Towns, villages and cities across Scotland fell silent on Sunday as Queen Elizabeth began her final journey from Balmoral Castle and her people gathered by the thousands to say goodbye.
The sound of silence descended first on the tiny village of Ballater, home to the Queen’s beloved Balmoral estate. The villagers view the Royal Family as neighbours and their quiet gesture of respect for the Queen was repeated by well-wishers all along the nearly 300 kilometre route to Edinburgh.
Her final journey began with six gamekeepers from her Balmoral estate carrying her coffin to the waiting hearse. Amid all the pomp and pageantry, that one humble gesture brought Diane Mitchell to tears.
“I think that’s really, really moving because that’s the working man that she knew for probably decades,” she said as she placed flowers at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, remarking on the Queen’s ability to connect with people.
“She just had this bond that covered generations, and races, and she just gave her life,” Ms. Mitchell said.
An honour guard of tractors parked in a row on either side of the highway saw the Queen for part of the route through Aberdeenshire. And in Edinburgh, a hush fell over the thousands crowding the Royal Mile as her glass-walled hearse came into view. For a fleeting moment, people could see her coffin draped in the Royal standard of Scotland and a wreath of flowers picked from her Balmoral estate.
As she went out of sight, a ripple of applause broke out along the final stretch of the procession to Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.
Her daughter, Princess Anne, was part of the cortege that accompanied her coffin for the six-hour trip to Edinburgh. The procession marked the start of a three-day journey, ending in London on Tuesday, where the late Queen will lie in state before her funeral on Sept. 19. On Monday, King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will travel to Edinburgh for a service at St. Giles Cathedral before it opens to the public.
In the crowd on Sunday, locals and tourists alike expressed their awe at the Queen’s seven decades of service, describing her as both a monarch and matriarch to the country. Even at the age of 96, her death still managed to catch people off guard.
The huge numbers of people turning out on Sunday shows the world the respect in which the Queen was held, said Ivy Cowan. “There’s a good Scottish saying: We’ll never see the likes again.”
The chance to watch history unfold and honour the only sovereign they’ve known prompted Amanda and Renato Invernizzi to bring their three daughters – Savannah, 10, Amelia, 7, and Arabella, 5 – to the procession in Edinburgh. The Queen, the girls say, was brave for living through the Second World War and they eagerly showed the flowers they plan to leave for her.
“It’s not just a big event for now or even this century, it’s a big event in 1,000 years of the monarch,” Mr. Invernizzi said.
Outside Holyroodhouse, piles of flowers, cards and Paddington Bear and corgi mementos continued to grow on Sunday. One Paddington Bear was left with a marmalade sandwich. A card nearby said “I’ve done my duties Paddington, please take me to my husband.”
In a statement posted to social media, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the Queen an “extraordinary woman.”
As the country says goodbye to their Queen, King Charles is not being universally welcomed. He was officially proclaimed sovereign in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland on Sunday.
Just before the proclamation was read in Edinburgh, a protester appeared with a sign condemning imperialism and urging the end of the monarchy. She was taken away by police. There was also some booing when Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms, finished his proclamation with “God save the King!”
Still most people along the procession route said they didn’t want the Queen’s death to spark an anti-monarchy movement.
At a proclamation in London on Saturday, King Charles pledged to preserve the Church of Scotland and vowed to uphold “the heavy responsibilities of sovereignty, which have now passed to me.
“I shall strive to follow the inspiring example I have been set in upholding constitutional government and to seek the peace, harmony and prosperity of the peoples of these islands and of the Commonwealth realms and territories throughout the world,” he said.
In Edinburgh, people said they were still adjusting to the idea of a King Charles. While the Queen never put a foot wrong, said Gaynor Lockwood, the same can’t be said for the new King.
Still others though said their respect for the King was growing as he immediately began his duties as sovereign, despite his personal grief.
In London on Sunday, King Charles held a reception at Buckingham Palace for high commissioners from Canada and nine other countries where Charles is head of state.
Canadian High Commissioner Ralph Goodale said much of the meeting was spent reflecting on Queen Elizabeth and her love for Canada. She visited it more than any other country. King Charles has also frequently visited and Mr. Goodale said he will likely return before too long.
“You’ve got to be in the realms and the territories personally,” he said.
Among the high commissioners at Sunday’s meeting was Karen-Mae Hill from Antigua and Barbuda. That country’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, has announced a referendum on whether the islands should keep the monarchy. Mr. Goodale said it wasn’t surprising that some countries have begun to reconsider their attachment to the Crown.
“When a personality that is so powerful and compelling as Elizabeth II is suddenly gone and there is a big change, there are bound to be these kinds of conversations about what next,” he said.
Canada’s representation at the Queen’s funeral on Sept. 19 will be led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor-General Mary Simon and Mr. Goodale. More Canadian dignitaries are expected to be invited but it’s not clear how many. About 2,000 guests will be invited to the service.
With reports from Paul Waldie and Reuters The Associated Press.