Queen's hearse

Homecoming Queen: Thousands line the streets despite heavy rain and leaden skies

When you think of Britain, you think of the Queen and the rain.

So perhaps it was fitting that under gloomy leaden skies she returned, her final journey reaching its destination, as the focus of national mourning turned inexorably from Scotland to London.

Maybe it is long to rain, not reign, over us.

Huddled under umbrellas, the capital turned out in force to welcome the Queen ‘home’. She may have been happier in Balmoral or Windsor or Sandringham but her life of service was forever tethered to this city and its people.

Celebrations, carousing, marriages, births and deaths, she had seen it all on these storied streets, now lined deep with those who came to pay their respects.

The Queen’s coffin, accompanied by her only daughter Princess Anne, left Edinburgh after a stirring and emotional 24 hours in the Scottish capital that gave a glimpse of what we will see here in the days ahead.

“I was fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest mother’s life,” said the Princess Royal.

“It has been an honour and privilege to accompany her on her final journeys. Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these journeys has been both humbling and uplifting.

“We will all share unique memories. I offer my thanks to each and every one who shares our sense of loss.

“We may have been reminded how much of her presence and contribution to our national identity we took for granted.”

The Queen’s Colour Squadron provided the ceremonial guard as the plane touched down at RAF Northolt, dignitaries, including the prime minister Liz Truss and defence secretary Ben Wallace, watching the slate grey aircraft descend from skies that matched.

The 15-mile journey from London’s outskirts to the heart of the capital saw thousands line the route for the most fleeting glance on the dreariest of evenings.

The A40 – one of London’s arterial roads – is very often reduced to a standstill each evening, but this time there were no horns of frustration.

Instead people got out their cars to stand in remembrance, while hundreds hung over bridges, spontaneous applause and cheers rippling along the journey as the royal claret state hearse passed sedately by.

Three motorcycle outriders forged the path, as hundreds of police manned the route, the start of the biggest security operation this city has ever known.

In the gathering gloom, the Queen’s coffin was illuminated by spotlights and the flash, flash, flash of the omnipresent camera phones, a very 21st century candlelit vigil.

Once in central London, the cortege travelled down Eastbourne Terrace, Lancaster Gate and Bayswater Road before rounding the iconic Marble Arch and progressing down Park Lane.

As the rain got heavier, so did the crowds. By the time her coffin travelled down Constitution Hill, which runs adjacent to the Buckingham Palace gardens she so loved, there was barely enough room to move, like a rush hour tube on the Elizabeth Line.

The cheers grew louder as the hearse passed the Centre Gate Centre Arch of Buckingham Palace, her coffin received by the The Queen’s Company of The Grenadier Guards, the traditional pallbearers for all deceased monarchs, with every soldier over the height of six feet.

There were calls for ‘three cheers’ as the hearse weaved around the guard of honour and arrived at the state entrance, where members of the royal family were waiting out of the view of television cameras.

The Queen will now spend one last night at ‘Buck House’, resting overnight in the Bow Room before Wednesday’s procession to Westminster Hall for four days of lying-in-state.

She’s home … in the heart of her nation.

Featured photo: Tyrell Willock

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