Robert Hardman watches as the Queen’s coffin is transported from Balmoral to Edinburgh


She left to morning birdsong, the muted sobs of her devoted Balmoral staff and Glen Gelder, a favourite lament played by a lone piper – her own piper, of course.

More than six hours and 175 miles later, following a final journey across the land she loved perhaps more than any other, Elizabeth, Queen of Scots arrived in the most handsome of her capitals last night to find its most famous thoroughfare filled to capacity. In between, she progressed at a stately pace – saluted by tearful subjects, livestock and even tractors – as she meandered her way through the rugged glens, villages and cities of eastern Scotland.

She had known them all as well as anyone alive. For there cannot have been very much of this route which she had not either owned, opened or visited at some point in her record-breaking reign. (Indeed, as her motorcade reached the Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth, which she opened in 2017, it was astonishing to think that she had also opened the adjacent Forth Road Bridge in 1964).

Robert Hardman: ‘She left to morning birdsong, the muted sobs of her devoted Balmoral staff and Glen Gelder, a favourite lament played by a lone piper – her own piper, of course’

Princess Anne curtseys at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II as it arrives at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh where it will lie in rest for a day

People gather along the streets of Edinburgh to pay tribute as the cortege carrying the coffin of the late Queen Elizabeth II passes the Royal Mile

People gather along the streets of Edinburgh to pay tribute as the cortege carrying the coffin of the late Queen Elizabeth II passes the Royal Mile

Finally, the late Queen arrived yesterday evening to spend one last night at her official Edinburgh residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, ahead of today’s grand formalities by the Scottish state.

Yesterday was a day for informal tributes from the Scottish people.

It is safe to say that there was nowhere Elizabeth II felt happier than at Balmoral, her free-range sanctuary since childhood. At ten o’clock yesterday morning, she left it for the last time, carried out of the castle on the shoulders of six gamekeepers.

Her father and grandfather had also begun their final journeys carried by their keepers (from Sandringham, in their cases). This was not just about tradition, however.

The Queen had known all the Balmoral keepers, even before she stalked her first deer as a teenage girl. She knew the names of their children and adored their stories. During the Nineties, she and Prince Philip were on a hillside with a much-loved keeper when the poor man had a heart attack and died. It was the Queen who stayed with him until help arrived. Such were her bonds with this solid, trusted breed of men.

Princess Anne and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence travel behind the hearse yesterday afternoon

Princess Anne and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence travel behind the hearse yesterday afternoon

Robert Hardman: 'It was Princess Anne who spoke to the Queen almost daily in her later years, who had been working in Scotland and staying with her mother in her final days. She was the one who had sounded the family alarm last Thursday morning'

Robert Hardman: ‘It was Princess Anne who spoke to the Queen almost daily in her later years, who had been working in Scotland and staying with her mother in her final days. She was the one who had sounded the family alarm last Thursday morning’

Her coffin of Scottish oak was placed in a hearse, beneath the Royal Standard of Scotland and flowers from the Balmoral estate, including sweet peas from the walled garden of which she was so proud and white heather from the hills.

The public’s first glimpse of their late and much-mourned monarch came as she emerged through the gates of Balmoral.

Following behind the hearse, in the Queen’s State Bentley, was the Princess Royal accompanied by her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence. Amid the shock of the succession, we have naturally been preoccupied with our new King and Queen. It was, therefore, right and proper to see the late monarch’s only daughter leading the cortege yesterday.

Robert Hardman: 'On the Royal Mile, there was simply no room left. Some had been waiting for hours. Jennifer McLean, 61, from Peterhead, had risen at the crack of dawn and driven for more than four hours, bringing three generations of the family'

Robert Hardman: ‘On the Royal Mile, there was simply no room left. Some had been waiting for hours. Jennifer McLean, 61, from Peterhead, had risen at the crack of dawn and driven for more than four hours, bringing three generations of the family’

Robert Hardman: 'Many had come in large family groups. Interestingly, none of those I met were tourists. They were all true Scots saluting one of their own'

Robert Hardman: ‘Many had come in large family groups. Interestingly, none of those I met were tourists. They were all true Scots saluting one of their own’

It was Princess Anne who spoke to the Queen almost daily in her later years, who had been working in Scotland and staying with her mother in her final days. She was the one who had sounded the family alarm last Thursday morning. Her links with and love of Scotland are a source of great pride here (just ask any Scottish rugby fan).

Following behind was the Reverend Kenneth Mackenzie, minister of Crathie Kirk, where the Queen had surely worshipped longer than anyone, and the Earl of Dalhousie, Lord Steward of the Royal Household.

The convoy was led by a single outrider (the Queen was never one for monster motorcades) and was soon on the A93.

They could hardly have picked a better day, Deeside looking every bit as majestic as its departing resident. Aerial television cameras beamed it all around the world. How thrilled the Queen would have been to think that her last journey might also have served as a turbo-booster for a recovering Scottish tourist industry.

After a few miles of lush farmland, with intermittent clusters of cap-doffing farmers and bowing campers, the Queen encountered the first notable gathering of mourners in dear old Ballater.

This is the village which has been supplying the castle since Queen Victoria’s time. It must have more royal warrants per square foot than anywhere in the kingdom. Even the newsagent has one. No wonder. Years back, when the Queen Mother’s telly conked out just before Dad’s Army was due to start, the village TV repair man managed to save the day with moments to spare – and was promptly invited to sit down with her and watch the show. The village was packed, of course, as the convoy slowed to jogging speed past shop-fronts filled with pictures of the Queen. ‘She’s the kind of person we should all be, but sometimes fail to be,’ said Elizabeth Alexander, 69, from Huntly, Aberdeenshire, who had arrived shortly after 7am with her two daughters, Melissa Simpson, 42, and Claire Green, 44, and three young grandchildren, Gracie, Florence and Hamish. They set up their picnic chairs near Glenmuick Church in the village centre and tied Union flags to barriers.

Prince Andrew, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, Prince Edward and Princess Anne receive the hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II as it arrives at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Prince Andrew, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, Prince Edward and Princess Anne receive the hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II as it arrives at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Robert Hardman: 'Finally, the hearse swept through the gates of Holyroodhouse as light rain began to fall. As her mother’s coffin processed through the state entrance, the Princess dropped into the deepest curtsey. This was, after all, the Queen of Scots coming home'

Robert Hardman: ‘Finally, the hearse swept through the gates of Holyroodhouse as light rain began to fall. As her mother’s coffin processed through the state entrance, the Princess dropped into the deepest curtsey. This was, after all, the Queen of Scots coming home’

Sophie, the Earl of Wessex, puts her arm around Princess Anne as the late Queen's coffin arrives at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh

Sophie, the Earl of Wessex, puts her arm around Princess Anne as the late Queen’s coffin arrives at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh

Not long after the convoy had passed by, the Proclamation of King Charles III was read out on the steps of the church by the chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council.

It followed the very much grander proclamation ceremony a little earlier in Edinburgh, one performed simultaneously in Belfast and Cardiff. We may live in the online era of instant digital information yet nothing quite stirs the soul like the dissemination of news the medieval way. All over Britain yesterday, the same proclamation was being delivered in identical ceremonies, from cathedrals to town halls. As the Monarch of the Glen continued her way along the A93, there were some utterly lovely sights. Near Banchory, a group of cattle farmers had lined the road with dozens of tractors (clean ones, too). Many had their diggers raised in salute, reminiscent of the cranes along the London docks when Sir Winston Churchill went to his Maker. It would have touched Her Late Majesty as much as any 96-gun salute.

Outside Peterculter, the local equestrian community had turned out on their horses and ponies. By the time the Queen reached Aboyne, respectful solemnity had given way to something else – applause. I noticed that the Royal British Legion were out in force in village after village. Here and there, someone threw a white rose, though the police had specifically asked people not to do so. A few flowers were not a problem but if it caught on while going through a big conurbation, the convoy might have had to keep stopping to clear the windscreen or else take a detour.

As the suburbs of Aberdeen approached, long stretches of pavement started filling up. Given that the Scottish public had been given less than 24 hours’ notice of this motorcade and its route, the numbers were both surprising and heartening.

The Queen's coffin was carried from Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh yesterday where thousands of people lined the roads to pay tribute to the late Her Majesty

The Queen’s coffin was carried from Balmoral Castle to Edinburgh yesterday where thousands of people lined the roads to pay tribute to the late Her Majesty

The journey of 175 miles took more than six hours before arriving at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh

The journey of 175 miles took more than six hours before arriving at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh

After three hours on the road, the convoy took what officials like to call a ‘refreshment break’ at Brechin Castle which, conveniently, happens to be Lord Dalhousie’s ancestral seat (albeit now on the market due to the costs of upkeep). One royal source told me that the stop was nothing to do with the Princess Royal, however. She often skips lunch and can cheerfully get through a whole day sustained by a kiwi fruit from her handbag. However, some of the outriders and support vehicle drivers needed to stretch their legs and also to refuel. Back on the A90, the convoy soon reached Dundee. Hotbed of Scottish nationalism these days it might be, but here were the largest crowds yet for the late Queen of Scots. In any case, her mother had been raised in these parts at nearby Glamis Castle, seat of the Bowes-Lyon family (and birthplace of Princess Margaret).

At Perth, it was finally time for a stretch of motorway down to the Queensferry Crossing, sealed off to all other southbound traffic. The sight of this tiny convoy moving sedately over this colossal feat of modern engineering straddling the Forth was suddenly incredibly moving. Here was all the best of ancient and modern which our late Queen embodied.

Today a service will be held at St Giles Cathedral where she will lie state for 24 hours. The Queen's coffin will then be flown to London on Tuesday, accompanied by Princess Anne

Today a service will be held at St Giles Cathedral where she will lie state for 24 hours. The Queen’s coffin will then be flown to London on Tuesday, accompanied by Princess Anne 

The nearer she came to Edinburgh, the greater the throng. It was just a pity they didn’t squeeze in a detour past that honorary member of the Royal Family, HMY Britannia, berthed in the docks at Leith.

On the Royal Mile, there was simply no room left. Some had been waiting for hours. Jennifer McLean, 61, from Peterhead, had risen at the crack of dawn and driven for more than four hours, bringing three generations of the family. ‘She’s just been there all my life,’ she said, adding that she had every faith in the new King. ‘I loved his speech. Just right.’

Many had come in large family groups. Interestingly, none of those I met were tourists. They were all true Scots saluting one of their own. Cassie Stewart, 12, and younger brother, Peter, actually live near Balmoral and had been competing at last week’s Braemar games near the royal residence (she in the Highland dancing competition, he in the sack race).

They had come to Edinburgh to stay with their grandmother, Penny McKerrow, but were not going to miss the chance to say goodbye to their late royal neighbour.

‘It’s the Queen’s calmness which I will remember,’ mused Penny. ‘Nothing seemed to ruffle her and I don’t know how she managed that.’

The sight of the convoy starting its descent from Lawnmarket down towards Holyroodhouse and the sea beyond was perhaps the most stunning of the day. But for the solemnity, this could have been a cup-winning homecoming for the national football team. Edinburgh is immensely proud of its royal connection and it showed. (My only concern is how on earth the city will manage the crowds likely to turn out for today’s procession to St Giles’ Cathedral.)

Finally, the hearse swept through the gates of Holyroodhouse as light rain began to fall.

As her mother’s coffin processed through the state entrance, the Princess dropped into the deepest curtsey. This was, after all, the Queen of Scots coming home.

Sisters in law and in grief: Sophie Wessex comforts grieving Princess Anne as they watch the Queen’s coffin arriving in Edinburgh to rest in the Throne Room of the Palace of Holyroodhouse – after Princess Royal escorted hearse from Balmoral

By Jessica Green and Jamie Phillips for MailOnline

The Countess of Wessex was pictured comforting Princess Anne today as members of the royal family watched Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrive in Edinburgh to lie in rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse overnight.

Sophie, 57, the wife of the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward, 58, was seen placing her hand on the Princess Royal’s back in a supportive gesture after the coffin made the journey from Balmoral to the Scottish city.

The Queen’s children and their spouses – Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex – watched as soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland carried the coffin into the Palace. 

In a touching moment, deference to the monarch was still observed, with the royal women curtseying and the men bowing their heads. 

Her Majesty did not travel alone during her 180-mile journey, Anne and her husband were in a limousine as part of a procession directly behind her. 

The Queen will stay at the palace overnight before being moved to St Giles’ Cathedral tomorrow afternoon – where earlier a large crowd had gathered to witness the midday proclamation of King Charles as head of state.

Yesterday, both Princess Anne and Sophie appeared teary-eyed as they looked at floral tributes to the Queen left at Balmoral, alongside other members of the royal family.

Meanwhile, Scottish mourners paid tribute to Her Majesty by lining the route of her coffin procession in their thousands as she left Balmoral for the last time.

Silent, sombre and respectful, well-wishers gathered beside country roads, bridges and in village and city centres to say goodbye to the woman who was never more at home than when in Scotland.  

The Countess of Wessex was pictured comforting Princess Anne today as members of the royal family watched Queen Elizabeth II's coffin arrive in Edinburgh to lie in rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse overnight

The Countess of Wessex was pictured comforting Princess Anne today as members of the royal family watched Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrive in Edinburgh to lie in rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse overnight

In a touching gesture, deference to the monarch was still observed, with the royal women curtseying and the men bowing their heads

In a touching gesture, deference to the monarch was still observed, with the royal women curtseying and the men bowing their heads

Sophie, 57, the wife of the Queen's youngest son Prince Edward, 58, was seen placing her hand on the Princess Royal's back in a supportive gesture after the coffin made the journey from Balmoral to the Scottish city

Sophie, 57, the wife of the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward, 58, was seen placing her hand on the Princess Royal’s back in a supportive gesture after the coffin made the journey from Balmoral to the Scottish city

Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, the Countess of Wessex and the Earl of Wessex at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, awaiting the Queen's coffin

Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, the Countess of Wessex and the Earl of Wessex at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, awaiting the Queen’s coffin

On arrival at Holyroodhouse she was met by three of her children and other family members. Pictured here from left to right is Prince Andrew, the Countess of Wessex and the Earl of Wessex

On arrival at Holyroodhouse she was met by three of her children and other family members. Pictured here from left to right is Prince Andrew, the Countess of Wessex and the Earl of Wessex

By the time the procession reached its destination of Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse, after more than six hours, the crowds were 10 deep in places on the famous Royal Mile, a famous thoroughfare the Queen knew well.

As the procession neared its end, flowers were thrown in front of the hearse – from William Purvis, a family run funeral directors based in Scotland – and spontaneous applause broke out from sections of the crowds in the Royal Mile.

At one point, as the cortege travelled through Dundee, a lone long-stemmed flower could be seen on the hearse windscreen and in a rural part of the route farmers paid homage to the Queen with tractors lined up in a field.

Tomorrow, King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort will visit Edinburgh and join his other siblings walking behind his late mother’s coffin when it is moved from the Palace to St Giles’ Cathedral. At 7.20pm, the monarch will hold a vigil at the late Queen’s coffin with other members of the Royal Family.

Earlier today, a single motorbike police outrider led the way as the hearse travelled at a stately pace through the Aberdeenshire countryside. At one point, as the cortege travelled through Dundee, a lone long-stemmed flower could be seen on the hearse windscreen and in a rural part of the route farmers paid homage to the monarch with tractors lined up in a field.

Hundreds lined the main street of Ballater, the picturesque Victorian village closest to the Balmoral estate, where locals considered her a neighbour, as the Queen’s coffin was driven slowly through. Her Majesty and her family were often seen in the village in Royal Deeside, which she had visited since childhood and where the Royal Family have space to be themselves.

The hearse passed Glenmuick Church, where the Rev David Barr rang the church bells 70 times after the Queen’s death was announced.

Flowers were thrown into the hearse’s path by well-wishers on both sides of the road in Ballater, which was sombre and silent. The hearse slowed to a fast walking pace and mourners could clearly see the royal standard-draped coffin and the wreath featuring flowers from the Balmoral estate, including sweet peas – one of the Queen’s favourite flowers – dahlias, phlox, white heather and pine fir.

In other developments yesterday:

  • An emotional King Charles was greeted by well-wishers as he arrived at Buckingham Palace where he met with representatives from the Commonwealth;
  • Prince William vowed to serve Wales with ‘humility’ – after he paid tribute to his ‘extraordinary Grannie’ in a heartbreaking statement yesterday; 
  • The Prince and Princess of Wales yesterday reunited with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, for a historic walkabout at Windsor; 
  • Church services took place around the UK today to remember Her Majesty on first Sunday after her death; 
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told his congregation that this was an ‘unexpectedly extraordinary Sunday’ as he paid tribute to the later monarch; 
  • The Sussexes’ children Archie and Lilibet continued to be listed as ‘Master’ and ‘Miss’ on the new order of succession; 
  • First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, paid tribute to the late Queen in a tweet; 
  • Former Prime Minister David Cameron described how he had to apologise to Her Majesty after revealing details of private phone call. He also revealed that he help Charles prepare for becoming King by holding ‘practice’ audiences.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk