Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrives at Buckingham Palace

Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin returned to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday evening, driving through drizzly London as crowds lined the road to catch a glimpse of the hearse and bid it a final farewell.

People parked their cars along a normally busy road, got out and waved to the hearse, with lights inside illuminating the flag-draped coffin, to drive to London. In the city, people crowded the road and held up their phones as they passed.

Thousands of people outside the palace cheered, shouted “God save the Queen!” and cheered as the hearse circled around a roundabout outside the Queen’s official residence in London and through the wrought iron gates. Her son, King Charles III, and other immediate family members waited inside.

The coffin traveled to London from Edinburgh, where 33,000 people passed silently past it within 24 hours at St Giles Cathedral after it was brought there from its beloved summer retreat, Balmoral. The Queen – the only monarch many in the UK have ever known – died there on September 8 aged 96 after 70 years on the throne.

The military C-17 Globemaster carrying the coffin landed at RAF Northolt, an air base west of London, about an hour after departing Edinburgh. British Prime Minister Liz Truss, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and a military honor guard were among those at the base for the arrival.

The one who stood in the rain waiting for the hearse to pass, retired bus driver David Stringer, 82, recalled watching the Queen’s coronation on a newsreel when he was a boy .

“It’s a great shame,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t think about her every day, but I always knew she was there, and my life is coming to an end now and her time is up.”

The coffin will be taken by horse-drawn carriage to the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday to lay in state for four days before Monday’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.

“Scotland has now bid our Queen of Scots a sad but loving farewell,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. “We won’t see her like this again.”

Charles had returned to London from Northern Ireland, where his visit sparked a rare moment of unity among politicians in a region with contested British and Irish identities and deeply divided over the monarchy.

The new king is on his own journey this week, visiting all four nations of the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Hundreds of people gathered around Hillsborough Castle near Belfast, the official residence of the Royal Family in Northern Ireland, in the latest outpouring of affection following the Queen’s death. The area in front of the castle gates was lined with hundreds of floral tributes.

Charles and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, got out of their car to wave to the crowds and occasionally used both hands to reach out to villagers, including school children in bright blue uniforms. Charles even petted a corgi – his late mother’s favorite breed of dog – being held by someone, and some chanted “God save the king!”

“Today means so much to me and my family, just to be in my home village with my children to witness the arrival of the new King is a truly historic moment for all of us,” said Robin Campbell, Hillsborough resident.

While there was a warm welcome in Hillsborough, the British monarchy evokes mixed emotions in Northern Ireland, where there are two main communities: predominantly Protestant Unionists who consider themselves British and largely Roman Catholic nationalists who see themselves as Irish.

This split fueled three decades of violence known as the “Troubles” involving paramilitary groups on both sides and British security forces, in which 3,600 people died. The Royal Family have been personally affected by the violence: Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin and Charles’s much-loved mentor, was killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb in 1979.

A deep sectarian divide remains, a quarter of a century after the 1998 peace accord in Northern Ireland.

For some Irish nationalists, the monarch represents an oppressive foreign power. But others recognize the queen’s role in establishing peace. During a visit to Northern Ireland in 2012, she shook hands with Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander – a once unthinkable moment of reconciliation. On Tuesday, the new king shook hands with Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill.

In a sign of how far Northern Ireland has come on the road to peace, Sinn Fein representatives attended memorial events for the Queen on Tuesday and met the King.

Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein politician who is Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said the Queen had “demonstrated how individual acts of positive leadership can help break down barriers and encourage reconciliation”.

Charles replied that she had tried to play a part “in bringing together those whom history had separated and in reaching out to make possible the healing of long-standing wounds”.

He said he would be inspired by his mother’s “shining example” and “seek out the welfare of all people in Northern Ireland”.

Yet not everyone welcomed the new king.

On Falls Road in Belfast, a nationalist stronghold, several walls are decorated with murals of Bobby Sands, an IRA member who died during a prison hunger strike in 1981, and others killed in the Troubles.

“No, he is not our king. Bobby Sands was our king here,” said 52-year-old Bobby Jones. “Queen has never done anything for us. Never done. No member of the royal family does.

Irish leaders attended a service of reflection at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast despite strained relations between Dublin and London over Brexit. Since Britain left the European Union in 2020, the UK and EU have been squabbling over trade rules for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that shares a border with a member of the block.

Before being flown to London, the Queen’s oak coffin was carried from St. Giles Cathedral to the sound of bagpipes. Crowds lining the Royal Mile through the historic heart of Edinburgh cheered as the coffin, accompanied by the Queen’s daughter Princess Anne, was driven to Edinburgh Airport.

“I was blessed to share the last 24 hours of my dearest mother’s life,” Princess Anne said in a statement. “It has been an honor and a privilege to accompany him on his final journeys. Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these journeys has been both humbling and uplifting.

—Jill Lawless and Mike Corder, Associated Press

Royal familyUnited Kingdom

Christy J. Olson