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Queen Elizabeth II begins solemn final journey

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II embarks on her final journey on Sunday with thousands of her mourning subjects expected to line her coffin’s route from the Scottish retreat where she died.

The solemn departure of the queen’s oak casket from Balmoral Castle for Edinburgh marks the start of an odyssey of national mourning culminating in her state funeral in London on September 19.

Her journey begins a day after her son Charles III was formally proclaimed king, and after her warring grandsons William and Harry, and their wives Kate and Meghan, briefly reunited for a walkabout.

A hearse carrying the coffin of Britain’s longest-serving monarch will make a six-hour journey through Scottish towns before arriving in Edinburgh, where it will rest for two days so people can pay tribute.

The king himself will then travel to Edinburgh on Monday for a prayer service, before the body of the queen, who died at Balmoral on Thursday aged 96, is flown to the capital on Tuesday.

She will then lie in state for four days in an event expected to draw at least a million people, ahead of a funeral set to be watched worldwide and draw numerous heads of state.

“We are living in history right now,” said Laura Burns, 49, who was planning to try to see the queen’s coffin passing in Edinburgh after coming to the city because her son is starting at university.

“It’s a very respectful atmosphere,” she told AFP.

– Show of unity –

While Charles’ accession has pushed Britain into what newspapers have called the new “Carolean” era, Britain and the royal family are still coming to terms with the end of the Elizabethan age.

Prince William broke his silence with an emotional tribute to his beloved “Grannie” on Saturday.

“She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life,” said William, who has now become the Prince of Wales.

But the queen’s death also brought a surprise show of unity from William, 40, and his younger brother Harry, 37, when they emerged with their wives to speak to well-wishers outside Windsor Castle, near London.

The sight of the two couples who have barely seen each other since 2020, together — even if they separated to speak and shake hands with different sides of the cheering crowds — will likely spark rumours of a reconciliation.

The picture of the four royals was splashed across the front of The Sun newspaper on Sunday with the headline “All 4 One”.

Senior royals including the queen’s children, Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward and their families also inspected flowers outside Balmoral, where they have remained since the queen’s death.

The queen’s coffin, draped with a Scottish Royal Standard and floral wreath, has been kept in Balmoral’s ballroom and will be carried to her hearse by six estate gamekeepers.

– ‘Many, many people’ –

The symbolism of the queen’s last journey will be heavy for a nation that has strong royal connections — but where there is a…

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