King Charles in Belfast, Queen’s coffin back in London


King Charles flew to Northern Ireland on Tuesday on the final leg of his tour of the nations that make up the UK, as thousands lined up overnight to pay their last respects at the coffin of his mother in Edinburgh.

On Monday evening, Charles and his siblings, Anne, Andrew and Edward, with bowed heads, briefly stood vigil around their mother’s flag-draped coffin in St. Giles Cathedral as members of the public filed past.

Early Tuesday, a man in a suit adorned with medals stood silent, lowered his head and moved on. A woman wiped her tears with a handkerchief. Another woman with two young children in school uniform walked slowly past the coffin.

Some people even walked past the coffin and joined the end of the line to get a second view.

Scotland, where the Queen died at her beloved Balmoral estate in the Highlands after a 70-year reign, was almost universal in her praise for the Queen.

In line with mourners outside St. Giles Cathedral in the historic heart of Edinburgh, Sheila McLeay called the Queen a “wonderful ambassador for our country”.

“She was such an example to all of us. She was dignified. She was righteous, she was beautiful inside and out. And I’ve known her all my life. , she added.

The British monarchy attracts more mixed emotions in Northern Ireland, where there are two main communities: mainly Protestant Unionists who consider themselves British, and largely Roman Catholic nationalists who consider themselves Irish.

This split fueled three decades of violence known as the “Troubles” involving paramilitary groups on both sides and British security forces, in which 3,600 people died. The Royal Family have been personally affected by the violence: Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin and Charles’s much-loved mentor, was killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb in 1979.

A deep sectarian divide remains, a quarter of a century after the 1998 peace accord in Northern Ireland.

But in a sign of how far Northern Ireland has come on the road to peace, representatives of Sinn Fein – Ireland’s main nationalist party, linked during the Troubles to the IRA – attend memorial events for the Queen and meet the King Tuesday.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald paid tribute to the 96-year-old monarch after her death last Thursday, calling her a “powerful advocate and ally of those who believe in peace and reconciliation”.

The president and prime minister of the neighboring Republic of Ireland are also due to attend the memorial service in Belfast, despite strained relations between Dublin and London over Brexit. Since Britain left the European Union in 2020, the UK and EU have been squabbling over trade rules for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that shares a border with a member of the block.

After resting in the cathedral for most of Tuesday, the Queen’s coffin will be flown back to London and taken to her official London home, Buckingham Palace.

In the early hours of Tuesday, dozens of workers were seen clearing rubbish and weeds from the road between the airbase where the plane carrying the Queen’s coffin will land and central London.

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Lawless and Corder reported from London.

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Follow AP’s stories on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the British Royal Family at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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