AFP, published on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 at 6:22 p.m.
Under the moved gaze of the Scottish crowd, the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II left Edinburgh for London on Tuesday, to receive the farewells of hundreds of thousands of Britons expected at her remains and the historic funeral.
The remains of the monarch, escorted by Princess Anne, boarded a Royal Air Force plane, carried by soldiers in ceremonial dress. She will be welcomed in the British capital by other members of the royal family, including Charles III, returning from his first visit as monarch to Northern Ireland, a delicate step in his accession to the throne.
The sovereign had played a major role in reconciliation in the province with a bloody past. But nearly a quarter of a century after the return of a fragile peace between Republicans, especially Catholics, and Unionists, mainly Protestants, tensions have been reignited by Brexit, reviving the idea of a separation from the United Kingdom and of reunification with Ireland.
Upon their arrival, Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla went into contact with the public massed in front of Hillsborough Castle on Tuesday. They shook hands for a long time, greeted the children, exchanged a few words: images that were hard to imagine at the time of the “Troubles”.
“With a shining example before me, and with the help of God, I take up my new duties determined to seek the well-being of all the people of Northern Ireland,” the monarch told the local Parliament, at the stopped for months.
Politically paralyzed and in upheaval under the effect of the victory in the last elections of the Republicans of Sinn Fein, which does not recognize the authority of the monarchy, Northern Ireland remains the most delicate stage of the tour started by the new king in the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom.
“It’s reassuring to see the communities rally behind the new king,” observes Ann Sudlow, retired, who welcomes a certain unity in the province, like the emotion that has gripped the country since the Elizabeth II died Thursday at the age of 96.
– “Very dark” –
In Edinburgh, tens of thousands of Britons waited for hours, including at night, to meditate, bowing, curtsying, crossing themselves or wiping away a tear in front of the coffin which rests in the cathedral Saint-Gilles de la Scottish capital.
Placed on a dais and covered with the yellow, red and navy standard of Scotland, a wreath of white flowers and the solid gold crown of Scotland resting above, the coffin remained accessible throughout the night.
King Charles III and his three siblings – Princes Andrew and Edward, along with Princess Anne – came in the evening with Queen Consort Camilla to observe a wake. The photo of the children of Elizabeth II, back to the coffin, made the front page of all the daily newspapers on Tuesday.
Coming from Glasgow early Tuesday, Nataliya Dasiukevich, 46, from Russia, says she is in a “very gloomy mood” and is struggling to hold back tears. “I was not born in this country and I am far from my family. The Queen was the closest thing a grandmother has to my child.”
– Royal and anonymous tribute –
The body of Elizabeth II had until Monday evening been kept away from the general public: first at Balmoral Castle, in the North of Scotland, where the monarch died, then at the royal palace of Holyrood.
Popular figure, rock of stability in the sometimes political, social or health storm during the Covid-19, the queen was a reassuring image for millions of Britons.
Tensions in Northern Ireland, separatist desires in Scotland, galloping inflation: the new 73-year-old king, older than all the British sovereigns when they acceded to the throne, takes office at a critical moment. The country, in the grip of a serious social and political crisis, has had a new Prime Minister for a few days.
The king will probably have to face the claims of some of his 14 other kingdoms (including in particular Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, New Zealand or even Jamaica) which could be tempted by a republican regime, thanks to this change of ruler.
“I believe that’s the direction New Zealand will go at some point, I believe it’s likely to happen in my lifetime, but I don’t see it in the short term,” said the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern.
Once arrived in London, the remains of the sovereign will spend a last night at Buckingham Palace, her official residence during her 70 years and seven months of reign. Then the second part of its presentation to the public will begin on Wednesday, which should see hundreds of thousands of people parade for just under five days, 24 hours a day. Some started queuing on Monday.
The Queen’s state funeral will take place on Monday attended by some 500 foreign dignitaries and many crowned heads. But Russia, Belarus and Burma were not invited.