The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Sussex, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn all looked deep in thought as they stood guard in silence around the Queen’s coffin for a vigil in Westminster Hall.
Brothers William and Harry – both dressed in uniform – stood guard at opposite ends of the coffin as a stream of mourners filed past after queueing for hours.
Harry, who saw action on the front line during two tours of duty in Afghanistan, had previously been denied the chance to wear his military uniform as he publicly mourns, because he is no longer a working royal.
But royal sources said the King decided his youngest son could wear uniform for the vigil.
Despite being a former Army officer, Harry has been in civilian dress for official events, including walking behind the Queen’s coffin on Wednesday.
Harry was wearing the Blues and Royals, No.1 Uniform, KCVO Neck Order and Star, Afghanistan Operational Service Medal, Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilee medals and Army Pilot Wings.
William was wearing the Blues and Royals, No.1 Uniform, The Garter Sash, The Garter Star, Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilee medals and RAF Pilot Wings.
The young royals, led by William, were in position at the top of the grand committee staircase in the corner of the vast hall at 5:58pm.
At 6pm, the tapping that signifies the changing of the guard sounded and William began walking down the steps, one at a time, followed by Harry, then Beatrice and Eugenie side by side, Louise and James side by side, and Zara and Peter also side by side.
Silence fell as members of the public looked on, with the only sound being the grandchildren’s footsteps on the stone.
William was positioned at one end of the coffin, facing the north entrance, while Harry was positioned at the opposite end, facing the area of the hall where thousands of people have entered over the last few days.
William stood with his hands clasped in front and his head bowed.
Louise and James’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, looked on from a platform facing the coffin.
At 6:15pm, the tapping sounded and the grandchildren ended their vigil.
William led the group away from the coffin, followed by Zara and Peter, Louise and James, Beatrice and Eugenie, and finally Harry.
As the group made their way back up the corner staircase, Zara bent down to retrieve one of her shoes which appeared to have slipped off.
The Prince of Wales had once said: “She may be my grandmother, but she is also very much the boss.”
And the eight grandchildren ultimately showcased their deep respect and admiration for the Queen during the public moment of reflection.
Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie had earlier paid a moving, heartfelt tribute addressed to the Queen, saying: “Goodbye dear Grannie, it has been the honour of our lives to have been your granddaughters.”
The sisters, in a written message released as they prepared to mount the vigil around the late monarch’s coffin, thanked their grandmother for “making us laugh, for including us, for picking heather and raspberries, for marching soldiers, for our teas, for comfort, for joy”.
Beatrice and Eugenie said they missed the Queen terribly and thanked her for being “the loving hand on our backs leading us through this world”, adding: “We, like many, thought you’d be here forever.” The princesses – the daughters of the Duke of York and Sarah, Duchess of York – shared the grief they have felt since the death of the Queen at Balmoral ten days ago.
They said: “Our dearest Grannie, we’ve not been able to put much into words since you left us all.
“There have been tears and laughter, silences and chatter, hugs and loneliness, and a collective loss for you, our beloved Queen and our beloved Grannie.
“We, like many, thought you’d be here forever. And we all miss you terribly.
“You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever.”
Like the Queen’s other grandchildren, the princesses shared happy summers with the late monarch in the Scottish Highlands as the royals gathered each year on the Balmoral estate.
“For now dear Grannie, all we want to say is thank you,” they said. “Thank you for making us laugh, for including us, for picking heather and raspberries, for marching soldiers, for our teas, for comfort, for joy.”
They added, in a nod to the Queen’s modesty: “You, being you, will never know the impact you have had on our family and so many people around the world.”
Beatrice and Eugenie spoke of the Queen being reunited with her husband of 73 years the Duke of Edinburgh, who died just 17 months ago.
“We’re so happy you’re back with Grandpa. Goodbye dear Grannie, it has been the honour of our lives to have been your granddaughters and we’re so very proud of you,” they said.
They also hailed their “dear Uncle Charles” in his new role as monarch.
“We know that dear Uncle Charles, the King, will continue to lead in your example as he too has dedicated his life to service – God save the King,” the sisters said.
The Queen’s experience and unprecedented knowledge of royal matters had meant she was well placed to offer advice to the younger members of the family as they navigated their way through life in the monarchy. Harry maintained a great affection for his grandmother throughout.
The Duke of Sussex had echoed William’s thoughts, saying in 2016: “I still view her more as the Queen than my grandmother.
“You have this huge amount of respect for your boss and I always view her as my boss.”