AFP, published on Monday, September 12, 2022 at 9:28 p.m.
Behind his coffin crossing Edinburgh at a slow pace or surrounding it, head bowed, King Charles III and his siblings gathered together on Monday with Elizabeth II, joined by tens of thousands of Britons in their farewell to the monarch to worldwide popularity.
Another step in the moving last journey taking the sovereign from her Balmoral castle, where she breathed her last on Thursday, to London for her state funeral On Monday, her remains left the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the Scottish capital for the cathedral Saint-Gilles, where it is on public display for the first time.
The funeral procession, led by King Charles III surrounded by his brothers Andrew and Edward and sister Anna, passed through the center of the Scottish capital to St. Giles Cathedral, in a slow procession in absolute silence.
They marched down the Royal Mile in rhythm for more than a mile, all in black military uniform except for Andrew, who had retired from the monarchy following the sexual assault charges he ended by paying millions of dollars.
A particularity which confirms the exclusion of the one who has often been described as “favorite son” of Elizabeth II.
After a religious ceremony in the afternoon, the sovereign’s children returned in the evening for a funeral wake around the coffin, covered with the Scottish royal standard (yellow, red and navy blue), and on which was deposited the crown of Scotland, in solid gold, as well as a crown of white flowers.
They meditated for about ten minutes, their backs turned to the coffin, before leaving the cathedral to the applause of the crowd.
– “Sad” –
Four days after her death, a week before her funeral, the coffin of Elizabeth II, symbol of stability during decades of upheaval, planetary icon which reassured the British in times of crisis, rests for the first time in public, arousing an influx massive.
The police told AFP that 30,000 bracelets, the key to entering the cathedral, had already been distributed. The queue stretched for more than 1.5 kilometers, according to an AFP journalist.
The population can thus bow several meters away and behind a security cordon in front of the oak coffin, raised on a platform, under the supervision of four archers from the Royal Company and a dozen police officers.
Some anonymous people signed themselves in front of the body, others bowed. Tears sometimes ran down their faces.
In the public who came to see the convoy pass, Lorraine Logan, 60, who came with her folding seat, explains that she arrived in the morning to have a seat in the second row: “It was even sadder than I thought”.
“It was incredible to see the king and completely surreal to see the queen’s coffin parade through Edinburgh, it’s a moment that will go down in history,” commented John McMonagle, 52, in a dark suit, from Glasgow.
– “Weight of History” –
Charles III installs himself as monarch with the difficult task of succeeding his very popular mother in the context of serious social crisis and divisions in the United Kingdom, but also of contestation in the face of the colonialist past in his 14 other kingdoms.
He is 73 years old, older than all the British sovereigns on their accession to the throne.
Charles III went to the Scottish Parliament on Monday afternoon for a condolence session and had for the occasion swapped his black military costume for a burgundy kilt, an outfit he has always been particularly fond of.
This day marks the start of a tour of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, which will take him to Belfast and Cardiff and which he began Monday morning at the British Parliament in London.
“Standing before you today, I cannot help but feel the weight of history surrounding us,” the sovereign said.
He claimed his mother was “an example of devotion which, with God’s help and your guidance, I am resolved to follow faithfully”.
Elizabeth II remained during her 70 years of reign a head of state with irreproachable neutrality, fulfilling without ever publicly expressing her opinions her constitutional functions, opening Parliament, promulgating laws, validating appointments, and still enthroning, two days before dying at the age of 96, his 15th head of government.
Withdrawn from the monarchy since the resounding “Megxit”, Prince Harry joined in the tributes to Elizabeth II, whom he called a “compass”, thanking his “granny” for her sense of duty and her “contagious smile “: “You are already sorely missed”.
– Waiting lines –
After this first day of presentation to the population, the remains will be embarked Tuesday evening at Edinburgh airport on board a royal plane bound for London.
It will again be on public display 24 hours a day, enclosed, draped in the royal standard, on a dais at the Palace of Westminster from Wednesday evening.
Long queues – which could reach eight kilometers – are expected while 750,000 people could try to see the coffin, according to The Times newspaper.
The remains of Elizabeth II will remain in Parliament for five days before the state funeral. Some 500 foreign dignitaries are expected – a considerable security challenge for the police – including US President Joe Biden, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, as well as many crowned heads.
The day before the event, on Sunday, the public will be called upon to mark a minute of silence at 8:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. GMT), “a moment of reflection” in memory of the sovereign with unequaled longevity in the history of the United Kingdom.