- King Charles welcomed in Northern Ireland
- Queen’s coffin to leave Edinburgh for London
- London prepares for lying in state
BELFAST, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Crowds of well-wishers greeted King Charles with handshakes and warm words when he visited Northern Ireland on Tuesday as part of a tour of the United Kingdom to lead mourning for his mother Queen Elizabeth.
Enthusiasm for the new monarch and fond memories of the queen were evident during a visit laden with symbolism and significance given Britain’s historical record in Ireland and the more recent years of violence in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.
“For Northern Ireland, she (the queen) meant a lot here. As you know we are quite a split country unfortunately, but the queen always stood by us,” said Joey McPolin, 77, from Dramore.
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“Our friends here in Northern Ireland, we all want to live together, we really do. I think people with different religions recognize the wonderful job she did. I really hope we all go forward and support our king,” she said.
In Scotland, Queen Elizabeth’s flag-draped coffin laid to rest in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, where thousands of people filed past it to pay their final respects.
The casket will be flown to London later on Tuesday for four days of lying in state before a state funeral on Monday.
Elizabeth died on Thursday in her holiday home at Balmoral Castle, in the Scottish Highlands, at the age of 96, plunging the nation into mourning for a monarch who had reigned for 70 years and was a principal part of the fabric of British life.
Charles, 73, who automatically became king of the United Kingdom and 14 other realms including Australia, Canada and Jamaica, is traveling to the four parts of the United Kingdom before the funeral.
In Northern Ireland, thousands of people lined the streets outside Hillsborough Castle, the monarch’s official residence, to welcome him. He stepped out of his car to shake hands with well-wishers to chants of “God Save the King”.
Joy Hutchinson, 34, said she hoped Charles would keep the United Kingdom together after some have blamed Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union, among other things for loosening Britain’s ties with Northern Ireland.
Later Charles met senior politicians and faith leaders at the castle, telling them in a speech he would seek the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland. He also paid tribute to his mother.
“My mother saw Northern Ireland pass through momentous and historic changes. Through all those years, she never ceased to pray for the best of times for this place and for its people, whose stories she knew, whose sorrows our family had felt, and for whom she had a great affection and respect.
“My mother felt deeply, I know, the significance of the role she herself played in bringing together those whom history had separated, and in extending a hand to make possible the healing of long-held hurts,” he said.
A potent symbol of the union, the queen in her later years became a major force for reconciliation with her Irish nationalist foes, with her state visit to Ireland in 2011 the first by a monarch in almost a century of independence.
Charles has also spoken in the past about the murder of his great uncle Lord Mountbatten, to whom he was very close, in Ireland by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1979, saying the death had given him a profound understanding of the agonies borne by so many people in the country.
“Don’t forget, the royal family themselves have been deeply impacted by violence in Northern Ireland in terms of their own family and loss,” said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.
“I expect that he will want to see his role being part of protecting and building and strengthening the relationship between Britain and Ireland given the complexity of our past and given the polarization of political opinion, particularly in Northern Ireland,” he told BBC radio.
In the Scottish capital Edinburgh, tens of thousands of mourners turned out to observe the procession of Queen Elizabeth’s coffin along the historic Royal Mile on Monday.
After a silent vigil attended by Charles, his sister Anne and brothers Andrew and Edward at the cathedral, people queued overnight to file past the queen’s coffin.
The Scottish government said more than 26,000 people had passed through by the time it closed the queue, and it would try to make sure those still waiting would get the chance to pay their respects before the laying at rest ended.
The queen’s coffin will leave Scotland and be flown to London in the early evening and driven to Buckingham Palace. On Wednesday, it will be taken on a gun carriage as part of a grand military procession to Westminster Hall where a period of lying in state will begin until Sept. 19.
People have left flowers and messages in the grounds of royal parks in London. Members of the public will be allowed to process past the coffin for 24 hours a day until the morning of the funeral. The government is preparing for huge numbers.
A new poll showed Charles has enjoyed a surge in support since he became king compared to polls earlier this year.
The YouGov survey for the Times newspaper also showed a similar increase in backing for his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort.
Now 63% think he will be a good king, a rise of 24 percentage points since March, while 15% believe he will do a bad job, compared with 31% six months ago, the poll found.
Having waited longer than any other heir to become king, Charles carved out a role for himself speaking out on issues from climate change to architecture.
To critics, he was interfering in political issues that were not matters for the royals, a contrast to his mother who kept her personal opinions hidden throughout her reign. read more
Since becoming king, he has repeatedly said he would follow his mother’s example.
Despite the increase in Charles’ own ratings, the survey tracking long-term sentiment towards the royals showed the proportion of people who thought the monarchy was very important or quite important was at a record low. read more
(This story corrects ‘he’ to ‘she’ in paragraph 4)
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Additional reporting by Amanda Ferguson in Belfast, Writing by Kate Holton, Michael Holden, Elizabeth Piper and Angus MacSwan; Edited by Janet Lawrence
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