20220911 queen elizabeth
The hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, passing along the Royal Mile. Image Credit: Reuters

Edinburgh: The first sign that the cortege was arriving was a ripple of gentle applause moving along the crowds that lined Edinburgh's streets ten-deep.

After hours of waiting, they could see the hearse carrying Queen Elizabeth II's coffin, covered with the Scottish royal standard and a wreath of white heather, dahlias and sweet peas, from the gardens of the Balmoral estate.

Some raised mobile phones in the air to film the seven-car procession passing, while others simply absorbed being part of a moment in history.

"Seeing her passing is a way of accepting the fact that it's the end of an era," said Rob Parsons, 28, who came from the English city of York with his girlfriend.

"It's a real sense of connection to history. I thought it was important as two younger people that we saw her to say goodbye."

Then finally a complete hush fell over the crowd as the coffin made its way to the Holyroodhouse Palace, the monarch's official residence in Scotland where the queen's body will rest overnight.

"She was constantly in our lives, our currency, our stamps, everywhere, she was a member of the family that we never met," said Parsons' partner Lucy Hampshire.

Viktoriia Saienko, 29, was one of a group of Ukrainian refugees who had set up camp close to the palace.

"We wanted to say thank you very much to Britain, to the queen and all her family," she said, carrying a bouquet of roses decorated with yellow and blue ribbons in the colour of the Ukrainian flag.

Some had been there since the morning, like Lindsay Lewis, a 51-year-old public health service employee, seated in a green folding camping chair.

Coming from the north of England with her husband, she decided she wanted to "get a good place".

"It's very quiet. Just a solemn feeling."

'Queen of everyone'

A perfect silence had also greeted the late queen at the start of her journey from her beloved Balmoral Castle estate.

Fittingly, the first to see the coffin were the villagers of nearby Ballater, where Elizabeth spent many happy times during her summer retreats from the burden of monarchy.

Some threw flowers as the coffin wound its way through the sun-bathed countryside. A few wiped tears from their eyes.

Members of the public, some wearing traditional Scottish dress, mixed with local dignitaries, members of the armed forces and church representatives on the streets of the quaint village, falling silent as the coffin passed by.

"She really sacrificed a lot for... the country and that earns a lot of respect," said Judith Brown, who made the trip to Ballater from England to pay her respects.

Farmers on the route positioned their tractors to form a guard of honour as the cortege drove by, while riders on horseback lined up in Peterculter, a suburb of Aberdeen, to pay respect.

Shortly after the news of the queen's death, there were just a few mourners paying their respects at Balmoral - by the weekend, there were crowds.

The hundreds of bouquets, which included roses, lilies, Scottish thistles and sunflowers, were interspersed with cards and gifts.

"Thank you for being you," read one card left in the sea of flowers.

Another, bearing a poem by Scotland's national poet Robert Burns, said: "My heart's in the highlands."

Near the iron railings sat a stuffed Paddington Bear, the much-loved British children's book character, who shared a cup of tea with the queen as part of televised celebrations for her Platinum Jubilee in June.

Marina Hermant, a French tourist, had been on the Isle of Skye off Scotland's west coast when she heard the news of Elizabeth's death and rearranged her plans.

"She's not necessarily our queen, but she's kind of the queen of everyone in the whole world," she said.