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King Charles and sons to follow coffin for queen's last journey from palace

The late Queen Elizabeth II's coffin was flown to London from Edinburgh on Tuesday.

King Charles and sons to follow coffin for queen's last journey from palace

King Charles III automatically became king of the UK and 14 other Commonwealth realms on the death of his mother. (Photo: AFP/POOL/Jonathan Brady)

LONDON: King Charles, his sons Princes William and Harry and other senior royals will join a solemn procession as Queen Elizabeth's coffin is taken from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday (Sep 14) to lie in state at parliament.

After the queen's death last week at her summer home of Balmoral Castle in Scotland, her coffin was taken to Edinburgh for a series of poignant ceremonies, and then flown to London late on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of people lined the 22km route in driving rain and cars stopped on normally busy roads to see the well-lit hearse driving slowly through the dark towards Buckingham Palace, drawing applause and cheers.

At the palace, the flag-draped coffin was met by Charles and all the queen's children, grandchildren and their spouses who had gathered together for the first time since their matriarch died.

"It has been an honour and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys," said Elizabeth's daughter Anne, 72, who flew from Scotland alongside the coffin. "Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these journeys has been both humbling and uplifting."

The queen's death, at the age of 96, has plunged the nation into mourning for a monarch who had reigned for 70 years.

People started queuing in the streets late on Tuesday to be one of the first to file past the coffin when the official lying in state period begins later on Wednesday.

Among those gathered, some were there to represent elderly parents, others to witness history and many to thank a woman who, having ascended the throne in 1952, was still holding official government meetings just two days before she died.

"She really did hold up her oath of doing everything she could for this country," said Veronica Lewis, 52, from Worthing, southern England.

On Wednesday, the Imperial State Crown will be placed on top of the coffin, along with a wreath, at Buckingham Palace.

From there it will move at 2.22pm (10.22pm, Singapore time) on a gun carriage of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery through central London to Westminster Hall, a medieval building with origins dating back to 1097 that is the oldest on the parliamentary estate.

Charles will walk in silence behind the carriage with other senior royals, including his siblings Anne, Andrew and Edward.

Also in the procession will be his sons William, 40, now the Prince of Wales, and Harry, 37, the Duke of Sussex, whose once close relationship has deteriorated in recent years to such an extent that they were said to barely be on speaking terms.

However, they appeared together with their wives when they met well-wishers outside Windsor Castle on Saturday, in a show of unity which hinted at a possible rapprochement.

Kate, William's wife and now the Princess of Wales, and Harry's wife, Meghan, will travel by car, as will Charles' wife Camilla, now the Queen Consort.

LYING-IN-STATE

With much of central London closed to traffic, large crowds were building along the route to watch Wednesday's procession, which will be accompanied by guns firing every minute at Hyde Park, while parliament's Big Ben bell will toll.

When the cortege reaches Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, the coffin will be carried inside by soldiers from the Grenadier Guards and placed on a catafalque. There will be a short service conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Church.

Four days of lying in state will then begin until the funeral on Sep 19.

A senior palace official described Wednesday's event as relatively small and personal. The full-scale ceremonial procession on Sep 19, the day of her funeral, is likely to be one of the biggest the country has ever witnessed.

With as many as 750,000 mourners expected to file past the coffin during its period of lying in state, people queued and slept on the streets in the rain to be able to pay their final respects.

Brenda, 79, who lives on the coast to the east of London, said she had travelled to London in 1953 after the queen's coronation to see the celebrations.

"She's been our constant ever since," she said, declining to give her full name. "Today is the day. Although it's very exciting to be here, it's to pay homage to her and respect for her, for all that she's done for us."

In Scotland around 33,000 people filed past the coffin during the 24 hours it was at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, but the memorial in London is a much larger occasion.

The government has warned the queue could stretch for up to about 8km along the southern bank of the River Thames, winding past landmarks like the giant London Eye ferris wheel and a reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe theatre.

Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, speaking to people in the queue, said: "We are honouring two great British traditions, loving the queen and loving a queue."

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said some people may have to stand in line for as long as 30 hours in order to file past the coffin before the funeral on Monday.

Mourner Chris Imafidon said he was happy to endure a night of camping: "She's an icon of icons."

Glyn Norris, 63, said a bit of rain would not deter her from paying respects to a woman who had reigned for 70 years.

"We didn't even think about it," she said. "That was my queen."

Source: Reuters/rc/vc

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