Queen leaves Buckingham Palace for last time before lying in state

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The coffin of the Queen draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown placed on top, is carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage from Buckingham Palace (Ian West/PA)
The coffin of the Queen draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown placed on top, is carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage from Buckingham Palace (Ian West/PA)

The Queen has left Buckingham Palace for the final time, with the King and the royal family walking behind her coffin in solemn procession to the lying in state.

Pulled on a gun carriage of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the coffin was draped with a Royal Standard and adorned with the priceless, glittering Imperial State Crown.

Taking the lead was the pomp and pageantry of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and military bands.

Thousands of mourners flocked to see the moving sight of the Queen departing the official residence where she spent so much of her working life at the heart of the nation, with viewing areas declared full ahead of the procession starting.

The Queen had arrived at her former home on Tuesday evening in gloom and rain but for her departure from the palace the weather was bright and warm.

The King walked in line with the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex.

Behind the quartet were the Queen’s grandsons in a line – Peter Phillips, the Duke of Sussex and the Prince of Wales – who were followed by the late monarch’s son-in-law Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s cousin, and her nephew the Earl of Snowdown.

The Queen’s coffin was transported on the George Gun Carriage, which carried King George VI’s coffin from Sandringham Church to Wolferton Station in February 1952 and was used during the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002.

The journey from the palace to the ancient Westminster Hall, where King Charles I was tried, is expected to take 38 minutes – passing landmarks the Queen knew well like Horse Guards Parade, the Cenotaph and Downing Street.

Accompanied by her family, the Queen is effectively being handed over to the the nation for her lying in state over four days ahead of the state funeral on Monday.

The bearer party who will carry the Queen’s coffin into Westminster Hall and provide an escort are soldiers who were flown back from Iraq to take part in the procession, because of their unique association with the monarch.

The Guardsmen are from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards whose Company Commander is the Queen, and although a senior officer took day-to-day control, the former sovereign’s connection with her men was strong.

The Queen’s coffin was flanked by her equerries – military men who had served the monarch by organising her diary of events and providing a helping hand when the monarch was handed a present.

Flanking them were the Grenadier Guardsmen who have their special tie with the late monarch.

In bright summer sunshine, funeral marches played by military bands added to the solemn mood that left some mourners weeping, while others held up their camera phones to record the historic moment.

The King looked expressionless as he stared straight ahead with his siblings to his left, who also showed no emotion.

Harry and William had walked behind the coffin of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales during her funeral in 1997 and Harry later said “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that”.

But now a father-of-two it was a fitting public gesture for his grandmother the late Queen.

The Queen Consort and Princess of Wales did not join the procession but left for Westminster Palace by car, followed by another vehicle carrying the Duchess of Sussex and Countess of Wessex.

The royals moved in time to the imposing funeral marches, in step with one another and the troops.

William stared straight ahead as he processed directly behind his father the King, in keeping with his place as the new heir to the throne.

Charles, in his Field Marshal uniform, held on to the end of his Field Marshal Baton, which was presented to him by his mother when he became Field Marshal in 2012.

At Horse Guards Parade, crowds of mourners, many in tears, applauded as the Queen’s coffin and procession entered the vast ceremonial parade ground, with the bells of Big Ben continuing to sound every minute.