Queen’s coffin leaves Balmoral en route to Edinburgh | Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen has commenced her final journey from her beloved Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire and is heading down the north-east coast to Edinburgh.

The cortege carrying her coffin left Balmoral at about 10am and was making slow progress through the villages of Royal Deeside, allowing the thousands who lined the route to bid a final farewell to the country’s longest-serving monarch and the woman many locally considered a dear neighbor .

After passing Crathie Kirk, the small granite church where the Queen worshiped every Sunday during her annual summer holidays in the Highlands, the hearse reached the nearest village of Ballater, where the royal family are regular shoppers and well known to locals.

Closeup of the coffin departing Balmoral
Closeup of the coffin departing Balmoral. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

As the cortege processed through the village, preceded by a seemingly endless number of official vehicles and police vans, the quiet chatter of anticipation grew to a hush. Some phones were raised to capture the moment but many others preferred to watch without screens as the coffin passed, draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland with a wreath of flowers gathered from Balmoral estate, including white heather, pine fir and sweet peas, one of the Queen’s favorite flowers.

Following the coffin in convoy to Edinbugh were the Princess Royal, Sir Tim Laurence, the minister of Crathie Kirk, and a representative of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office.

“It was very respectful, exactly as she would have wished,” said Elsbeth Henry, who had come with her friend Isa McLeod from Lossiemouth that morning. “I was worried folk might start clapping or throwing flowers. It was very emotional though. I wish I could say more but I can’t find the words.”

“It would have been her wish to die here,” added McLeod. “This was where she had her freedom from her, she could breathe up here.”

The crowds had been gathering in Ballater since before 7am, with the well-organized arriving with supermarket bags of snacks and fold-away chairs.

Some of the first to arrive were the Alexander family, three generations of whom had driven from Huntly, an hour’s drive through the forest from the north.

Eight-year-old Hamish said his iPad told him the Queen was dead. Florence, 11, said they had seen the Queen in her car, while five-year-old Gracie closely guarded their sharing tub of sweeties. “Nobody likes these ones,” she said, holding up an unloved pink and white confection.

Their grandmother Elizabeth Anne Alexander, who was named after the Queen and born on Coronation Day, said it was a family tradition to visit Balmoral. She had traveled here on Sunday morning with her two daughters and three grandchildren.

“The Queen has always been part of our lives, during the summer when she’s stay in Scotland. We’d often see her her about her locally, and the community always respected her privacy. She was so relaxed here, even in how she dressed. It felt that having her dela as the head of that family was a constant.”

As the sun rose, warming the crowds in the main street, all generations were gathering, from toddlers in pushchairs to elderly people making use of the plentiful benches around the church.

Some had come in full mourning dress, some in kilts or military uniform, others in more practical country wear of the kind favored by the Queen when she holidayed here.

Carol Gregory and her husband, from Birmingham, had fun from a planned holiday in Inverness to Ballater, draping a union flag across the metal crowd barriers opposite the church. Like many in the crowd, when asked why she felt moved to come, Gregory simply replied: “We had to be here. She was our Queen.”

People line the streets of Ballater waiting for the cortege carrying the Queen's coffin
People line the streets of Ballater waiting for the cortege carrying the Queen’s coffin. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

She said there was value in coming together at a historic moment such as this. “I wanted to be a part of it, it is a moment in history and the end of an era. And perhaps when I see her go past it will sink in that she has actually gone, because at the moment it feels surreal. She has always been a constant.”

From Ballater, the cortege traveled eastwards along the winding, single-lane A93 through a succession of villages – Aboyne, Banchory and Peterculter. In each it was met with a similar quality of collective silence, with only a few smatterings of applause or flowers thrown along the route. In each village, after the convoy had passed, the crowds that had lined the main streets dispersed promptly and without ceremony, leaving behind scores of police and council officials.

From this country approach, the convoy reached the A90, a dual carriageway leading the cortege south, passing Dundee and Perth before it reaches Edinburgh.

The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will attend the party leaders’ gathering at parliament to observe the coffin passing. It will remain at Holyroodhouse Palace before lying at rest on Monday at St Giles’ Cathedral.

Frank Groves was sitting alone on a black bench by Glenmuick parish church dressed in a dark suit and tie and carrying a bouquet of flowers bound with a black ribbon. The 70-year-old had driven an hour and a half from the fishing village of Cruden Bay to Ballater, which he had visited with his wife Jeanette, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Inevitably this public grief reminded him of his own loss seven years ago. “On our darkest days we would drive up here and treat ourselves to a meal at the Old Station restaurant,” he recalled.

“You end up feeling part of her family,” he said of the Queen. “Ballater is a special place and she was able to relax here. From when I was born, the Queen was there, when I went to school, got married, and when my wife passed, she was there. She almost feels like a distant relative.”

Seeing the coffin go past would be “the culmination of sadness”, Groves said. “But you need that to move on. Britain won’t be the same without her.”

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