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Procession in Scotland moves Queen Elizabeth II's coffin to Edinburgh

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The body of Queen Elizabeth has begun its long journey back to London. Today, it left the queen's former residence, Balmoral, and passed through small Scottish towns on the way to Edinburgh. NPR's Frank Langfitt has been there along the route. Welcome to the program.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Frank, where are you? And can you describe the scene?

LANGFITT: Yeah, I mean, we're in a town called Banchory. It's in the northeast of Scotland, about a two-hour drive from Edinburgh. And I got to say, Ayesha, the drive in was really beautiful - driving through pine forests, over stone bridges, streams, that sort of thing. There was a lot of fog. It was sort of classic Scotland. By the time we got here, though, the sun had come out, which is very unusual, of course. It's - don't get a lot of sun usually in Scotland, and there were thousands of people lining the streets here. Now, eventually, this black Mercedes hearse came through town pretty slowly. You could see through the windows the Queen's oak coffin. It was draped with the yellow royal Scottish standard. There were flowers on top from Balmoral, and it slowly moved through town as everybody kind of remained silent. And it was a pretty somber moment.

RASCOE: What did the people who turned out today have to say about the queen and why they came?

LANGFITT: Yeah, a couple of things. For some, it was very personal. They saw the queen, I think to some degree, as a family member. I mean, as we've talked about this, she was the matriarch of this nation from the perspective of a lot of people. But there was also this sense of being here for a moment in history - 70 years on the throne, the only queen that anybody along the route today had ever known. And I met a guy named Terry Rigby (ph). He's a retired air traffic controller. And he brought his grandson, whose name is River (ph), who's 11. And Terry said that there was a picture of him when he was a kid on the front page of a national paper, The Daily Express. And this is what he said.

TERRY RIGBY: A photograph was taken of me at the queen's coronation, leaving Buckingham Palace in 1953. I was sat on my dad's shoulders. And that was her first journey. This is her last.

LANGFITT: Have you thought about your dad today?

RIGBY: Oh, yes. I think about him most days, actually.

LANGFITT: What would he think, seeing you and your grandson here?

RIGBY: I think he'd be very proud. Yeah. You're making me tear up again. My mother passed away early this year. She was born in 1926 and died in 2022, same age as the queen.

RASCOE: Frank, did people give some sense of the role they felt the queen played in the life of the country and in their own lives? Clearly, they're very touched.

LANGFITT: Yeah. I mean, Terry talked about the steadfastness of her. And I talked to two British Nigerian women who had brought their children here, one whose name is Banky Okigoki (ph). And she's a health care worker. And she praised the queen's spirituality and also said she found her smile so calming.

BANKY OKIGOKI: I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about the gospel of peace and hope. So seeing someone that's actually an embodiment of peace and kind of radiates peace through her smile means a lot to me as a Christian.

RASCOE: Frank, in the few seconds we have left, of course, you know, there are mixed feelings because Nigeria was a British colony.

LANGFITT: Yes, of course.

RASCOE: Did you ask about that?

LANGFITT: I naturally did, and it was very interesting. She said - and one of her friends I was talking to - said, you know, the queen didn't make the decision during empire. They blamed the British government. And Okigoki said, you know, the queen was not a god, just a human being. And now she's gone.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in northeast Scotland. Thank you so much, Frank.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Ayesha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Ayesha Rascoe
Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Frank Langfitt
Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.