffin, draped with a Scottish Royal Standard and floral wreath, has been kept in Balmoral’s ballroom and will be carried to her hearse by six estate gamekeepers.

‘Many, many people’

The symbolism of the queen’s last journey will be heavy for a nation that has strong royal connections — but where there is a strong Scottish independence movement intent on severing the centuries-old union with the United Kingdom.

Rehearsals for the historic event began before dawn, with the cortege set to leave at 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) before weaving through Aberdeen and Dundee and reaching Edinburgh at 4:00 p.m.

Dedicated viewing points are being set up along the route, although mourners will be asked not to throw flowers at the convoy as it passes.

“We anticipate many, many people will be keen to pay their respects,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

The queen’s coffin will be taken to the Holyroodhouse Palace, the monarch’s official residence in Scotland, where it will rest for a day.

King Charles and other royals will on Monday take part in a procession to convey her coffin along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to St. Giles’ Cathedral.

The following day the coffin will be flown by Royal Air Force jet to Northolt airfield near London, and driven to Buckingham Palace. Then, on Wednesday, it will be moved to Westminster Hall to lie in state.

King Charles will also visit Northern Ireland and Wales in a show of national unity, accompanied by British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was only appointed by the late queen on Tuesday.

He has seen his popularity recover since Diana’s death in a 1997 car crash, but he takes the throne at a moment of deep anxiety in Britain over the spiraling cost of living and international instability caused by the war in Ukraine.

Envoy offers condolences

Philippine Ambassador to the United Kingdom Teddy Boy Locsin released his official statement on Queen Elizabeth II’s death on Twitter:

“There she was in the thick of it; not losing her poise even in the worse crises of Great Britain; from the hardship and rancor of postwar recovery, the blowback of Suez, the nativity of new nations from the womb of Empire; the flash triumph of the Falkslands; through personal tragedies with the deepest loss of Philip, Poise perfect responses to them all no doubt at the cost of deep heartache sharpened by her sense of duty to keep it up — not a stiff upper lip but the unfailing smile around her eyes a lesser royal would shut in exasperation. Filipinos never faltered in their love of the English Queen. From Paris where I was visiting, my wife and I rushed to London at the Queen Mother’s passing. Your Excellency, Laure Beaufils, please accept our deepest humble condolences on your people’s and the world’s immeasurable loss.”

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