King Charles and sons will follow the coffin for the Queen’s final journey

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LONDON — King Charles, his sons Princes William and Harry and other senior members of the royal family will join a solemn procession when Queen Elizabeth’s coffin is carried out of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to lie in state in Parliament.

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Following the Queen’s death last week at her summer home at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, her coffin was taken to Edinburgh for a series of moving ceremonies and flown to London late on Tuesday.

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Tens of thousands of people lined the 14-mile (22 km) route in pouring rain and cars stopped on normally busy roads to see the well-lit hearse move slowly through the darkness to Buckingham Palace, prompting cheers and cheers.

At the palace, the flag-draped coffin was met by Charles and all the Queen’s children, grandchildren and their spouses, who had gathered together for the first time since the matriarch’s death.

“It was an honor and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys,” said Elizabeth’s daughter Ann, 72, who flew from Scotland with the coffin. “Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these trips was both humbling and uplifting.”

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The Queen’s death at the age of 96 plunged the nation into mourning for a monarch who had ruled for 70 years.

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People began lining the streets late Tuesday to be among the first to walk past the casket when the official solemn celebration begins later Wednesday.

Among those gathered, some were there to represent elderly parents, others to witness history and many to thank a woman who, after ascending to the throne in 1952, still held official government meetings only two days before he died.

“She really kept her oath to do her best for this country,” said Veronica Lewis, 52, from Worthing, southern England.

On Wednesday, the Imperial State Crown will be placed on top of the coffin, along with a wreath, at Buckingham Palace.

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From there it will travel at 14:22 on a Royal Horse Artillery carriage through central London to Westminster Hall, a medieval building dating from 1097 that is the oldest in the Parliamentary Estate.

Charles will walk in silence behind the carriage with other senior royals, including his siblings Anne, Andrew and Edward.

The procession will also be attended by his sons William, 40, now Prince of Wales, and Harry, 37, Duke of Sussex, whose once close relationship has deteriorated in recent years to the point where they are said to be barely on speaking terms.

However, they appeared alongside their wives as they met well-wishers outside Windsor Castle on Saturday in a show of unity that hinted at a possible rapprochement.

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Kate, William’s wife and now Princess of Wales, and Harry’s wife, Meghan, will travel by car, as will Charles’ wife Camilla, now Queen Consort.

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With much of central London closed to traffic, large crowds are gathering along the route to watch Wednesday’s procession, which will be accompanied by gunfire every minute in Hyde Park as Parliament’s Big Ben tolls .

When the cortege reaches Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster, the coffin will be carried inside by soldiers from the Grenadier Guards and placed on a hearse. There will be a short service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Church of England.

They will then begin a four-day stint in prison until the funeral on September 19.

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A senior palace official described Wednesday’s event as relatively small and private. The grand ceremonial procession on September 19, the day of her burial, is likely to be one of the largest the country has ever witnessed.

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With around 750,000 mourners expected to walk past the coffin during its period of celebration, people queued and slept on the streets in the rain to pay their last respects.

Brenda, 79, who lives on the east coast of London, said she traveled to London in 1953 after the Queen’s coronation to see the celebrations.

“It has been our permanent country ever since,” she said, declining to give her full name. “Today is the day. While it’s very exciting to be here, it’s about paying tribute and respect to her, for everything she’s done for us.”

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In Scotland, around 33,000 people filed past the coffin in the 24 hours it was in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, but the memorial in London is a much bigger event.

The government has warned that the queue could stretch for almost 5 miles along the south bank of the River Thames, winding past landmarks such as the giant London Eye and the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

“You will have to stand for many hours, possibly all night, with very little opportunity to sit down as the queue will be constantly moving,” the government said.

Culture Minister Michelle Donelan said some people may have to queue for up to 30 hours to pass the casket before the funeral on Monday.

“She’s an icon of icons,” said a grieving Chris Imafidon. “I should at least endure this camping out of respect.”

Glyn Norris, 63, said a little rain wouldn’t stop her from paying tribute to a woman who reigned for 70 years.

“We didn’t even think about it,” she said. “That was my queen.”

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