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Elizabeth II’s last day at Balmoral | International

The traffic does not stop on Saturday morning on the road that leads to Balmoral Castle, in Scotland. Isabel II died there two days ago and, since then, her body rests there before being transferred to Edinburgh on Sunday morning. “This castle was her favorite residence; when he was here he not only found peace and rest, but he acted like one more person: he went to picnics, he walked… ”, explains Mary MacNaught, 70 years old. She knows this because he lives very close to Balmoral, “just a few miles away,” she says. “She loved these mountains”, the woman continues with a sweet and slow voice, “here she made plans like the ones we do, not like in London”.

She arrives at the castle gate accompanied by her husband, Bill, 85: “We can say that we were neighbors [de la reina]. He came to our town, just like other royals: except for the pandemic years, he always came to the Braemar Games [Braemar Gathering] because he liked Highland sports.” They arrive with a bouquet of flowers and while they talk, they look for the ideal place to deposit it. They hesitate between the entrance gate, guarded from the inside by police and military, or the surrounding wall. They also carry a bag of the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee, which was celebrated a decade ago – this year the Platinum was commemorated, when it was 70 years of his reign -. “[La de 2012] It was a very nice party: there were pipers, dances, food… It was a very happy moment. Now we are sad. It was going to happen one day, but we didn’t expect it to be so soon,” the woman resumes. Like the couple, throughout the day several hundred people have come to this normally quiet enclave, in the heart of the Scottish countryside.

“Yesterday [por el viernes] Some people came, but today it is massive and they do not stop coming, ”says one of those responsible for security, who has been at the castle gates since early Friday morning. In addition to working, that day the intermittent rain discouraged many from approaching. Nothing to do with the sunny day on Saturday, in which the buses, loaded with visitors, do not stop arriving at Balmoral. For security and organizational reasons, citizens who wanted to say goodbye to Elizabeth II could not access the area in their cars, which had to park in Braemar or Ballater, two small towns 12 and 14 kilometers from Balmoral, respectively. “Many of them will not be able to arrive,” the agent predicted before noon.

Louise Gospel, 40, has gotten on the bus in Ballater: “It only took us 20 minutes.” She attends with her three children: Emma (11), Phillip (8) and Harry (6). “We are sad; It was very important”, says the little boy, who is also carrying flowers, with a certain shyness: “They are from our own garden”, he recounts more resolutely, “this morning we have chosen and cut them to bring them to you”. They’re also from the area, from Aboyne. “It is very sad. Especially for us who are from here. The Queen had a bond with us”, adds the mother.

Members of the royal family before the bouquets in tribute to the queen at the entrance to Balmoral, this Saturday.
Members of the royal family before the bouquets in tribute to the queen at the entrance to Balmoral, this Saturday. Scott Heppell (AP)

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Suddenly, the Police cut the bridge that gives access to the castle gate: “Some people are going to come out. royals of the residence”, he says succinctly. Some relatives of the monarch have been watching over her at her residence and are preparing to attend a mass in the nearby Crathie Kirk. Shortly after, six black vehicles rush by: “Don’t get in the way, they don’t stop,” jokes a man from the row, who records and takes photos of the entourage made up of all of Elizabeth II’s children, except King Charles III, and some of the grandchildren: Princess Anne, with Zara Tindall; Prince Andrew, with his two daughters and Prince Edward with another of his sons. Half an hour later, they returned and, to the delight of the visitors, they got out of the cars and stood before the ever-growing wreath at the gates of Balmoral.

With a national team shirt Brazilian and a bouquet of flowers with the flag of the United Kingdom and Brazil arrives from the Campidelli family: Jefferson, 46, Solange (46) and Giovanna (14). They have lived in Aberdeen for two years. “She was a very special woman. Not only for the United Kingdom, but also for the whole world, ”says the young woman, who recognizes herself as more of a fan of William than of the current king. “People don’t like Carlos that much. Many have not forgiven him for infidelity [a Lady Di con su actual esposa, Camila]”, adds the father, lowering his voice a little. And he adds: “he is lucky: he started working at 73 years old”. That joke is the only hint of slight criticism of the monarchy. “Now nobody says anything. Not even those who declare themselves Republicans”, clarifies a British journalist who was listening to the conversation.

“We have always liked the queen”, settles Solange Campidelli: “Since we were born we have lived with her. She has been a powerful, independent, close woman… An inspiration”. She defines the moment as “very special, especially here in Scotland”. In fact, most of those who have come to see off the queen are from the area. Edinburgh is about two and a half hours from the castle, whose access road is narrow and, in some sections, winding. In fact, on Friday night the Scottish authorities issued a statement reminding people that the place “is not the safest to be after dark due to poor lighting on the roads.”

“I hope I can get there on time. I would like to say goodbye to her here”, longs for Tania, 34, from the Ballater bus stop. There is little left for her to get dark and for the body of the queen to be transferred to the capital of Scotland. On Sunday, around 10, her remains will be taken by road to Holyrood Palace. The next day, a solemn procession, with the presence of Carlos III and other members of the royal family, will leave her resting at St. Giles Cathedral, where there will be a vigil that will last until Tuesday, as confirmed by Buckingham Palace in a statement. The company of royal archers will be in charge of watching over her until Tuesday the 13th when her body travels to London, where her funeral will continue. “Those who do not arrive will be able to come later to leave flowers at Balmoral,” confirm those responsible for security in the area. The queen will no longer be there, but Balmoral will forever remain one of the monarch’s favorite hangouts; a place where Elizabeth II was happy.

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