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‘Our comfort and joy’: Grandchildren salute the Queen as world leaders fly in for state funeral

© Aaron Chown/AP/ShutterstockThe Prince of Wales leads his brother and six cousins into Westminster Hall last night to stand vigil at their grandmother’s coffin
The Prince of Wales leads his brother and six cousins into Westminster Hall last night to stand vigil at their grandmother’s coffin

The Prince of Wales, his brother Harry and the Queen’s six other grandchildren mounted a vigil around her coffin last night as the young royals paid personal tribute to the monarch.

As world leaders flew into London to join 2,000 mourners at her funeral in Westminster Abbey tomorrow, her grandchildren said the Queen had been a source of great strength and huge fun.

Before joining the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Prince Andrew’s daughters, said: “We, like many, thought you’d be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. For now, dear Grannie, all we want to say is thank you.

“Thank you for making us laugh, for including us, for picking heather and raspberries, for marching soldiers, for our teas, for comfort, for joy.”

Earlier, Prince William, along with his father King Charles, in an unannounced stop, met and thanked well-wishers queuing for up to 17 hours to pay their respects at Westminster Hall where the Queen is lying in state.

King Charles III meets members of the public in the queue along the South Bank, near to Lambeth Bridge, London (Pic: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

Hours later, all eight grandchildren entered Westminster Hall at 6pm and stood in sombre silence at each side of the coffin for 15 minutes, mirroring the vigil of their parents the night before.

The Prince of Wales, in uniform, stood at the head of the coffin, with the Duke of Sussex, who had been given special ­permission to wear his uniform despite no longer being a working royal, at the foot.

William was flanked by his cousins Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips, while Harry was at the opposite end of the coffin as Princesses Beatrice, Eugenie and Lady Louise Windsor and her brother Viscount Severn stood along the middle.

Members of the public file past as Queen Elizabeth II ‘s grandchildren hold a vigil beside the coffin (Pic: Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Mother of the Queen’s youngest ­grandchildren, the Countess of Wessex was visibly upset as she watched her children take part in the vigil from a viewing platform in Westminster Hall.

Glassy eyed, she repeatedly turned to her husband, Prince Edward, who stoically stared straight ahead as the couple’s children Lady Louise Windsor, 18, and James, Viscount Severn, 14, joined the vigil.

On Friday evening, the Queen’s ­children – King Charles, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex – took part in their own vigil with heads bowed. They performed the same ritual in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh last week.

Earlier, the King and Prince of Wales were applauded and cheered as they met people in the queue for the Queen’s lying in state.

“Hope you didn’t get frozen last night,” said King Charles to one of those waiting, while the Prince of Wales thanked those queuing and told them they were “over ­halfway” to the Palace of Westminster.

The surprise appearance of Charles and William at the queue near Lambeth, south London, was followed by an impromptu visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex to greet well-wishers at Buckingham Palace. Edward and Sophie were met with cheers from the crowd as they emerged from the palace yesterday afternoon.

The Queen’s youngest son could be heard asking mourners where they had come from and whether they were making their way to Green Park to lay flowers. He said: “I know that my mother would really appreciate this fantastic support.”

© PA
The Prince of Wales meets members of the public in the queue (Pic: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

The Queen Consort is to pay a televised tribute to the late Queen on the BBC tonight, recalling her wonderful blue eyes and ­saying: “I will always remember her smile.”

Camilla, in pre-recorded words, will speak of how Queen Elizabeth II carved out her own role for many years in the difficult position of being a solitary woman in a male-dominated world.

Camilla will say: “She’s been part of our lives for ever. I’m 75 now and I can’t remember anyone except the Queen being there. It must have been so difficult for her being a solitary woman.

“There weren’t women prime ­ministers or presidents. She was the only one, so I think she carved her own role.”

Remembering the late monarch, Camilla will add: “She’s got those wonderful blue eyes, that when she smiles they light up her whole face. I will always remember her smile. That smile is unforgettable.”

On the eve of her Platinum Jubilee in February 2022, the Queen endorsed the then-Duchess of Cornwall to be known as Queen Consort when the time came, saying it was her sincere wish.

The royal tributes come as final preparations are under way for the state funeral tomorrow. The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who will lead the ceremony, said the scale of the service was almost unprecedented, even for Westminster Abbey, the scene of so many royal milestones throughout history.

“It’s on a scale that even Westminster Abbey doesn’t often do,” he said, adding it would be a “wonderful mixture of great ceremony and some very profound but very ordinary words”.

It is understood the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, will also have a part to play in the service, although details of his involvement are being kept under wraps ahead of the funeral.

King Charles III shakes hands with Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau (Pic: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Politicians and royal dignitaries from around the world are expected to arrive in the UK throughout the weekend for the funeral. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will travel to London to represent the people of Scotland.

Prime Minister Liz Truss will meet Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Canadian premier Justin Trudeau and Polish President Andrzej Duda at Downing Street today, following yesterday’s meetings with the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand – Anthony Albanese and Jacinda Ardern – at the Government’s Chevening country residence. She was also due to meet US President Joe Biden today, but that meeting has been moved to Wednesday.

Truss will have an audience with the King today before attending his reception for visiting heads of state at Buckingham Palace. King Charles III is undertaking audiences with various dignitaries and heads of states over the weekend.

About 350,000 people are expected to file past the Queen’s coffin before the doors of Westminster close hours before the funeral begins tomorrow morning. At one point yesterday the wait was almost 17 hours. Some who have already filed past the coffin are selling their special wristbands on eBay, with asking prices reaching £350 and most selling for between £100 and £200.

People inside Westminster Hall were left shocked on Friday night when a man was arrested after moving out of the queue to approach the Queen’s coffin. Metropolitan Police said the incident occurred around 10pm, as the live-feed from inside the hall cut away for a brief period. A man has been charged with a public order offence and remains in custody.

Thousands of members of the public are also expected to travel to London to view the pageantry of tomorrow’s funeral, which will include a military procession through the capital. After the funeral, the King and members of the royal family will walk behind the Queen’s coffin to Wellington Arch when it leaves Westminster Abbey, before it is driven to Windsor on the state hearse.

Public transport operators are ­amending timetables, adding extra carriages and offering limited services through the night on some routes to cope with demand, as transport hubs stay open around the clock.

The Met Office said the weather was expected to be fine and dry in London tomorrow, with some sunny spells.

The Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex join the Queen’s six other grandchildren to stand vigil at her coffin as she lies in state in Westminster Hall last night (Pic: Aaron Chown)

Tonight, Scots have been invited to observe a moment of reflection in honour of the Queen. Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Culture Secretary Angus Robertson will lead the country in a minute of silence from St Andrew’s House at 8pm as the First Minister travels to London.

A prayer service will be held next to the Queen Elizabeth II Canal at the Kelpies near Falkirk, led by former Church of Scotland moderator The Very Rev Dr Martin Fair. The service, which begins at 7.30pm, will see 96 lanterns – one for each year of the Queen’s life – floated on the water surrounding the giant horse-head statues.

Dr Fair, who was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland between 2020 and 2021, said he joined the monarch for dinner at the Deeside royal estate in late August.

“It was an enormous privilege to have spent time with her and finding her in such good spirits, bright and sharp, was a joy,” he said. “We chatted about all manner of things, from Scottish mountains to our respective dogs, the cost-of-living crisis and her Platinum Jubilee celebrations. I asked her what her favourite bit had been and she answered, the Trooping the Colour.”

The minister of St Andrew’s Parish Church in Arbroath, Angus, then told the Queen his favourite Jubilee memory had been her now unforgettable tea party with children’s favourite Paddington Bear.

The sketch saw the Peruvian bear visit Buckingham Palace for afternoon tea, where the Queen shows him a marmalade sandwich from her handbag.

He said: “Her face lit up with the most radiant smile you could imagine, and she said, ‘it was rather fun, wasn’t it?’

“As I look back on that evening, I’m so glad that she was in such good form – smiling, laughing and enjoying the recounting of special memories.”

© Jack Dredd/Shutterstock
The Paddington Bear Statue at London Paddington Station (Pic: Jack Dredd/Shutterstock)

Dr Fair also said his conversation with the Queen left him confident she knew how the people of Scotland thought of her.

“I said to her, ‘Ma’am I hope you know just how much you’re respected and loved across Scotland.

“The Queen paused for a moment then responded, ‘perhaps you’re right, after all, one has been around for quite a while’.”

Yesterday, a Requiem Mass for the Queen was led by Archbishop William Nolan at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow.

He told the Catholic congregation: “We join countless people across the country and around the world in mourning the death of the Queen. My condolences go in particular to her family at this time. In her long reign, Queen Elizabeth was a powerful witness to Christian faith and an extraordinary example of fidelity to duty.

“We mourn not just the death of our Queen but the death of a good woman. May she rest in peace.”