Edinburgh crowd quiets to witness Queen’s coffin and King Charles

Applause follows as cortege passes by en route to service of thanksgiving in Scottish capital

Guns were fired from Edinburgh Castle as King Charles accompanied the Queen’s hearse along the Royal Mile and the crowd of thousands crammed on to the narrow pavements fell hushed.

It was the first opportunity for the public to see the new king and the Queen’s coffin together on the second stage of the Queen’s journey towards her funeral in London next Monday.

Charles walked behind the cortege as it proceeded from Holyroodhouse to St Giles’ Cathedral for a service of prayer and reflection on the Queen’s life. Alongside him were the Earl of Wessex, the Princess Royal, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence and the Duke of York. Unlike his siblings, Prince Andrew was not wearing military uniform, because he is a non-working royal after the scandal of his involvement with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender.

Camilla, the Queen Consort, wearing a thistle brooch given to her by the Queen, and other members of the royal family including the Countess of Wessex, who had grown close to the Queen, followed in cars.

The high windows of buildings overlooking the historic thoroughfare were filled with onlookers. As the hearse went by, the chatter of the crowd quietened to a hum and phones were held aloft to capture the moment, and applause followed once the cortege passed.

One man in the 12-deep crowds was detained after he allegedly shouted abuse at Prince Andrew. He was bundled to the ground by other onlookers, some of whom began chanting “God save the King” to drown out his shouts, before he was taken away by police.

Charles and Camilla had earlier flown to Edinburgh from London after attending Westminster Hall, where both houses of parliament met to express their condolences and Charles told them he was resolved to follow his mother’s “example of selfless duty”.

Arriving at Holyroodhouse, he inspected the guard of honour and took part in the ceremony of the keys, a tradition when the monarch arrives at Holyrood.

From dawn, tens of thousands of people from across the UK and abroad had begun crowding into Edinburgh’s ancient city centre to witness the latest phase of the royal transition. The crowds – which security contractors and police at times struggled to marshal – were a foretaste of what is to come in London, when far larger numbers are expected to fill the streets daily as the Queen lies in state at Westminster Hall.

“I have got huge respect for the Queen, but also for Charles,” said Pete Binder, 60, who had travelled from Scotland’s north coast to be one of the first paying respects to the Queen at St Giles’ Cathedral on Tuesday evening. “I think he is going to be a brilliant king. I think he connects with people.”

Wiping away tears after the coffin passed, Jane Anderson, a radiology manager from Fife, said: “It was very poignant. Seeing it like this brings it into your own community. It must be so difficult for her children because they are still on duty yet that’s their mum. They have no privacy. The Queen lived her life like that.”

Charles and other royals joined scores of members of the public from across Scotland at the service of thanksgiving in St Giles’, known as the high kirk of Edinburgh and originally founded in 1124. Political leaders at the service included the prime minister, Liz Truss, the former prime minister Gordon Brown, and Alec Salmond, the former first minister.

Scotland’s current first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, read the first Bible lesson with verses from Ecclesiastes that began: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, a time to be born, and a time to die.” The national anthem, God Save the King, was sung loudly and the service ended with a Bach fugue in C minor.

His Majesty and other members of the royal family were due to return to the cathedral on Tuesday evening to take part in a vigil beside the Queen’s coffin.

The King was due to have audiences with Sturgeon and the Scottish parliament’s presiding officer, Alison Johnstone. In a statement, Sturgeon described the Queen as “the anchor of our nation” and pledged support to Charles “as he continues his own life of service and builds on the extraordinary legacy of his beloved mother Queen Elizabeth – the Queen of Scots.”

King Charles is the first British monarch to accede to the throne in Scotland since James VI of Scotland became James I when Elizabeth I died. It may help him bind the union, some suggest, and many people in Edinburgh voiced gratitude that Scottish people had been such a central part of the ceremonials, which would not have happened had the Queen died in England.

But antipathy to the monarchy is higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK, polling timed to the Queen’s jubilee in March showed. While across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales 58% still want to keep the monarchy, the number falls to 45% in Scotland, British Future found.

The effect of Charles’s accession on Scottish independence is an open question. The crown was unified in 1603 under James I and the parliaments did not join until 1707, and some pro-independence leaders, including Sturgeon, want an independent Scotland to retain the monarch as head of state.

Chris McEleny, the general secretary of the pro-independence Alba party, has described that as “an absurdity”. Salmond, who now leads the Alba party, has said the effect of Charles’s accession will be only “on the margins”. But Adam Tomkins, a professor of constitutional law at Glasgow University, sees it as “quite a dangerous moment”.

“Nobody is going to vote yes [for independence] rather than no because a 96-year-old woman has died, but identity politics is about sentiment,” he said. “The Queen was held in much greater affection than any of her children. There are quite a few people who are thinking this isn’t the end of a life but the end of an age.”

Tomkins said: “[The royals] are seen as [representative] of a certain part of Scotland – rural, farming and aristocratic – which exists in Aberdeenshire, Perthshire, the Borders and Dumfrieshire, and nowhere else. The vast majority of the urban population see this as historic and rarefied and not part of the modern Scotland.”

Malcolm Fraser, the convener of Common Weal, a pro-independence thinktank, described the transition as a “sideshow”. The question of who is the head of state was a matter of personal taste, he said, but “there are more democratic emergencies affecting Britain. We are more concerned about the parallel coronation of Liz Truss by a small elite.”


Robert Booth, Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
King Charles to lead siblings in vigil over Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall
Poignant ceremony on Friday will come amid busy time for new king with meetings with heads of state and military chiefs

Caroline Davies

15, Sep, 2022 @4:06 PM

Article image
King Charles vows to continue Queen’s ‘inspiring example’ in Holyrood speech
During a motion of condolence, Nicola Sturgeon said the Queen’s death was a moment of ‘profound sorrow’ for many Scots

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

12, Sep, 2022 @7:08 PM

Article image
The royal clan: who’s who, what do they do and how much money do they get?
The Guardian has calculated what each working royal has received during their working life carrying out official functions

Cost of the crown team

07, Apr, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
Royal residences: how many, how big and who lives where?
The Guardian details 18 key castles, estates and ‘cottages’ used by King Charles and other royal family members

Felicity Lawrence, Rob Evans, Severin Carrell and David Pegg

03, May, 2023 @12:11 PM

Article image
Proclamations of the King read in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast
Crowds gather for formal declarations to the devolved nations that Charles III has acceded to the throne

Rajeev Syal

11, Sep, 2022 @4:51 PM

Article image
‘It means so much’: royals view tributes to Queen in Glasgow and Manchester
Prince Edward and Sophie chat to crowds in Manchester, as Princess Anne views condolence book in Glasgow

Mark Brown and Libby Brooks

15, Sep, 2022 @2:29 PM

Article image
Applause, affection and dissent: Edinburgh greets Queen’s cortege and proclamation of new king
Thousands turn out to pay respects to late monarch, while a minority of republicans make themselves heard

Mark Brown in Edinburgh

11, Sep, 2022 @6:19 PM

Article image
‘Scotland needed this’: Queen’s coffin stirs emotion in Edinburgh
Tens of thousands of people – royalists and ‘soft republicans’ alike – visit Royal Mile to pay respects to late monarch

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

13, Sep, 2022 @8:56 AM

Article image
Who’ll keep the royal soap opera high in the ratings? Not Andrew or Edward, for sure | Stephen Bates
Charles, Camilla and the Cambridges have their work cut out, says author and former Guardian royal correspondent Stephen Bates

Stephen Bates

09, Sep, 2022 @2:34 PM

Article image
Queen Elizabeth II obituary
Monarch who through her seven decades of public service became a figure of fascination by remaining steadfastly private

Stephen Bates

08, Sep, 2022 @7:25 PM