At 4.15pm today, a lone piper played outside St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, as eight pallbearers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland gently eased the Queen’s coffin down the steps and into the waiting hearse on West Parliament Square for her final journey to London.
Around 33,000 people filed past the Queen’s coffin, as it lay in rest in St Giles’ Cathedral since yesterday afternoon. Many queued patiently for hours into the night, in long lines on The Meadows, for an opportunity to pass by the coffin.
Crowds massed again on the Royal Mile, as they have done these past few days, in a huge outpouring of respect, grief, and affection for the late monarch as she departed the city.
In front of the cathedral, Anne, the Princess Royal, shook hands with the Minister of St Giles Cathedral and with the Dean of the Chapel Royal; and the Royal Company of Archers, the Sovereign’s Body Guard in Scotland, gave a final salute to the Queen.
Applause rippled out from the crowd as the cortege drove slowly up the Royal Mile, passing under Edinburgh Castle, down Johnston Terrace.
Crowds lined the route - Castle Terrace, Lothian Road, Queensferry Street, the Dean Bridge, and Queensferry Road - watching, applauding, and silently paying their final respects as the cortege continued on to Edinburgh Airport.
At the airport, with Princess Anne watching on, the coffin was ceremoniously lifted onto the cargo deck of a hulking C-17 Globemaster for its hour-long flight to RAF Northolt.
Her Majesty The Queen has departed Scotland for the last time and has arrived at Buckingham Palace where her coffin will lie in state ahead of Monday’s state funeral.
Her departure this evening concludes the national programme of ceremonial events in Scotland known as Operation Unicorn.
“Scotland has bid a final and poignant farewell to our much loved Elizabeth, Queen of Scots,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“Over these past few days we have seen just how much Her Majesty meant to the people of Scotland. As anticipated, people from all walks of life gathered across the country and in our capital city to pay tribute to the only Monarch most of us have ever known.
“The scenes on Sunday as Her Majesty’s cortege made the journey from Balmoral Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and then yesterday and today as thousands gathered along the Royal Mile and queued to enter St Giles to see the Queen’s Coffin, will forevermore form a very special part of the history of Scotland.
“The sympathy and good wishes of Scotland for The King and Royal Family has also been evident in these last few days, and on behalf of the Parliament and people of Scotland, I continue to offer my heartfelt condolences to all of Her Majesty’s Family.
“I also want to record my sincere thanks to, and admiration for the many public servants who have worked tirelessly in recent days and over many years to develop and, when the time sadly came, implement Operation Unicorn.
“Thousands across the emergency services, local authorities, armed forces, volunteer networks, transport and government agencies have helped ensure that Scotland paid fitting tribute to The Queen, and that Scots from all walks of life could celebrate the unparalleled contribution She made in her 70-year reign. The events of recent days have provided a sincere, solemn and fitting tribute from the people of Scotland to Her Majesty The Queen.
“Scotland has now bid our Queen of Scots a sad, but fond farewell. We will not see her like again.”
Council leader Cammy Day said the events marking the Queen’s death had “been both an incredibly challenging and hugely rewarding few days for us all”.
“The eyes of the world were upon us and our Capital city looked her beautiful best throughout. This is due in no small part to the incredible efforts of an army of volunteers, partners and council workers, who have gone far above and beyond to deliver an incredibly complex series of ceremonial events almost overnight – and all while keeping the city running. They are now doing everything they can to focus on busy areas and get everything back to normal,” he said.
“The collective farewell that Edinburgh has given to Her Majesty has been an impeccable and fitting representation of our city as its very best. We should all feel incredibly proud of our communities today.”
The Rt Hon Lord Provost and Lord Lieutenant of the City of Edinburgh Robert Aldridge, said:
“The last four days have marked a significant, historic occasion globally, and it is with immense pride that we look back on Edinburgh’s contribution. It’s thanks to the monumental efforts of all those involved that we, along with the public, were able to say a heartfelt farewell to Her Majesty, whose strong connection to the Capital and Scotland was widely known.”
“This has been the result of a very detailed and successful planning operation that has been delivered flawlessly by a community of partners and is a shining example of the power of coming together in difficult circumstances.”
“I know many will remember this for a lifetime, and we’re honoured to have played such an important role in this moment.”