How Queen Elizabeth II was handed over to a nation in mourning for lying in state

Instead, a King who has had nearly a week’s relentless schedule marched determinedly, looking careworn in his grief.

On Thursday, he and the Queen Consort will finally take time in private to rest and reflect.

After a whirlwind tour to Scotland and Northern Ireland, audiences with key figures in UK public life, and calls to heads of state including Joe Biden, the US president, the King – himself 73 – will take time to read the red boxes he has inherited from his mother away from the public gaze at his Highgrove home.

The Earl and Countess of Wessex will meet the public and light a candle of remembrance in Manchester.

It will be a brief pause in ceremonial duties for the Royal family, who will reassemble to walk again in unmatched public spectacle for the full state funeral on Monday, Sept 19.

On Tuesday night, they had spent their final private moments en masse with her coffin in the Bow Room of Buckingham Palace, before making way for the late Queen’s long-serving and loyal staff to tearfully pay their respects.

From there, as one royal source put it: “The coffin is passing from the family, to the state, to the nation.”

The first sign of how seriously the nation would take that task came at 1.45pm, where City Hall declared all public viewing areas for the procession full to capacity.

Crowds, surprisingly quiet, waited patiently for sounds and sights of British pomp and ceremony in full flow.

At 2.22pm, to the sound of Beethoven’s Funeral March No 1, the Queen’s coffin appeared – draped with a Royal Standard and pulled on the same gun carriage of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery which carried both her father, in 1952, and mother in 2002.

For the last time, it passed through the gates of Buckingham Palace.

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