The sombre mood of grief among crowds of mourners paying tribute to the Queen as “the grandmother of the nation” outside Buckingham Palace lifted as the “very emotional” King was welcomed with cheers.
Since news of the Queen’s death broke at 6.30pm on Thursday, thousands of people from across the country – and the globe – have visited the royal residence in central London to feel part of a moment in history.
Many were crying, praying and laying colourful flowers at the wrought iron gates on Friday morning.
Nearby florists had sold out due to rocketing demand, and charity staff were selling white flowers in Green Park for those streaming down the pathways that lead to the Palace.
Laura Huff, a US national who moved to London three-and-a-half years ago, was in tears as she paid her respects to the Queen.
“We always knew this day would come but it just seemed to happen quite quickly when it did,” she said.
“She was like a grandmother to the nation.
“As someone who wanted to move here my entire life, she was someone you always hear about and read about.
“I think she had a really strong sense of responsibility and you could really see that.”
Christine Ashley, 68, from Canberra in Australia, said she had only landed in the UK for a holiday with her husband Norman on Thursday and felt like she had “walked into history”.
Mrs Ashley, a dual British-Australian national, said: “It’s very sad, very, very sad.
“Like everyone’s been saying, she’s been part of our lives.”
Her husband, 71, who was carrying an Australian flag, said a “new era” of the British monarchy could act as a “uniting force” for the world amid the war in Ukraine.
“We’ve had a feeling of dread for the last week or two because of her deteriorating health,” he said.
“It means a lot to us because she was the Queen of Australia, there’s a Union Jack on our flag and our connection couldn’t have been any closer.”
Kwok-kit Ngan, 37, a dentist from Bromley, south-east London, said he felt “great sadness” when the Queen died but it was “heart-warming” to see people coming together in grief at the Palace.
After laying a bouquet of sunflowers, the last in a nearby supermarket, Mr Ngan said: “She’s been leading the country for the last 70 years and I think she really has led by example through the good times and the bad times.”
Asked how it felt to see so many people paying tribute, he said: “It’s quite heart-warming. Not many events would draw people together.
“I think what happened yesterday has really got people to reflect and appreciate what she’s really done for us over the past 70 years.
“I think although it’s a sad event, some good will come out of it.
“If you look at Prince Charles and Prince William over the past few years and the good they’ve done for the country.
“I think we’re in safe hands.”
Natalie Grimston, a cafe manager in her 40s who held a Platinum Jubilee party at her business earlier this year, described the atmosphere at Buckingham Palace as “surreal”.
After laying flowers with her dog Bailey, Ms Grimston said: “You can hear the noise from the Palace, but when you’re over there (laying flowers) it’s deathly silent, it’s just not real.”
Crowds swelled as thousands of people, including groups of schoolchildren and mothers pushing their babies in prams, visited, with queues to pay respects growing throughout the day.
Sisters Hannah Shomade, 32, and Lourdes Shomade, 19, from south London, came with their parents to leave flowers.
The younger sister said: “I think it’s difficult and I feel like it will be difficult to adjust to it, but we move forward, and I think she would’ve wanted us to move forward and trust her son now, King Charles III.
“He will want to do her proud and hopefully we can do him proud by sticking by him through this difficult time.”
As rain fell, many unfurled their umbrellas, but the sun shone as Charles arrived to cheers and shouts of: “God save the King.”
Many people held their phones aloft to try to catch a glimpse of the King and Queen as they greeted well-wishers and looked at the tributes left for his late mother.
Film director Raynald Leconte, 47, who is from New York, said he was lucky enough to speak to the pair.
“It was quite a moment,” he said.
“I said, ‘condolences’. He said, ‘really, really thank you very much.
“And to his wife I wished her good luck and she said, ‘thank you very much.’
“I think she said, ‘I’ll need it.'”
Mechanic Colin Hennessy, 52, said: “It’s great to see the King.
“You can see he’s very emotional but he was very grateful to everybody here.
“He thanked as many people as he could as he walked by.”
Retired Ammar Al-Baldawi, 64, from Hertfordshire, said: “It was impressive, touching, a good move to come out to the crowds.
“I think that’s where the royal family needs to communicate with the people now.
“These are true loyalists here and it’s nice to see him back in post, taking charge of the family and the Crown, which is reassuring.
“Just seeing a glimpse of him gives you the sense we were there at that moment.
“I’m sure he wants to be on his own to think about his mother but he’s doing his duty.”