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I’m a staunch Republican but even I was moved by the Windsor crowds

Queen's ledger stone revealed as she's laid to rest in Windsor

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The Queen’s final resting place would have been easy to miss had it not been for the hundreds of people queuing outside St George’s Chapel to see it. A slow shuffle around the nave, past the Great West Door, the tomb of the late Queen’s grandparents George V and Queen Mary below the Taynton stone vaulted ceiling, brought a steady steam of visitors to King George VI Memorial Chapel, created in the 1960s after the death of Elizabeth II’s father in 1952.

It is a modest, easily overlooked resting place considering it is where Britain’s longest reigning monarch lies. That is at least compared to the grand, effigy-topped tombs which contain the remains of Elizabeth II’s predecessors and sit proudly in St George’s Chapel. A black, Belgian marble ledger stone inscribed in gold lettering with George VI, his wife Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. A few simple wreaths of white roses and lilies. An intimate, almost private place, perhaps reminiscent of the personality of the late monarch, who despite her public profile was believed to be quite a shy person.

Hundreds of people from across the country and world waited in line to pause for a few seconds outside the chapel, peering inside, taking a moment to pay their respects, to shed a tear and perhaps to say a prayer before moving on in respectful silence and quiet contemplation.

A Republican might be forgiven for thinking, if only the monarchy had passed with her. But the majority were there to pay their respects, some moved to tears by the death of a head of state who was devoted to service and perhaps recalling the griefs they have experienced in their own lives. It was hard not to be moved by their emotion.

Friends Betty Newey and Tricia Dolphin queued for 90 minutes to see the late Queen’s final resting place after joining millions who watched the State Funeral at Westminster Abbey and the Committal Service at St George’s Chapel on September 19.

Betty, 80, from Solihull in the West Midlands, had tears in her eyes as she said: “She didn’t put a foot wrong. Everything she did was for duty. This country is better with a monarchy.”

Tricia, also 80, shared sentiments voiced by many fans of the late Queen: “She was always there. She was a part of our lives.”

Betty explained, however, that the most moving moment for her was sitting in the same place where the late Queen sat, alone in black in the carved oak Quire of St George’s Chapel for the funeral of her “strength and stay”, Prince Philip.

Displays of emotion at the Queen’s favourite weekend home were not showy, but expressed in hushed tones. The crowds leaving Windsor Castle walked quietly and thoughtfully through Norman Gate after their visit to St George’s Chapel – the same place where King Charles I was brought for burial 10 days after his execution in London in 1648.

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But while King Charles III shares his first name with the Stuart monarch, he will no doubt not share the same fate. Though some visitors believe he faces quite a challenge.

Michael Deacon, 72, from Bielefeld, Germany, did not join the hundreds who queued outside St George’s Chapel on Thursday, but visited the castle’s State Apartments.

The retired cook, who served in Germany with the Army Catering Corps and has lived in the country since, said King Charles has a difficult job to do.

He added: “He’s got a big job on his hands. He’s getting older. The people who can keep the monarchy going are William and Kate. They will make a good king and queen.

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“I love William and Kate’s character. They think about us. William has a really good outlook. He will know how to serve the people.”

Visiting Windsor for the day, Michael summed up his experience: “Absolutely brilliant. It was worth coming across.”

Today saw the castle re-open to the paying public, but thousands had already filed past the resting place of Elizabeth II with St George’s Chapel having been open since September 21.

A visit to Windsor Castle might not be complete for those of a certain generation without recalling the great fire of 1992 when a huge blaze broke out, destroying St George’s Hall and an area now known as the Lantern Lobby which in the 19th century had served as Queen Victoria’s favourite chapel. It was the year the Queen referred to as her Annus Horriblis.

It’s a reminder of the late Queen’s annus horribilis, the year when the Royal Family was rocked by marriage break-ups, affairs and divorce. But the castle is also a reminder of how much the monarchy has changed over the centuries.

On the north side of the Star Building in the castle’s Upper Ward lies the King’s Bedroom, a room so grand its first letter has to be capitalised.

The ornate chamber with its painted ceiling and white marble chimneypiece was created for Charles II in the 1670s. It is also where court favourites were granted the privilege of observing the Merry Monarch’s bed head, and possibly getting a whiff of bad breath as they watched him get up in the morning.

Britons are far less deferent now of course and few would imagine King Charles III inviting a privileged few courtiers in to watch him get in or out of bed, but what is clear from the crowds in Windsor on a chilly September day, under grey skies, is Elizabeth II’s appeal still endures and while the national period of mourning has ended, some find it hard to let go.

Customer services manager Karen Jacques, 56, from the village of Middle Barton in Oxfordshire, said: “She was just such a special lady. I don’t think she will ever be replaced. Everybody looked up to her. She will be missed. She is already missed.”

But time passes and people move on.

Professor Chris Imafidon from Epping, Essex, said he met the late Queen on a number of occasions and paid tribute to her efforts to inspire young people.

The 61-year-old said of his visit to see Elizabeth II’s final resting place: “It was deeply spiritual. She is reunited with her sister. Her father is there, her mother is there. Her beloved Philip is there.

“It was very emotional – I had to reach for a tissue. I was still hoping [the Queen’s death] was fake news. When I arrived at the chapel, I knew it was the final goodbye.”

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