The Daily Telegraph
‘Her last great journey’
King’s words to the nation resonate with people of Scotland lining the roads to pay their respects
‘I arrived here in Ballater at half-past one. I tried to get to Balmoral then but the police had closed everything off. I wanted to pay my respects’
Ablessed and glorious Queen laid to rest in a simple oak coffin. Draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland, crowned with a modest white wreath of phlox and heather. Beautiful. Poignant. Shocking. Her subjects knew Elizabeth II was gone. For days we had mourned her loss.
But the sight of her mortal remains setting off on their “last great journey”, as the King called it in his address to the nation on Friday, had an impact all of its own.
From early morning, the Scottish people waited, quietly keeping watch along the six-hour route for a glimpse, however brief, of the cortège. Ripples of applause broke out, heads were bowed. Eyes misted over.
But it was when the hearse slowly trundled down the cobbles of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile that the stark reality was almost too much to bear.
A hush descended on the crowds crammed into the narrow thoroughfare as the cars first came into sight. Then gasps, a swell of applause, ragged cheers.
Tears. Grief for a much-loved Queen who had been the steadfast backdrop of our lives for 70 years.
As the cortège entered the gates of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and finally came to a halt, a guard of honour gave a Royal Salute before military bearers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland carried the coffin to the Throne Room, where it would remain overnight.
Senior members of the royal household were also there; Princes Andrew and Edward respectfully bowed their heads, the Princess Royal gave a touching curtsy.
Then the heavy wooden doors closed on a day like no other. A solemn day on which the people of Scotland honoured a monarch without equal.
In unforgettable scenes of pageantry and pomp the likes of which the nation – the world – has never before seen, the body of Elizabeth II was brought, with reverence and ceremony and something far more powerful, from her much-loved estate in Balmoral to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
At the start of the day, beyond the public view, her coffin was carried aloft by Balmoral gamekeepers, covered by a banner and adorned with pale blooms from the estate, as the Queen’s piper played a mournful lament.
And as the September sun shone down, the funeral cortège swept through the gates and slowly made its winding way through lush farmland and forest, tracing the glittering course of the river Dee.
Just a 10-minute drive away, nestled at the bottom of Craigendarroch hill, the Highland village of Ballater paid a final touching tribute to a cherished neighbour they considered to be one of their own.
Richard Careless, 54, a surveyor from Nottingham, drove seven hours through the night to reach this destination.
He said: “I arrived here in Ballater at half-past one this morning. I tried to get to Balmoral then but the police had closed everything off. I wanted to pay my respects. Like many people, she is the only queen I have ever known.
“When something like this happens, you think, ‘I wish I had made the effort to come and see her more often.’”
Margaret Phinn, 57, made the trip from Glasgow with her husband Jim.
“I felt shock when I heard,” she said, fighting back tears. “You just always thought she was going to be here.”
At the front of the town’s war memorial, three lord lieutenants from Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire were joined by Richard Baird, the Commander of Clan Baird and a member of the Queen’s ceremonial bodyguard, the Royal Company of Archers.
Carrying a grouse-head staff and in traditional Highland dress, he said: “It’s rather fitting that Aberdeenshire wants to give Her Majesty a good send-off.
“Ballater has always been a well-frequented place for the Royal family. They are well-kent faces and can walk around without fear of being disturbed.”
Her hearse passed by on its extraordinary royal progress. And despite the police outriders, the crash barriers and the news helicopters clattering overhead, there was a timelessness, a medieval quality about our “late sovereign of happy memory” taking her final leave of her people.
In Banchory, the crowd clapped in restraint while outside the town a phalanx of tractors flanked the road, surely raising a smile from those in the cortège. The Queen, a keen countrywoman whose prize livestock regularly won rosettes at the Royal Highland Show, would most certainly have been amused by this impromptu gesture.
The hearse then drove through Aberdeen, where a hand-made royal orb decorated with sequins, glitter, and emerald jewels lay nestled among the city-centre tributes.
On one bouquet, a poignant legend read: “From the Granite City to beautiful Deeside, thinking of your wonderful life.
“Your service, devotion to duty and all you have done for the nation will always be remembered. A shining light for us all, thanking you for everything. God bless you Queen Elizabeth II, Rest In Peace.”
Veterans from the Royal Engineers waved their regiment’s flag in tribute as the hearse came past, while other bystanders clutched Union flags close to their chest.
Acknowledging the depth of feeling, the Princess Royal, sitting beside her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, gave a solemn nod from her car to the dignitaries standing outside the entrance to Duthie Park.
Brian Healey, 68, and wife Susan, 62, praised the stoicism of the Princess Royal.
Mr Healey said: “To do what they have been doing for six hours or so, today, right in the public eye, is very tough going.
“They can’t mourn in private. It just shows the devotion to duty that the wider family has.”
Mrs Healey added that she wished the new King “a lot of luck”.
“The Queen was the glue that held the Union together. He’s got a big challenge to now convince Scots they should remain in the Union.”
But politics was in abeyance for now. In death as in life, Elizabeth II
‘Some people called her Ma’am, others called her Queen, but we always just called her boss’
brought her people together. As Scots gathered yesterday, they were united in a desire to witness – to be part of – living history.
In Edinburgh, the focus turned to the continuity of monarchy – with a distinctly Scottish essence to reflect not just the Acts of Union in 1707 but the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
By midday, many thousands of spectators had gathered on the Royal Mile where the Royal Company of Archers, the monarch’s bodyguard in Scotland, stood to attention.
A familiar, welcoming presence at the late Queen’s garden parties at Holyroodhouse and other ceremonial occasions, they made for a reassuring sight, longbows in hand, eagle feathers in their Balmoral bonnets, ready to serve their new King.
At the 14th-century Mercat Cross in Parliament Square, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, resplendent in red and gold brocade and ostrich feather hat, made his proclamation of the new King to the people of Scotland, “with one voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart”.
A fanfare from state trumpeters. A loud rendition of God Save the King, even if some onlookers understandably fumbled over the words, singing “send her victorious, happy and glorious”.
And then, from the gathered masses, resounding cheers for the new monarch that echoed as far as Edinburgh Castle, where a 21-gun salute took place. As the procession of dignitaries walked up the hill to repeat the proclamation, the crowd followed, drawn by the imperative to be present and immerse themselves in the enduring rituals of royalty.
Mother and daughter, Margaret Goddard and Fiona Weir, from Edinburgh, had come to St Giles’ to see the proclamation.
“I saw the one before,” said Margaret, 82, explaining she had seen the Queen crowned on television and could remember three monarchs.
“And we went to Holyrood House to see the Queen’s wedding dress. I was in primary seven when the Queen came to the throne and we had the proclamation there as well,” she added.
To the north, the Scots who turned out in Tayside waited hours for the briefest glimpse of the cortège. Many chose to film the moment on mobile phones, others preferred silent reflection. A ripple of applause broke out as the coffin slowly passed.
“I’m glad, but not surprised, to see so many people here,” said Dougie Milne, 58. “There are so many kids and I get the impression they are the ones dragging their parents along.
“I’ve always respected what she has done for the country, but I can’t quite get my head around why I keep getting emotional. Over the last few days, I have just found myself suddenly welling up.
“It wasn’t just that she was our Queen. It was the person she was. I knew someone who used to be a gardener in Balmoral and he would always say she was the most down-to
earth person you could meet.” Derek Simpson, 58, from Glenrothes, who served in the military between 1979 and 2008, said the Queen’s death had caused particular sadness among service personnel and veterans. “I went all over the world and the Queen was always so highly regarded,” he said. “Some people called her Ma’am, others called her Queen, but we always just called her boss.”
In truth, Elizabeth II was so central to the warp and weft of national life that she was many things to many people of all generations. A leader. A figurehead. A role model. An icon.
In Edinburgh, children in the throng, including the three-year-old daughter of Oliver Mundell, a Tory MSP, held up their Paddington Bears – theirs is a memory of a sweet old lady with a twinkling smile and a marmalade sandwich in her handbag.
However we remember her, she was the shining thread that linked past and present – although, alas, no longer our future. But those ties will continue to bind. How symbolic that when the Queen’s coffin was conveyed into Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, the cortege passed the selfsame Mercat Cross, where just hours previously King Charles III was proclaimed monarch to great jubilation.
“It’s happy and sad,” one man said to his son, ruminating on an extraordinary day in Edinburgh.
Interspersed among the wellwishers the length of the road regarded as the city’s spine were television crews from what felt like every country on earth.
As we have seen from the outpourings of affection across the world, the Queen, who was exceedingly well travelled, was held in high regard wherever she went.
Pamela Gray, 64, of Edinburgh, waited four hours to pay her respects as the late Queen was “such a positive force over the years” and she felt “quite emotional” at the sight of the coffin, before pointing to the fact the Queen had led such a “wonderful life” and highlighting the size of the crowd, and particularly the little ones present, as evidence of her enduring legacy.
“I’m so pleased I’ve been part of it. I managed to catch a glimpse,” said Fiona Kinghorn, 72, who had come from Leicestershire. “She was such an important person and was held in such high regard and she cared so much for everybody. It was very poignant.”
And as the crowd started slipping away to process what they had witnessed, the heavens opened. But Elizabeth II, who held Scotland so dear, was never phased by drizzle, as attested by her many hearty headscarfed walks in the hills by Lochnagar. It was all part of her uniqueness.
A Queen like no other. A day without equal. A day of loss and love forever stamped on our hearts, forever woven into the rich tapestry of our nation’s history.