By DAVID KEYTON, JILL LAWLESS and MIKE CORDER
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II was carried from an Edinburgh cathedral on Tuesday as the late monarch embarked on a final journey from her beloved Scotland to London, where she will rest in state.
Her son, King Charles III, returned to London from Northern Ireland, where his visit sparked a rare moment of unity among politicians in a region with contested British and Irish identities and deeply divided over the monarchy.
While a bagpiper played, the flag-draped oak coffin was carried from St. Giles Cathedral. Crowds lining the Royal Mile through the historic heart of Edinburgh cheered as the coffin, accompanied by the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne, was driven to Edinburgh Airport.
Over the past 24 hours, thousands have filed silently past the coffin after it arrived in Edinburgh from the Queen’s beloved Balmoral Estate, where she died aged 96 on Thursday, ending her 70-year reign .
Charles left Belfast to receive his mother’s coffin in London, where he will spend the night at Buckingham Palace. The coffin will be taken to Parliament on Wednesday, where it will remain in state for four days before Monday’s funeral.
Earlier, hundreds of people lined the street leading to Hillsborough Castle near Belfast, the official residence of the Royal Family in Northern Ireland, in the latest outpouring of affection following the Queen’s death. The area in front of the castle gates was lined with hundreds of floral tributes.
Charles and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, got out of their car to wave to the crowds and occasionally used both hands to reach out to villagers, including schoolchildren in bright blue uniforms. Charles even petted a corgi – his late mother’s favorite breed of dog – being held by someone, and some chanted “God save the king!”
“Today means so much to me and my family, just to be in my home village with my children to witness the arrival of the new King is a truly historic moment for all of us,” said Robin Campbell, a Hillsborough resident, while waiting for Charles. , which is touring all four parts of the UK.
While there was a warm welcome in Hillsborough, the British monarchy evokes mixed emotions in Northern Ireland, where there are two main communities: mainly Protestant Unionists who see themselves as British and largely Roman Catholic nationalists who see themselves as Irish.
This split fueled three decades of violence known as the “Troubles” involving paramilitary groups on both sides and British security forces, in which 3,600 people died. The Royal Family have been personally affected by the violence: Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin and Charles’s much-loved mentor, was killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb in 1979.
A deep sectarian divide remains, a quarter of a century after the 1998 peace accord in Northern Ireland.
For some Irish nationalists, the British monarch represents an oppressive foreign power. But others recognize the Queen’s role in establishing peace. During a visit to Northern Ireland in 2012, she shook hands with Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander – a once unthinkable moment of reconciliation.
Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein politician who is Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said the Queen had “demonstrated how individual acts of positive leadership can help break down barriers and encourage reconciliation”.
In a sign of how far Northern Ireland has come on the road to peace, Sinn Fein representatives attended memorial events for the Queen on Tuesday and met the King.
Maskey expressed his condolences to the King at an event at Hillsborough Castle attended by leaders of all major political parties in Northern Ireland.
Charles replied that his mother “felt deeply, I know, the importance of the role she herself played in bringing together those whom history had separated and in reaching out to make possible the healing of long-lasting wounds. date”.
He said he would be inspired by his mother’s “shining example” and “seek out the welfare of all people in Northern Ireland”.
Yet not everyone welcomed the new king.
On Falls Road in Belfast, a nationalist stronghold, several walls are decorated with murals of Bobby Sands, an IRA member who died during a prison hunger strike in 1981, and others killed in the Troubles.
“No, he is not our king. Bobby Sands was our king here,” said 52-year-old Bobby Jones. “Queen has never done anything for us. Never done. No member of the royal family does.
Politicians from all divisions of Northern Ireland attended a memorial service for the Queen in Belfast. British Prime Minister Liz Truss, her Irish counterpart Micheal Martin and Irish President Michael D. Higgins were at St Anne’s Cathedral in central Belfast for the Anglican ‘reflection service’.
Clergy have praised the Queen’s role in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell said she had “taken the hard road to reconciliation”.
Irish leaders were also present despite strained relations between Dublin and London over Brexit. Since Britain left the European Union in 2020, the UK and EU have been squabbling over trade rules for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that shares a border with a member of the block.
Charles and his siblings Anne, Andrew and Edward held a brief vigil around their mother’s flag-draped coffin in St. Giles Cathedral on Monday evening as members of the public filed past.
The next morning, a man in a suit adorned with medals stood silently, bowed his head, and walked away. A woman wiped her tears with a handkerchief. Another woman with two young children in school uniform walked slowly past the coffin.
In the line of mourners outside the cathedral in the historic heart of Edinburgh, Sheila McLeay called the Queen a “wonderful ambassador for our country”.
“She was such an example to all of us. She was dignified. She was righteous, she was beautiful inside and out. And I’ve known her all my life. , she added.
The Queen’s coffin will be flown back to RAF Northolt, an air force base in London, and taken to Buckingham Palace.
The Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster which will carry the coffin was used to evacuate people from Afghanistan and to bring humanitarian aid and weapons to Ukraine after the Russian invasion, the Chief Marshal of British air Sir Mike Wigston.
Lawless and Corder reported from London.
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