EDINBURGH - Thousands of people queued throughout the night in Edinburgh to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II before her coffin was to be flown to London on Tuesday ahead of a state funeral.

Her eldest son and successor, King Charles III, meanwhile jetted to Northern Ireland to meet political and religious leaders before a church service. Charles, 73, is on a tour of all four nations of the United Kingdom to mark the start of his reign. He is due to visit Wales on Friday before the queen’s funeral on September 19.

In Edinburgh on Monday evening, Charles and his three siblings held a 10-minute vigil beside their mother’s coffin inside the 12-century Saint Giles’ cathedral as members of the public filed past. 

Four members of the monarch’s Scottish bodyguard, the Royal Company of Archers, stood with their heads bowed at each corner of the oak coffin.  It was draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland and topped with the ancient Crown of Scotland and a wreath including heather from Balmoral, the remote royal retreat where the 96-year-old queen died last Thursday.

Images of the poignant, pomp-filled scene dominated the front pages of Britain’s newspapers on Tuesday. 

“The Queen’s guard,” headlined The Times, alongside a photo of a sombre-looking Charles. Mourners queued for hours to file past the casket through the night. Waiting times were still roughly two hours at around 6:00 am, the Scottish government said.

“It’s part of history. We are pensioners... we’ll never see this again,” Lynn Templeton, visiting Edinburgh from northwest England, told AFP. Vicki, 45, took an early train from Glasgow with her nine-year-old son “just to pay our respects”. “(It’s) just a moment in history, once in a lifetime,” she said. The queen’s only daughter, Princess Anne, will accompany her mother’s body later on Tuesday afternoon on the next leg of its journey by Royal Air Force jet to an airfield near London.

The queen will first be driven to Buckingham Palace, then transferred to Westminster Hall on Wednesday, where she will lie in state for four days.