The Daily Telegraph
Silent procession makes way to Balmoral to say farewell to ‘grandma’
In the chill Scottish wind, devotees, many dressed all in black, trekked to the castle to pay their respects
‘On a notice board there are still the drawings of the monarch by the children to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee’
AT A wrought iron bridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel on the approach to the Balmoral estate, such was the throng of mourners, they were handed wristbands to control their numbers.
A red and white metal barrier had been drawn across the gateway over the River Dee in anticipation of the crowds that would always come in spite of the chill wind and threat of downpours.
And it was in their thousands that they came, with each devotee being handed a white paper bracelet so they could be carefully clocked in and out.
A few feet away, in the car park for coaches, a crane lifted portable lavatory cubicles into position in anticipation of an even greater rush of well-wishers yet to come.
Police and stewards in fluorescent jackets lined the main road through the neighbouring village of Crathie, shepherding the crowds safely towards the castle.
They closed off many of the side roads and lined the grass verges with no-parking cones, although these were ignored by some motorists keen to spare themselves a long walk.
Those who did make the trek from a car park outside the village passed its primary school, where there was a poignant reminder of the love felt for Queen Elizabeth II in this part of the world where she felt most at home. On a notice board, there are still the drawings of the monarch created by the children to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee a few months ago. Each has the accompanying message starting: “The Queen is special to me because ...”
One tribute by a young girl called Annie read: “The Queen is special to me because she is the best queen, because she is so kind.”
A couple of hundred yards further down the road was the full throng of crowds outside Balmoral, with mourners and the assembled world media mingling freely. There may have been festival-style security to get in, but the atmosphere outside the black and gold gates to the castle was sombre.
One middle-aged woman, dressed elegantly all in black, with a fascinator, wiped away a tear with a gloved hand as she explained to a television crew what Queen Elizabeth meant to her.
Another woman, an Australian who lived in Edinburgh, told another interviewer how she felt compelled to travel to Balmoral because so many of her compatriots “would love to be here to represent their feelings”.
The interviews went on amid a quiet
hubbub with well-wishers, many wearing all black, leaving bunches of flowers against the railings.
A large number were accompanied by dogs, with spaniels in particular abundance, and children clutching bunches of roses, lilies, sunflowers and chrysanthemums.
The soporific hum was only briefly broken when the ever-watchful stewards interrupted a German TV reporter who had strayed too far from the designated media pen. The indignant presenter, who was live on air at the time, had to continue his report to viewers back home while being led away from the floral tributes.
Those who wanted to escape the throng of the main crowds could head across the road and up the hill to the village church, past an iconic red phone box bearing the crown seal.
Inside the intimate nave – which has a simple wooden ceiling and black and white marble altar – are busts of three generations of the monarch’s family: Queen Victoria, Elizabeth II’S great grandmother; George VI, her father, and her mother are represented, with the late sovereign likely to join them. Back outside the castle, the number of visitors continued to grow with many being bussed in on coaches, run by a company aptly called Kings.
There was a palpable sense of shock at the events of the previous 24 hours.
“When you see it on the news it feels quite detached, then all of a sudden you’re here,” one young man remarked to a group of friends as they paid their respects.
Young and old were represented together at the gathering as a mix of accents and languages from across the globe melted together into one low hum. Later, As the crowds thinned, a man in a hoodie strode purposefully across the bridge with a bunch of flowers. Pinned to it were half a dozen gleaming military medals.
The day served as a reminder of how widespread and enduring the Queen’s popularity was. “She’s like a grandma,” said the Australian woman being interviewed for the TV news in a country far from her own.
For those who gathered outside Balmoral to grieve her passing, she was like everyone’s grandma.