LONDON | Five days after her death in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II’s remains landed in London on Tuesday evening, where they were carried by her son Charles III. should be welcomed at Buckingham Palace.
An impatient crowd waited outside to pay their last respects to the one who reigned for 70 years and whose funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey in the British capital on Monday.
The Royal Air Force plane, which was also on board Princess Anne, the Queen’s daughter, and her husband Tim Laurence, landed at Northolt’s Royal Air Force Airport around 7pm under particularly gray skies.
A few minutes later, the Queen’s coffin, covered with the yellow, red and blue Royal Standard of the United Kingdom and a wreath of white flowers, descended from the plane, ceremonially greeted by several rows of officers.
Silently loaded aboard a hearse, the coffin then left the airport for Buckingham Palace, the next leg of the final journey of the sovereign, who died at her castle in Balmoral, Scotland, on Thursday aged 96.
On the opposite side of the freeway, motorists got out of their cars to give him an honor guard.
King Charles III’s coffin, carried by grenadiers, is unveiled at Buckingham Palace. and Queen Consort Camilla, who have just returned from a brief official visit to Northern Ireland, and other members of the Royal Family.
A small crowd waited in front of the palace.
“I just want to see the coffin,” Joseph Afrane, a 59-year-old Briton who has been camping outside the palace since Sunday, told AFP. Even if it takes a long time, he praises the “nice atmosphere” that prevails between the campers.
The remains of Elizabeth II will spend the night in the Bow Room, a circular room with marble columns framing each of the monumental windows, where palace staff can bid her farewell in private.
On Wednesday, the Queen’s coffin leaves its official home in the British capital on a gun carriage and crosses central London on its way to the Palace of Westminster, where it will be on display for five days.
Thousands of people are expected to take part in the procession through the center of the British capital, greeted by the sound of Big Ben and cannon fire in Hyde Park.
They will be even more numerous to try and pay a final tribute to the sovereign at Westminster Hall between Wednesday and Monday morning.
The press evokes up to 750,000 people over a distance of more than 10 kilometers. In Edinburgh, 33,000 people had already lined up at Saint Gilles Cathedral to say goodbye to him.
“We expect a huge queue tomorrow morning,” Rumesh, a security guard stationed near the Palace of Westminster, told AFP. “It’s the calm before the storm!” “I’ve never seen anything like this (…) we have a feeling it’s going to happen and it’s going to be huge.”
On Tuesday morning, a handful of die-hards, surrounded by dozens of journalists, already braved the unpredictable weather to wait across the Thames long before Westminster Hall officially opened to the crowds at 5pm on Wednesday.
Northern Ireland Test
The Queen’s state funeral will be held on Monday, attended by about 500 foreign dignitaries and many royalty, but not the leaders of Russia, Belarus or Burma.
A security challenge of unprecedented proportions, the event promises to be grandiose for the final farewell of a people who, since birth, have known for the most part no sovereignty other than Elizabeth II.
A popular figure, rock of stability in the sometimes political, social or public health storms of COVID-19, the Queen was a comforting image for millions of Britons. A difficult legacy for his son Charles III.
Tensions in Northern Ireland, separatist aspirations in Scotland, runaway inflation: the new 73-year-old king, older than any British sovereign at the time of their accession, takes office at a critical moment. The country, which is in the midst of a serious social and political crisis, has had a new Prime Minister for a few days.
Already on Tuesday he weathered a delicate phase of his accession to the throne without issue on his first visit as sovereign to Northern Ireland, which has been plagued since Brexit by community tensions plagued by its bloody past of ‘The Troubles’.
“With a shining example before me and with God’s help, I take up my new duties determined to work for the well-being of all people in Northern Ireland,” the monarch told the local parliament, which has been in office since the Republican victory in the last election of Sinn Féin who do not recognize the authority of the monarchy.