William and Harry lead Queen’s eight grandchildren in emotional coffin vigil

·4-min read

The Queen’s eight grandchildren together staged a heart-rending evening vigil around their beloved granny’s coffin ahead of the final day of the lying in state.

The Prince of Wales, at the head of the coffin, with his brother the Duke of Sussex at the foot, both in the Blues and Royals No 1 uniform, stood with their heads bowed in her honour in sombre silence in the vast Westminster Hall.

Future king William was flanked at the corners by his cousins Zara Tindall and Peter Philips.

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The grandchildren walking in formation to their vigil (Aaron Chown/PA)

Harry was between Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, with 18-year-old Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn – the Queen’s youngest grandchild who is just 14 – at the middle on either side of the coffin.

Mourners filing past slowed almost to a stop to look upon the younger generation of the royal family as they stood in the spotlight, united in grief for their grandmother but maintaining their composure – just as the Queen was famed for – throughout.

The grandchildren, invited by the King, had wanted to pay their respects as their parents had done the evening before.

It is the only time Harry, who was stripped of his honorary military titles by the Queen post-Megxit, will be seen in military dress at ceremonial occasions as he mourns the Queen, having been given permission to do so by his father the King.

The Countess of Wessex looked grief-stricken as she watched her children Lady Louise and James take on the difficult role.

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Viscount Severn and Princess Eugenie during the vigil (Aaron Chown/PA)

Eugenie closed her eyes as the cousins remained stock still with their heads bowed, staring downwards.

Beatrice and Eugenie just an hour before had paid an emotional tribute addressed to the Queen, saying: “Goodbye dear Grannie, it has been the honour of our lives to have been your granddaughters.

The sisters, in a written message, thanked their grandmother for “making us laugh, for including us, for picking heather and raspberries, for marching soldiers, for our teas, for comfort, for joy”.

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The Earl and Countess of Wessex watching the vigil (Aaron Chown/PA).

The princesses said they missed the Queen terribly and thanked her for being “the loving hand on our backs leading us through this world”, adding: “We, like many, thought you’d be here forever.”

With just two days until the Queen’s state funeral, William and the King went on a walkabout on Saturday afternoon to greet mourners in the queue for the lying in state, after Charles was given a tour of the Metropolitan Police Service Special Operations Room.

Hundreds of people in line at Lambeth, south London, cheered and applauded, with William and Charles shaking scores of hands and the prince discussing how long people had waited and whether they were able to keep warm.

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The Prince of Wales meets members of the public in the queue (Aaron Chown/PA)

Several people cried after meeting William, and one woman told him: “You’ll be a brilliant king one day”, while another told Charles the Queen would be proud of him.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex also met well-wishers outside Buckingham Palace.

Edward told the crowd: “I know that my mother would really appreciate this fantastic support.”

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The King greeting people in the lying in state line (Aaron Chown/PA)

With world leaders and dignitaries from around the world arriving throughout the weekend, the King embarked on a host of diplomatic duties as head of state.

He held audiences with five prime ministers – Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Australia leader Anthony Albanese, The Bahamas’ Philip Davis, Jamaican PM Andrew Holness, and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern.

He also staged a palace lunch for governors-general from the Commonwealth realms, where he was joined by the Princess of Wales, the Prince of Wales and the Queen Consort.

Kate was seen deep in conversation with Camilla during royal engagement.

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The Queen Consort and the Princess of Wales during a lunch held for governors-general of the Commonwealth realms at the Palace (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The princess, who had her hair down, wore a long three-strand pearl necklace and pearl earrings – both of which were a gift from the late Queen.

At Westminster Abbey, final preparations are being put in place ready for the funeral on Monday.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, who will lead the ceremony, said the service would be a “wonderful mixture of great ceremony and some very profound but very ordinary words”.

“It’s on a scale that even Westminster Abbey doesn’t often do,” he said.

Hundreds of people have been involved in the preparations inside the gothic church, working through the night as they put in 19 and 20-hour shifts to stage the historic ceremony.

The Dean said: “The business about it being a state funeral is really important. It’s meant to be visual. It’s meant to be grand.

He added: “Part of this is about remembering (the Queen’s) significance, her place in history, her place in the nation and Commonwealth.

“But it’s a funeral. It’s for a grieving family. That’s really important, personal sorrow at the heart of this.”