King Charles and siblings hold silent vigil to Queen Elizabeth

AFP

King Charles and his siblings held a silent vigil at the side of their mother Queen Elizabeth's coffin as it lay at rest in Edinburgh's historic cathedral, with thousands queuing for hours to pay their respects to Britain's longest-serving monarch.

With their heads bowed, Charles, wearing a kilt, alongside sister Princess Anne and brothers Princes Andrew and Edward, stood solemnly for 10 minutes next to the oak coffin, draped with the royal flag known as the Royal Standard of Scotland.

The flag was topped with a wreath of white flowers and the Crown of Scotland, historically used for the coronations of monarchs of Scotland.

They left the city's St. Giles Cathedral to applause from onlookers.

The coffin had earlier been brought from the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the monarch's official residence in Scotland, in a procession watched mostly in silence by a large, grieving crowd, with Charles and other royal family members walking slowly behind the hearse.

Mourners, some weeping, and others with heads bowed or curtsying, walked slowly past the coffin after having waited patiently for hours to be allowed into the cathedral.

"I had gone to see the queen so you can imagine my surprise when I saw members of the royal family there," said Frances Thain, 63. "I was just overwhelmed because there was so much to take in."

Michael Hainsworth, 70, a retired music teacher, was one of the first to enter the cathedral to see the coffin after a seven-hour wait, and people are expected to file past all night until the vigil ends at 3 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Tuesday.

"We were very upset. It was so emotional. It brought it all home," said Hainsworth as he comforted his crying wife.

Queen Elizabeth died on Thursday in her holiday home at Balmoral, in the Scottish Highlands, at the age of 96 after a 70-year reign, plunging Britain into mourning even as it faces an economic crisis and a change of government.

A YouGov poll said 44% of respondents said they had cried or shed a tear since her death.

Her coffin had arrived from Balmoral on Sunday and stood overnight at Holyroodhouse. 

A bagpipe lament was the only sound as kilted soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland bore the casket from the palace and placed it in the hearse for the short journey along the Royal Mile to the cathedral.

A gun salute boomed out from a battery on Edinburgh Castle when the hearse moved off and a single round was fired each minute of the procession. Other than that there was just silence - except a brief shout from a heckler aimed at Prince Andrew. 

Under a sunny sky, Charles, 73, who automatically became king on his mother's death, and his siblings walked slowly behind the hearse, while the Royal Company of Archers provided the guard of honour.

Tina Richardson, 63, a retiree from Dunbar, was among those standing on the centuries-old Royal Mile beside the cathedral. She said her middle name was Elizabeth after the late queen.

"There'll never be anyone like her," she told Reuters. "She was such a beautiful lady who gave us all so much. She dedicated her whole life to the country. In good times and bad she was there, especially during COVID. She united everybody."

Ellie Merton, 52, an arts producer, who travelled up from the border region of Scotland, said: "We had pipers, horses and archers. There was the sense of the Scottish community being around here as she made her final journey."

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