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After days of grief, Royal Hillsborough finally falls silent

Members of the public look at flowers and wreaths left in remembrance to Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)
Members of the public look at flowers and wreaths left in remembrance to Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

After 11 days since Royal Hillsborough became the focus of the outpouring of grief in Northern Ireland at the death of the Queen, the village finally fell silent.

Last week, thousands lined the narrow streets of the Co Down village when the new King visited, and at the weekend the number of people who came to the castle to lay floral tributes brought local roads to a standstill.

But on Monday, as the Queen was finally laid to rest, the village which is the home of the royal residence in Northern Ireland, was quieter than it had been in several days.

It seemed that some people had made the decision to stay at home and watch the funeral with their families.

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People watching the state funeral on a large screen in grounds of a church in Hillsborough (Liam McBurney/PA)

About two hundred people did gather on the huge and sloping lawn of St Malachy’s Parish Church to watch the service live on a large screen.

They stood with heads bowed in respectful silence at the end of the service as the national anthem was played and a two-minute silence was observed.

Tea and coffee was served to the small crowd. At the front, just to the side of the large screen a simple portrait of the Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh stood in a silver frame in front of a bunch of sunflowers.

The streets were deserted during the service, with every business in the town with deep royal connections seemingly making the decision to close their doors.

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Alan Fraser at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Former Linfield footballer Alan Fraser watched the funeral on the large screen and said it was a “momentous day” for the people of the village.

He said: “I remember seeing the Queen coming to the village when I was a wee lad.

“There has always been a great connection between the Queen and Hillsborough.

“It is nice that so many people have come out today to remember the Queen.

“It is a very emotional day after such a great life, but a momentous day for people here in Hillsborough.”

Joy Rodgers from Lisburn watched the funeral service with her daughter-in-law Leanne Rodgers, who is originally from New Zealand.

Joy Rodgers said: “When I was young I remember the Queen coming to Lisburn.

“I wanted to come to Hillsborough today to show my respects, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“The Queen was 96 and I suppose it was her time but it is a big challenge now for Charles.”

Leanne Rodgers said: “Growing up in New Zealand, the Queen is all I’ve ever known. We will never see her like again, in terms of longevity. It is a very sad day.”

Fittingly, there was even a corgi among the crowd. Katie Davis lives near Lisburn and had brought along her dog Bertie.

She said: “I wanted to come and see what was going on, to pay my respects and to bring Bertie to pay his respects.

“Bertie actually lives in London with my son Christy, but he is staying with me for a bit.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a huge royalist but the Queen has always been there throughout my whole life as a strong role model.”

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Hillsborough Fort Guard during a remembrance service for Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Fort in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Earlier in the day there was pageantry in the village as the Hillsborough Fort Guard took part in a remembrance service.

The guard is a ceremonial troop which was revived when the village was renamed Royal Hillsborough last year.

The warders dress in navy tunics and white breeches, apart from bugler Andrew Carlisle, who wears a scarlet tunic.

Mr Carlisle sounded the call to begin the ceremony after the guard marched to the ancient fort.

The service was addressed by Lady Downshire who said: “We know that the people of Hillsborough and Northern Ireland will continue to support the King Charles and his Queen Consort Camilla in the days ahead.”

The event concluded with a lone piper sounding and the crowd of around 200 singing God Save The King.

Queen Elizabeth II funeral
Sergeant Bugler Andrew Carlisle during a remembrance service for Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Fort (Liam McBurney/PA)

Bugler Mr Carlisle told PA: “It was very important to do this little act of remembrance for the village and for the Hillsborough Fort Guard itself.

“It meant a lot to the villagers to feel they have a special memory to mark the day with.”

Mr Carlisle also sounded the bugle when the proclamation ceremony was held at Hillsborough Castle last Sunday.

Speaking of the death of the Queen, he said: “It is one of these things you always know is going to happen, there are preparations in place for it.

“But when it does happen it is very surreal.

“The Hillsborough Fort Guard has played its part, there have been a few long nights and long days but we are very pleased to have marked the very sad occasion.”

The main focus of visitors to Hillsborough has been the gates of the castle where tens of thousands came on Sunday to lay flowers.

On Monday, the number of visitors was substantially reduced with just a small number filing past.

But the scale of the floral tributes, which has grown from a trickle in the hours after the death of the Queen to a sea of colourful flowers by the day of her funeral, seemed to be a fitting legacy to the part this small Co Down village had played in remembering the UK’s longest-serving monarch.