Scotland bids a fitting farewell as Queen leaves for the last time

Scenes over the past few days prove the incredible affection in Scotland for Elizabeth II.

Scotland bids a fitting farewell as Queen Elizabeth II leaves for the last time STV News

When news of the Queen’s death broke, it was immediately clear there would be a sustained period of mourning.

It was also clear that finely tuned plans would be executed with military precision and protocols steeped in tradition and flummery, so definitive of events like this, would be played out before a world audience.

The Queen died at Balmoral and one of the questions I asked myself was whether the respect accorded would be as profound in all the nations of the UK?

The platinum jubilee events did not really register in Scotland. Was monarchy viewed differently, perhaps indifferently north of the border?

The last five days has made a very simple point. The affection in which Elizabeth II was held was pretty much universal throughout the constituent nations of the United Kingdom.

Huge crowds queued to view the Queen's coffin at St Giles' Cathedral.Getty Images

The crowds have been as dignified as they have been impressive. The numbers are testament to a personality who resonated even although most who mourned will not have met her.

She was such a fixture of national life for so long, so emblematic for many of what it means to be British, that ordinary people made the effort to give a little respect to a woman who had devoted her life to service.

She almost transcended her position as head of state and was viewed as a comforting and reassuring presence in times of crisis.

When the funeral cortege made its way from Balmoral to the Palace of Holyroodhouse on Sunday, I was immediately struck by the numbers who had come out to mark the occasion in Dundee.

Some applauded, quietly and respectfully. Some took pictures, mobile phones were everywhere.

It may seem a tad inappropriate, but the motivation I am sure was to capture a unique moment in history to record a final journey taken in Scotland, a country that she counted as home.

The magnificence of the Forth bridges gave a majesty to the journey as the royal party left Fife and headed to the capital.

The aerial shots moved from the grandeur of the New Town and on to the Castle at the top of the Royal Mile. As the TV pictures cut to ground-level shots, an impressive throng packed the historic Old Town, whose story was about to be rewritten by the procession that was to follow.

King Charles led the Queen's coffin in a procession up the Royal Mile.STV News

There are occasions when commentators do not have to say anything. The pictures told their story and they spoke articulately of a respected and unbreakable bond between monarch and people.

As her coffin was taken into the palace, there was something very moving in the whole silence of the event when her daughter Princess Anne curtsied as her mother’s body passed to her place of rest for the evening.

And then yesterday, the journey back up the Royal Mile as the Queen lay at rest in St Giles’ Cathedral and citizens were afforded the opportunity to pay their respects in person.

The cortege stopped in Ballater as the coffin was taken from Balmoral to Edinburgh.Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images via Getty Images

The new King followed behind the coffin. There was silence, save for the dissent of a protester. One correspondent reported that Charles III would have been able to reach out and almost touch the feelings of goodwill that came from the people who packed the Royal Mile.

The Queen attended St Giles’ for a service of thanksgiving back in 1953, just three weeks after her coronation.

In a homily in memory of Her Majesty, the moderator of the General Assembly, Dr Iain Greenshields, said: “Here she received the Scottish crown in 1953, an event vividly memorialised in the painting by the Orcadian artist Stanley Cursiter.”

He continued: “Her links with the Scottish churches were also deep and lasting. She was Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but she worshipped in the Church of Scotland here north of the border, at Canongate Kirk and especially Crathie Kirk, where she took her pew each Sunday morning.”

As this played out, the queue to see the Queen within St Giles’ snaked all the way to the Meadows as thousands prepared to make their own date with living history.

The King made his way back down High Street to address MSPs. His address marked his mother’s love of Scotland. As parliamentarians listened intently, he said: “She found in the hills of this land and in the hearts of its people, a haven and a home.”

The First Minister recalled being driven around the Balmoral estate by the Queen in a story that spoke to the unstuffyness of Elizabeth II.

The leader of the opposition, Douglas Ross, spoke to the Queen’s anchors to our history. Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar told MSPs his six-year-old son cried when he heard the news of Her Majesty’s passing., realising he would never meet her.

The co-leader of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie recalled her reign had witnessed great progressive change in society.

Network correspondents in TV pieces last night strayed into the political by wondering out loud if the scale of the appreciation for Elizabeth II might in some way recalibrate the debate over Scotland’s constitutional future. That is an issue for another day when the dust has settled on this chapter of royal history.

Tens of thousands wanted to pay their respects. As mourners filed past the coffin, some nodded their respects, others wiped away tears.

The number of people who prefaced their vox pops with the words “I am not a royalist but…” told you that this event really connected with people who expected to be sanguine and not upset.

The great and the good had delivered their pre-rehearsed words in tones that made them slightly posed and lacking soul. As always with these occasions, it is the public who got the tone which will shape the historical retrospective.

The final words from Scotland should come from STV viewers. 

Sheila Purvis met the Queen twice and made her way to the Royal Mile on Monday. She told STV: “She died in Scotland. We have all got this opportunity to be here, it is an honour and a privilege.”

Former soldier George Higgins worked a shift the night before, but didn’t let lack of sleep deprive him of a small but important part in marking a day that will help turn a page in history.

The Queen's coffin lay at rest in St Giles' Cathedral.STV News

I end with two from-the-heart comments. One woman said “it broke my heart on the telly when I saw she had died”. Her comment is evocative for its simplicity 

The last word goes to 88-year-old Pat who was outside Balmoral. She told STV News: “I’ve known her all my life. I stood on there watching them walk to Crathie. They were dressed like me – kilt and jumper. No crown.”

Pat’s observation, impressive in marking the young princess as just another girl, was sweet and very touching. 

It was a tribute from one lovely lady about another. 

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