In the soaring space of Westminster Hall, where Guy Fawkes once stood trial and Henry VIII held his fabled Coronation banquet in 1509, King Charles III blinked back the tears as tributes were paid to the Queen.
More than 900 parliamentarians dressed all in black watched the ceremony unfold – the sombre atmosphere crackling with the sense of history, framed by the majesty of the 1,000 year old stage.
You can spend a lifetime waiting for a moment, but this was proof that, when the time comes, for all the planning and preparation, you can still the humbled by the enormity of the task and the moment.
“As I stand before you today, I cannot help but feel the weight of history which surrounds us and which reminds us of the vital parliamentary traditions to which members of both Houses dedicate yourselves with such personal commitment, for the betterment of us all,” said the King.
“I am deeply grateful for addresses of condolence, which so touchingly encompass what late sovereign beloved mother meant to us all.
“Parliament is the living and breathing instrument of our democracy. That your traditions are ancient we see in the construction of this great Hall and the reminders of Mediaeval predecessors of the Office to which I have been called.
“And the tangible connections to my darling late mother we see all around us – from the fountain in New Palace Yard which commemorates the late Queen’s Silver Jubilee to the sundial in Old Palace Yard for the Golden Jubilee, the magnificent stained glass window before me for the Diamond Jubilee and, so poignantly and yet to be formally unveiled, your most generous gift to Her late Majesty to mark the unprecedented Platinum Jubilee which we celebrated only three months ago, with such joyful hearts.
“The great bell of Big Ben – one of the most powerful symbols of our nation throughout the world and housed within the Elizabeth Tower also named for my mother’s Diamond Jubilee – will mark the passage of The late Queen’s progress from Buckingham Palace to this Parliament on Wednesday.
“She set an example of selfless duty which, with God’s help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow.”
King Charles quoted Shakespeare as he paid tribute to his beloved mother, adding: “As Shakespeare said of the earlier Queen Elizabeth, she was a pattern to all princes living.”
Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle welcomed the King and Camilla, the Queen Consort, to Parliament’s most sacred space, telling them: “Deep as our grief is, we know yours is deeper.”
He was joined by Lord McFall of Alcluith, the Lord Speaker, who praised the Queen’s “reign of deep and unparcelled devotion” and remembered her “commitment, kindness, humour and courage, as well as the deep faith that was the anchor in her life.”
The King left Westminster for RAF Northolt in north London to take the Royal flight to Edinburgh, as the focus of national mourning switches to the Scottish capital.
This afternoon he will lead mourners in a procession from Palace of Holyroodhouse down the Royal Mile to the St Giles’ Cathedral.
Following a short service there, the Queen will lie in rest for 24 hours before beginning the next phase of final journey, the long goodbye, to London.
Images courtesy of BBC News via iPlayer, with thanks