Balmoral sheds a tear for the death of the Queen, on a dark stormy day

Balmoral braced itself against the storm and the impending news. And then it broke.

The River Dee raged and the Scots Pines hung heavy as the death of The Queen, who passed away peacefully at the home that she loved, was announced.

People started gathering at Balmoral around 1pm on Thursday to show their respects as the Queen’s deteriorating condition became clear and the royal family scrambled to be by the Queen’s bedside.

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Police check a Land Rover driving into Balmoral in Scotland. Picture: AP Photo/Scott Heppell

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Shortly after 5pm, the family came at high speed over Balmoral Bridge in four blacked-out vehicles and disappeared at haste through the gates to see their mother, their grandmother, everyone’s queen.

Tourists who had come to tour the royal’s Scottish holiday home found themselves instead being interviewed by the assembled press pack. Others drove from their homes nearby, the castle simply part of their neighbourhood, the royal family most definitely their people.

Juliette and John Hales, who live near Huntly, had been holidaying in the area since attending the Braemar Gathering at the weekend. Despite ill health and the terrible weather, they stood for several hours as the afternoon unfolded.

Castle staff and suppliers came and went, food deliveries were made, campervans took wrong turns and found themselves on the television.

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Ms Hales, 55, a retired civil servant, heard the news of the Queen’s poor health while having a coffee in Ballater. Everything went quiet, she recalled. A certain quiet will fall for quite some time yet.

Ms Hales, who was visibly upset, said: “The Queen represents all of us, not just across the UK, but the Commonwealth and the world.

"She has done for us exactly what she said she would do. She has dedicated her life to our service. And you couldn’t have asked more from her.

"We felt so concerned when we heard the family were due to come to Balmoral, that we decided to come here because we wanted to show that we were here.

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"I think we will see grieving like we have never seen before.”

Mr Hales added: “She has been not just the greatest monarch the UK has ever had, but the greatest monarch the world has ever had. When there is a lot to be low about, she was able to cheer you up, to keep you going as she did."

Adele and Maxine Warner-Tate travelled from Alford, around 40 minutes away by road, to take their place on the road to Balmoral Castle. Soaked through, they remained undeterred. They had no plans to leave.

Maxine, a retail area manager, said: “The Queen just represents to me the country and this felt like the place I wanted to come today. The weather is not important to me. I would be standing here whatever. She has done a remarkable amount for us.”

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Christian and Evelyne Durant, from Nantes in France, had come to visit Balmoral Castle as part of their tour of Scotland, but the day trip gave way to a moment in time they wanted to mark.

They waited for several hours for a glimpse of the royal family, who arrived at Aberdeen Airport shortly after 4pm with the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex among those on board. Prince Andrew was also part of the group.

Mr Durant said: “We are here as we feel this is a really important time for England, Scotland, for the UK. We wanted to be part of that.”

Lily Smith, 40 and her daughter, also Lily, 15, drove from Aberdeen after hearing of the Queen’s condition.

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Ms Smith, a trainee nurse, said: “This is such a big thing to happen and its right on our doorstep. I just got in the car with my daughter and drove here. It just felt like the right thing to do. I wanted to show the family that the people up here really care."

People were still arriving at Balmoral at 9pm, the night by then pitch black and the rain relentless. The Dee sat high, the waters now obsidian.

Posies and flowers were left on the bridge, among them sprigs of heather and roses plucked from garden’s nearby.

One floral tribute, in simple, poignant summary, read: “A mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, our Queen. Your job here is done.”

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Another read: “I love you Queen, I’ll miss you. Tilly, 4."

Among those to have left flowers was Jill Webster, of Banchory, who arrived at Balmoral shortly before 9pm.

She said: “We really felt like we had to pay our respects somehow and I just felt some draw that made me feel I wanted to be here.

"It is such a sad occasion for the whole nation. She has been very much a steadying force. There have been such a lot of changes this week, it feels like a momentous time for the country. I really feel we are going to experience a massive outpouring of grief and gratitude.

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"Tonight there is a very strange, ethereal feel here.”

Zoe Taylor, 49, from Aberdeen was on her way to Balmoral when news broke the Queen had died.

“I am a royalist through and through and I had to be here,” she said. “I couldn’t be anywhere else tonight. I really felt sad when I heard the news. It was shock actually because we saw her with the new Prime Minister just two days ago. It has happened so quickly.

"The weather is horrendous, but it feels nice to be here at the moment. This is just where I want to be.

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"My mum is in London and has lit a candle for the Queen tonight. I will do the same.”

Dinta Lukye, 43, of Kintore, is originally from Canada and arrived at Balmoral with her two-year-old son and husband to pay their respects.

"We were just over here on Saturday at the Braemar Gathering and saw Prince Charles,” she said. “Never could we have imagined that in just five days’ time, he would be King.”

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