Pipes and flowers from Balmoral as Elizabeth II leaves beloved castle for the last time

It was the quietest departure on the stillest of Deeside mornings as the Queen slipped out of Balmoral for the last time.

Silence held as the Queen’s hearse emerged from the castle gates, the flow of the River Dee the only sound in the air, her final and extraordinary journey through Scotland now underway.

A wreath composed of flowers and firs collected from estate grounds by staff over the weekend travelled with her, a piece of the place the late Queen loved best – and a token of nature’s sweet finery that she so adored.

The cortege emerged shortly after 10am, as expected, after family and staff gathered outside the castle to bid farewell. The Queen’s Piper played Balmoral and then Glen Gelder, a tune written in tribute to a special place that sits to the north of Lochnagar.

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As the last notes rode the air, six gamekeepers lifted the coffin into the Mercedes, the workers, no doubt held in the highest regard by the late Queen, fittingly helping her on her last trip out through her beloved countryside.

Under the Royal Standard of Scotland she went, her daughter Princes Royal and husband Commander Tim Laurence following in the second car for the six-hour journey to the Throne Room of Palace of Holyrood House.

Also among the cortege was Reverend Kenneth MacKenzie, minister at Crathie Kirk, who led prayers for the Royal Family on Saturday, and Earl of Dalhousie, Royal Steward and Chief of Clan Ramsay, whose home at Brechin Castle was a scheduled stopping place for the cortege.

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The hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped with the Royal Standard of Scotland, leaving Balmoral as it begins its journey to Edinburgh. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

As members of remaining members of Royal Family, including Prince Andrew and his daughters, left Deeside for Edinburgh by helicopter, the cortege slowed to walking pace in Ballater, a place deeply rooted in royal connection.

Henry Irvine-Fortescue, deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire, said the sight of the cortege heading into the village was an “extremely moving moment”.

He said: “The crowd fell silent in the most reverential way as the hearse passed by. There was no clapping, just a stillness which showed a reverence and love for The Queen.

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"I think there has been a real sense of loss and grief here following her death.”

At 12.30pm, the Proclamation of Charles III as King was read on the steps of Glenmuick Church in the village by Jim Savage, chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council and clerk to the three Lord Lieutenants of the historic counties of Aberdeenshire.

“God Save The King” was repeated back by the gathered crowd in another historic moment of many witnessed over the past few days.

Alexander Mason, Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire, said: “This is a momentous day, one of the most historic moments we will witness.

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"We are all so sad at the loss of her majesty but we do also feel if there is one small thing to be grateful for it is that the Queen loved the North East of Scotland and Deeside and that she spent her final days at Balmoral.”

After Ballater, it was onwards to Aboyne, Peterculter and Aberdeen, where thousands of people lined the streets in wait for the cortege as history unfolded before them.